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Ladipoe… Providence Smiles On Africa’s Rap Maverick

By Chinonso Ihekire
06 November 2021   |   4:25 am
The definition of providence; it seems like it accurately describes the nature of my specific career. We didn’t know what the end results would be, but I felt prepared for it.

“Can we start immediately,” he says, with eyes aglow with passion. It was barely ten seconds since this reporter arrived, but he was eager to start the session.

“It’s better we start before I go on to the next scene,” he quips, adjusting an electric hand fan towards his face.

It is at least 40˚c in the abandoned federal facility sequestered in the Ijora axis of Lagos. The heat brewed like it was offended at the government or at the abandoned machines in that edifice. He was in between breaks on the set of the Dir. K-directed video shoot for the Fireboy-assisted lead single, Running, off his just-released EP, Providence.

From his sitting position, his confidence shone; suitably complemented by his hip fashion style roaring in the all black leather apparel he wore. As he spoke, his energy pulsated through the air. And one thing was clear: with Ladipo Eso, professionally known as Ladipoe, every time is go-time.

“They told me here that rapping here has lost meaning/I came back and I dropped feeling/ It’s like why I pray to God, even though I have never seen him/ Faith never needs a reason,” the lyrics from the closing track, Providence, embodies the vibe of this soul-stirring soundpiece.

For Ladipoe, it has been more of a trajectory of divine providence. From his 2018 debut album dubbed, Talk About Poe, down to this stellar sophomore, the Mavin Records lyricist has held a charismatic influence on Nigeria’s rap culture. The self-acclaimed ‘Leader of The Revival’ continues to use his artistry to amplify the beauty of the rap genre, bending it to his will in one of the most widely-received sonic deliveries since M.I. Abaga’s Talk About It.

On the 6-track Providence, he taps industry mates Rema, Amaarae, Fireboy DML to stretch this agenda, but with a more introspective, emotive and soulful exploration of his feelings, experiences and hopes.

After having a smashing three quarters of the year, the 29-year-old rapper rides on the chart-topping success of his jams such as Feeling (featuring Buju), Know You (featuring Simi), among others, to deliver “a pathway to the next album.”

He sits with Guardian Music to discuss his creative inspirations, thoughts on Naija’s rap renaissance, as well as his vision to become Naija’s global rap billboard.

Two years after the last work, how do you feel about this project dropping?
It feels like the timing couldn’t have been better.

So, what inspired it?
The definition of providence; it seems like it accurately describes the nature of my specific career. We didn’t know what the end results would be, but I felt prepared for it. I don’t feel out of my element right now, with all the increased tension and awareness people have around my name and music. I don’t feel shaken.

Was there any agenda to the whole ‘Leader of the Revival’ movement?
I feel that’s like asking why does evolution happen? It was part of the process; I had to coin that phrase. It was intentional, but not intentional at the same time.

How long did you take to make this project?
I’d say over the course of two years, between 2019 and 2021. One of the oldest tracks titled, Providence, was recorded in 2019; I recorded it and put it as part of The Revival Series. It sounds different from what it sounded like then; Johnson IP and London produced that track. That and Afro Jigga were one of the earliest tracks. No track that was recorded in 2019 would sound like the same way it does now. We have evolved from then, but the original idea started in 2019.

With the choice of features you had, what was the direction?
I don’t really know what that phrase ‘Core Rap Guy’ means or how it applies to my personal music. For me, my own music is that I am a rap artiste. I think people forget that artistry means doing what is necessary for my music. As a rapper, that is my main form of communication. As a rapper, you need a nice bridge; the verse has to take a break and go into something melodic.

Sometimes, you give it an intense and bar-heavy verse; you give the music what it needs. That is what an artiste is to me; it also has to reflect something. That is what my music does to me. I don’t feel it was a drastic shift. I find it very comfortable to work with different kinds of artistes; it has been my gift since ever. A lot of people are just catching on now. I did Adore Her with Funbi. I mean now they are saying ‘Poe is God-sent for the features’, but we have been doing it since.

From Talk About Poe to Providence, how would you describe the difference?
TAP was an introduction; that was my first body of work. I needed the people that I had been talking to, to finally know what I was about. But now, I describe myself as the leader of the revival. Providence is my career path. This is the music I am making. It is no longer about telling them what to feel, I am telling them how I feel.

And also, when the next album comes out, they needed to have gone through this pathway. Shout out to my lifelines; I really appreciate the people that have been rocking with me, because I make a style of music that I feel like I had to make it popular myself.

You have been breaking into the mainstream with your mega hits. Do you think it is having any impact on rap’s renaissance?
I think Nigerians have always loved rap music; they just don’t know where to put it. There is an old narrative around rap and Hip-Hop. People have a way they think about it; I just don’t think about it that way. I think they need to update their ios; I think they need to update their software. I am Nigerian, I rap. How would I be rapping on the same style of music that whoever is rapping now in any part of the world would find my music unique to the environment that I am in? It is always going to shift.

I was born in melody; we grew up with different vibes and songs around us. My rap style can adapt to more things than maybe J’Cole’s rap style. J’Cole might not be able to kill it on Afro Jigga like that, but if you give him a sleek Soul style, he is going to execute it like the majestic Gee that he is. But I feel like we are more versatile because of the environment that we are in. I am not ignoring that versatility; neither do I want myself to be put in a box.

At what point did you decide it was going to be music for you?
There was no moment; I realised I was good at it. I started to lean into it when I came back to Nigeria. I was in school in America, but I started to lean into being an artiste by the time I came here. I feel like I learned how to rap in America, but I learned what to rap about in Nigeria.

Nigeria allowed me to tell the stories that I have seen. People tell me that my music is relatable. I have always grown up liking stories. I want to make something that you can say that you know that in your own life. I don’t want to overthink it.

Do you have a typical creative process?
Yes and No. I would write, and there would be lines. But in terms of how I achieve it, I don’t know. Sometimes, it is when I am doing the laundry; sometimes, it is when I am speeding in a car. Other times, I have dreams a lot; a lot of my songs have come from dreams. So, there is no typical process. At some point, I sit down to write. It is vibes and writing.

Among your colleagues, who are you feeling the most in the industry?
I am working with the guys I am feeling. If I haven’t worked with the person yet, then I am sure the time is coming that I will. There are some people that I am cool with, but we haven’t done many tracks together; YCee is an example. However, we are tight. So, for who I am feeling, you are hearing them on my music already.

What’s the vision for Ladipoe now?
You are seeing it already. It is to take the brand to a global level, where it needs to be.

Do you have anything you’d like to add?
I am super grateful to my fans; I call them my lifelines for a reason. I feel like they saved me from a life that I didn’t want to live. So, they are really important to me and there would be no movement without them.

Tell us one thing people don’t know about Ladipoe
I hate egg yolk; it disgusts me.