Afro pop artiste, Ojelade Olanrewaju Oluwafe aka LBee, has demonstrated his commitment to carving a place for himself in the highly competitive Nigerian music industry.
Currently under the management of YOS Records, he tells TS Weekend about his musical journey, his search for Vanessa and plans to collaborate with some Nigerian female singers, among other issues.
What inspired you to go into music?
My dad inspired me. He loved listening to music. In fact, I grew up listening to lots of music, from the blues of the ‘80s to songs from Michael Jackson, Don Williams, Johnny Partens, Kenny Rogers and more. When you get the vibe from a particular thing, it grows with you. That’s what listening to music did to me.
Briefly define your kind of music?
Like I said earlier, I listened to lots of foreign music while growing up and it made me versatile. I can play any genre of music except rap. But if it involves using my vocal strength, I am good to go with reggae, Afro pop and more. But honestly, I flow a lot more with Afro; that’s my type of music. I’m quite versatile; I can do anything.
You do more of Afro, have you dropped a single to reflect the genre?
Yes, I have. It’s a new song entitled, Santorini. Before that, I had done a song with 9ice called Fortune and Fame. That was my first official single under YOS Records. That was how I broke into the music industry. Now, I have Santorini, which dropped two weeks ago, and the video has also been released.
How long have you been signed to YOS Records?
I signed a deal with YOS Records on August 31, 2018. It’s more than a year now.
When did you start music professionally?
I grew up listening to music. Since then, I’ve had the urge to go into music professionally. I started doing music in 2010. I can remember writing a song and my roommates laughing at me. Now, here I am today. Really, dreams do come true.
What inspires your songs?
I was having a discussion with the CEO of my record label recently. I remember telling him that I needed to change my location, because everything I needed to get from this environment I have already got, and I don’t think there is anything left anymore. I actually draw inspiration from what I see around me. Nigeria has a lot going on right now, so there is a lot that can inspire one’s song.
So, are you saying that Santorini addresses societal issues?
Yes, partially. But right now, the societal issues are daily on the increase. One is depression. When one works too much and there is no time to play, it could cause a lot of problems. Santorini is a song that urges one to work and get money, and then use the money to enjoy life.
Since the record label signed you, have you been under pressure to produce more songs?
If any up and coming artiste signed by a record label says he or she has not been under pressure, then that person is not saying the truth. There is no way a record label would invest on an artiste that he or she would not feel pressured in some way. However, I know how to soak the pressure and come out with something brilliant. I am not perfect but surely I am close to that.
Aside 9ice, which other artistes would you love to work with?
I’ll love to work with Davido because I am sure that once I do so, he’ll carry me along. He is that kind of person. I will also love to work with Tuface Idibia; it has been my dream to work with him. So also Burna Boy and Kiss Daniel. On the foreign scene, I’ll love to work with Ed Sheeran.
What do you think YOS Records saw in you for them to have signed you?
I don’t want this to sound like self-appraisal, but I am talented and the record label’s CEO can attest to it. I am responsible and talented. So, I think that’s what my record label saw in me. I am not so much under pressure to generate income for the label. Music has always been my passion. My main goal is to sing and make some money as well. It goes hand-in-hand. And I’ll get there soon, I believe.
How has your family supported you?
My dad was and is still a very loving and encouraging father. The same thing goes for my mum, who has been very supportive. Before YOS Records signed me, my dad has been the one paying for my studio sessions, even while I was a student. It has been wonderful seeing my transition from being a student to a musician, all this through the support of my family.
Tell us about your educational background?
I had my nursery and primary school education at Ogun Montessori School, Abeokuta. From there, I proceeded to Abeokuta Grammar School. Then, I attended Achievers University, Ondo State where I studied International Relations.
How would you describe the Nigerian music industry?
The Nigerian music industry is going higher. It is gaining grounds internationally. Now, we have a lot of American artistes doing collabo with Nigerian artistes. This is happening because of our hard work, and if we put more effort to our music, we stand a chance of getting the Grammys. We have artistes like Wizkid, Burna Boy and Davido really pushing for it. People should watch out for me as well. I know the industry is competitive but very soon I’ll get there.
What are the qualities you have that will help you get there?
I started doing music in 2010 and I did not get signed until 2018. It took eight years of consistency before a record label signed me. I was really patient to get to this point, and now, this is my time to shine.
What were the challenges you faced before you got signed?
Breaking into the Nigerian music industry was not easy for me. First was the challenge of getting a good audience that would listen to my kind of music. Second was getting funds for studio sessions, recording, mixing and mastering of my songs. Another challenge was the promotion of my music after recording. All these are major impediments for me as an artiste.
Which female artiste would you want to work with?
In Nigeria now, Tiwa Savage is a major female artiste one could work with to get some kind of international recognition. So, yes, I’ll love to work with her. But if I really want to do a collabo with a female artiste that I’ll flow well with, I’ll choose Omawumi, Asa or Simi. The beauty of being a good musician is listening to other people’s works and letting them influence you.
You keep mentioning Vanessa in your song, Santorini, who is she?
(Laughs) I am still searching for that Vanessa. I am sure whenever I find her, she would come across like a typical African woman.