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Joeboy: Nigeria’s (Afro)Pop Sensation

Joeboy | Image: Idris Dawodu

In shorts and a tee-shirt, the pop star, Joeboy enters The Guardian studio with his team. His calm demeanour is quite revealing in the first meeting. Subsequently, during the interview and photoshoot, it is evident that the calmness is not the only thing striking about him; his intelligence is also telling.

The Beginning
Going through the memory lane, Joeboy, whose actual name is Joseph Akinwale Akinfenwa, explains it has been quite a journey from when he released his breakout song “Baby” in 2019. His success and awards, he attributes to hard work, grace, having a great team and fans who support him.

“It’s been great, no regrets, I’m happy to be one of the pioneers of the new school sound, it’s beautiful to see.”

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As a star in the show called “music”, he says he still does not know how to act when people are so excited around him; it is, however, nice to know that his sound is a reason for joy.

“Having to create records that are life-changing is one of life’s greatest gifts to humanity. I’ve lived in the music to a point where I found myself immersed in all of its rhythm,” he writes on his social media.

A huge reason behind this joy is his parents’ support. Besides this, he says that accompanying his brother to the studio for his Guitar rehearsals as well as studio sessions with ID Cabasa, made the love for music subconsciously grow on him and influence him positively.

Focus
This positivity has influenced him greatly. As a singer and a writer, he is deliberate about his art. Speaking about his creative process, he says that all he needs is his phone, the melody and producers to “cook up some beats”.

“I record voice notes on my phone. As we are talking, a melody can come to my head and I record it. When I get to the studio, I ask my producers to cook up a beat and that’s it. I don’t have to be anywhere special to get inspiration but I prefer recording.”

This example is visible in his break-out song, “Baby” in 2019- a song he wrote on his balcony in Ojuelegba after his friend sent him the beat. In order to ascertain how good the song was, he randomly played them in taxis and the feedback from the drivers helped him decide on its receptibility.

However, the final decision came when Mr. Eazi released a snippet of the song and the public went agog over it. Today, it has amassed a combined [visualiser and official video] viewership of over 50,000,000.

Joeboy | Image: Idris Dawodu

Somewhere Between Beauty & Magic
A high-pitched “cheee” is the word he uses when we first mention his debut album, “Somewhere Between Beauty & Magic.”

Although Joeboy would go on to say that he isn’t much of a romantic, he, however, believes in love which he describes as both beautiful and magical, hence the title of the album.

He goes on to say that “Somewhere between Beauty & Magic” represents love. “Why not just love then?”, we ask? He says it would have been weird to name his album “Love” which is the recurrent theme in the album.

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“Loving yourself, loving other people, loving your environment, it all boils down to love. Love is beautiful, love is magical. I like romance, I like people being romantic… even though I am not a romantic person,” he adds.

“Somewhere Between Beauty & Magic” has been ready since March 2020. However, with the different happenings, such as Coronavirus, EndSARS and more, the album was moved till February 4 this year. Having to deal with a creative block, the unknown future created by the pandemic, and a crashed hard drive which caused him to re-record most of the album, he found solace in films. With the inspiration from Van Helsing and Big Mouth, he was set for the world.

The album also is distinctive because it has no feature. He took this step to ensure that his fans have the total experience of his sound. “This is my debut album and I want people to have a complete part of Joeboy, though there were some features I wanted on the album but didn’t make the time frame…”

He hints that those features would be released in a deluxe album which he wants his fans to look forward to “a deluxe version of the album coming in a couple of months later,” he says.

Speaking about his favourite song on the album “Count me out”, he says it is inspired by a personal story.
The song centres on self-love. He observes, “…to love yourself genuinely is the most beautiful thing that can happen to you.” The need for self-love, he emphasises, is borne out of personal experience.

The Nigerian custom of sending children out of school due to late tuition payment, he says, affected his self-esteem and the value he placed on himself. “In secondary school, I always owed school fees and it got to a point that I knew my name would be called before they even mention it.”

Joeboy | Image: Idris Dawodu

But life has a way of influencing the change we want to see. It is this experience that has made him decide to also want to give back to humanity. He tells The Guardian Life team that he is starting a foundation that will cater to students whose parents cannot pay their tuition fees on time.

Speaking further about his projects, he says he is looking at empowering youths in developing themselves in entrepreneurship. This is because of the employment problem in Nigeria. He hopes to start from his Alma Mater.

Door
Life doesn’t come with a template, which is why we often look up to those whose life and achievements are similar to our dreams. This is the same for Joeboy.

Speaking about those who opened the door for him to dream big, he says he has many. This according to him is because every artiste is special in their own way.

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While his mentors range from Tuface to Davido, Wizkid, Burna Boy, he opines that Davido continues to inspire with his hard work despite the reality of his wealthy background. Wizkid, he says, made the youths believe the seemingly impossible things are possible.

Hinting on the versatility of Burna Boy, he reveals that his feature with Burna Boy is on the way.

Mental Health
Just like every other person, the talented artiste also has his down moments, and it is rather fascinating how he handles them. For Joeboy, in Jollof Rice or video games lies the secret to euphoria.

Joeboy | Image: Idris Dawodu

He opines that video games are a favourite because it is one of the things that you can control its outcome. This also goes for Jollof Rice. In relations to his cooking prowess, he says he can make this for himself, however; jokingly, he says he is not sure if others can eat what he makes.

“Life is crazy at times, you can think that this is how my plans will go and it will go another way and Jollof rice is the best in the world, I don’t know if I can make it for other people, but if i chop am, I go dey okay.”

Count me out
As a popular artiste, one thing is common, the love of fans. He came to the spotlight around the same time other new generation artistes such as Rema, Fire Boy, came out. Their fans have at some point made comparisons among them, and this can affect the artiste and the relationship with the others. However, for Joeboy, he is informed and built to handle the comparisons.

“I don’t think we can avoid this, I focus on positivity and I do my thing.”

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He also has a very cordial relationship with the aforementioned artistes, and has learnt to focus on the positive. Hence, he has never taken to social media to fight or have arguments, for online wars, count him out.

“I don’t think this can be avoided, you cannot tell people what to say. The most important thing is focusing on your game and staying at the time. I am cool with everybody, I’m good with Rema and I know rivalry and things like that are entertaining for fans, but I can’t do that.”

His sense of self has aided in his confidence as a person, and then as an artiste. The constant welcoming reception from his fans is a reminder that he is doing something right. Yet, he is on a continuous process of learning and growing because it is easy to get caught up in fame.

“I am always trying to learn to ensure I get better. I watch Youtube videos. Youtube is like a whole university on its own, there is nothing you want to learn that is not on it.”

Joeboy | Image: Idris Dawodu

He also looks out for other artistes and documentaries to better his craft. And bettering his craft he is, as he aims to dive into Reggaeton and also sing in French. His french lessons are not for nothing, he says with a hint of glee.

Show Me
Joeboy’s calm demeanour is also reflected in his casual fit. While he is now exploring the edgy look. When asked about the kind of clothing he would never be caught dead in, he says he would never be caught dead wearing a Fishnet Mesh Hole String Muscle Singlet, especially the white ones.

Young Legend
However, tattoos might be his thing as he has “Young Legend” tattooed on his wrist. We agree with the tattoo. After all, it is clear that he is indeed a young legend working towards being an inspiration to many all over the world.

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