The Sweet Sun-Kissed Melodies Of Nigerian Superstar Joeboy
Nigerian singer, songwriter and afrobeats star, Joseph Akinfenwa-Donus, better known as Joeboy, was raised in the inner cities of Lagos. Fluent in the pivotal genres that are hip hop, RnB and of course Nigerian Afro pop – the young artist inevitably shows a sturdy foundation of knowledge when it comes to music giants such as 2Baba, D’Banj, 9ice, P-Square and Chris Brown. We caught up with Joeboy to discuss his new album Somewhere Between Beauty & Magic, writing hit tracks like “Baby” through adversity and what steps have led to such an exceptional journey into music.
Joeboy may only be 23 but he certainly holds his own in the growing landscape of afrobeats. His career started under Mr Eazi’s emPawa Africa initiative in 2017 after getting the attention of the revered artist from an Instagram video covering Ed Sheeran’s “Shape Of You”. Mr Eazi eventually encouraged the then 21-year-old to sign up to #emPawa100, a funding and mentorship program, which helped facilitate Joeboy’s very first video for his single “Fààji”.
Prior to his signing at emPawa Joeboy would be found head down studying for his Human Resource Management degree at the University of Lagos. An invaluable asset that proved to be useful in his life beyond the halls of university, especially within the music industry. Growing up, Joeboy shares with us that singing in a church choir with his older brother was an experience which has had a lasting impact on his sound to this day, “I learnt a lot about harmonizing from going to choir practices with my elder brother and it kind of developed my love for music subconsciously” he tells us.
He approaches his style with an effortless composure. Combine this with his gracious and tender-hearted nature, and Joeboy has quickly adopted the role as Lagos’ latest pop wonder. With thanks to the success of last year's “Nobody” and a sturdy line-up of other hits, 2020 proved to be an epic year for the young star. Talking about the intended impact of his music Joeboy contemplates the necessity for some positivity these days “life can get crazy sometimes and we all need that positive boost from time to time,” he says “that’s what I give in the form of music. My music is the antidote you need in your life.”
With lockdown starting to ease up, the temperature slowly rising and the anticipation of a summer bursting with quality music, Joeboy’s buoyant notes of serenity are here to guide us through it all. For Joeboy it’s not about the fame or being impressive, it’s about being honest, and honesty is a capabilty that very few posses – “In everything I do, I make sure I am true to myself, I can never falter as long as I always keep it real with myself.” he explains. From music once being just a fantasy, to becoming as highly regarded as the artists he saw as ‘superheroes’, there is no question that Joeboy’s will grace the world with a legacy to be proud of.
His most recent album, Somewhere Between Beauty & Magic, which landed in February, comes filled with serene, uplifting beats expertly pieced together by OxygenMix and production from E Kelly, Killertunes, Dëra, BeatsbyKO, MOG, BigFish, Tempo, MexFlairz, Semzi and Type A. Currently the 14-track album presents no featuring vocal acts, however Joeboy assures us we can expect to see a second volume later this year, and the first taste of this has landed with additional vocals on the track “Door” with Ghanaian artist, Kwesi Arthur.
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NW: Growing up in a Yoruba household were you immersed into the world of music from a young age? Are there any notable influences?
J: Yes I was immersed into the world of music at a young age and had a lot of musical influences growing up, from listening to 2Baba, D'Banj, 9ice, P-Square, Chris Brown and a lot more.
Do you feel the impact of growing up with church music on your sound today?
Yes I really do, I learnt a lot about harmonizing from going to choir practices with my elder brother and it kind of developed my love for music subconsciously.
How has your family responded to your growing fame?
My family is actually pretty cool with it, sometimes they see some news about me and call to confirm if it’s true lol
Having received a Bachelor’s degree in Human Resource Management from the University of Lagos sounds like a valuable skill set to enter the working world with. In what ways have you noticed your studies come up in your music career?
Studying Human Resource Management has given me the advantage of knowing how to deal with people or handle working with people without conflict arising. Even if by some slight instance, conflict does arise, I am really good with conflict resolution.
Mr Eazi brought our attention to your talents in 2017 through emPawa Africa, what has this stepping stone meant to you? What’s the most significant change to your life before and after getting signed?
emPawa Africa will always be an important part of my story and a big shout out to Mr Eazi for supporting me and his mentorship has been a great resource in my career. The most significant change in my life after working with emPawa Africa is I started making music on a professional level.
Tank Top, Chrome Hearts
I want to have a legacy, the idea that my music becomes or stands as a beacon for positivity, happiness, joy, love and self-love
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“Baby” seems to be one of your most popular tracks. What was the process behind bringing this one together?
Interestingly enough, during the period I made Baby, I was really sad and not in a good place mentally, music was my refuge so I just kind of put all my attention to writing music. I told my producer, BeatsbyKO to send me some beats, then he told me about another producer, Dëra, who produced Baby. He sent me the beat and I called up my sound engineer, Oxygen Mix and recorded the song. When I was done, I knew the song was going to change my life.
Creating something meaningful and impactful seems to be an integral part of your vision. What inspires this? What do you want fans to gain from this?
I want to have a legacy, the idea that my music becomes or stands as a beacon for positivity, happiness, joy, love and self-love.
What’s the hardest aspect about making music as personal as you do?
Making music has never been difficult for me, I like to be honest in my songwriting, I sing from my soul so it’s always easy for me. In everything I do, I make sure I am true to myself, I can never falter as long as I always keep it real with myself.
Your music has an uplifting, positive feel which is an admirable gift. Is this something that comes naturally to you?
Yes it comes naturally to me, I always want my songs to have a positive effect on people even if the song has sad lyrics. Life can get crazy sometimes and we all need that positive boost from time to time and that’s what I give in the form of music. My music is the antidote you need in your life.
There were no featuring acts on your recent album Somewhere Between Beauty and Magic, what was the reason behind this decision?
It wasn’t an intentional decision, I had a deadline for submission of songs but I couldn’t get the verses of the featured artists locked in on time, thankfully there is a second volume of my album Somewhere Between Beauty & Magic in the works and will be out this year with some dope features.
Do you feel a sense of relief to have shared this new album with the world?
Yes I am relieved and I have been able to to prove myself again with a beautiful body of work that I am super proud of.
Nigeria is rich with incredible talent, what do you think it is that leads to such an innovative generation making music?
Nigeria is blessed with incredible talent, and what has led to our generation being innovative and making incredible music is because we have a huge population and everyone's distinctively unique and the fact is that we've been forced to look inwards and make something for ourselves creatively because there is a huge unemployment problem. There aren't a lot of jobs and opportunities out there, and i feel like we young people have found a way to make ends meet and that's what has influenced the large number of creativity coming out of the young population in Nigeria.
Your music brings the sounds of Nigeria to the world’s music stage, is this global representation of Nigeria something personally important to you?
Yes it is personally important to me, music is one of Nigeria’s biggest exports and the sounds being globally represented is a big win for every Nigerian and African.
Your new single with Kwesi Artuhur has been released ahead of the forthcoming EP, what inspired this collaboration?
I was in Ghana for a media tour for my album Somewhere Between Beauty & Magic, the atmosphere and vibe being there inspired me to want to feature a Ghanaian artiste on the video for the song and Kwesi Arthur was the first person to come to mind because we already have this synergy that is evident in the smash hit “Baajo“ by Kwesi Arthur featuring me, I felt like he was the right person for the song so I decided to send him the song, he loved it and recorded on it, a day later we shot the video in Ghana and voilaaaaa!
Yes, it is personally important to me, music is one of Nigeria’s biggest exports and the sounds being globally represented is a big win for every Nigerian and African.