Mo’believe is a talented singer from Lagos, Nigeria.
The artist recently released a single – Faya – that has received rave reviews from all corners.
Hi, Mo’believe! Can you tell us a bit about yourself? How are you coping with the lockdown?
Hi, I’m doing great. I’m in my home studio. Preparing for the release of my next single, Faya. Well, the lockdown was in fact a time to press pause and rethink. I was reading a lot, Nigerian history and politics mostly as well as one or two self-help books. I’m currently reading ‘U R a Brand’ by Catherine Kaputa.
What was growing up like for you?
Growing up was pretty normal. Conservative middle-class, Christian home. Home was in the outskirts of Lagos. It was really a guided experience, a lot of routine and education.
What was your earliest memorable music experience as a listener? What kind of music did you listen to, growing up?
I vividly remember waiting for everyone to sleep then going back to the TV to catch Primetime Africa. I remember saving my lunch money to buy Cartiar’s ‘Owo Ati Swagger’ which was the first album I got. After that, I became an addict – I still have about 70 CDs in my house. In fact, every artist that released an album from 2007- 2013, I bought their albums. It was so much that my friends knew to give me albums on special occasions. My dealer usually gave me albums that had exceeded their shelf-life for half the price. Man, good times.
Did your early music experiences influence you to start creating music?
Well, I started rapping off that influence. I remember going to cybercafes to battle people on a Facebook group. It really was just a bragging-rights thing – nothing more, nothing less. I first heard of 9ice in that cafe. Someone – much older – was talking about this guy that just dropped an album ‘Certificate’. The way he spoke about it, I honestly thought 9ice was a rapper.
When did you start creating music? When did you start pursuing it professionally?
In uni, I used to freestyle with my friends. We made a song in school from playing a beat on the home theater system and recording a voice note. It really went viral in school. A friend offered to take me to a studio to do the song proper. He called someone so we could do the track together. Guess who it was? Zlatan Ibile. That song never left the studio – we recorded it for reasons I can’t even remember now. Although I had started recording way before that, I always like to say that I started professionally when I released my debut EP just because that’s the easiest day to remember.
Who & what inspires you to make music now?
I’m inspired by a lot of things, but most importantly society. I’m very opinionated on a lot of things, music helps me express it. I’m influenced by a lot of people. Lately, I’ve been moved by Burna Boy’s versatility.
How would you describe the kind of music you make? What genre?
The genre I make is called Urban Folklore. Its a mix of the old and the new. Old values and stories on a new sound.
Do you play any musical instruments? Can you produce and engineer yourself?
Unfortunately, I do not know the first hoot about production. However I can record perfectly, set reverb and delay levels. That counts for something, right?
When you create, what’s your process like? What are some things you do to get into the zone to create?
If it’s a beat, I listen to what the beat is saying to me. And then I make melodies, take whatever the beat is saying to me and write on it. If it’s a from-the-scratch thing, I like to compose the melodies from home then we can take it from there. Making a custom beat is usually a more fun but tedious experience. It is like live music, you can take this out and put that in till it works perfectly. I only need a clear head to create and if I don’t have a clear head, I’ll pick a beat, say whatever is bothering me on it. My first song ‘Friends and Frenemies’ was made like this. I had just had a serious rift with someone I considered my friend. My next song ‘Faya’ is sort of like that – only that it is a lot more structured.
Do you make music for yourself or does your audience influence your direction?
I like to create first, then we can suit it to taste after I get the idea down.
Have you ever performed on stage? How did it feel?
Performed on stage a lot. It feels liberating. Sometimes it is daunting, but it really is an experience. It builds your confidence even for other things.
How is support from your family regarding your music?
My mum is my biggest supporter now. She is on every post on my Facebook fan page. She recently bought me a cufflink shaped as a guitar which I thought was really thoughtful. At first, it was the typical reaction you’d get from a family who had to pay through their nose for a very good education. They expect that you’ll do the usual drill. It was quite hard convincing them.
What has been the most challenging aspect of your career as an emerging artist?
I think the hardest part is garnering an audience. People know your name but they won’t necessarily go out to stream your music even if they see the name all the time, sometimes they retweet your stuff but they don’t listen. Until something or someone convinces them to listen. For me, the listener, like every consumer of any product, is the most important part of the puzzle and often the hardest piece to move.
What have you learnt the most so far in your music and life journey?
Keep going. Just keep going. the biggest lesson is just to keep going.
Many artists have distinctive visual brands. What would you say is your fashion style? Do you have a stylist?
Yes. My styling ties with my brand of being the cul – cool – in culture. So it’s a lot of combining the old and the new – like my music. I’ve been blessed with the guys at McTopaz Clothing who make all my pieces and style me for all my shoots.
How frequently do you release music?
I’m really trying to get into the singles market. At the very heart of it, I’m a projects kind of guy. I grew up listening to music like that. Oh, I should add that in my years of buying albums, I never bought a ‘DJ mix’ as popular as they were those days. I digress. In the singles market, music is like a fast-moving consumer good – especially when you don’t have the budget to stretch the shelf life of it. I hope to be a lot more frequent with it.
What was the idea behind your previous project – Big Daddy Mo?
‘Big Daddy Mo’ was me showing a more fun, relaxed side to me. ‘Big Daddy Mo’ used Mo’believe to narrate the tale of his endless pursuit of what can be described as ‘young love’. Big Daddy toots his own horn, here and there, making it even more interesting to listen to. On this EP which plays out like a movie or rather, a chapbook, Big Daddy goes from wanting to take care of his baby, into complaining about a dark-skinned lover to another lover.
I can’t talk about the concept of the next project for now. It’s classified. [Laughs].
If given the chance, would you: Reinvent the wheel or build a new chariot?
I’m trying something radical with the new project so it is what it is already.
What’s the goal for you? What would a successful career for you look like?
I want to influence culture with my music. I want my music to really stand for something bigger than just making people dance or laugh. A successful career would be being able to scale it up along the entire value chain of music making & business and even community influence.
Would you take a 9 to 5 job to supplement your income – do you currently have a job – or do you do music full-time?
I often have an argument about what it means to do music full-time but this isn’t the time or place? Is it?
Where can people reach you on all platforms?
You can reach me @mobelieve_ on Instagram and Twitter. Mo’Believe Music on Facebook and you can mail me at: email@example.com.