Eltee Skhillz: I Had To Prove Myself, Despite Having Entertainers In My Family
“It has been a long time coming,” he heaved a sigh of relief, as the conversation began. One could sense his excitement mixed with gratitude. For Olowu Taiwo, being one of the most viral breakout singers out of Africa was a dream easier imagined than achieved.
With his song, Odogwu Na The Spender (ODG), crossing multiple borders and even peaking at the most shazamed song in the world, Taiwo, professionally known as Eltee Skhillz, it still felt surreal that, after 13 years of consistent labour, he has finally become one of the ‘ambassadors’ of the Afrobeats to the world movement.
While Eltee’s success might be easily passed across as another ‘TikTok miracle,’ because of the role the social media algorithm played in exporting his sound, the reality is that his resilience was actually the fuse that ignited his career into stardom.
Interestingly, for Eltee Skhillz, entertainment has always been in his genes. With the Nollywood veterans Henrietta and Jide Kosoko being his parents, it had always been a no-brainer that he would find his footing within the entertainment industry. However, his heart yielded to the sound of music and the thrill of dance.
Nonetheless, despite the diversion, Eltee still carries the enigma of his parents in his own artistry, colouring his discography and stagecraft with a mature sense of versatility and intrigue. His latest project, a 6-track EP dubbed, Body of Work, brings out a fine blend of RnB, Afro-pop and Afro-fusion, and it marks a new era of confidence, intimacy and progressiveness in his career.
Catching up with Guardian Music, the young singer travels down memory lane, discussing his early days as a singer, being the life of every party, gaining support from his parents, as well as navigating life as a superstar, and many more.
When exactly did your music career start?
I started professionally in 2009. I released my first song then titled Jekafo; Philkeyz produced it. Then, we were trying to get ourselves into the industry, but my mother was insistent that I attend school first.
In 2013, I released my first official music video. It was for Jekafo. Since then, I have been doing my music.
What did you study in school?
I Studied Banking and Finance; I schooled in Benin Republic.
What was the interest in Banking?
I just liked banking. However, it is not my passion; singing and dancing are my passions. These are the things I have dreamt about since I was 7. The fact that I am able to fulfil my dream is a lot. This is just the beginning for me. I feel like I am living my dream. It is just God’s dream.
How did you hone your skill in music?
I saw my uncle dancing to a Michael Jackson song, when I was 7. Apparently, he was not dancing correctly. I was like ‘why is this man jumping up and down?’ I then saw that he was mimicking Michael Jackson; I fell in love with Michael Jackson. I knew I wanted to be like him. I wanted to sing and dance and entertain people. I was consistent with this dream.
Every time an artiste came out, I followed up. Usher came out, and a lot of others. When I started dancing, I started winning at parties. At any party you attended, if Eltee was there, then forget it. I was not bearing Eltee then; I was known as Taiwo. I was always dancing at every party.
One day in boarding school, we were having social night. I was dancing like Michael Jackson to Diddy and Usher’s I Need A Girl. I always knew the passion was there.
One would imagine that you’d follow your parents’ footsteps in Nollywood. Did you ever consider exploring acting?
I guess my journey was just different. I have acted in one or two movies; I acted when I was 10, and again when I was 13. It was an English movie and Zack Orji was my father in the movie. My passion for music is more.
I actually love acting; I have acted in church programmes and stage plays, but I never really took acting into heart. My mum was always convinced that I would still venture into acting fully. But I always tell her that it is until that day comes. For now, it is music for me. If acting comes along later, it’s still good; I just might act.
How supportive were your family towards your career?
They have been supportive. It was not easy, initially. Everyone wants their kids to be doctors or lawyers. For me, I wanted to dance. My mother was cool with it, but she was insistent on education first. My step dad was cool with it, but he wanted a structured life for me. I had to prove to him that this was my passion. He needed convincing; I was focused on convincing him.
My big mum was like ‘go to school!’ although she liked the fact that I could dance. I realised that education is key. I was under parents that were into entertainment, but yet it was intriguing that they did not understand the passion I had for dance. I had to prove myself to them. But now, they are my big fans.
How do you feel seeing your music going global?
If you win 10 billion dollars, you cannot compare it with 2 million dollars. It has been a long time coming; big shout out to Krisvosa Entertainment. We had been spending millions of naira pushing out music and content videos before now. I released five singles and videos. But when ODG became a viral hit, I knelt down and prayed. I was thanking God. I was overwhelmed to be very honest; I am overjoyed. I am grateful; I have a whole lot of more music to come.
What inspired the record?
It was intentional. So, I heard the beat… big shout out to Eternal Africa who produced it. I heard the beat and we were just playing in the studio. So, we both came up with the idea and then that ‘Jibijibijibijibi you part’ came in. My producer came up with that ad lib; I was so hyped.
Then, we made the body of the song. It was confusing initially. But we had to think twice about the content of the song. We decided to talk about lifestyle. Odogwu is like a leader that takes care of the community. That is how we came up with the Odogwu Na The Spender.
Are you going to keep making records that sound like ODG?
I love RnB. If you listen to Body of Work, you will see different genres of sound. I have alternative sounds there. If you love good music and melodies, you would enjoy the record. ODG was just a stroke of luck; we were not certain that we would add it to the EP. It is actually in the EP, but it blew up like it was a single. Na God dey control grace.
Do you have a creative process?
It differs. Sometimes, it is the beat. Sometimes, it is from within. There was a time in my life that I almost took my own life. The first song in the EP, Freedom, was talking about my pain. I actually sang that song based on that period where I nearly took my life. I was able to draw closer to God and escape that period.
So, my creative process depends on my mood and the beat. For instance, ODG was inspired by the beat. So, it just depends on how I find myself in the creative environment.
How would you define yourself as a creative?
I would say I am experimental. I actually have songs that are even drum line and Rock mixed with Afro. There is a lot to tell you guys. However, you know you have to get people’s attention first.
How is your tour going in the United States?
It has been awesome. We just finished the Dubai tour. We have had the Europe tour. We will have an African tour very soon.
Have you experienced any crazy fan behaviour?
Most of them are regular nasty or wild things from some fans. The last one I had was in Delta State where the lady almost tore my jacket, because she wanted the jacket. She didn’t even wait for me to decide whether or not I wanted to take the jacket off.
How would you define your fashion style?
I am a lover of jackets. My stylist is Amos Wears; he makes 90 per cent of everything I wear. I believe in investing in our local talent. I can afford foreign designers if I want to, but why not invest in other Nigerians who can make amazing work?
Are you currently in any relationship?
I am very single.
What’s your interest in women?
I like women who are smart and decisive. Just because I have enough money does not mean that you should not be a stronger person also. I also like thick women.
Finally, what is the vision for Eltee Skhillz?
The vision is to enlighten entertainers and Africans that there are better ways to entertain. Everyone is on stage jumping, but it is not performing. I am a dancer. You do not necessarily need to know how to dance very well to be a good performer. However, stage performance is more than just singing and getting people to sing along. It is more. People need to be able to have things to remember you for.