Zxus Jdo …another Benin maverick on the rise
“Benin city is that city!” he enthuses. With Nigerian street-pop navigating several sonic shifts to arrive at its current spate of Lamba (hyperbolised, often comical slangs/phrases) or hype-laden songs, artistes like Zxus Jdo (pronounced Zeus Jdo) are finding easier ways to spotlight their neighbourhoods and the varied cultures that make them tick.
In his recently-released club-hit dubbed, “Hush”, Zxus Jdo, born John Omon, melds comical pidgin-stewed lingo with energetic percussions to create an evergreen banger best fit for party experiences. The song which has caught on very strongly across the Nigerian music scene is foolproof of Zxus’s witty and exciting lyricism. “The song does not have one interpretation; it means different things to different people, but I wanted people to just know that it is okay to ‘do you’,” he notes.
Interestingly, Zxus Jdo is also seemingly far from your next one-hit wonder. With his most lethal music ammunition being his versatility, the 23-year-old is aiming for the zenith of limelight in the global music scene. His forthcoming debut extended play (EP), which is set for release later this year, would be the harvest of these musical ‘thunderbolts’ designed to soar with shock appeal and replay value.
In this chat with Guardian Music, he tells us about the making of “Hush”, clearing the air on its lingering conceptual controversies, as well as on his biggest music influences and why Benin City will remain the Rio de Janeiro of Africa.
How did you get into music?
Music is something I grew up around. I grew up in a home of music lovers. I grew up listening to a lot of Hip Hop, Dancehall, Afrobeats, and the like. It was not even being called Afrobeats. It was just Nigerian music. At age 9, I started writing my own songs. Since then I have not stopped. However, professionally, I started making music last year.
Did you know your music would go viral?
You know, you never really intend things. You just do the best you can. I am happy that it is getting the positive reviews it is getting. I just put it out there and it’s either people like it or they don’t.
What’s your typical sound like?
I have always just enjoyed music. I think my Spotify sign should be ‘nomad’. I listen to all types of music. I also make all kinds of music. However, the music I make when I am at my 100% is definitely Dancehall and Hip-hop.
Why the name ‘Zxus (Zeus)’?
The name Zxus (Zeus) came from people. People gave me the name. I have excelled in the fields I have ventured into in life, so far, so people just started calling me Zeus. They use the name as an exclamation. It just really stuck. I had to stylize the spelling for copyright purposes.
You came on with this ‘Lamba’-driven or ‘Hype’ type of sound. Tell us what inspired it?
Growing up in Benin City, this is the kind of sound you find and we like it. Benin City is a Lamba-driven city. We talk in codes, and in lamba like this. We make jokes like this. This is just something that Benin City is all about. “Hush” was inspired by my environment and the things around me. Me and my friends use these lyrics to tease each other, regularly, on WhatsApp. Then, I just realized I could make it into a song.
What was the intention behind “Hush”?
The song is a satire. It is meant to be interpreted in different ways. Some people think it is glorifying fradulent activities. Some others get an interpretation of people living fake lives. Some other people got a different interpretation that I was talking about life in general. I just wanted to encourage people to be true to themselves and avoid all the fakery. It does not have only one interpretation.
Prior to dropping the record, what were you doing?
I was schooling at Ambrose Alli University, in Ekpoma.
Are you looking to go into music full-time?
I have already gone into music full-time. My EP is scheduled to drop before the third quarter of the year.
What is the EP going to sound like?
It is going to be a representation of my normal music style. It is going to be a case where the type of music I listen to is the type of music I will make. I listen to a lot of Hip Hop, Melodic Rap, Street Pop, Afro Pop, and all of that. It would be a whole different vibe. You would not listen to it and get only one feel.
How did Benin City influence your music?
Well, Benin City is that city! I call it the Nigerian Rio de Janeiro. It teaches you a lot. Growing up there is experience after experience. You have to hustle and struggle for yourself. There is a huge youth population in the city. The lifestyle and experiences there shape you. It has influenced everything about me.
What other music influences did you have?
This is always a tough question for me to answer. I have a lot of genres I listen to. In Hip Hop, my greatest influence there is Kendrick Lamar, MI Abaga and Erigga. There is also Eminem, Twista, among others. If you are talking music in general then P-Square, Davido, Wizkid, Rema, among others.
What would you say is your biggest strength as an artiste?
I think it is my diversity. I can make different sounds. When people listen to my drill songs they think it is all I do. Then, they listen to my street pop and they ask me to stick to that too.
Tell us your vision for your sound?
The music is going global, for sure. There is no limits to what we can do with this. This is only just the beginning. We are here to take over this shit.