In the new world of interviews you wait for artists in the comfort of your own home, staring into an empty Zoom room. One can’t help but wonder what the artist is up to, potentially thousands of miles away. Lucky for me, there’s Instagram Stories, and I had the drop that just yesterday, Olamide was having the time of his life in Miami, riding a boat down the coast, popping champagne and dancing to his latest single “Eru” with friends and family.
Would he be up in time after a long night of celebration? Did I calculate the time zone correctly? Does he have this link?
All these questions run through an interviewer’s mind in the time of COVID, coupled by an awe at the unlikely and incredible world where I, an American in my small Parisian flat, can interview Olamide, a Nigerian, cruising the coast of Florida, all on a little glowing device.
Olamide showed up right on time, with a big smile, a cool posture and dark sunglasses. We were here to talk about Carpe Diem, his new album that I had bumping in the background, and a project which, after several listens, I’d already become a fan.
Salutations and well wishes granted, the interview began:
Christian: Let’s get this started. I know you’re a busy man…
Olamide: Let’s go!
“Carpe Diem” is an expression a lot of people will be familiar with. Why did you choose this title and how are you looking to seize the day?
The mood is like, YOLO, you know. I wanna live and limits are nothing, I just wanna do all the things that I wanna do and live my dream to the fullest.
Well, you’ve definitely done a lot so far.
There are a lot of messages on the album and it definitely feels limitless, but are there any key ideas you wanted to get across with this project?
Majorly I just wanted to try and pass down this sound with a spirit of happiness… plus it’s been a hell of a year
Yeah it’s been a hell of a year. It’s been a hell of a ride for me for the past 3, 4, 5 years now since I lost both my parents, my mom and my dad. It was like one day after the other. I lost my Dad in 2016 and I lost my Mom in 2017 and that really weighed me down so much and it affected my creativity. I’m just trying to refocus on my music career now and take it all the way, you know, give it my best.
My condolences to you…
You know, I can tell there is this lighthearted energy on there that speaks to that, and maybe bringing some closure through creativity because it does sound like you switched up the style a bit.
Yeah I did, I did, I definitely did. And that’s one of the reasons I really started singing because I always wanted to do both. I don’t know, for some odd reason I’ve always restricted myself to a specific kind of sound. But now I’m just like, you know what, to hell with all this, you know, I just wanna explore, be adventurous with sound and try new things, experiment, do all the things I’ve always dreamt of doing.
You know I never used to sing so much, I always used to do like, “rap rap” and all that but right now I do wanna sing so I’ve been trying my best to do it. I’ve been doing voice training, I got myself a coach and all that. I’m also learning production and how to make beats. So many things. You know, music is the only thing that I know that I’m good at so I give my 100% and always learning more about this to know every part possible.
Did you want to break out of the box of being a “rapper”?
I mean, initially when I started music I started singing first, but everyone used to tell me my voice was rubbish…
So I switched to rap. Then someway or another after the hype I ended up singing on a couple of songs, but I didn’t intentionally mean to sing on them … but one way or the other it came out like that. Right now I truly want to be better at singing. I wanna do it because I really love singing *laughs* I really do love it, I don’t care if it looks too soft for some people because it’s always different for a rap artist to start singing, but I don’t care, I’m just gunna live my life man, do what makes me happy.
Well, I’m glad you did. And like I said, I think we can hear your desire to sing on previous projects, and you do let it go on some of the older cuts, but, of course, there’s a contrast with some of the more aggressive raps you’ve done in the past.
I also saw that you described this album in particular as Galala and Celestial music…
Yeah! It’s a little bit of a marriage between the Jamaican Dancehall sound and the Nigerian Galala sound.
Can you tell us a little more about Nigerian Galala? Is it something you listened to a lot in your past?
So Nigerian Galala was from the late 80s early 90s with people from Ajegunle in Lagos… we had some people like Daddy Showkey and Baba Fryo and other people that pioneered that sound and made it very big back then. A couple of new artists have been tapping into it but each time around I’m trying to focus on it and make it bigger than what it used to be.
Yeah, bring it the now, I feel that. You know, another thing that stands out for you is this hypnotic ability to flow in and out of multiple languages, English, Yoruba, Pidgin, and I was wondering what that brings to you as an artist and especially as a “rapper”?
So for me personally it’s basically just me doing me. It’s very simple like, if you know about A, B, C, and D in different aspects of your life you always want to add a bit of that. So if I understand all these different languages and this and that, then I must use them. It’s the typical me, that’s the way I roll that’s the way I talk.
Almost everybody in Lagos, before they say two lines in English, you’re gunna hear one Yoruba word or Pidgin. So that’s the way we talk, that’s the way we live, that’s the way we relate to people. For me I use Yoruba sometimes but it’s mostly about Pidgin and English.
It sounds natural that’s for sure, you can almost lose track of the barriers between the languages when the flow is going off.
Thank you boss!
Of course! Kind of switching it up to the people you incorporated to work on the album with you. I noticed that the big introduction to the production was P. PRIIME, this young producer prodigy. I wondered what it’s like working with someone so fresh and so young and giving them that kind of responsibility on such a huge project?
I swear to god man, I already wrapped up my album when my content manager sent me beats from P. PRIIME and I was like, hold on wait a minute, you need to call this guy to come and have a session with me! I had to scrap like 90% of what I had previously.
I started to call up P. PRIIME and bring him in and that’s why he makes up like 70% of the production. His sound is just so fresh and he connects to the picture in my head for what I really want to achieve.
So you said someone sent you some beats, but had you noticed him before from the Sarz academy or his work with DJ Cuppy and stuff like that?
I never noticed him before honestly. He’s always been working with Fireboy, but I never noticed him, I got those beats in my email…
And it was like *snap*.
That’s awesome. A true talent. And speaking of young talent you got Fireboy, who you executive produced on his last album via the YBNL label, but you’ve also got Omalay, Bella Shmurda, Bad Boy Timz, all pretty young artists with relatively small discographies…
Yeah crazy. *laughs*
So my question is, is it important for you to foster this young talent? Is that something that you think about?
So, coming up for me was quite difficult because as a young artist you always aspire to have a record with an established artist and it was really difficult for me, I didn’t have the opportunity to make all that happen or achieve all those dreams so I just took it upon myself that when I make it, I’m always gunna try my best to put new people on. So that’s why I always do that.
That’s righteous man. And you had a great selection. You definitely pushed me to discover some of these guys, especially Bad Boy Timz…
Oh, Bad Boy Timz is wicked!
MJ and all the MJ Remixes…
Yeahhhhh! Man you been doing your research!
I’m talking to Olamide you gotta do it.
But how does it work, do you just hear the work of these young guys decide that’s the sound you need, and reach out to start working together?
I would say I think I just have a good ear. When I hear something nice and I hear someone that’s singing or someone that’s got something to offer I can tell.
Nice, well keep up the selecta brotha…
So you’ve released 10 albums in the last 10 years right?
I’m wondering how your process evolved over time? One thing I noticed was the track lists got a bit denser on recent projects and I’m wondering what that process is like, not just the length, but how you’ve evolved over those last 10 years and 10 albums.
I mean I feel like for me right now, it is way beyond trying to prove a point. It’s just about living for me, I just want to live my life to the fullest. I’m done trying to prove anything to anybody. Right now I just wanna make good music and make people feel good. When I go into the studio, before I started the project I already knew from the jump that I don’t want the album to exceed 12 songs.
Man, I did the same thing for Fireboy on his previous project. I told him, you know, the world is evolving. People’s attention span is very short right now, they don’t have time to listen to anything that’s too long. Majorly in Nigeria, people don’t have that time. They don’t have the luxury to listen to a body of work that is on for like an hour and a half. So, it worked out for him.
Well, actually, he ended up with 17 songs, but that’s because he had a lot to say and a lot of features he wanted to include on the project and he wanted the body of work to sink in, but left to me I would’ve had 10, 11 songs.
I saw you mentioned PARTYNEXTDOOR as an influence on this album…
Yeah, dig it man!
Yeah, love PARTYNEXTDOOR, great work. What other influences do you have on this album, them included?
Hmmm, Lauryn Hill. There are actually a lot of songs on this album that if you listen carefully, I don’t think it’s too far-fetched to say, “oh, this boy has been listening to Lauryn Hill”. *laughs* Plus I really like her music, her sound, her output, who she is… I just like the fact that she sings effortless and it makes you just wonder, “what was Lauryn Hill thinking back then”… It’s just so… something about the way she makes her music… I don’t know, I just love everything about her. Sometimes I just wake up in the morning and wish I could just ask her some questions!
It’s not too late!
And yeah, PARTYNEXTDOOR. They really had a big influence on this project. Those are the people I really listened to for this project.
Yeah well that’s the Queen right there, Misseducation is just…
That’s right, timeless. One of the best.
Touching more on the business side of things, I know you recently signed a deal with EMPIRE, and you’ve been doing International shoutouts since “International Local” on YBNL, and I’m wondering what international ambitions you have at this point?
Well for me personally I feel like it is not my way to limit myself. I am a big dreamer. I love to dream big. I wanna see myself go way beyond my own imagination. I wanna see myself go farther than I am right now. I won’t take shortcuts, no. I wouldn’t do some crazy shit or chase clouds to make it happen, but I know I’m gunna get there. Gradual process, I believe in a gradual process. I just want to make sure I take my craft to the next level and I showcase myself to the world.
That way it gives me more room to help people all around the world. One way or another, if my music connects with people and at the same time it gives me the opportunity to travel to different countries and see talent out there that needs to be heard as well, pick them up and sign them up … I really just, really really wanna help so many people win. Not just in Nigeria, but globally. Reach out to so many underprivileged people and just spread the love so the world can be a better place.
For me, there is no limit to sharing our blessings. That’s why I wanna make it big globally. To have access to so many people out there in the world and help them one way or the other, and I feel the best way to connect people around the world is through music.
I listened to YBNL preparing for the interview and one thing that stuck out for me was on the track “Street Love”, you had this prophetic line where you said, “Me and my people we gunna make it to the top” and now YBNL is one of the most successful labels in Nigeria. Do you feel like you’ve fulfilled your prophecy and where do you go from here?
God has been good to me so far. But I still feel like there’s more to achieve and I’m gunna do whatever it takes to help me get there.
And umm, I don’t know if this is the top yet…
I feel like I’m just getting started!
That’s true vision man!
Well, I guess I’ll just wrap it up by asking, is there anything else you want to tell us about the album while we have you? Best ways to listen? A message for our readers?
Yeah, the album is gunna be available on all musical platforms and we shot like 7 videos that’s gunna be dropping right after the album, so people should just be out there on every single platform that they know and search for Carpe Diem.
And God bless man, I love everyone!
Listen to Olamide’s new album Carpe Diem here.