Oxlade atmet Musik an den Ufern von Lagos, Nigeria
Mit Blick auf die malerische Meereskulisse von Lagos, Nigeria, nimmt der Afrobeats-Musiker Oxlade eine kraftvolle, aber etwas verletzliche Haltung gegenüber einem Element ein, für das er am repräsentativsten ist: Wasser. Eine Gegenüberstellung mit Oxlade in leuchtendem Pink, knalligem Print und Oversized-Cut-Denim, abgerundet mit den kantigen Nahaufnahmen seiner zahlreichen Tätowierungen und der großen schneebedeckten Perlenkette, ein Zeugnis für das Leben, das er derzeit für sich selbst aufbaut. Ein heller, exzentrischer Charakter mit einem ruhigen, mysteriösen Auftreten.
Geboren als Ikuforiji Abdulrahman Olaitan, ist er ein Zeugnis für jedes Projekt, in das er seine kreativen Fähigkeiten oder seine Erfahrungen aus dem wirklichen Leben einbringt, und sein Publikum bewundert es. Er hat viele Singles veröffentlicht, die sicher auf Ihrer oder der Playlist Ihres Nachbarn stehen werden, darunter 'AWAY', 'DKT' und zuletzt die beliebteste Radiosendung 'Interest' von Dolapo mit Frau Banks und ihm.
Words by Ben Broyd
Creative Direction: Derrick Odafi
Photography Mariana Pires
Styling Margaret Zawedde
Styling Asst. Owen Smith
Photography Asst. Zubayr Hossain
MUA Natalie Messino
Production Assistant Danai Tsuro
Studio Frame Perfect
NW: Hey, man. How's it going?
WurlD: Bless. I’m bless. It's moody out here and it's raining, but my spirit and energy is consistent. That’s the most important thing. How are you?
NW: I'm good, I'm good. How are you enjoying your time over here?
WurlD: I came in last night from Lagos, where the humidity makes it so hot. I'm just trying to make sure I don’t fall sick and stay really protected, it's been a very quick change of temperature and weather, you know.
NW: Yeah, I can imagine. Yeah. What’s life like back in Lagos?
WurlD: You know what Lagos is a lot of madness, but very beautiful. I call it beautiful madness. It gets addictive in a way as well; it brings out the fire in you. I spend a lot of time with my family when I’m in Lagos, because the past 20 years, I've only spent like three or four years there, 2000 to 2017 I was in the US. So, from the end of 2017 till now, I’ve spent a lot more time in Nigeria. It was a long gap, so it just feels good to be reconnecting with home. I'd love to spend a lot more time here because for 17 years, I only saw my mom like once a year. Just being with my family now, it's just beautiful, and creating music at home in Nigeria, I can’t trade it for nothing else, you know?
NW: Yeah, I completely understand. And so, your artist name is very original. What does it represent to you?
WurlD: So, world is my world with you, which is the title of my new album. How do I explain it, so world the U is you, so it's my world with you. So, for me, I feel like I'm an instrument of everything that I've seen and experienced, places that I've been, just everybody else around me, everything you've seen and experienced shapes who you are, and WurlD is my world with you and everything around me. That's why I titled the new album ‘My World With U’. I've had it for so long, I didn't reveal it until I was ready to make this particular album. I started off creating this album in a very commercial mindset where I felt like I had a lot to prove. I wanted to create commercial music that would shut up some critics and do something that I felt like I'd done before that was successful. And after over a year of creating, I realised that I didn't have the depth that I wanted. I didn't have the authenticity; I didn't have the realness that I wanted. I went back in the studio and started creating a lot more conversations that was more personal of my struggle. So, the balance of this album, you hear a lot of my thoughts on things that I've been to, how I see things, how I see everything, some of my ideas and what I want out of life, and what I want for the people around me, and just I kind of went more in depth into those conversations.
NW: So, you were born in Lagos, but moved to Atlanta to pursue your education. Did you feel like you had to do this move for you to chase your dreams?
WurlD: You know what, just like every African, our parents when they pay for you to go overseas, it's a lot of money. My mum paid for my tuition to Atlanta to study and music was my thing. That's what I really wanted to do. So, I had to juggle between college and music and try to find myself in the music scene, daytime in a school, night-time in studios trying to pay, using my pocket money to pay for studio sessions and just to get my ideas down. It was important for me to finish college because I was learning so much. I knew it was important for my parents, as well. I wanted to make my mum proud. I went ahead and got a master's degree, but sometimes I wish I actually got my Master’s degree in music because I went and did my undergrad in Computer Science, and Master's in Information Technology, it was easy for me to get the Master's done, because if I had taken another discipline, I would have probably had to start over and make my Master’s longer. So, I wanted to be done with school and get my masters so I could focus solely on music. But while I was in college, the entire time I was building myself up, I was learning how to create music. I was writing songs for other artists in Atlanta, I was working with B.O.B, I was writing for Mario, I was working with country musicians, I was working with a lot of hip-hop, down south hip hop, and working with a lot of trap musicians, I found myself in different rooms, and it really made me who I am today because I look back it was all a learning process. This particular album has elements of hip hop, r&b and Afrobeats, which is really like my journey; I was born in Nigeria with Afrobeats, learning how to create music in Atlanta, r&b, hip hop and all that. In this album really this is really who I am, is my true story. I really don't create music with a genre. My goal is just to create heartfelt music that motivates and inspires people. Different feels, I think you can definitely find different feels in my music.
NW: And with that in mind, who were your musical influences growing up, and how have they impacted your musical style in your solo career?
WurlD: All the way from Michael Jackson to Kanye West to Boyz 2 Men, Coldplay I listened to all types of music. I think I've also been influenced by a lot of African musicians like Fela Kuti, Shina Peters, King Sunny Ade, just so many. I listen to music and I've been inspired by so many, even new artists like the Futures, I listen to a lot of hip-hop music, and I just been influenced by just so many different artists in different genres of music. I just love music in general. I don't listen to music naturally, I listen to music, listen to details. I'm a creative mind and my ears are hearing different things. A lot of people probably won't pay attention to it, most people listen and dance and enjoy music. I'm listening to the backgrounds, the percussion and the cadence, why this person's song sounds better than this, and finding myself in the process, I’m a student of the art in general.
NW: And so, how important is heritage to you and how do you try to convey this within your music?
WurlD: You know what, it's everything. Good story, right - When I was living in Atlanta, I was working with B.O.B, Mario and all these artists that were local, and bear in mind I was born in Nigeria. And I had a placement on this album, and people loved the record. This was an album called ‘Ether’. And I had a song called ‘I Know’ it was B.O.B featuring me, and I remember working with Trinidad James as well. I would go to these artists or go to their hometown because it was closer while they're doing videos, and I would see and feel that love that they get in their hometown. For me, despite the fact that I was on that album, there was still a certain level of disconnection. Because that's not my original home, right? I wanted that for myself. I knew the importance of being loved by your own heritage and people where you're from, because what happens is when you make it you become a good gauge, you inspire people, and it was important to have that connection. And I'm so blessed today, fast forward, here I am, like I've been in Nigeria with so many fans and so many people that really appreciate and support me and it means the world to me. I know I can be anywhere in the world knowing that where I'm from they appreciate what I do and they love me, and that’s the best feeling.
Full jacket, Noemie Wilson
Ich glaube einfach an mich selbst und glaube an Gott und seine Fähigkeit, mir zu helfen, meine Gaben gut zu nutzen.
Jacket, Tamar Levy
Trousers, Tamar Levy
Blue jumper, Delores
NW: So obviously with that in mind, how proud are you of the music coming out of Africa and in particular Nigeria, with the likes of yourself, Burna Boy, and Wizkid as some examples? It really is an amazing time for African music right now.
WurlD: Absolutely. It's an amazing time, it's only going to get better because this is kind of, not the first phase, because there were great artists before us, and it's going to get better with the ones that come after us. Because we're breaking new boundaries, we know the range is increasing every day. But now you have got the next generation that are watching us know, you're gonna have the newer Wizkid, you're going to have the new Burna boys, you're going to have the artists that were inspired by Davido, inspired by Tiwa Savage, and artists that are inspired by me and the new generation, and they're going to come with different range, different conversations, so much more pride and in just energy, and it's only going to get better.
NW: Do you feel that it might be perhaps a sort of a new wave of African artists perhaps in the past, they wanted more acceptance in the Western world, to be big in America. Whereas now they’re prouder to represent their African heritage?
WurlD: Absolutely, it's happening now. It's happening as we speak. And you know what, I'm curious to see how far it goes. I know it's gonna be beautiful, it's gonna be special, because we have a lot to give. There are so many parts in Africa, you still have the South Africans, the East African, you have North Africa, but you see the Amapiano sounds from South Africa emerging as well now, and people go crazy for this sound. So, what's gonna happen over the years, and in the years to come is different sounds from different parts of Africa, beyond just Afrobeat’s, you're gonna have Amapiano now, something new is gonna start. So, it's beyond just Nigeria it's going to spread, and the world is going to start experiencing different colours of Africa. It's just not one thing. It's just different colours. So now the western world is going to have a lot more to choose from, than just XYZ, you have A to Z Now, whatever your vibe is, that you relate to, and it's going to be beautiful.
NW: It really will be. So before thriving as an artist, you worked as a songwriter, how do you feel this experience helped you to become the artist that you are today?
WurlD: It was everything. Once upon a time, I remember when I was in college, I would go lobby around studios in Atlanta, and they wouldn’t let me into the studio because I was really nobody, just the African kid. And there's this perception of you’re African, we’re doing r&b here, we're doing Hip Hop here, like what do you know about that? Perception wise? You know, I'm not fit to be in that room. I had to work 3,4,5 times harder than the rest. I remember one day, an amazing producer, one of my mentors, Kenny Smooth. He's created some amazing chart records in America. He saw me sitting in the lobby, and he walked up to me like ‘what do you do?’ I was like, ‘I write songs’, and I only had maybe two demos. I played it for him, and he was like ‘Oh, you kind of cool, kind of nice’. And he was the first person to really let me into the studio. And everything changed for me then, you know, from there, I started working with artists that he was working with. He believed in me, like different people walk into the studio, like yo, this African kid is nice. From there I started working with Timbaland, then I had a placement with him and Timbaland. Then I met Mario and Trinidad James, I met B.O.B and was also working with country musicians and female pop artists, and it just kept going. And all this was a learning process for me. And when I started taking my artistic careers more seriously, it made it easier for me to communicate my music, because I worked behind the scenes trying to help all the artists craft their sounds and their songs in their melodies. So, it helped me with a lot of my range.
Ben: Interesting. And so, having worked with all these incredible people was this the motivation behind wanting to pursue a solo career?
WurlD: The solo career came from me demoing. I would demo songs and play out the records. And I remember a lot of the A&R’s would be like, ‘I like your tone, you should try doing something’, I had a friend, his name is Brasco, he was signed to Timbaland, he took me to my first label meeting, had two songs demoed and he played it for an A&R at Capitol in New York, and they loved my music and flew me out to New York for my first label meeting. This is my first time having a label meeting as an artist. I felt like I'd always wanted to do the artist thing, but song writing was my way of navigating through the industry. And I felt like maybe it was time to really take myself more seriously, because they wanted to hear me more than the artists and the music that I was presenting other people. I felt like, you know what, I think I can actually take it more seriously, and I'm glad I did.
Ben: So that was the real moment when you were like, ‘Okay, this, this could be a thing’?
WurlD: Yeah, because I would share all this stuff. And they wanted to hear me. I would go to a meeting and play 20 songs, and it's that one song that I'm demoing that I don't really want to play. Because for so long at that time, a lot of people did not take me seriously. people that I was around, it's so important that you are around people that motivate you. They didn't know my story, they didn't know where I was coming from, to them, I was just a blank canvas. They just heard a song and a voice, and they took that seriously. It made me start changing my circle of people that was around as I realised, they were suppressing me. They needed me in a song writing space to write songs with them, not see me as an artistic stand alone.
NW: Do you think they didn't want to see you flourish?
WurlD: Yeah, it was more they just saw me as just a song writer. But I think that's the world we live in, you have to be around people that really kind of like to see you truly for who you are. Or even if they don't see it, they allow you to be who you want to be because of the dreams that we have. We only have one life to be anything that we want to be, and people will look at you crazy, like you need to sit in your space. Right? And you have the wrong people telling you what to do, and then that dream dies right there. Immediately the minute you dreamt it, it dies immediately, like 10 seconds later because you shared it with one person who disregards it. it's so important that we have love and people that allows us to spread our wings, so important
NW: You’re making me feel really motivated right now, haha
WurlD: Yes, man Come on, bro. We all have one life to do everything that we want to do. So, that’s why I don't create the same music and genre. My sound is constantly going to change. Every song that I've created doesn't sound the same. And I don't know how I do it. It's easier to repeat something and keep a fan base that just comes to you for repetition. I feel like I've been able to create different sounds every time, and I'm so blessed that I was bold enough to do that.
NW: With that in mind, your sound has been described as combinations of New Age sounds fused with real substance and emotional depth. Is this something that you actively tried to achieve? Or is it something that you've worked on hard enough now that is just your defining sound?
WurlD: You know what, I'm constantly pushing myself. When it comes to the sounds, I'm constantly fusing things, different elements. I feel like I grew into it. You know, I've not always been like this. What’s it called, like 10,000 hours? Is that what it’s called?
Ich glaube einfach an mich selbst und glaube an Gott und seine Fähigkeit, mir zu helfen, meine Gaben gut zu nutzen.
NW: To perfect your craft? Yeah
WurlD: Yeah, when it becomes natural, but I was shown my purpose. I know my purpose. I know the value of the work that I'm doing and the importance of how I can really shine light and inspire somebody that don't know me from anywhere. I know the power of the music, so I don't play around with my lyrics. I put a lot of thought into the work to make sure that I'm touching someone in a very special way, in a spiritual way. Taking someone out of the depth of sadness inspiring someone to be better, as much as I can in the mix of having fun at the same time. Because you almost have to alert people these days, we’re all so serious, there has to be an element that brings people in because the world listens to music more on the surface. But you have to kind of find ways to bring it in and communicate that. So, for me, it's been a process and I'm still growing, I'm still learning ways to communicate every day, and I just pray and hope that I keep getting better at it. I'm relentless.
NW: And obviously, the big thing that's upcoming is your album. What can we expect from this album?
WurlD: Oh man, this one is like none of the albums and projects that I've ever released. This is my world with you. And this time, I'm showing a lot of my flaws, I'm showing way too much vulnerability. The other day I thought to myself, I was listening to the album thinking did I share too much this time, too much vulnerability. It's time, but It's scary. The one thing that makes me like, ‘Oh my God’, is the amount of vulnerability that I shared on this one. But I feel like it's necessary. I see myself as an image of every human being that I've come across, that I’ve felt, and who I’ve held conversations with. This album was very raw. It's very black and white. It's not fairy-tale. I'm not in a stage of imagining things. I'm really raw, black and white, my conversation, my emotions, my expressions, the way I'm delivering the music. I call it 3D. Like you hear and almost feel like you were there with me and feel my pain through the songs. I wanted to be as raw as possible, just sharing the light of my experiences, my struggle, and my thinking. I feel like the conversation is just so raw, it's so amazing. I talk about overthinking a song called ‘Overthinking’ on the album. And I'm always overthinking, right? Because I know that I'm not the only person that overthinks things. Everybody I know overthinks things, and in every person, there's a perfectionist that wants more out of life. For me personally, I'm talking about my sight. Even when things seem so real and so pure and so good, I'm still overthinking it because of past experiences that trigger us to be afraid. A lot of times, you know, we're trying to overcome fear. It makes us overthink things even when we're just right there. We're doing the right things, but we're overthinking.
NW: Interesting. And obviously, I know you say it's quite nerve wracking to be this open, but at the same time, is it also quite exciting to show the world another side of you?
WurlD: That's the best part. Because just when you think you know WurlD, you're going to be hearing a different sound, and a different range with my vocals, different range of my conversations, still themes that are familiar with me, but I wanted to bring people that are supporting me along on this new journey. So, don't feel like I just completely switched the sound up, it's still me, but I'm showing a different range and different side. I think I've noticed a lot of people that listen to my music, they're already aware of the fact that WurlD has these consequences, I'm gonna try these new things, and I'm so blessed that they're with me to go on this new journey. I'm excited to share these new sounds. It's easy to follow what's out there, I don't listen to what's out there as much, because I was just somebody who created a sound that I listened to, and did something special, something new, right? And now the rest of the world follows that. For me. I love creating something new every time. And I'm so blessed to be bold enough to create something new. Just like the people that have inspired me to create something new, and I'm just following that same path. Because if I don't do it, somebody else will. And I'm like ‘ahh, I could have done that, yeah, I thought about doing it, but I'm afraid to do it because everybody's doing this, and this is the easiest path’. No, I'm going to do something new that feels new. I'm just going to dedicate my all to it to make sure I see through it.
NW: From what I’ve gathered it feels like the word legacy is a really important word for you, when you come to the close of your music career and you look back on what you've done, what is a legacy for you?
WurlD: I want to show you what you never thought was possible. Because the people that I look up to, they show me things that I never thought were possible. There are so many impossible things that we can do in our lifetime. And I'm just showing you another side of things they never thought was possible, things you never thought were possible. You didn't even think you were missing it until you heard this, or until you saw this
NW: That's really a great way of defining a legacy, but it's so true. So, something you can look back on?
WurlD: It’s like once upon a time, we never thought flying on a plane was possible. Somebody did, right? I'm a big Kanye fan, I'll tell you why - Fearlessness inspires me. Not just the sound, the sound is just part of what he does, that sound is like maybe like 2% of it. The effort and approach, the relentlessness, and the drive to be bold, to always want to do something different, that inspires me, I'm like, ‘Yo, this person can do it, I can do it’. If I can be as natural and pure as myself, and just focus on my true self, and share that with the world, that way I can never lose. I can never lose by sharing my truth. All I need to do is just learn as much as possible to be able to perfect my craft. So, when I share with people, it's as raw as authentic as it needs to be.
NW: So, what can we expect from WurlD for the rest of 2022 in the upcoming future?
WurlD: You know, I really want to tour more in the next few years. I have about four projects now, including this one that a lot of people have been appreciative of. I want to get closer to the fans, I want to sing with them, I want to share more. I want to reach out, I want to reach outside of music and into the film industry, something in movies to either soundtrack in or actually act. I've always been a fan of actors. I find myself acting to get my emotions across, so that can be felt when I'm in my music videos. I'm acting, I’m not just getting lost in the music, I want to explore that some more. But of course, touring is what I want to do. I feel like there's a lot of people that are listening to me. They're not seeing me. So, I definitely want to do my world tours. No pun intended.
Full Jacket, Noemie Wilson
Jewellry, Artist's Own
Jacket, Tamar Levy
Trousers, Tamar Levy
White Sports Jacket, Tamar Levy
Sandals, Vagabond Shoe Makers