Get Familiar With Jujuboy Star And His Spellbinding Sound
For Osaretin Rock Akhibi, growing up in Edo state was a multiplicity of things that he can only categorize as wild. The realities of his domestic life there in the early 2000s was increasingly bleak as he also grew up without a father figure. “It’s a place where the lifestyle is very survival-orientated,” Osaretin says.
“That’s what you’re brought up with and it’s tough to get out of that cycle of just wanting to survive. I grew up with my mum and my grandmum, my dad was absent from the picture, and that just made growing up harder. For as long as I could remember, music was an escape for me because where I’m from it’s either you were an Internet fraudster or a robber or something like that or you did music.”
Thankfully, Osaretin, now known professionally as Jujuboy Star, chose music. His route into music was paved by his grandmother’s love of music as she took him to services at her local church where he noticed that her mood changed considerably when the music came on. “She always used to be so excited just seeing the choir sing and that was the only time I’d see her really happy,” he says. “I started singing to put that smile on her face constantly.”
From there, his interest in music evolved from an extension of his grandmother’s interest to a self-fulfilling ambition. And after the family moved to another community, he met a friend who introduced him to the production software FruityLoops. “I started making my own beats and, from there, I started recording and it was a natural path to me making my own music,” Jujuboy says halfway into his phone call with The Guardian Life.
Still primarily based in Edo state, he piqued the interest of singer Adekunle Gold, when his cover of “Ire” went viral, leading to an invite to co-write songs for the ascendant pop star. Recounting the experience, Jujuboy says: “AG booked me a flight from Edo state to Abuja for a writing camp. He basically taught me a lot about songwriting and how to structure music.” While with Adekunle Gold, he co-wrote two singles, the artsy “Kelegbe Megbe” and his runaway hit “Before You Wake Up.” After the experience, Jujuboy Star was motivated to move to Lagos permanently to pursue music.
“After the camp, I just didn’t want to go back to Edo because I had the experience of how music worked,” he says. “I’d hung out with Adekunle Gold and his manager, so going back to Edo just didn’t feel right to me. I just felt like I had to move and I got on a bus headed to Lagos.”
Coming to the city with little more than his dream and passion to succeed put the 25-year-old singer in a number of difficult situations in the early days. “I stayed with a friend for a while,” he recounts. “It was hard because I had to produce for them to stay in the house. Produce for them and record them just to stay there, but I also had my own stuff to do and I got kicked out of the house one day.
“The girl I was with at that time had to send me 5k to stay in a motel because I was just stranded. From there, I stayed with another person for a while and I’ve just been pushing since then.”
Thankfully, his voice had started to filter out of the underground and attract interest from a number of labels. But a popular figure helped ensure he ended up at Aristokrat Records. “There was a distribution deal offer from emPawa as well as another contract from Universal Nigeria,” Jujuboy says. “I was supposed to see M.I. as well but I met TolaniBaj, and she was working at Aristokrat at the time, she linked me up with Aristokrat and the rest is history.”
Already fully-formed as an artist, Jujuboy Star’s debut single, “I Dey There,” came out in November 2020 to rave reviews, enjoying extensive airplay across radio stations, but he says it’s just a hint of the vibrant melodies he has to come. “To be honest, it was just a warm-up but it was really exciting because the love from the radio stations and everybody was great,” he says. “ And even just everybody, from Kizz Daniel to Adekunle Gold, everyone’s been mad supportive and that just made me happy because it made me know I have great people who like what I do.”
His just-released single, “Enjoyment,” is pretty much a summation of how his life is at this moment. “It’s just me talking about how my life is right now. How I’m living in the moment. I came all the way from Edo and I didn’t have anything to honestly just living life right now,” he says towards the end of the conversation.
Pointing out that he’s at Aristokrat, the label that kickstarted Burna Boy’s career, Juju is asked if he’s aiming at achieving the same successes, without missing a beat, he answers: ”Definitely. Personally, I look up to those people. Not just Burna, Wizkid, and Davido too. All the people that have done it before me are like a blueprint and also an inspiration. If you had asked me these questions before Burna won a Grammy, I’d have probably said I wanted a few Headies but now my dreams have gotten bigger.”