It has been an emotional few weeks in Nigeria, and those emotions have been felt strongly across the globe as #EndSARS became the latest global movement to spark the youth into worldwide protest. That these protests have come during a year like no other should not be taken lightly. 2020 has been exhausting but the energy that Nigerians have shown to fight for human rights has been exemplary.
At a time like this it feels almost surreal to consider talking about anything else, but through the tension and anguish, one of the things that has kept people united and motivated is music. It was on this note that we began our conversation with hitmaker, Fireboy DML.
The 24-year-old afrobeat singer has seen his star rise to exceptional heights in the last 18 months and he is now globally renowned as one of the hottest properties coming out of the continent right now. We caught up with the YBNL signee to find out more about the work that has gone into his flourishing career.
It’s a great pleasure to be speaking to the one and only Fireboy DML! How’s it going in Lagos right now?
Yeah man I’m good, I’m easy. I mean things are pretty tense across the country right now but we are all doing the best we can to get by. But as an artist, I’m great man.
We can imagine how hectic it is, and we will touch on that very shortly. Kicking things off on a happier note, we still haven’t got FIFA 21 yet but we know that you’re on the Sound Track! How did it feel to see your track Scatter featured on this year’s FIFA OST?
Bro! It’s an unbelievable feeling man, the love has been too real. Really, I just want to take afrobeat to the world because that’s what we believe in. That’s our sound, it’s an African sound so I really just want people to know, love and appreciate what we are good at. It felt great to deliver something originally Nigerian, originally African to the world.
Over the years the FIFA Soundtrack has gained a reputation for only featuring the coolest up and coming music around the world. Does this feel like an endorsement for you?
I mean it’s a real privilege, but we didn’t make the music specifically in order to fit in anywhere. We made it to reflect our sound here from home, and I think that’s what people from outside Nigeria (or Africa) want to hear. They want our authentic selves and that’s what I delivered.
Have any celebrities from abroad shown you some love since the track blew up?
Oh hell yea, especially the footballers! Earlier this year Virgil Van Dijk and Gini Wijnaldum (Liverpool players) were jamming the song King before kick off I think. It was on their matchday playlist and they tweeted me about it. There are a few others as well.
That is so cool! You’re getting love from across the globe; American music site Pitchfork recently reviewed your last album, Apollo! How have you made yourself so accessible to international markets?
Oh yeah I recall that! We are super proud of moments like those, and I think it’s down to me and my team and the focus that we all have. I’ve got a great team behind me and they are constantly pushing to get the music out there – I work hard to make sure that the music is the best quality it possibly can be.
Bro, you got 8.3/10 on Pitchfork, do you know how hard that is? J Cole doesn’t have a single album rated above 7!
Oh wow [laughs] wow that’s incredible!
Speaking of your team, you are signed to Olamide’s label YBNL. How involved is he in your career?
Olamide is the guy, he’s the boss man, really. He knows so much and thinks in such a broad and business-minded way and he’s always one or two steps ahead. It’s been great working with him since I signed to YBNL in 2018 and he’s been a great leader for me to work with. He’s like a big brother, we can talk about anything and he’s always very encouraging. It’s a really solid team
What kind of mentor is Olamide?
He’s very wise, but he also encourages me to do my own thing. He leaves me to it, he just sets up the platform for me to succeed but other than that he tells me to be myself and be the best version of myself.
Do people still call him Baddo?
[Laughs] yes, even I do. I call him Baddo all the time when I greet him!
With all that has happened this year and artists pushing out their releases and postponing projects; have you been working on anything?
Yes, I have and I am excited to be releasing a new album soon. It’s been in the works for some time and it’s coming together very nicely! 2020 has been a hectic year but we realised as artists that music is all we’ve got. Although the government didn’t always support us, we supported each other as an industry. Our fans have also supported us tremendously, so although it wasn’t easy, we made it work.
Last but certainly not least; we can’t let you go without asking about your thoughts and feelings on the ongoing protests in Nigeria right now.
Yeah man it’s heartbreaking. The police in Nigeria have been killing young people, beating young people, arresting us, harrassing us, it’s been really bad for a long time and this year we are just fed up. Everyone is speaking out, youth, artists, it’s been almost unbearable but we won’t stop until we get change. We urge everyone to stand up with us and it’s great that people outside Nigeria have also supported our cries. It won’t end here that’s for sure, it won’t end until we see the change we are demanding. As artists we are also not hiding, we are using our voices to help amplify the movement.