Majeed… Bittersweet Tales From Love Maestro
When you take a careful glance at the current Nigerian music industry, one would agree that it is fast-becoming replete with monochrome sounds. A lot of what we consider ‘hits’ all have the same ‘rinse-and-repeat’ strategy, both content-wise and sonically. This is why whenever mavericks like Joseph Ekeh, professionally known as Majeed, storm the music scene, it is both a breath of fresh air for the music industry and also a template for its evolution. Recall the musical debuts of artistes such as Chike, Wizkid, Fireboy, and even Wande Coal, and you would notice a similar blueprint to Majeed’s just-released debut dubbed, Bittersweet. The 6-track extended playlist (EP) radiates with intricate storytelling and powerful vocalisation. Over mid-tempo kicks and RnB-type piano chords, Majeed shows his wide range on this project as he tells of his experiences with love and heartbreak. While his sobriety soars on the alternative-esque groove, How I Care, his pop-heavy groove reflects in the EP’s lead single, Yawa No Dey End. With multiple co-signs from the industry’s heavyweights, including Don Jazzy, Tiwa Savage and others, including a remix of the EP’s lead single with Joeboy, Majeed is already poised for stardom.
The Dream Empire Music act catches up with Guardian Music to document his intriguing takeoff, sharing stories of his pain and struggles, especially with relationships, as well as having to hone his skills for several years, as both a singer and songwriter, among others.
Could you tell us about yourself?
MY real name is Ekeh Chiaka Joseph. I am an Igbo boy.
How did you come up with the name Majeed?
I came up with it five years ago. I just chose the name, because it embodies my attributes as a person. Majeed means noble, or magnificent, in Arabic.
Do you think you are talented?
I don’t think I am talented enough. Am I? My yardstick is to be a god of music.
Was this a recent aspiration?
Yes, I have always aspired to this. And this is why basically I don’t get to relax. I feel that there is more to my craft than just what I have put out right now.
Why did you dabble into music?
I have been doing music since I was young. Professionally, it has been like seven years. I used to actually make music since I was in Jss2. But then, I used to make trash music. But my friends used to hype me. I used to make music for the ladies then. I studied at Excel Universal College, Ogun State. And ever since then, I never stopped making music.
When was the moment you realised that you were going to do this full time?
That was five years ago, when I left university and my parents for the hustle. I studied in Benin Republic, and I was shuffling between Lagos and Benin. It wasn’t easy, but the passion was there. It was an adventure for me. For me to actually realise that at that age was weird. I wanted to know where it would end. So, I kept on scratching until we got here.
Have you been making records since then?
Yes. I make at least five records every day; I have done this for like four years now. So, most of the records I have made, I don’t even know where they are right now. It was not like I was making them for commercial purposes; I was making it to find my sound.
When I started, I didn’t sound prepared. I was sounding up coming. But each time I told people I was not ready to put money out, they didn’t understand. Something they saw as good music, I saw as trash.
Your style is very distinct. Do you have any influences to some of your earlier sounds?
I would not say they influenced my sound; they influenced my ginger, they influenced my passion. They actually skyrocketed my drive to make music. I am talking about the likes of Wizkid. I am a Starboy fan; his work ethic is A1.
How would you define your own sound?
I don’t like to box my sound. It is a divine sound. There is a divine energy behind it; it is a blissful sound.
What’s your reason for making music?
I feel people’s pain. I want to tell them that I feel their pain and I see what they are going through and I am hoping the music is enough to help them calm down. That is the only way I can help.
Your EP, Bittersweet, is out now. What were you trying to achieve with it?
If you listen well, it is a true-life story. It is my reality, and the same with most people. Bittersweet is more than just a project to me; it is a compilation of all my relationship problems. That is why it is Bittersweet.
Most of the relationships I have been in have been toxic. Emotional drama, blackmails… a lot of weird random things basically. Some girls can be wild these days! It also cuts across relationships with family.
Could you share with us some of the stories that influenced the songs?
If you hear the song, Tough Love, for example, it is not about my relationship only; it also embodies relationships with my family and friends. I never expect much, and that is why I never get disappointed. But it got to a stage in my life where I was expecting some positive energy from my family, but I didn’t get it.
I am the third born and I had been out of the house for years. I didn’t get that positive energy or love from my family, for years. And in my relationship, when something similar happened, I was just like, ‘I have seen it before.’ I don receive tough love very well; I don see shege actually.
You have also been a songwriter for a while. Tell us about that journey?
Nobody even knows; I have been a songwriter for seven years. I never really sit down to write them; I feel them. The first time I entered a proper studio to make a record was with my A&R manager, and it was very shitty. I can remember sleeping in the studio for weeks and I was just recording. He would come in the morning and listen.
The records were not really there, but he was seeing potential. The songwriting journey has been a rollercoaster of adventures. When you feel too much emotion, you have to let it out. It is not just for you; that is why emotions are temporary.
What is your creative process?
I always have a direction for a song, before I write the song. How I write music is very weird; I study my environment. I use situations around me to make music. For instance, if I like the girl sitting next to you and she doesn’t like me back, that is music for me.
What is your favourite record in Bittersweet?
Let me just say, the one I don’t like the most is Tough Love. It is my bitter truth; it makes me feel vulnerable.
What do you think is your core strength as an artiste?
My contemporaries are my guys; I am not competing with them. I just want to make amazing records with them. I just want to keep the Afrobeats movement on the map. I guess my devotion to making good music is my core strength.
Did you ever feel like giving up on music at any point?
Yes! You know when you are on the streets everyday, singing, and you have not eaten? Ah!
Why were you not reaching out to your family for support?
They were not reaching out to me; like, nobody was willing to support me. You know when you are trying to do what is in your mind and the people are used to the norm, it is hard for them to see what you are seeing; they neglect you and see you as the black sheep, until you make them see your vision.
So, did you have any parallel ambition?
No, I was always stubborn. You could not tell me to do anything; my mother could not even tell me to do something by force. So, I always knew it was music.
My dad was always stubborn, and I always told him I was more stubborn. He can’t tell me what he wants me to do; I can only tell him what I want for myself.
So, what do you want for yourself now?
I want to impact people with my music. I want to speak to their souls with my music.
Do you have people you listen to from the older generation?
I would say Tope Alabi. I also listen to Baba Ara. I didn’t do it intentionally; my mum is a pastor. I hate school to the extent that I always lied to my mum that I was sick, because I was trying to avoid school. So, I always heard my mum play her records.
Are you in a relationship right now?
I haven’t been in any for two years.
How did it end?
It ended and birthed Bittersweet.
What is the craziest thing you’ve ever done for love?
There was a date I once had. I rented a place. I made it all lovey dovey, with flowers everywhere. It was all classy.
Then, this girl shows up and she was like the whole thing was weird for her. I was wondering if she hated good things. She ended up complaining about everything. For me, I felt she was not honest about everything.
So, tell us about your fashion style.
I have a clothing line called Sweater. It is strictly for street wears and basically sweaters.
So, when was the last time you went back home?
It has been a year. I went, but I didn’t stay for long. It was weird; everyone was treating me like a gem or an egg. I just wanted them to see me normally and feel the same around me.
Out there, I might be whatever, but here, I am their son. They didn’t support me at first, but still they didn’t do anything to me. All they did was just give me more drive.
So, are you scared of stardom?
I have stayed with stars; I have seen stars. I am not eager; I am just chilled.
Lastly, if you could look at yourself from five years before, what would you tell yourself?
I would have said, “I am proud of you. You be man!”