Blending genres and pushing new sounds have been a constant in Tim Lyre’s career. You can already hear an ambition to explore and break barriers in his debut Circa 94, released on Soundcloud around 2016. At the time, the platform was an incredible hub for alternative Nigerian musicians which would soon be branded as “Alté”, a cultural movement with the aim of disrupting and changing the mainstream West African sounds and aesthetics. Proudly carrying this label, Tim has pursued this mission in the last few years alongside many underground artists such as his fellow Chop Life Crew or Prettyboy D-O, releasing different joint EPs (inDigo with DaRe, 3 Strains with Fasina) and solo mixtapes (Senpai, K.AP.). However, his appetite for good music goes way beyond alternative and niche sounds: “Wizkid is probably my favorite artist ever”, he laughs when we playfully try to oppose Alté to “The Mainstream”.
Worry < echoes Tim Lyre’s taste. The project is subtle and clever, introducing new elements and depth to Nigerian music; yet, it is far from being alienating and is fully accessible to anyone who simply likes good music. Alternating between fiery Afrobeats on “Present”, soothing R&B on “Spanish Lime”, reggae/dancehall on “General” and a sort of rock infused soul on “Real” (a personal favorite), Tim clearly wasn’t stressing himself about being alternative, experimental or changing the mainstream when recording these nine tracks: his sole focus was to make the listener feel good. To achieve this mission, he went to look for artists with the same vision, composing a highly coherent team of vibe maestros: Prettyboy D-O, Lady Donli, Lex Amor, MOJO AF… Largely produced by himself, the project is a lively, fresh and colorful journey, which will make your day better. Tim answered a few of our questions.
When and how did you start worrying less?
I think I’m still trying to worry less! But the whole point of the album was to create that feeling of ‘worrylessness’. It was kinda therapeutic for me as well, because composing it helped me get through a lot of things in my life. I’m definitely more relaxed than I was when I first started making the album. I feel like if people can have that same feeling listening to the music, then job done.
As an artist, I try to worry less by doing my best to keep my focus, and making the best music I can possibly make. That’s my duty as an artist. As long as I’m focused on doing that I can always navigate my worries and feel better.
In the album, it seems like love is the key to worrying less (“Spanish Lime”), but also keeps you away from that peace of mind (“Real”)…
Love is a very complex emotion and feeling. I just wanted to represent that the best I could on the album. I’m a huge fan of love songs. but they have a tendency to be just generic, like “baby oo you love me you’re my world” (laughs). But that’s not a realistic take on love itself. Love is complex, sometimes it’s happy and sometimes it’s sad, sometimes you don’t want it. It’s definitely a major part of being happy as a person, everybody needs love. I wanted to address this complexity as best as I could do.
Do you recognize yourself as an Alté artist?
Definitely! And I believe the culture is the biggest it’s ever been. It started out as a group of young creatives who were thinking differently than their country and making different music than the mainstream music everybody was listening to. Back then, everybody was just posting on Soundcloud. We found a community there, people enjoying that breath of fresh air. Today we’ve got huge artists that have come out from that Alté community and they are doing crazy things all over the world: Santi, Tems, Odunsi, Lady Donli, Prettyboy DO… It’s never been more exciting to be part of that, and I’m lucky I benefited from being in that community.
However, back home there can be a stigma on that word, because I guess it’s like any new thing that comes around, people might want to push it back. But if something is good, it’s good! It’s finally transmitting on different levels across the world, so I hope it continues to improve as it is now.
Can you tell us about your squad, the Chop Life Crew?
Chop Life Crew is a collective. Think Odd Future, that kinda set up. We’re all different creatives: some of us make music, some of us are photographers, videographers… The way the group started was when one of our major artists, Mojo AF, released a song called “Chop Life Crew”, which went huge. It was a slow burner, he released it and December came around – a crazy period in Nigeria because there’s a bunch of shows happening, concerts… The song kept popping up everywhere, everybody could identify with the enjoyment. It just became a bigger movement than we ever imagined it could be. Now everybody’s just kinda focused on individual projects, but we’ve worked on a Chop Life Crew project, we have a few tracks scattered over there.
Your goal with this album is to make people enjoy and worry less. This kind of message can also be found in mainstream Nigerian music. How do you make it different?
I think the sonic. It sounds different and that’s intentional. I try to be a lot more musical than other artists, I’m not even saying mainstream music because I listen to all types of music. I found a way to own that craft in a way that’s effective for me to make this kind of album. I’m glad it worked!
I listen to all the major artists in Naija. I’m a huge Wizkid fan, Wizkid is probably my favorite artist ever. His latest album was crazy, it’s literally still playing right now, every song is just a burner. I feel like that’s what music is supposed to do, to make you feel good, make you happy, and people shouldn’t try to judge other people. Just try to enjoy the music!
How did you choose the artist featured on your project?
A lot of the time it just starts on Instagram (laughs)! When I find someone cool on Youtube or Spotify, I immediately go look for the artist. I get really excited when I hear new music. Lex Amor is the main UK artist I featured, she’s incredible, her voice is so unique and I just found her on Youtube. I was watching one of those boiler room sessions she did and I searched her name, messaged her, and she hit me back in a couple days… It didn’t take weeks and the song was ready! But I feel like with a lot of collaborations, as long as the energy is right, you can connect to the other artist properly. It should be easy to get things like that done. In the process of making that album, I didn’t have that problem a lot, where I wouldn’t connect with another artist. Choosing the features was very intentional. I wanted people to bounce up their energy and I’m glad we were able to do that.
Do you feel like you are in your “Primetime”?
I think I’m just getting started to be honest. It’s an exciting time for me because this is my debut album. I’ve always wanted to make an album. I waited so long to find the right opportunity, the right people to do that and now that I’m just getting started. The people are definitely gonna hear more from Time Lyre!
Worry < by Tim Lyre, out via Outer South on all platforms.