Superboy cheque…memoirs from Hip Hop Maverick
After a momentous breakout during the pandemic, Akande Brett, professionally known as Superboy Cheque, has constantly blazed a trail for Nigerian Hip Hop. The singer-rapper continues to dominate the landscape as one of the most versatile musicians in his cluster, belting out hits in Trap, Pop and even RnB fusions.
Signed to Phyno’s Penthauze Records, the Ondo indigene surpasses public expectations with every release, from his debut project dubbed, Razor, which radiated his versatility with his hits like “Zoom”, “Loco” among others, down to his sophomore album Bravo, which consolidated his superstar status with star-studded collaborations including Olamide, Fireboy DML, Ayra Starr and American rapper Jackboy.
Now, with his latest opus, Chequemate, the young musician steps back into the limelight, unpacking a travelogue of bitter-sweet experiences with his journey to stardom. The album reverberates with a more emotive and melodic side to Superboy Cheque, as he tags other mavericks including Crayon and Fireboy DML, to create another steep strain of Hip Hop and Pop fusions.
In this interview, the mathematics whiz opens up to Guardian Music on his current fame trajectory, giving insights into his brief hiatus from the music scene last year, his creative process behind Chequemate, as well as his future expansion into the world of fashion and lifestyle, among others.
Congratulations on Chequemate. How do you feel about dropping a new project?
I feel very good. I feel like I am starting a new thing, like in the way I want to do it.
The album’s title Chequemate is kind of suggestive; why did you decide to go with that?
I WENT with it because, I mean, like I said before, this is exactly how it should be for me. Like going forward, this is how I want it, upgrading. Naturally, I don’t use to show myself to the world like that; I used to hide myself. I could drop songs and maybe one vibe a day and nobody hears from me again, and stuff like that. So, like this Chequemate is like this is the deal now. This is what I want to do now.
Interesting! What motivated you to have that change of approach?
There was no real motivation. There was just something that made me not have that approach. There was no motivation not to do it. This is who I am naturally, but something happened, and I became a little bit insecure or very camera shy, I would say.
Is it something you want to talk about?
Yes, I don’t mind. So, around when Phyno signed me, the moment Phyno signed me was 2020 January or something. The moment he signed me, I felt like oh okay, now I have to present myself. I have to look good for the music video because I have almost no knowledge about how music is supposed to be. I just can’t sing, or do what I am doing, right. Then I had a lot of pimples on my face, like a lot of dark spots. So, I felt like I had to remove it. I think I went somewhere for someone to give me some products or whatnot. So I went home and started applying it. I think I went too aggressive and my whole face burnt. And this is not like a burning, I mean, it burned to an unseeable level. So, it took me like six months, maybe four months. I was just in my friend’s house for four months. I don’t think I have shared it before. I was trying to clear it; it was so bad. I think I have the picture somewhere. It was so unbelievably bad, the two sides of the face. I just said I’ll quit at that time. So when I dropped Zoom, I don’t know if people used to notice that when I was shooting the video, I was looking down most of the time. But it was already clearing at that time, but I had that insecurity left in my head like, oh my face. Anytime the camera comes to my face, I look like that. So, when I was shooting Zoom, most times, I was looking at the floor. It even got a lot till last year, the insecurity. But now, if you come to my page or my music, if you see me now, I am smiling too much now to the camera because I feel like I went back to myself and overcame the insecurity.
Did you require some sort of assistance to get out of that headspace?
No, I think it was just time. I don’t need it. It was just time. All the time, people are just saying this guy. I met Kizz Daniel for the first time two weeks ago. I have a very vibrant character, like if you talk to me, and you didn’t know me, you will think I was something else because of the persona that has come out based on what I have sung before. Like in the persona, I was being silent, like a laid back person, too quiet. So when he met me, I went to see my friend Blaqbonez. He met me sitting down, I was talking the way I am talking right now, being so expressive and all that. And he stood there and was looking at me. He just said I am too stunt; I cannot believe that you are like this. And then he told me to wait behind when everybody left. We spent the whole day making music together and all that. I think it was just time that made me comfortable. And then I think something happened again that broke the shell for me. My mum had an accident. When they gave me the news, I felt like I came to light. I don’t know what it is, I don’t know. Her leg broke, so they had to do surgery. I think when they gave me the news, something sparked inside me and made me feel like what the fuck am I doing. Do you get what I am saying? I felt like I had not done enough; what if she dies? All those things were popping in my head then. Three months later, I just found myself numb. Like not ever remembering that I was in those headspace anymore and that’s when I dropped Chequemate.
Walk us through your creative process for this album…
I think this is the most hectic project I have ever had, because I care. When I wanted to do this project, I felt like I wanted to start from where I wanted to start from before. I selected songs based on, say okay, I want people to first see me like this, in the little bit critically acclaimed area, like okay, he has some substance. To start from a solid area, so people can hear me and be like oh, this guy has something, he’s not just like some random guy. So, I selected the song based on that. It’s not just any type of song. I have a lot of songs that are Zoom level potential. I have Deluxe ready too as my next album. This is supposed to be an album Chequemate, so I split it into two; six, and then the next six I made it a little bit more emotional and history kind of song. But I selected this one based on what I really wanted. I want it to be a little hard in a commercial way, not too hard for people to not be able to listen to music, but hard enough to make me feel like I’m grounded. Let me put it like that.
How long did it take you to make Chequemate and where were you making it most of the time?
Honestly, I didn’t plan to make Chequemate. So Chequemate was more like an album, right? I didn’t drop anything in 2022. I was like a masquerade; I didn’t drop anything. My face was behind the mask. I probably posted two pictures throughout the whole year, I don’t know. But I was recording a lot. So, I finished recording a lot of songs and I was like I want to drop an album. But I now felt like me and Phyno were okay, so I feel like I want to go for an album right now? And I decided, you know what, let me just select six songs from one of my folders, and synchronise it, because I just recorded crazy, randomly. And then just make it feel like at least, it’s not too scattered all over the place. I didn’t want it to be too scattered. I do not want to be Jack of all trades too much. I tried to restrict a little bit in my selection, and that’s how I selected this one. I had them before I decided to do Chequemate.
Tell us about your favourite songs from it and why?
Okay, let me see. I’ll pick Shine. The first track on the EP was the last song. The song I recorded that made this EP was the Shine song. I had finished selecting the EP already and I felt like I didn’t have something that made me feel like myself, originally, where I was starting. My head was on the real point where my music started, the Zoom, some kind of emotional piano, stuff like that. So, it was a friend downstairs in my house one day and the producer that came, his name is Tenten. He just played the beat and obviously, I was feeling some kind emotions and the moment he played the beat, that’s exactly what came to my mind. The lines that you hear right now on the song, I don’t know where it came from; I don’t know whether I thought about it in my dreams, but I just said those exact lines. It’s like I’m talking right now and I didn’t pre plan it right? That’s exactly how I made the song, the whole chorus. Just like Zoom is, that’s the way the song is as well.
Let me pick another one, LPD. I think it’s probably my favourite. That one was Oyinkan sending me the beats and I was just playing with my guys, something like that, and everybody was shouting. The noise was too much, so I told them to calm down and let’s play this beat. We were watching designers on TV. There was a particular show; I don’t know the name of the show. It was showing like all these Hollywood type of people buying stuff, and just started the song like that. I saw that on the screen. I just saw people buying designers and was like “…the money long o.” It was more like a personal thing because I spent more money than that. So that’s it; it’s not like a high bashing life or stuff like that. And then Hustler with Fireboy. When we made History, I did the whole song. I had the whole song, so I just called Fireboy to come and fill up the gap. So I went to his house one day and I was like, I have songs that we should do but I don’t want us to do another song like History, because we are going to fall in the range of History. I had the song. I did something that I wanted. We had separate songs that day, like maybe a couple of songs that could make an EP.
I told him I don’t really want my original style because I told him History is enough for me. So I didn’t just want it. So I told him to play me some of the songs you have. He too was playing a lot of love songs. It didn’t really work for me in my head. The moment he played it and I heard that “emi omo Ologo” I told him to stop it. I told him my spirit wants this one because as I heard this, I would be jealous if it was not my song. I don’t care if the song gets to be played or listened to by one person; that is how I look at music. I don’t care if it is my father alone that hears that song, but I will be jealous if one day I stumbled on somebody screaming “I’ll be also” in Nigeria now, and I’m not the one. I want to wake up one day when I’m old and I’m the one that sang that. So that’s Hustle, the three songs that I like.
You worked closely with the famous beatmaker, Ozedikus, on this project. How did you guys develop that chemistry?
He loves to play games and I do too. At least, that is one thing we have in common. He loves to play a lot of games, and so we used to exchange games. And that created some kind of chemistry. When he sent me some beats, I heard the bounce, and I like a very good bounce from beats. When you play a beat, I have a very high level of bounce. And he had that swing when he played the Way Too Young beat and LPD. I just love the way he was bouncing. I just wanted to make at least, I think we made seven songs, something like that. But the Afro swing bounce just did it for me.
As a multi-talented artiste, is there a preference for you amongst all the genres you can do?
I just love to bounce. And trap too. When Zoom first took off, this is one of the statements I heard the most: “It’s not possible to have a hit like this in this country. Impossible.” This is always the statement that I hear. And I think this is one of the statements that were annoying to me; I didn’t like it. Then I went to chat and I saw Quadri Dayo and I’m like why is this song there and I had Zoom, and he said it is because it is foreign.
I said that’s a lie. I told them it’s because the people that are rapping are doing “patapata” up and down. I cannot tap with them, and Nigeria is not a place where you want to frustrate people’s mindset. People are struggling enough. So imagine I’m singing and people can’t grasp what I am singing. They can’t sing along with me; that would be frustrating to me if I was a regular normal cool person going to work, a normal civilian.
That would be very frustrating for me to be cracking my head for your lyrics at this time. So, when I started making those songs and they were dropping, one of the things that made me know that I will always continue to do trap for the rest of my life is that I’m very audible. Being audible reduces the tension on my body. I know that no matter what you say, if you play that song, people will sing along. So, it reduces me, it just reduces me and it makes me feel like this is how trap should be done in Nigeria. And it pains me sometimes because trap is supposed to be a normal genre that people like. It’s just that everybody is going at it wrongly.
They are trying to show too much talent. Like most people, they just want to show the world that they are the best trappers or that they have the best vocals, which is extremely wrong in my opinion, because you are not doing it for your family members. You are doing it to appeal to people. And the people that you are appealing to are not going to hear “shigilishigilishi.” They don’t understand that. They want to hear clear-cut words that you can say to them. That’s why Wizkid is big. That’s why all those people are big, because people can really understand what they are saying. They are communicating like a teacher to a student. So to me, trap for me, I think by God’s grace, I don’t know tomorrow but I think on every project that I do, there is always going to be a trap song.
Tell us the thought process behind the collaborations on this album?
I like Crayon. Whenever I listen to Crayon, not every artiste does it for me. Like when I listen to Crayon, it just soothes me. It just makes me feel good. I don’t know what song I heard; was it Over Dose Me, the way he started it, I was oh I like that. Like it was soothing. It was a little bit playful; it was not too serious. It’s just on a very pop level. Not too serious, the lyrics are very good to listen to. And I didn’t even waste time. I knew that I wanted to. All my features, I’ve had to hand select them. There is no feature I have ever done in my life that I did not hand select. I picked and I said I want this person. So, I don’t have anything on the beat that I did with Sunflawa. I wanted, I mean, I was not going to do anything by myself. I sent this beat to somebody that I like, they should do whatever they like and if I like it, I will use that. Then he just sent it to me, and I loved it. Wizkid cannot sing that and won’t shut down the country. That’s what I thought. I think if Wizkid sings this, the whole country goes nuts. And Fireboy obviously; there is a crazy chemistry between me and Fireboy. If you see, we’ve shot Hustler video. When you see our videos, you will know. It’s not just a regular thing. When you know, you fear. Hustler video shows too much of it. When it drops. It’s a very high level profile.
Speaking of collaborations, is there any on the way you know of?
Yeah. I should have, we have some. On the deluxe of Chequemate, yes because I’m going to turn Chequemate into an album.
You mean as the deluxe?
Yeah, but it’s going to turned into an album. This is part one, there is going to be part two and part two is going to turn into an album, yeah. That’s how I want to do it. It’s going to be like a deluxe, so you get. But it’s going to be now, a 12-track album, something like that.
So what is next for you, aside from Hip Hop?
I like fashion. It’s not something that I have gone into, but I am very intrigued by it. And I like helping people, honestly. Helping people is something that I don’t know if it’s going to help my career. I don’t know if it’s going to help my career. It’s not a question, I’m just putting it there. You know, doing things for the community is something that I dream to do. I dream of that.
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