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ExO: ‘My biggest challenge is money and cartel in the music industry’

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Singer and producer, Magege Theophilus, more commonly known as ExO (or Ex-O) has been in the music industry for quite sometime but relatively quiet until recently, when he dropped the remix of his song, Wollop, featuring one Nigeria’s most influential music producer, Cobhams Asuquo.

Although, he had earlier released the song as a single, but it somehow slipped through the radar and in his own words: “it’s an R&B song that deals on the topic of originality… staying true to your art and doing what works for you.”

The Delta State born songwriter and record label chief, Cash-In Entertainment, began his professionally music career in 2010, as a back up singer.

He thereafter released his mixtape titled, Hip Hop Speaks, which was a manifesto of naija hip-hop as it has grown over the years through the eyes of artistes hustling in the ever-bustling Nigeria entertainment industry.

The mixtape features music heavyweights and also introduced new cats on the block. His critical acclaimed single, Blackberry, attracted massive play online and downloads from music sites, while it also caused heavy buzz in South Africa.

Asked what inspired him to go into music, the former KnightHouse producer said, “My insatiable hunger for music led me to write songs, sing, and dance. Listening to the radio all day and all night had a huge effect on my creativity.

Also, I grew up in a family of music lovers. Friends in my neighbourhood and at church also love miming and performing. These and many other musical factors constituted my influences.”

Over the years, he has worked frontline artistes including rave making Wizkid, Falz D Bahd Guy, Olamide, Yemi Alade, Iceprince Zamani, Timi Dakolo, Sound Sultan, Niyola, Illbliss, Waje, Iyanya, Skales, Vector, Mode 9, Elajoe, M-Flow, Slim T, Orezi, Lami Phillips, Gen Pype, Mo Cheddah, Koffi Tha Guru, Igho, Myst, Gino, Teeto Ceemos, Rheymophoebus, Byno, Shaydee, and Efa among others.

As a sound engineer, he has engineered sessions and projects for music heavyweights like the Koko Master, D’Banj; Chief Dr Oliver De Coque (late), Sheyman, Bucci, Nomoreloss (late), Bouqui and Afro Juju legend, Sir Shina Peters.

On what inspired the title of the song, Wollop, ExO states: “The inspiration for the song emanated from when I reviewed my life and realised there were people who didn’t truly believe in my dreams; they always found a way to discourage me. They didn’t believe my identity; rather they believed that as a unique artiste, not following the norm is a recipe for disaster.”

“So in order for me to be successful, they believe I should sound like the popular artistes, adopt their formula and hide my God-given creativity. So I decided to write a song that disagrees with their mindset.

When Nollywood actor, Francis Odega came up with the trending phrase ‘Wollop nigger’ it inspired the chorus, while my personal experience inspired the song,” he added.

Speaking on how long he had been doing music, the multi-tasking act said, “If I say all my life, I would sound very cliché. But I have since my junior secondary school day in 1993/1994. As a professional musician, I will say since 2006.”

Influenced by the works of music legends like Chief Stephen Osita Osadebe (late), Chief Oliver De Coque (late), Fela Anikulapo Kuti (late), Sir Victor Uwaifo, Mike Okri, the defunct Plantashun boys, NUFF Noyz rap group, Cobhams, Bez, Asa, Praiz, Adekunle Gold, and Banky W, ExO’s writing skills has inspired most youths in his Ifako- Gbagada neighborhood to take to rap music.

His biggest challenge as an artiste is money and the cartel in the music industry, stressing that if one does not have the resources to throw around, no matter how good the song may be it will suffer set back. When you overcome the challenge of finances, you need to join a clique so as to stay relevant. Talent as they say, is never enough.

“I am working my way through meaningful relationships and network, hoping the world will reward my hard work with success regardless of the challenges in the music industry.”

So, how do you relate with other musicians?

“I am warm and always happy to meet, network, connect and collaborate with my music colleagues. I believe in joining forces and teamwork. No man is an island,” he enthused.

On his ultimate direction as a musician — fame and fortune, the thorough bred act explained: “My main goal is to be influential through my music. Shape thought processes by invoking provocative inspiration.

“I want the world to love, forgive, live and feel through my music renditions. That can only happen when I’m true, unbiased and extremely creative with my music. As for fame and fortune, I believe it is inevitable when your work speaks greatness. Acceptance will come when your product is excellent.”

Though he currently run his entertainment outfit, Cash-In Entertainment, and releases his music on the platform, he is looking to seal a recording deal sign with any serious-minded music label. He is optimistic this come to reality before the end of year.

Asked what he takes into consideration when writing his songs, ExO says, “My themes border around love, life, happiness, relationships, pain, success, God and anything that makes people think. These topics change all the time. We are living in a world where change is rapid, so one must be abreast of the times.”

For him, everyone who puts in time and effort consistently at anything will eventually become successful at it. It is a matter of time and chance, adding that life is a gift, and people should live it by discovering their purpose, because it is in that they find the greatest gift of all, self!

His counsel to start-ups in the industry is work hard, listen to a lot of old music, and work with seasoned professional. “Believe in yourself; mingle and network with people in the music industry.

Understand the trends but don’t join the bandwagon; don’t procrastinate. Trust your ears but get a second opinion. Be patient and have faith in God,” he stated.


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