Blaqbonez, born Akumefule Chukwu-Emeka, and the self proclaimed Best Rapper in Africa (BRIA), is one of Nigeria’s most promising artists on the scene today. The title doesn’t come without its accolades. At the early age of 16 Blaqbonez began his artistic career as a battle rapper, winning 1st place out of 3000 rappers at Terry tha Rapman’s Zombie competition and earning him a spot on the Terry’s 2012 World Domination Mixtape alongside superstars like Olamide. Balqbonez’s boastful personality shines through on his debut, saying in the “Zombie” intro, “Shout out to Terry but really nah me be Rapman”. And Blaqbonez has been making waves ever since. Whether it’s creating controversy with his infamous diss track “Best Rapper in Africa” or flaunting his scandalous sense of humour on Twitter, it seems the young Nigerian isn’t afraid of anything.
Since 2018 Blaqbonez has released 3 EPs, Bad Boy Blaq (2018), Bad Boy Blaq Re-Up (2019), and Mr. Boombastic (2019) and a series of singles that have swerved in and out of hip-hop, afrobeats, r&b, without reservation. Whether it’s the contagious feel-good of “Mamiwota”, the sinister drip of “Haba”, or the trap inspired “OAU Boy”, Blaqbonez is covering more than his fair share of musical ground. His most recent single, the afrobeats heavy “BBC” (no, not the British Broadcasting Corporation), was just remixed with a feature from Tiwa Savage, pushing the once internet battle rapper ever further into the mainstream.
We checked in with Blaqbonez to talk about his career thus far, his controversy, style, and what’s next for the young artist.
Who is Blaqbonez?
Blaqbonez is just somebody that’s crazy. They say every genius is crazy. I just do exactly what I want and I don’t follow rules.
There’s this quote on the outro of “I Told You” that goes, “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.” Does this translate to the way you see your career and music?
Yeah. Every time when I want to do something everybody’s like “that’s no how you’re supposed to look” or “that’s not how you’re supposed to do it” so basically they don’t agree with me at first but I do it and they see how I eventually make it work and they start changing their mindset and start teaching the next people that, “oh, Blaqbonez did it like this, it can be done” First they ignore you, then they fight you then they follow you.
You’ve also switched your style up quite a lot throughout your career. Do you find resistance as you evolve artistically?
It’s always so scary because you don’t know how to be accepted, but I’ve made a decision that it’s always best to evolve rather than try to please the same people. At the end of the day, nobody wants to keep hearing the same exact song over and over. I might piss off some fans because they prefer me sounding some other way, but if I stick with that particular sound eventually I’ll lose them anyway, right? So I’ve always focused more on trying to make each project different. Like my Sex Over Love project that is coming out soon sounds completely different from everything that I’ve done. So each project Bad Boy Blaq to Bad Boy Blaq Re-Up to Mr. Bombastic if you listen to them you can see the clear difference. That’s always something that I wanted to be known for. I want to be the guy that you can’t predict what he’s going to do.
You’ve also been in your fair share of controversy, and it seems like in those moments you shoot to kill. I’m thinking of your rap battle with Holyfield for example. Do you embrace controversy or is it more just being yourself?
For me, I came up as a battle rapper on Facebook. I enjoyed being a battle rap and I don’t want it to stop. So when there is controversy I’m excited because it connects to a part of me that the normal music industry cannot; keeps dormant. So when there is controversy I’m excited because I say, “finally I can show this side of me.” I embrace controversy 100%. That’s just me being me. That’s how I got here. I didn’t know I was going to become an actual artist when I started doing rap battles on Facebook. That’s a part of me that I don’t want to be dead completely.
So, who’s the best rapper in Africa?
What’s your take on the Nigerian rap scene right now?
What’s important for us right now is we are building. We are connecting to the young people because we the young people. For example, me, I grew up listening to afrobeats. We were not exposed to that much hip-hop in my day when I was young and like 5. I started listening to hip-hop say 11 or 12, you understand? But what I feel like we are doing right now is we are making music and trying to connect to the younger people. Imagine a three year old is listening to hip-hop right now in Nigeria he’s going to grow up and feel like hip-hop is wired in his brain because he’s been listening to it from when he was a child. A lot of people right now in Nigeria believe it’s only afrobeats that’s really known. Even if they started listening to hip-hop later they don’t feel like that’s the thing they grew up on. The moment you grow up on hip-hop, that’s when the genre can actually stand toe-to-toe with afrobeats. So this generation might never fuck with hip-hop as much afrobeats but the next generation might. So I feel like that’s what our job is right now; to put hip-hop out there, to make sure the young, like my cousins who are 5 years old six years old, know my music now. So, I’m already changing the next generation. I feel like that’s when hip-hop in Nigeria is going to win. It’s kind of like in America I think. Everybody had known hip-hop to be a genre but it didn’t get as big until recently…right now. Hip-hop is on the billboards like a proper pop record. I think last year on Billboard hip-hop dominated. So, it’s a gradual process we’ll get there.
Going through your work and the albums you’ve been featured on, or the features on your projects, whether it’s CKay, Attifaya, Wallz, David Melli, PsychoYP, it seems like you have a strong connection with the up-and-comers of tomorrow.
Yeah, these days, maybe because of social media popping now, the newer guys connect with each other on a level that never used to happen. Before an artist just blows, nobody has heard of the artist, they are just in different camps and even when the guy is big nobody really knows him personally. But the crop of new artists we support each other. We are the ones singing the praises of the next guy till the next guy starts popping. So that connection we have so much more, and maybe it’s cause of social media. I feel like I appreciate that process. I’m basically friends with all the new guys which is cool. My favorite people to work with right now probably is PsychoYP because we’re trying to create a joint project. We’re trying to work on it but we postponed it until next year. So next year we’ll put it out.
I hear a lot of influences in your music. You ripped a Migos song on your first project, in “BRIA” you have a Drake affectation to your flow…
Yeah, I love Drake so much. Oh my god. Drake is definitely a major inspiration to me. I feel like for a rapper that wants to be versatile Drake is literally the best possible example. Drake has basically made whatever kind of music that was available to him. He’s made RnB, he’s made real gangster hip-hop, he’s made UK hip-hop, he’s made afrobeats, he’s done Jamaican things, that’s what’s crazy. I want to be the guy that can do it all. So Drake is a major inspiration.
I’ve asked you about Blaqbonez but there’s this other persona you’ve created with Mr. Bombastic. What does it do for you to create these kinds of personalities?
It gives me a direction. It explains why I’m sounding like this. It gives me a thought process. So when I’m writing the lyrics for that particular song, it gives me a persona to write about. I’m not necessarily talking about me in a lot of those songs. It’s just me thinking in the mind of Mr. Bombastic. I always have these personas to help me write.
I’ve read in your other interviews that your vision for your career is bigger than just music. What do you see as you evolve as an artist?
Personally, I want to start acting in movies. That’s something I’d like to try. People have told me how good I am at promoting and marketing music as well, so I want to also set-up a marketing firm or a PR firm that helps artists create content and promote their own music. So, there’s that. I also want to be a host for a show. I like talking, you understand? I feel like in Nigeria, a lot of the talking is controlled and I want to be the guy that says exactly what he wants to say, the way he says it. The radios, like everybody is kind of scared to say how they truly feel about something. Everybody is always positive in regards to music. I want to be a host like Joe Budden who says exactly how he feels and if you don’t like it that’s your own problem.
What do you think of what’s happening with the EndSARS protest happening right now?
I think what’s most important is that we’ve finally woken up. We’ve realised our power and we’re never going to let them silence us anymore. That’s the important takeaway. Right now everybody is more energised for the next election than ever before and as we elect people in office they know that if they don’t do the job that we put you there to perform, we’re going to take you out of office. We actually had someone record a house assembly representative because she said something like “all we did was take drugs and blah blah blah” so everybody is more awake than before in our country. We know that we have power and it is in our hands. For me that’s the most important thing right now. There’s a judicial panel that’s looking into all the criminal activities, hopefully people go to jail for the evil they’ve done.
You have an album or an EP coming out soon?
Yeah, it was an EP, but I’m adding more songs and it’s going to become an album. So, I’m not sure yet. It’s titled “_Sex Over Love_.”