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Orchestrate96, the Nigerian‑American rapper connecting West Africa with the sounds of Houston

PAM spoke with up-and-coming Nigerian rapper Orchestrate96 about growing up between Nigeria & Houston, Texas, how he got into music, and his soon-to-be-released album Money Baby.

Making music wasn’t this Nigerian-American rapper’s first career choice. “I never planned to be an artist. I planned to go through college and get a job as a Chemical Engineer but this music thing hit the sweet spot in my brain.

Before music found Orchestrate96, Utomwen David Irabor lived a simple life with… the Bini Tribe in Edo state, one of the rural tribes in Nigeria. Growing up, David didn’t have an active father figure in his life as his dad was based in the United States. He and his older brother were brought up by his mother. David attended an all-boys boarding school where he studied general science. It was there he started to develop a taste for different genres of music.

I listened to a lot of Afrobeats and pop music. My heavy rotations as a little kid were American Artists like Sia, Ellie Goulding, Fun, Kendrick Lamar, Michael Jackson, and Maroon 5. Nigerian artists like Frank Edward, Style Plus and P-Square just to name a few. I did not listen to a lot of rap music as a kid. Looking back, I was not exposed to it as much as I am now. My older brother would play the big dogs like Eminem and 50 Cent and the iconic group N.W.A but that was almost all I heard or knew about rap.

Although he had a passion for the arts, he didn’t think of it as something he could earn a living from. 

I would study the science subjects because I did not think I could monetize something in the art classes except if I became a Lawyer. I did not want to study law by any means. The science classes did not stop me from singing in the school’s choir or dancing as a group during social gatherings. A few friends and I made a group in high school. We would dance and act. I was everywhere including the Boy Scouts. I just wanted to try everything.

ORCHESTRATE96 – Pop Out (feat. OMB Bloodbath & Space KID)

At age 16, his life took a dramatic turn after completing High school. He had to relocate to the States to live with his father. There he furthered his education by enrolling in the Houston Community college. Adjusting to his new environment was not an easy task for the young Nigerian.

It was not a simple transition. Cultural shock is a real thing! I had an upper hand though. I knew English. Almost everything else was different in some way, shape, or form. Even the little things like spellings. British English and American English spell certain words differently. The weather is different. The way we talk in the U.S is different

Around this same time, he started listening to a lot of music from G-Eazy (an artist that heavily impacted his craft), as well as Smokepurpp, Comethazine and Lil Yatchy. He noticed all these artists had an authentic sound and story they wanted to share with the world. This influenced him and gave him the courage to start making his own music. 

After graduating from the Houston Community College, he later transferred to the University of Houston. It was there he started producing music with an app called “Music Maker Jam”. Unsatisfied with just music production, he hit the studio to record his first song— the ESKRY produced Dirty Dance with his friend Joseph. Orchestrate96 has since released a good number of projects— 2 mixtapes titled Exposure and Exposure 2.0, and his debut 7-track LP Young & Naive which was officially released on July 24th, 2020. Young & Naive featured the likes of Big Xodia, N.o.E 5, and Victoria Fisher.

In the words of Orchestrate96, Young & Naive is a personal project which is filled with a lot of lyrics and messaging that speaks on being goal-oriented.” He says, “Most of my lyrics point towards being goal-oriented. I talked about how I work a day job. How I attend college and I made sure to include noteworthy encounters while on campus.

 “I made this album to show a side of me that is not obvious to my fans or listeners. It is my debut album, so I wanted my listeners to know me more. An attempt to build a bond or relatability.

After a brief hiatus where he launched his merchandise Orchestrate96 returned to music with the OMB Bloodbath and Space Kid assisted ‘Pop Out’. The song, which happens to be the lead single for his impending album “Money Baby”, follows the relative success of Young & Naive.

Spring is rounding up. I was looking to create a summer anthem for my fans and listeners. A song that gets listeners hooked immediately. A track that stands the test of time.

Produced by Kevin Hues, Pop Out features Space Kid who upped the heat with a very catchy hook celebrating his accomplishments and Houston Based rapper OMB Bloodbath who recently inked a record deal with 10:22 PM and Love Renaissance (LVRN), in partnership with Interscope Records. Orchestrate96 ended the song with a witty 16-bar verse reminding his fans of the cadence and melodic flow they fell in love with on his previous album. The end result is a refreshing summer anthem you can jam to.

“I needed a track that could stand the test of time. Kevin Hues made the instrumental and invited Space KID to jump on the hook. I had personally listened to Houston Artiste, OMB Bloodbath for mind boggling flows in the past. I knew she would be a noteworthy addition to the song. Once she said she was open for features, I sent Kevin’s instrumental in. After a couple of weeks, the entire song was ready for listeners.

Orchestrate96’s rationale for naming his next album Money Baby stems from his long-term obsession to build generational wealth. Wealth, he says, generally opens doors and opportunities. It is obvious the young Rapper has the goal to leave a legacy behind not just with his music but with anything he finds himself doing.

I want generations after me to enjoy options and opportunities money has to offer. This album Money Baby is a reminder of that goal. I have dedicated a great deal of time to the audio production, visuals, and featured artists on this upcoming album. Everything from the cover art to the engineers, photographer, videographer behind the songs. There is going to be an obvious improvement from my previous 2020 LP, Young & Naive.”

With an enviable work ethic and supportive team, Orchestrate96 is ready to make the world his oyster. He is among the many talented young musicians pushing the envelope to give African music a positive look and global appreciation.

“Pop out” available on all platforms.

Listen to Orchestra96 in our Songs of the Week playlist on Spotify and Deezer.