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Show Dem Camp’s Tec breaks down the African frequency

Show Dem Camp’s Tec breaks down the African frequency

Tec, half of the legendary Show Dem Camp duo, explains how his group broke through the noise by tapping into the innate frequencies of African music and how he’s been building his empire to support the sound ever since.

PAM had a conversation with Tec in Accra, Ghana about his experiences through his career and his life.  Known by the stage name Tec, Wale Davies is one-half of Nigerian rap duo Show Dem Camp, an artist, music manager for Grammy winning artist Tems and the Head A&R for Sony Music Publishing Africa. He is known mainly as being part of SDC which includes rapper Olumide Ayemi aka Ghost. The rap duo are credited for leading the charge for the Nigerian alté scene and thus Africa as a whole. Born in Nigeria, their parents moved to the United States for greener pastures. The duo met in the UK after moving from America separately and it’s been a journey full of twists since. They helped spearhead a new wave of underground music and took their careers into their own hands as artists and label owners. Show Dem Camp have dropped back to back classic projects including Palm Wine Express, The Clone Wars series, and most recently Palm Wine 3. They have also undeniably helped shine a light on a whole generation of young talent in Nigeria.

We would rap in school, go to clubs in Dublin and rap and people were like they’d never seen anything like that. We became local champions,” Tec says on a calm afternoon in Accra, where he’s leading a Sony writing camp, the first of its kind in Ghana. Tec grew up in Nigeria up until high school. Eager to travel out of the country, he followed his cousin to school in Ireland although he had no idea what the place was like. “It was a very strange place for me at the time with almost no black people in sight.” He had developed a love for hip-hop earlier through older siblings who schooled in the UK and brought back rap albums. Now in Ireland, he realized rap music brought him a lot of attention among his peers and suddenly made him cool to hang with, so he started developing his own rap lyrics. In high school he had listened to TLC, Ice Cube, NWA, Ice Tee, Snoop Dogg and 2Pac which would become his formative influences. 

It was later at Coventry University in the UK that he met another Nigerian rapper who coincidentally had the same rap name as him. They were both called “Golden Child” at the time. This rapper who later became “Ghost” was a year ahead of him in school and had already made a name for himself for his hard punching raps and lyrical dexterity. They started a small rivalry as both rappers also belonged to competing rap groups in the school. This rivalry slowly developed into a close friendship. Tec and Ghost became the last men standing among their colleagues to stick to the rap game. Tec says “hip-hop is something I would do for free in this life regardless of the job I’m doing” so even after university, he always found time to record some music at a friend’s studio as he worked in finance to pay his bills. This wouldn’t last long though as he later moved back to Nigeria in 2008 and reconnected with Ghost who had moved there a year earlier. 

At that point Nigerian music was just beginning to kick off, D banj and 2 face were already doing things,” Tec speaks with a calm confidence as he narrates how things began for SDC in Nigeria. A friend organized a tour in Nigeria for 2face and put Tec and Ghost on. Through this 2face tour, they got to meet Sound Sultan, Ikechukwu, Nneka, Mo Hits, and P Square who were all on the come up at the time. Seeing what they were achieving in Nigeria motivated Tec and Ghost to stay and fully pursue music in Nigeria despite their families’ protests against their career path.

Whenever they went out to the clubs in Nigeria, Everybody else called them “Show Dem” because they (members of the crew) were loud and made their presence felt wherever they went. Old friend and close colleague Shalala recounts that “at the time, Tolu Williams, Femi Dojoes, Wale (Tec) and Ghost started calling themselves Show Dem Camp because they wanted to prove all doubters wrong.” That, and coming back from abroad, leaving a career in finance, going through multiple interventions and trying to prove that this dream was possible unearthed the name Show Dem Camp. Things weren’t so smooth though, “At the time we were trying to figure out a sound for Nigeria, we had put out a hip-hop record and it didn’t really do well.” The duo tried so many different things at a time in Nigeria when the music was quick with a fast BPM. According to Tec, they met Ghanaian singer Efya in a studio in Nigeria and quickly hit it off with the whole crew. Efya upon her return to Ghana suggested the crew come to Ghana with her to support a series of shows she had. That trip to Ghana became monumental, meeting an array of Ghanaian artistes including R2bees, Wanlov, Yaa PONO, and Panji and during one session with Xo Senavoe, they met a young producer called Juls. The beats Wale got from Juls became their first hit song in Nigeria titled “Feel Alright”. A song which Tec says “changed our lives”. “Feel Alright” is a mix of highlife rhythms that blends perfectly with the raps of the duo and Ladipoe. This song helped kick start both Boj and Ladipoe’s careers as well being their first big hit

Tec explains that conversations with Panji Anhoff about resonance and musical frequency helped him understand a theoretical meaning for how African music makes you feel. “I realized that instead of trying to take Nigerians to a different place musically, it was for me to create at their own frequency, Hip-hop was just like the unwelcome cousin your parents force you to invite to family functions,” Tec explains on how most Nigerians viewed hip-hop. This song made SDC start getting paid gigs and national recognition. They had finally found their blueprint and there was no stopping them.

Fans sometimes forget SDC are a rap group because of how effortlessly they blend their rap with pan-African subjects laced with soulful vocals. They talk about societal issues and the results are purely musical. When asked about their thought process when making their projects, Tec explained that “every album is a reflection of where our mind is at, at that time and as we learn and grow as individuals, we find ways to share what we have learnt into our projects.” He also explained that the inspiration behind SDC’s features which have become legendary and the fact that they have helped shine a light on various new talents who are making waves worldwide now, Tems and Boj just to name a few, he said, “my love for music has always urged me to search for new artistes, new voices or new perspectives, trying to find out what is their reality and connecting mostly with artists who are giving me a piece of themselves through their music. I have always believed in calling musicians together, and creating a community to project their craft.” Now, as Head A&R for Sony publishing Africa, he says the only thing that has changed is being able to fund these camps and being able to amplify the music they produce. “Connecting in a communal manner will enable African artists to dictate where our music goes. Most of these American artists are signed to terrible deals… Why don’t we create our own music village? Why don’t we figure out our own deals because music is the quickest way for me to open doors?

SDC’s most recent project, Palm Wine 3 encompasses the African reality.  In fact in the intro, Folu Storms talks about the “show” referring to the project and pointing out the subject. In her own words she says, “we’re going to be talking about love, how it makes us, how it breaks us” and “how living in a city like Lagos may not be easy and sometimes get really hard.” She urges listeners to keep the faith and trust that in the end everything will be okay.

Delving into the album you hear the duo speak on societal issues, masculinity and feminism and so many other pertinent topics. Take a song like “Live Life” featuring Tems; Tec says in his opinion at the time after Covid, “it felt like the world was underwater and we had just now started coming out of that.” For him, “it was really about gratitude to be alive and to be able to make an impact while I’m alive.” He makes reference to an old friend who passed at age 33 and looking at how he (Tec) got to live longer than someone he admired so much. “For me when I think about life in that way, I feel that once we are blessed to be alive, we have to try and do something with it.” He adds that “we should try not to be caught up in fear, but to try and live life to the fullest.

He also adds that in our part of the world, men and women don’t know how to communicate because of their situation. Men feel being a provider is enough, while women feel being present is a show of love. Tec says Palm Wine 3 was made to touch on such topics. “On a song like ‘Freaky’, we felt the subject of sex and expression from a woman’s perspective in the African environment is almost taboo. This was us questioning that mind state and poking at the programming as we always do which will hopefully make people think beyond the norm.”  Tec believes that all forms of popular music came from African and though it went through various channels to spread all over the world through Latin music, jazz, hip-hop, the western world had over-commercialized it, and now, it’s back home. “The reason our music is now blowing up worldwide is that African artists are creating freely. Creating based on the feeling in the streets and the world gets that frequency.” 

Wale also believes that after understanding what resonance means, he feels the music coming out of Africa now is great in so many ways. African music has always been about how it makes you feel and that is interpreted in various ways which reflects all the music coming out now. Until the world realizes Africa is the source of everything he believes his job is not done. “The state of hip-hop right now is being sold on a base frequency. Music should be created freely and without hindrance. In most countries that African music is entering right now, they may not understand the language but they understand the frequency.

Wale’s other interests include managing the Grammy winning artist Tems. I feel like when you walk with intention in your own path, other doors open.” He says all these different “hats” came to him because of his love for pushing the culture and him aiming to build his ecosystem. In the case of Tems, he had been supporting different acts in Nigeria unofficially but Tems was the first person to see that he is an asset and picked him to be on her team. Working with a corporate organization like Sony Music Publishing was also unexpected because he felt his ideas were a bit too radical for such an organization but talking to some top Sony officials helped him see they aligned with his agenda and he could also deliver what they wanted. The music mogul has also started a label called Mars. “I think after gaining all the experience with these corporations, I can design a better model than the bigger corporations.” With initiatives like Palm Wine Fest he knows the brand will keep growing. Coming off a tour in the US and doing a festival in Lagos and doing a show in Abuja he feels it’s time to come to Ghana and do a proper Show Dem camp show by March. He also urges fans to look forward to the first SDC collab album with an incredible Nigerian group he will not name.