Words by Hiba Hassan
Creative Direction: Mariam Sholaja
Photography Mariam Sholaja
Photography asst. Mofe
The name Oxlade is one of many middle names given to him by his family, being the eldest grandchild. With that comes a great deal of responsibility or pressure some would presume, but for Oxlade, he has moved his larger-than-life presence from his family, but also to the wider world. Born and raised in Mushin, Lagos, Nigeria, his artistic flair is one that came from within, being in the heart of Nollywood culture and one of the origins of the Afrobeat genre.
Singing from the tender age of 10, it has been around three years since he first came onto the scene, officially. And you can say that the breakthrough in his career cracked open from his 2018 collaboration with fellow Nigerian rapper Blaqbonez, creating the track ‘Mamiwota’. It is just as important to reflect on the lows as well as the highs when truly wanting to learn or be inspired by someone or something, and during the time of his breakthrough, the immensely talented musician had dropped out of university and had almost given up on his dreams, which he recalls as his ‘darkest times’.
Since then, Oxlade has been an unstoppable force in music but manages to take the time to reveal a character that is most heart-warming than meets the eye. His love for the most important relationship in his life, his grandmother and guidance by the grace of God, is what affirms his self-assurance in what some would say, an over-saturated music industry.
We sat down with the rising star, on set in his hometown of Lagos, to delve deeper into the musician behind some of our favourite tracks...
Kasien Is An Artist Of Rebellion Perseverance And Passion
South West London’s Kasien has been redefining the UK music scene ever since his early SoundCloud days. Having recently unleashed his debut EP, ‘I Found Paradise in Hell’ earlier this year, Kasien continuous to progress in his momentous career, implementing his unique influence to generate a sound like no other.
Kasien is already a staple figure within the upcoming new wave of music, collaborating with the likes of Kelvin Krash, Cadenza, Daily Paper and many more. He also went on tour with London-based fashion/photography brand, Places Plus Faces back in 2018 which took him to sold out shows across the UK.
Kasien’s story is one of rebellion, perseverance, and passion. Throughout our talk, we discuss some of the hardships Kasien has faced, some of his most joyful moments, and also the tale of his late father, DJ Swing.
Words by George Patterson
Photography Elena Cremona
Styling Malcolm Yaeng
MUA Aiofe Hipkin
Photography asst. Vilma Red
Tell us about the story of Kasien, before the success - where were you born, what kind of environment did you grow up in?
I grew up in South West London, I’m Nigerian-Jamaican. My mom and dad broke up early so I lived with my mom and her family, making me very Nigerian oriented. I also got kicked out of my school and moved to Nigeria for three years. I was there from year 9 to 11. So all those kinda vibes - Nigeria, London.
So growing up as a kid, what cartoons were you most into?
I used to be a real cartoon head bro. Well, first of all, I had every Disney VHS, every one. Like I'm a real Disney kid. My mom used to just put Disney in front of me. I used to make like arenas and stages using the VHS’ and fought using my wrestling figures. I used to watch a lot of wrestling as well, WWF, WWE, all of that. I used to watch everything, bro, like Cramp Twins to Phineas and Ferb, even old school ones like Biker Mice from Mars. Almost every single South Park as well.
Do you feel like that aided how animated you are today?
100% man, all the cartoons and shit I’ve always wanted to be a character. Shit like South Park - that definitely fucked me up as a kid (laughs). You know what I'm saying? Watching them things when you're in like year 4. It’s a mixture of South Park and Eminem that fucked me up early. I just started knowing certain things and saying certain things.
So, we know your dad was a DJ. If you’re comfortable doing so, can you tell us more about his story and the impact he had on you?
Yeah man, well first of all he was a B-Boy, he used to dance. And then him and his friend started this thing called Boogie Bunch. And they were doing parties around London, with people like to Tim Westwood, Trevor Nelson, Manny Norte - loads of DJ’s, you know like the early ones. Then he started DJing on choice FM, and that’s basically what Capital XTRA is now. So, at that time, it was like Semtex and him pioneering the scene for quote, unquote “urban” music - black music at that time. And then he also used to do like club shit, Ibiza, and all them ones. But his impact for me, just growing up in my house has always been music. Every single wall of my house was full of vinyls. My mom is a big hip-hop/ r&b head, so all the r&b would be from her, and all the hard hip-hop shit would be from my dad.
Obviously, your parents were a huge influence on you growing up, are there any other people you looked up to outside of your family?
Not too many people, you know. Not gonna lie I looked up to weird people (laughs), I used to look up to Triple H or some shit. It wasn’t really me thinking “I wanna be that”, it was more like, oh, these guys are cool.
You went to boarding school in Lagos, Nigeria - what are your favourite memories of that time in your life?
There’s too many man, there’s too many. I'll tell you one memory that was funny. So, when I got there, I was a bad yute, and after being there for a while I started to adapt, and I started clocking that I can bump heads but I'm not gonna win in the situation, so I started to calm down and started doing better in my grades. They made me a social prefect when I got older which was probably the best and worst thing that they could have done. They gave me responsibility over the parties and the smaller events, and it started getting out of hand to the point where there was one time, we basically wanted to turn the lights off during the dance so we could get our wine on and the teachers weren’t allowing it, so I was like “I’m the social prefect” and got in front of the kids, saying “We should be able to do whatever we want!”. I got everyone gassed, it was like a mini riot. Then all of a sudden, we heard SMASH and some of the kids got too gassed and broke the boarding monitors window and everyone blamed it on me. So, then I had to go in front of the whole school and get stripped of my title. But every time I see one of the kids who was in that school, they always remind me about that shit so yeh that was a funny memory.
So, getting a bit more to into your journey in music and how you started. Obviously the SoundCloud era was a key time for a lot of artists like yourself. What would you say are your top 3 songs on SoundCloud?
Hmmm, Heartbreak Kid is definitely one of them. I always liked that one and people really like it, because it shows diversity. I’ve got a song on there called Mojo Back which was one of the first ones me and Krash made in like 2016, and it’s hard, when you hear that you’ll hear where K2 comes from - that dark, harsh kinda sound. And a tune called Lost which is hard as well.
And before taking rap seriously, you’ve mentioned that it was a way to impress girls, how often did that work back then?
I mean, not necessarily. It was more like I wanted to rap, but I just didn’t take it seriously. I was content with people being like “Oh, yeah. He raps and he's got maybe like one song on SoundCloud”. And if girls came up to me like “That tune was hard” I’d be gassed with that. I wasn't thinking about taking this seriously, but after a while, I was like, yeah, this is actually I want to do.
There’s chaos everywhere. It’s about how you deal with it.
You also went through a Metal phase in your life, what did that time help you express within yourself?
I was just looking for something different to identify myself with. At that point in time, my parents had just broken up and I felt weird, I just wanted to lash out. You know when you’re between the ages of like 11 to 15 you just have something in you, like you’re tired of being that person or you're tired of listening to people, so you just want to be a bit of a rebel. And through that phase is where I found all the new metal shit and it expressed exactly what I was feeling. It helped me get it out, and my friends at the time were a weird cross between rock and hip hop, around like 2002, I think I must have been in year 4. Lincoln Park, and all these vibes that are kind of rappy but also rock influenced, it kind of represented all the friend groups and shit, because everyone’s just kinda chilling together.
Another interesting thing about your past is that you got into dance. So, what would you say was your go-to move back then?
Wow. You know what I used to actually do which is so corny, but back in the day it felt so hard, is that dance that T-Pain used to do. I used to bust it out and people would be going crazy.
Do you feel that dance has helped you with your stage performances?
It’s definitely helped, the first times I've ever been on stage in front of people, apart from like school plays, obviously, have been from dancing. It was the first time I interacted with the crowd. And I don’t know if you’ve seen live dance shows, or even the ones on Instagram, where people are hyping them, well that’s how the crowd is. Every single move you're doing the people are going crazy, they had the horns, it’s like its carnival. And that energy, that made me feel comfortable. And then another thing, I was actually speaking to someone the other day, and I'm like, you know, when dancers count, like “one, and two and three”, lowkey that's kind of helped my flow when I'm listening to music, because I'm finding little pockets, it's like flow is almost like dancing.
The theme of our latest issue here at New Wave is ‘Excellence’. What does that word mean to you?
Just being the best version of yourself.
Where is your comfort zone and how do you escape it - Do you find that your work is better when you have a sense of discomfort?
Definitely. Definitely. My best work always comes up when I'm super nervous. I was even saying two days ago in the studio, like we made this song and it’s really sick, it was the fact that I was low on sleep, nervous, I’ve never met the guy before and I’m smoking bare cigs. Having that nervous energy brings out better shit for me, being uneasy, it forces me to do something better.
If your life was a TV series, give us some of the biggest highlights.
I was actually saying yesterday that I feel like I'm living my Vinnie Chase moment right now. I'm watching entourage for the third time again this year.
Aside from music, how do you take creative control in designing your projects? (i.e. music videos, graphic design, etc.)
Yeah, I'm pretty involved all the way. Most of the people I work with, we’ve known each other before, we know where we’re at so we can meet halfway. More time, they know my vision, just as well as I know my vision. So, it's like, you just throw things back and forth and it’ll come together, but you know I'm very involved. Nothing just gets presented and I'm like, “Yeah”. More times it come from my head.
Who are some of the key people you like to work with?
Mr. Oliver Cadenza. Love working with him, that’s my G. Krash, Kelvin Krash, I work with him a lot. Also, this kid Adam, he’s a photographer, we just met out a couple years ago and ever since I've never had to tell him to pull up, he's there, in a heartbeat. And we always make that cool shit. So yeah, he’s a good kid.
Having that nervous energy brings out better shit for me, being uneasy, it forces me to do something better.
You work with talents like Walid Labri a lot - why is he one of your go to creatives?
Again, I've known him for years, one of the first times we worked together was on a Nike project. Yeah man he's always had visions you know, and he's kind of like Krash where he came from a group of friends that are a bit older and they kind of took us under their wing when we were younger you know? Just creative work or whatever and Walid was one of the guys that was there, and ever since then he was just quiet but always wanted to do his thing. I always told him when it's time to work and when I've got a sick budget, I want to do something crazy. Walid is mad, definitely my go-to.
You mentioned Dexter Navy, what advice has he given you in terms of visual direction and your artistry in general?
In general, he's always telling me “Don't stop” - Like always calling me randomly saying “Don’t stop, don’t stop…”. But the last thing he did tell us, it was after he saw the video for Time, he said he really loved it, but he feels like my next video needs to be taken away from fantasyland and made to be more just Kasien. So, I mean, that's what we did, we stripped it back.
We see you collaborating with various underground UK creative brands, even going on tour with Places Plus Faces back in 2018. Tell us more about the best experiences from that tour and how you work with these brands/friends.
I’ve known Ciesay even before P+F, back in 2013, we watched Ferg and Travis Scott perform Uptown, he got a photo of Ferg, put it on Tumblr and that’s how he started his thing. He always said when it’s time for you I’ve got you, and he comes through all the time.
Who are some of the biggest artists you mess with right now, in the scene?
I really like Jesse, BenjiFlow, New World Ray. I like bare people man. Everyone just brings something sick to the table, like you got Finn Foxell and Louis Culture, Parallel and them lot are killing it. There’s so many sick people, all coming from different angles and it’s so fresh, yeh I’m a fan of all of them.
I learnt to believe in myself a bit more. Because when I was there, I was the least known person.
In the topic of paradise, we saw you in the “Voices of Jamaica” documentary. Tell us more about the behind the scenes of that trip and what you learnt from it.
Okay that was paradise! That was fucking paradise. I learnt to believe in myself a bit more. Because when I was there, I was the least known person. I mean, people there were just like getting Grammy nominations and that. Yeah, you know, everyone had cuts with big people, even Krash, he’s my closest friend but he can still say he has a platinum selling single with ASAP Rocky. So, you know, I was there thinking “Oh fuck, are they gonna take me seriously?”, “are they gonna hear what I have to say?” - based on my credits and whatnot. But yeah, I noticed that there was zero evil, you know, it was just all about making good tune.
And there's a reason why you were there in the first place.
Exactly. And I definitely started believing in what I was doing a lot more after that trip. I learnt how to be carefree while making songs. I was seeing the way Miraa Mae will rap for Jorja and shit, and the way Amine will just jump on tunes. He's the kind of guy where it doesn't need to make sense, he just wants to catch the vibe and worries about fixing it later. Not tryna be a perfectionist, just having fun.
So, final question - What do you feel your dad would be most proud about in terms of the moves that you’ve made within the music industry?
I think he’d be most proud of the fact that I haven't given up because he started getting recognition when he was like 31, he could have quit a long time before that shit as well. So, the fact that I’m still keeping at it and still working hard. Trying my best to do it.