When you think of Nigeria-which is the most populous African country what would probably pop in your head may be Fela Kuti's Afrobeat, Sade Adu, Wale (probably) and Nollywood. unbeknown to most, there is actually a growing hip-hop scene back there. While more than 95% of the music coming from said country is a blend of dancehall vibes, African percussions tinged with pop sensibilities, there are a variety of acts who embody the universal language of hip-hop/rap.
One of these acts is the man known as LadiPoe. who describes himself as " contemporary rapper/artist…with a lot of stories to tell". The Lagos-based rapper is on the verge as he just inked a deal with Mavin Records, which is owned by producer Don Jazzy (the man behind afro-pop sensation D'BANJ, former GOOD Music signee).
A seasoned emcee who got his chops making music while schooling in North Carolina in a group called LEQ. EARMILK was able to catch him on Google hangouts during his downtime and we had a very interesting chat about music, his musical transitioning from North Carolina to Lagos and much more.
E: Let's start with your background. Did you grow up in a musically inclined home? what type of music were you exposed to?
Poe: My parents love music, but I'd just as much as the next person. They weren't musically inclined, but they would always be jamming to something. Al Green (that's my mum) ,Barry White , Commodores . Some Nigerian stuff, Paul Play Dairo, Lagbaja, Fela on rare occasions ( although I found my way there eventually) Typical stuff.
E: You schooled in North Carolina right? The first thing that pops in my head is Little Brother etc which you did mention in an interview inspired you. What was the experience like in NC? Did you ever meet them in person?
POE: NC to me was a great intro to life in America. It didn't have the hustle and bustle of the bigger states and all that, but it I got to meet all different types of people, from different place in small doses. doses I could manage and digest having just come from Nigeria you know. Yeah, Little Brother had a major influence, particularly Phonte – his rhyme style, his love for wordplay wit over punchlines, Yeah, I met them including 9th Wonder.
E: what else inspired you to make music and what was the first piece of music you made?
POE: I can't say I was inspired. It just sort of happened. I become friends with a guy called Greg..he used to cut my hair at first..then met Jeff, his cousin. Jeff rapped. We became cool. He came round and played me stuff one day. I heard this record called The Journey . asked him to leave it with me and I wrote a verse to it He said he produced with a guy called Kurt, who coincidentally was is one of my classes 'The Journey' was first ever recorded. Jeff – J.E. Free, Kurt – KSwiss (now Atlas), and Poe. Lyrically Equipped we called ourselves lol
E: Do y'all still keep in contact?
POE: Yeah we do but not as often as we'd all like, but we do. Greg as well.. E: Nice.
E: Nice. Do they still make music?
POE: They each had long hiatuses but Kurt is back to tinkering a bit. Same with Jeff – he also produces and has been focusing on that. Out of the 3 of us I was the least likely to carry on with music funny how things work out.
E: Let's talk about your music making process. What aspect of the music making process excites you most, and what aspect discourages you the most?
POE: Writing the recording the lyrics give me a great amount of joy there's this exhilaration that comes with finding the right words when you come up with a line that captures the feel you're after /I also like being there when the engineer is mixing. I dislike pushing music..its like convincing people to like you when it should just be organic..don't get me wrong I understand the need for a good push.
E: Ok, fair enough. I know how you feel but nowadays artists need to have that "salesman" mentality to some degree.
POE: Definitely, there's a business behind all this.
E: Your song "Ko Ye Won" is a fav of mine. Funny I actually just heard the original version a few days ago hehe, the remix by Dj Juls is what I have been rocking to all these years. How did that song come about? How did you link up with Juls later for the remix?
POE: Hahaha.. that's cool. Uhm .."Ko Ye Won" came at a time of frustration for me .. Mentally I was half in the States ..Half at home. The original record is produced by a guy called Fubu Baba, a Nigerian- Paris-based producer. Juls liked it and asked for the vocals.I think we had done "Feel Alright" already
E: Oh I see. But at the time you had some solid records with SDC?
POE: Yeah, they're like fam. They helped forge a path for me..although I didn't realize it at the time..but yeah we've dropped some great records together.
E: Did Juls produce "Feel Alright"?
POE: Juls did.
E: So "Ko Ye Won" was crafted at the time you were working on the 'Icarus EP'?
Poe: Lol..wow you know about that.
E: I do my research
POE: funny thing is I never officially dropped that but I recently found out it's somewhere online. my only regret is not releasing an official project.. many missed chances to do so.. searching for perfection has its drawbacks.
E: But I reckon we are still getting Talking About Poe this year with you dropping the massive "Man Already".
POE: That remains to be seen. Lol..I'm never prematurely announcing a project again.
E: Who are your fav producers like go to producers in Lagos/Naija?
POE: I’ll tell you the people that I'd 'go to' because of my work with them. Ikon ,Spax, Adey ,Altims , Kid Konnect ,Bankyondbeatz.
E: Fav non-Nigerian producers?
POE: 40,uhmm. Yeah 40, especially if I could convince to spend some weeks in Nigeria to absorb the sonic landscape
I don't like fighting with the beat…with the instruments and sounds. I like my vocals to fit right in..I feel like 40 gets that he'll strip sounds away just to get the vocal all cozy and build around the nuances. If he had an ear for the peculiar bounce we had here it'll be a match made in heaven.
E: Anyone else?
POE: hmm not off my head who does the actual production for Major Lazer.
POE: Then Diplo. Also Kaytranada – ever since I heard his work with Gold Link I'm convinced he and I would work really well together. He reminds of KSwiss/Atlas in a way
E: Describe a real-life situation that inspired you?
POE: Real life situation? That's like a daily thing for me .just simple conversations I have with people . the first line on "Can't Forget" was inspired by a conversation I was having with a friend. The verse on "Chardonnay Music" was inspired by Lagos. Lagos is very inspiring …not always for positive things. The unpredictability, The contradictions, The women, The men.