By: Joey Akan
As a banker, Mayorkun studied the music industry for trends and shifts in consumer behaviour. Now an artist, that knowledge has guided him to becoming one of Africa’s top pop music powerhouse.
Mayorkun came down the stairs with a computer in his left hand, a blunt in the other, and a smile lighting up his face. He’s wearing a cream jacket and red checkered pants. He’s hugging me. His famous dog Kim is rubbing against me for back rubs. His friend, and creative director, Cjay, is handing me a bottle of drinking water. And on a wall, a huge art hung, taking space in this July afternoon in Lagos. Up there in paint, his image still wore a toothy grin, inked in the American presidential colours of blue and red. At the centre of the piece, his celebrity nickname offers words to announce his status: “Mayor Of Lagos.”
“Bros, It’s been a while,” Mayorkun says, planting his slender frame on a sofa, placing the computer on a wooden table, fiddling with it, and taking a puff. In this sitting room of his plush home on Lagos Island, a Snooker pool table, sat idle, with cue sticks and balls. Outside, a weatherbeaten table tennis hard table also betrayed another hobby. The same story told by the Playstation console that sat inside and offered him breaks away from celebrity, artistry, and the demands from Nigeria’s music industry.
“You smoke?” he asked, and I nodded. “Okay,” the smile broadened as he shared the blunt, and ordered for a fresh roll. This is the Mayor Of Lagos; generous, happy, unproblematic, with a conveyor belt of pop hits that have carried him on an upward journey, since his star shone bright enough for Davido to amplify and fund it.
“I’ve been recording, that’s all I’ve been doing,” he says. When the Covid-19 pandemic raged through countries, and governments shut down borders in an effort to control it, Mayorkun had just returned from a US business trip and was forced to stay in Lagos. Not only did he take a hit from lost performance fees due to social distancing protocols, his other businesses that lie far away from music also experienced challenges. “Like businesses that you just need to go out, businesses that have to do with people just gathering in a place, those things no dey sell at that period,” he says. Recording new music was all that kept him in line. Creating art daily in his home studio, hanging with his friends and Freeman—his brother and A&R who is perched in a corner of the room—and streaming to his millions of followers on Snapchat, made life colourful. To diversify his exertions, he ordered the table tennis set and took turns being trashed in games with his friends…or “brothers,’ as he calls them.
Adewale Mayowa Emmanuel, 26, didn’t come from privilege. It’s a truth that he spills without hesitation. It’s what keeps him grounded, he says. The looming spectre of regression inspires him to push himself and his art to new heights. On the first day he paid Davido a visit, after a clip on Instagram caught the Nigerian superstar’s attention in 2016, he discloses that his pocket was empty. To secure a ride, his brother Freeman convinced a cab driver to ferry the pair by faith. They journeyed nearly 15km from Ajah to Lekki at midnight, promising the driver a chance to also see Davido’s house and collect payment at the gate. “We got to the house, naso the Davido number wey I dey call, David dey block am or something. He was sha not picking and I was outside…” he recalls, laughter ringing all around the room as everyone reminisced. Freeman is standing now and contributing to the tale. When they eventually saw Davido in his crowded living room, the superstar walked past Freeman without a word. It made him shudder and ask Mayorkun: “I don offend Davido so? Wetin I do?”
Of course not. That meeting yielded a miraculous investment in his career and a recording deal with Davido Music Worldwide (DMW). The music that followed has since been consistent, becoming instant hits uponh release. Mayorkun’s artistry never pretends to be beyond pop music. He’s honest with his artistic formula of making heavy bops, moving to higher career stations, and generating enough money to uplift his family and give him options in life. “My parents, my sister gats chop well,” he says.
To ensure that success, he’s been riding popular waves, releasing hits with every sonic movement, and ceaselessly reinventing his craft for success. “Yo, and this is as real as I can get; if riding wave is what is going to make you people pay attention to me and listen to the real me, I’m going to ride wave. Do you understand?” he asks, the ‘Mayor’ jumping out.
Yes, I understand. His track record of success tells a story of value. From his first release ‘Eleko’, down to the current flavour, a syrupy collaboration with Davido titled ‘Betty Butter,’ he’s often in among hits, and has rarely placed a musical foot in the wrong spot. Mayorkun, a pop artist, has the hottest Nigerian hip-hop record of 2020 — ‘Geng.’ As echoes of the growing South African Amapiano genre began to penetrate local borders, his cruise-worthy ‘Of Lagos,’ co-opted the wave, becoming a local hit. It’s firmly introducing the new sound to millions of Nigerians, and inspiring fellow creators towards experimentation with the sound. Perhaps this is where his leadership manifests; in seamless adaption, open-minded experimentation, and eventual chart success.
Mayorkun also rules Nigerian pop on Snapchat, where millions of followers stream his daily feed of candid moments from his life. He’s referred to by industry professionals as “The King Of Snapchat,” where he communicates in the most personal ways to his followers. “For some reason, some people take it like it’s a reality show. Some people can come to this house for the first time and walk into my room. That’s how vested they see the whole thing. They can come to my house and know the chef’s name,” he says. Through the cloudy haze in the room, he eventually begins to play me some of his creations. Amapiano is Mayorkun’s lockdown love, and he’s recorded enough of them to make albums. It’s experimental stuff, mixed in with highlife, and other genres for individuality. With each new record on the speaker, there’s dancing in the room as all connect with the art. “I’ve not been releasing these ones because of social distancing,” he says, referring to his high-octane creations, designed for dancefloor engagement.
Mayorkun talks with circumspection and comic fluidity. With him, life’s all open for everyone to see. He’s a man with responsibility, success has embraced him, and he’s doing his part to ensure it stays around for a long time. His friends in the room are his Day-1s, who treat his career and celebrity like a crucial group project. They keep him grounded, he tells me. Win at all cost, win strategically. That’s the core message he preaches in-conversation.
Joey Akan: Why are you the Mayor of Lagos?
Mayorkun: Ha! I don’t kno o. Most people say it’s self-acclaimed, but some guy gave me one time way before I got a car. I used to have this Uber guy. Because I didn’t want to be changing Uber, I had one permanent guy. He was the one that used to call me that for some reason. I don’t know. He never told me why sha. He just called me. So when we were looking for a name for my first school tour, we just used it. We first had like eight names, then we stuck with Mayor of Lagos.
Has the name had any effect on you?
Personally, it’s like changing from a boy to a man. It’s like asides the way people perceive mayors, like it gave me more responsibilities even in my house. Even around my guys. Some things now, I can’t do o. Even way before the title, it was just my way. I can be all over the place in my house sha but not in public.
Does it come with any responsibility or have people put responsibilities on you based on the name?
Oh yeah, I was talking to my manager one time that because of the way people perceive mayors, like I said. There was one time I was in London, I was talking to my friend and I said something that they perceived was offensive about the Mayor of London. We were in the train that day, and the way she took it, I say ‘who be this guy? I no know am na. What made me talk about it is, I saw a sticker on the train that says Mayor of London. And I wanted to take a picture and said ‘omo cancel this London, na Lagos.’ Na so she start to dey para. And I saw that there was this huge respect that they place on mayors. So when I got back to Naija, I knew that I gats dey do respectful things (laughs). Plus I told Sam Phrank my manager that, ‘why don’t we do some things like philanthropy?’ Schools, they are all in my plans sha. Corona just spoilt a lot of things man.
When Corona started, where were you?
I was in Lagos. I just got back from America.
The lockdown and everything, how did it affect you?
M – Ha! It affected me financially. Because other things that I did that were not pertaining to music were suffering this downtime. Businesses that you just need to go out, businesses that have to do with people just gathering in a place, those things no dey sell at that period. So I resorted to recording more. I just got things. All these things like table tennis, I just buy am for boredom. I bought bikes, I just started doing stuff. But I started recording more. I recorded more than usual.
What’s the one important thing that you learned about yourself?
I learnt that you can really have big songs without the video out. Before I drop songs, I always go to my manager’s house and we have meetings upon meetings. Just one song o. We would do meetings, go to different places. But this time, even when I was editing ‘Of Lagos’ video, I did it from this place. We were editing it from zoom. “Oh, I don’t like that clip, add this one.”
That’s how we did it. We didn’t go anywhere. And how that song take enter number one and I didn’t leave this place. It just made me believe that omo, you can do anything from your house man. The world has really changed to that level.
Did you feel trapped? You’re a guy that’s used to moving around.
Yeah. But moving around for me before Corona was because of the job. Most times, I’m in my house too. My closest friends live around. Fresh VDM lives two houses from here. Dremo lives down the road. I really don’t go outside this space, except it’s so important. It was the same thing for me. But at some point, I got bored. I got really bored and I had to buy things. I can’t remember the last time I played table tennis. But I had to buy.
You play FIFA too now.
I don tire too jhor. These things gan, you get tired. Except they go do FIFA 21 now (laughs). We don play all. There’s nothing new.
I saw you came from nothing and witnessed the rise. Do you think you rose very fast? Is that something you acknowledge to yourself?
Yesso. Because me, way before meeting Davio and all those things, I used to follow music. I used to follow Nigerian music. I think the only person that was that fast was Kesh, as at the time I was looking at it, before I got with it. It was Kesh. Nobody gets this big within four years. It takes a lot of different things. But for us, I think it’s grace man. I don’t think we did anything special. I just recorded songs the same way, and just kept on doing the same thing.
You don’t think you’re special?
I think I’m special sha, but in relation to other people, we are different people in this world. I might be special in some things. I can’t be you, you can’t be me. I’m special the way I am. There are some things you can do, I can’t do. And there are some things I can do you can’t do .
Let’s go back to the day you recorded the clip that Davido saw.
I used to stay on the mainland …
Ilasa. Like Oshodi, Isolo express. That road. Then my cousin stayed in Lekki. They still stay in Lekki. Whenever we come to Lekki, Lekki is like America. Anytime I see that ‘Lekki Scheme 1 Peninsula’, if you drop me at that gate, I’m happy. I can trek to wherever I want to go.
Our own place, where I was coming from, was not like that. You can’t see people just jogging. They no dey jog for my area. So Davido’s house too is close to my cousin’s house. We always go there. There was one day I trekked there, I saw B-Red at the balcony. I said is Davido at home, and he said “no he went to the gym”. I was so happy that B-Red answered me that day. So we went back home. They had this keyboard and I did it. I wanted to post it but I didn’t post it that time. Fast forward to when I started working, it was still on my phone.
Where were you working?
Stanbic IBTC bank, Ajah.
I was a contract staff. We do marketing. That’s how we moved to Ajah. I was working there. So sha, I posted this thing. When I was in the bank, I needed to get something on my phone and the phone was too full. So it was saying ‘delete something.’ I wanted to delete that particular video. Something just said ‘wo, post am for Twitter before you delete.’ I just did that and said ‘Davido help me, blah blah blah.’ The caption didn’t even make any sense to me. I just did it and deleted the video. The comments…Davido.
And then that happened.
How did you know ‘Eleko’ was your first song?
That time, I recorded two songs that night. So I played it for David. Me, I didn’t care. I just wanted to drop a song. Let them know that there’s one boy. I didn’t care what song because to me both songs were good. But the other day, throughout that week, the chef, the people that worked in the house, the cleaners were singing that song. There was one day B-Red came from the door, he just told me that “na who sing that song? My something something don dey sing am.” And most times, that’s how they choose songs in the house. When they just see the one wey get the people’s appeal. David just said ‘omo let’s run with it.’ Me, I didn’t mind. I had no say to be honest. I was just a new guy. “Anyone you put, I’m fine.”
So you were just happy that you were releasing music?
I was just happy that I met Davido.
Tell me about the moment you met Davido.
We got to the house…
You and who?
Me and Freeman my brother, we left Ajah. First of all, when we were leaving the house we didn’t have transport fare because it was too far. From Ajah to Lekki. E gats be taxi. So Freeman was the one doing the sweet talking to the taxi guy. it was very late like past 11. He said: “if you know where we dey go now, you go carry us for free.” Old man. The man say ‘where you dey go?’ He says, ‘we dey go Davido house.’ The driver screamed, eh Davido!’ Say when we reach there, somebody go give money wey we go give you. The man took us sha. We got to the house, naso the Davido number wey I dey call, David dey block am or something. He was sha not picking and I was outside and you know how
And you don’t have get Lati’s number?
Lati ke? If you even call am, shey Lati go pick your call that time sef? Na only David we know. We no know anybody. So the person I’m about to call his name is Perruzi’s manager now, Kolo. So it was Kolo that came downstairs and gave the guy money. Because the man don dey para say ehen, we whine am come here say we know Davido, nothing. So Kolo paid the guy. When I entered we didn’t see David too. I just saw policemen. I just see Alfred with gun, face gun like this. Me and Freeman just say ‘omo wetin dey go on?’ Next thing David came down. He didn’t greet Freeman sef. Freeman don dey tap me say ‘wetin I do. Shey I don fuck up ni? Me I say I no know (laughs). Then that day he just did little introduction. Oh this is Chairman, this B-Red, this is this, this is that. Next thing we went to the club.
You followed him to the club?
We were like 80 people. We went to G12, we went to Escape, we went everywhere. Then I started telling my mum that it’s real o, before they allowed me do the music.
Your mum had reservations?
Ha! My dad was like, ‘if that’s what you want to do and it’s Davido, if it’s legit it should make sense.’ But my mum said: ‘still be doing this bank job, you’d be going there once.’ I say, ‘omo I dont think it’s possible o.’ And the bank job is trash. Sorry to say, man. It wasn’t anything that was bringing one money that I couldn’t leave. I went for interviews at other places while I was working there because I didn’t like it.
How did you finally convince her?
It’s Davido now. One time he called me on Whatsapp, so everybody knows Davido’s voice. And he was saying stuff, ‘don’t worry I’m coming back. I want to sign you, don’t tell anybody, no make am loud. You know how e be, some people fit spoil your P.’ So she heard it for herself. Then she saw the message when Davido said “pack your things, you’re moving to Lekki.” That was the final one.
The day ‘Eleko’ dropped, how was it? Were you shaking?
Of course. 100%! ‘Eleko’ even dropped a day earlier than it was supposed to drop.
B-Red came to the house and was like, “omo, if una no drop that song now, I go leak am now.” Say ‘wetin una dey wait for?’ ‘Eleko’ was supposed to drop maybe on a Friday. We sha drop am a day before, then it started doing numbers. David was in America, he was posting. He was doing so many things. David wey no dey post for Instagram. He post the thing. And I was going for shows here. Even as at the time it had 1 million views, za! I go go show like this, zero person singing. It was just all those JJC people.
When did you know the song had entered?
It was, I think, schools. Because I don’t know, it’s like a thing here. As a new artist, you don’t really get loud ovations at some type of events. Like let me say, Bad Boy Timz now, you know how big that song is. If you call Bad Boy Timz go Eko Hotel show now. You announce say ‘oh and we have Bad Boy Timz!’ Check the reaction. It’s not always like heavy at the beginning. So most times, I always dey know say songs don enter from the shows wey I know say if people no sing here, then that song no enter. From schools.
Because dem get energy.
Yeah. Sometimes, Eko Hotel people know the song, but them no go do all those P wey you want. And you gats know. If you use that yardstick to judge, you would be doing the wrong thing. “We have Mayorkun in the building” you go just hear ‘huhhh?’ Maybe when they hear the same song, some of them will move. But schools, from your name, from the announcement alone, it’s crazy.
You went to school shows and they were singing it?
Back to back.
How important do you think schools are to breaking new artists?
First of all, the school set are the ones that really do all those first week downloads. They are the ones that are really invested in ‘oh who drop song? When is he dropping? All those working class people, in my opinion I feel like they listen to songs that people tell them are popping. Especially when they are not into music. You no go see one banker now wey go wake up dey check Tooxclusive, say who just drop? Na the one wey blow come meet am. But schools. It’s different.
I remember one time I used to do bulk sms. I’d send an sms personally say oh “I’m about to drop a song.” I get databases of schools, I pick regions. Because I know that these ones, they are the ones that are going to sing it for their uncles and aunties. Even with the growth of an artist. Like most Wizkid fans now, I feel like they are those people that were young. People like us now, I hear Wizkid from small. It’s going to be hard to change my perception about Wizkid because he caught me from way back.
When did life change for you? Was it after ‘Eleko’ or until the second song. When did you know life has changed for you?
I think ‘Mama’. As at the time I was doing ‘Eleko,’ like I said. All those places were low ovations, like Eko Hotel Shows. That ‘Eleko’ ehn, I was still in mostly schools. Na only schools you go shut down or those shows that the people plenty. You no go shut down Eko Hotel. But from ‘Mama’, I started seeing all those, you enter club, everywhere scatter, all those type of things. From ‘Mama.’
How did you find your fanbase and how do you maintain it?
I don’t think it was a conscious effort to be honest. First of all, naturally I consider myself like I no really get wahala like that. Like my Snapchat thing, I’ve been doing my Snapchat thing for the longest time. I’ve been doing it since like 2016. It’s not like I started doing it now. I’ve been doing it since way back. And I think that school thing I said. I did a lot of schools. Like I went to school, Jesus. There was one year Sam said ‘if you count all the schools, e go don reach like maybe 100.’ We went to so many schools. And each school with the show and their experiences, you can’t really forget them like that. There’s a girl on Instagram that I performed at her prom, I performed at her fresher’s something. If to say coro no dey, I for still perform for her graduation. It’s that type of person that’s going to grow now and have a child and still think that Mayorkun is amazing. That’s how I am to Wizkid and Davido.
Everyone says you’re king of Snapchat. What do you do on Snapchat?
What I do on Snapchat? I don’t even know what to call it. I just record myself doing what I do everyday.
Yeah, basically everything we do. My dog, my guys. For some reason, some people take it like it’s a reality show. Some people can come to this house for the first time and walk into my room. That’s how vested they see the whole thing. They can come to my house and know the chef’s name. They know plenty things about me, that’s just Snapchat.
You bring them into your life.
And the reaction is crazy.
It’s crazy o. Sometimes my Snapchat has more views than some music videos that I’ve been in sef.
You’ve been called a wave rider. People say Mayorkun only makes music to ride waves. Have you ever ridden a wave?
For me man, like when I first came too, most people used to ask me this question: ‘How do you intend on staying something something? Yo, and this is as real as I can get; if riding waves is what is going to make you people pay attention to me and listen to the real me, I’m going to ride waves. Do you understand? I feel like there’s a level of starpower that you attain and you’d know that you no longer need to follow one trend. And like I said, I’ve been watching this thing for a while. Most people that come newly, that’s what they do. I can give instances. If maybe, five artists when they came on the scene, they just gave us the same thing, maybe like five or four times. Then maybe, when they drop the sixth, they go con see say omo people don tire. Because I can’t lie man, it’s very hard to catch people’s attention in this country. Someone like Omah Lay now, people won’t let him shine his shine. I’ve heard someone say, ‘it’s as if he’s trying to copy one Wizkid.’ Make him do him p the way wey him sabi do am. At least, when he has your attention you’d know he can do different things. I wouldn’t have done ‘Geng’ when I first came out. If I tried it when I came out, I’d have been on my way back to Osun State.
‘Mama’ was phenomenal. You were inspired by Davido. When people talk about it in a demeaning manner. Does that hurt?
Before, I used to feel bad about so many things. Before. But when I learnt that it won’t stop on my head, I just let things slide. Like the story of ‘Fall’ and ‘Mama.’ About the beat, the songs were recorded at the same period. One just came out first. The whole mastermind behind both songs na the same person. It’s like listening to Burna Boy. There’s no Burna Boy song in the world that I would hear, that I would not know that it’s Burna Boy. So it has a Kiddo element in both. And both of them blew, so I don’t know. There are so many instances. Me, I’ve seen so many things before I came. Some things I replaced. So when you attack me, I’m very sure you attacked the guy that did it at the first time, so I don’t care.
I think your best song is ‘Bobo.’
Oh ’cause it has a bridge and all those things.
How did ‘Bobo’ come?
At that time, I was working with Lussh. We made so many songs. Prior to 2020, if I want to select songs, I always have at most maybe two, then I select one. At that time ‘Bobo’ was like one of the two. The other one, I sampled it on my Insta story, and someone just messaged me randomly. An anonymous person just said “bro, if you have another song drop it, not this one.” Jesus! My heart was skipping. Where I dey, nobody even knows this thing. I think I told Sam sha. I say what? I deleted the song. I deleted this song so I was left with ‘Bobo’. I said, ‘this ‘Bobo,’ we gats just complete am finish. Make we just finish am make e sweet.’ I called Killertunes again because I was scared. Touched the beat. Went to meet David in London, we did some more. But it blew too and it was shocking that it blew sha. Because at that point for me, ‘Bobo’ must enter o (laughs). Because I no get another one.
You finally graduated into ‘Geng’.
Yeah. Ha, that time, morale-ity don enter. Morale don kick in. ‘Geng’, I wanted to sell that song o. I posted it on my Twitter. Because I sent it to my manager and he said, ‘bro please this is not what we are trying to do this year.’ Ha, I don fuck up o. I sent it to Skiibii too. Skiibii wey no dey like comot for house, Skiibii drove here. I said, “I have ten songs I want to play for you. Help me pick one.” As he heard ‘Geng’ he said, “bro no play another one again.” I told Sam that ‘reason this ‘Geng’ P o.’ And that video, we don get am since. That was how ‘Geng’ happened. The whole thing like that. I just bought a camera and I had people who could use it, so they just started doing things with it. We did and people liked it. But it was different. I added freestyle when I was putting out the press assets. They took it off because they said radio stations won’t take it seriously. But that was what it was. Even the second song, ‘Of Lagos’.
I have too many Amapiano songs. I have like 30 Amampiano songs.
Why do you like Amapiano?
To be very honest, I didn’t use to like it. I felt like it was just too much beats and no singing. These guys, him and my DJ, anytime they are taking me to the airport. It’s one long Amapiano playlist, wey till we reach airport, e be like na only two songs they sing. The rest na just beats, so I didn’t like it. But because they kept on playing it, I said one day I go do one just for you people to let me hear word. Then that time I had already tweeted that I was going to do a song that I was going to say ‘of Lagos’ 100 times. I don’t know, it just worked. Fresh was already working on new sounds, and it was Amapiano he was jumping on, so we just did it. ‘Geng’, ‘Of Lagos’, it’s just those two that were freestyles.
You’re loved by women. Women love you, they fill your shows up, How important are female fans?
Very important o.
What do they do? What is their role?
It might sound funny but most of my shows before 2020, I feel like if a guy comes there, he’s coming there because he wants to pick a girl. Or maybe his babe brought him. Or he thinks he’s going to see plenty girls. It’s something relating to a girl. Like my London show, there’s a particular video I saw, I didn’t see a boy at all in that video. The video is like 50 seconds. And I did not see one single guy. I con dey look say, abi something dey go on ni? Shey we no get male fans ni? That’s what birthed this whole new sound P. Because it was now looking like can’t I go for a show in all boys school. It’s going to be mad too o, but the female love is always extreme. When you see a girl tearing her bra or something, a boy might just be smoking igbo there. Boys don’t really show fan love like that. But girls, I’ve been to a show where I didn’t know what to do because I was shy or, she just dey cry. And the show no even full. Na all this shows for America. She was just crying. I said “God, what are going to do now?” But yeah, female fans are very important o, because boys will not go anywhere if they don’t see girls. Most boys.
Relative to your current status. You came from nothing. How often do you think about not going back there?
Ha, everyday o (laughs). First of all, the people that live with me, we came from the same place. If I’m showing any sign of trying to go back to that place, people will let me know. Plus me, I’m really keen on not going back. I don’t mean not literally stepping my feet o. Not going back to that way of life. Because if you taste the other one, you no go wan go back. This thing still leads to that riding wave thing. Where I’m coming from, nothing. Like you said. I don’t have chances to risk like that. I can’t be trying things. Trying things, e dey remind me of say “you fit go back o.” Let me do the one that they want. If they don’t see me say … ehen. Going back to where? Ehh, we go die here o.
When you started performing outside Africa. What was different for you?
Let me use Wireless Festival in 2018. When we got to Wireless, I’m the guy that hopes for the best and expects the worst. I don’t always go anywhere with any high expectations. That day I just had my first tattoo. I was bleeding out, I was tired. I did Uber. Because David was already at the show. Nobody to con help use do anything, it was just me and Sam. So I had to drag my boxes through the crowd. And I agreed to do that because I didn’t care. I don’t think one oyinbo will see me and say ‘Ah Mayorkun!’ So I was just dragging my box. But you see, when I enter that place, Jesus Christ! I felt like entering the ground. Because they were like…you know how you’re not sure this is the person. Because you believe that the person cannot be doing this thing that you’re seeing. So I could hear people saying is that not him? I couldn’t believe. The thing got to me, up to the point to perform. When we were selecting songs, I was saying, ‘I no fit con do ‘Eleko’ for here o. I no fit con do ‘Eleko’ for where I see like 80% oyinbo people now. That ‘Eleko’ song, even in this Nigeria, I can tell you some people don’t know what I was saying in that song. Even you. So I just scrapped it. We were saying ‘Mama’ and ‘Che Che’ because they had plenty English. Yo, when we climbed that stage, I was a fan of myself. Because I dey shake, my voice, I still never get myself. I was trying to hear, you know when David says: “I’ve got my brother Mayorkun.” Some places zero o. As I come out, I was shocked because I couldn’t even see black faces o. White people, Wireless. Drake came that night. You know you’re doing something good at least.
David helped you. People look at you and a benefaciuary of charity. Do you think it puts you under pressure to put people on? Do you think there’s an expectation to pay it forward?
I think I get if there’s an expectation. But for me, what I would not do, I would not do. I’m in the label and artist P. I know how it works. I don’t think I want to have…what I can do is what David has done. Like once he gives you that platform, brother hustle your own o. You know. This whole industry, nobody gives you anything, contrary to the way people see it. And I get how people perceive it and I don’t mind. Of course he did something for me, but you have to do something o. Obviously, he can just say ‘okay come and join the label.’ But there’s so much work for you as a person. If you no wan do for yourself, there’s nothing Davido would do.
How important is community to you? DMW appears to be a community, different people coming together for the same goal, excellence. How important is that to you?
I think it drives the music. Like you said, they are the one that would push, even though you don’t do anything. They are the ones that would drive. If I don’t have those set of people, you would just look alone man. Like, you don’t have people backing your stuff up. People like Wiz, they are the ones that registered this community thing. Wiz has like this core of people that started with him from way back. Some people don’t even know him. People like my guys that don’t know Wizkid, like know him, know him. But they can die for him. Anything wey Wizkid do, e right. Anything wey Davido do, e right. Those type of people. You need that fellowship to push your market.
When you finally became a celebrity, what changed about your life?
The fact that I couldn’t do the type of things I used to do before. Even if I want to do those things, I have to put things in place. For me, there’s this place in Ikeja that they sell rice. Normally before, if you go go there, enter bike, get down, buy your P. But now, if you want to go there, if that’s the rice that you really want to eat, you go go there with MOPOL, do you understand? Maybe if you’re in a relationship. Me o, I don’t know how to do all those public “this is my lover.” And most girls, that’s what they like, and it puts me in a very funny position. All those type of things.
You’re an unproblematic celebrity. You don’t disturb the peace.
I no like wahala like that.
The wahala wey I go drag na the one wey you come give me. And even before I drag that problem with you, it must have affected something. Because I no really like drama. I never saw it as something to sell my music. If I had seen it before as something that could sell music, I would have been Tekashi. I go don dey cause problem. Because I know people wey no dey cause wahala and their song dey enter. But if you find my trouble, say you really want am. My parents too, I think that’s where I got the no wahala from.
All of this, what do you want out of it as a person?
It changes per level. Because, Like you said again, coming from nothing. Most levels I’ve attained, they’ve been impossible at some point for me. So anytime I get to that whatever level. Do you understand? I can say at a point, I just wanted my sister to leave this country. That was my biggest dream. And I did that one. After I did that one, I had another thing that I wanted to do. But if there’s something about the whole music journey, I’m just here to play my part, do what I’m supposed to do, to get to where I’m supposed to get. Although you can really get to the top, but at some point you have to stop still. Even them Wizkid. Will Wizkid still be singing at 50? If you don’t have that reasoning that one day this thing will end, you’re jonzing o. What do you want to be? You wan be the Mugabe of music or wetin? Even Micheal Jackson off. Like he off, before e die. Everybody go come, people go go. Pop your own, do your P. Gerrout!