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Joeboy on beauty, magic, and being Africa’s popstar

The newly christened African Pop Star releases his debut album Somewhere Between Beauty and Magic riding a wave of hit singles and the support of Mr Eazi’s emPawa program.

After I finished recording about half of the album in Ghana, we were at this resort and me and my sound engineer Oxygen Mix went quad riding,” Joeboy recounts during our first interview, scheduled to discuss his much anticipated debut album.

He continues, “We stopped at the waterfront and then I asked him, ‘Yo, what do you think we should name this album?’ Oxygen Mix looked around and was like, ‘somewhere between beauty and magic.’ I said, ‘Yeah sure, beauty and magic. The album signifies love, the production and the beats are magical, let’s call it beauty and magic.’ Oxygen Mix was like, ‘nah, Somewhere Between Beauty and Magic, somewhere in the middle.’ To me, it felt really deep, so we went with it. Big shoutout to Oxygen Mix, I think he’s going to be naming all my projects.

Joeboy – Celebration 

In a phrase, young superstar Joeboy is living his best life. In under a year’s time Joeboy has gone from cooking up songs in his dorm room to topping charts across the African continent and riding quads along Ghana’s coast between studio sessions. Joeboy’s charm and universal appeal as Nigeria’s premier lover boy has also brought the artist international acclaim, a feat usually reserved for heavy hitters like Joeboy’s mentor Mr Eazi. But Joeboy is more than good looks, catchy pop songs, and a Mr Eazi protogé. In an Apple Music exclusive documentary Becoming the African Pop Star, Joeboy is hailed as just that, Africa’s next big thing. Throughout the short film Joeboy recites his reflective poetry to images of world tours, music conferences, love drunk fans, and hotel suites. 

One day it just dawned on me. Everyone loves a young legend, and the young legend is actually me.” He says midway through the documentary with a laugh and a smile. 

© Godwin Moore

The legend began with a series of explosive singles, “Baby,” “Beginning” and “Don’t Call Me Back” starting in 2019 and crescendoing with his massive 2020 Mr Eazi and DJ Neptune collaboration on “Nobody”. As the original artist inducted into Mr Eazi’s emPawa Africa talent incubator, he has become a symbol of the initiative’s success, surpassing all expectations and inspiring a generation of DIY African artists and entrepreneurs. 

It’s really amazing, I’ve learned a lot.” 

Joeboy says of the emPawa Africa program.

When I first started making music I used to think it was such a big deal to put my songs on DSPs, now I can do this all through my phone. I’ve learned a lot about the music business too, and I’m still learning. Me two years ago is different from me right now.

Now, just under two years since Joeboy’s emPawa debut, he’s ready to build the foundation of his legacy with his first 14 track LP, Somewhere Between Beauty and Magic.  The album is a meandering exploration of love in all its forms. I asked Joeboy how someone so young knew so much about love.

I experienced love first from my parents, from people around me,” he says. “And I used to watch a lot of movies. Romance movies. I realized that love is one of the most beautiful things on earth. I believe if everyone could love each other unconditionally the world would be a better place. That’s why I appreciate love so much.” 

This sincerity comes through in tracks like “Oshe”, a celebration of marriage, or the more risqué “Sugar Mama”, which needs no explanation. While “Oshe” is smooth and comforting, “Sugar Mama” is whimsical and winking. Each is an attempt to capture another space between beauty and magic. I asked Joeboy if some of his material comes from experience. 

Yeah, my experiences inspire me,” he says. “I have a lot of empathy so when I sing songs people mostly think I’m singing about myself, but it’s just someone else’s story. Songs like ‘Beginning’, I’m singing about a friend that was in a situation like that. ‘Even Don’t Call Me Back’ was a story about my friend.

Joeboy – Count Me Out 

“Count Me Out,” the album’s experimental opener, however, is nothing but personal. 

On that song I was just speaking my mind. That song is about me. It’s so personal. It’s my favourite because it sounds different from what I normally do on a single.” 

While powerhouse producers Dëra, BeatsbyKO, Killertunes and E Kelly manage to maintain the Joeboy sound, the album also introduces a new aesthetic to the Joeboy universe.  Whether it’s the Spanish guitar on “Runaway”, or the Afro House driven “OH”, Joeboy’s crooning is complimented with a healthy variety of instrumentation. 

One thing I love about this album is that everybody has their own favorite,” Joeboy remarks. “I think that’s the sign of a good album when everyone has their own favorite. I’m always excited about the way people pick songs that I wouldn’t normally pick.” 

The album, set to launch and a long star studded road ahead, I asked Joeboy if he felt the pressure of the pop-star lifestyle. 

Sometimes, but not in recent times. I’ve finally learned to just go with the flow and believe in myself. Once you believe in yourself and your actions, you’ll be able to do anything without doubt. At the end of the day, you can only do so much. So no pressure. I just do my thing and keep it moving.” 

So what’s different in the life of Joeboy since blowing up?

The biggest difference in my life? Yo, I’m richer [laughs]. My hair is longer. I got a new house, I got a new car. Life is good. More songs, more fans. And people are anticipating a lot from me, so that’s beautiful.” 

Yes, Joeboy is living his best life and it bleeds through onto Somewhere Between Beauty and Magic where he generously shares a piece of this good-life with his listeners. 

Being a popstar is being someone who can influence people.” says Joeboy, reflecting on his newfound fame. “Someone that people see and look up to and think: This person makes me really happy. A popstar is someone that brings happiness to people. A popstar is king. A popstar is winner.”

For now, Joeboy is certainly winning and is likely to hold the title of Nigeria’s king crooner for some time. 

You can partake in the good life by listening to Joeboy’s new album Somewhere Between Beauty and Magic here

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