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Yung Willis…Conversing Life Of The Party

By Chinonso Ihekire
23 April 2022   |   4:43 am
Well, I started music in church from a young age. I was playing drums and keyboard. But, professionally, it started when I came to Lagos, in 2018.

“WI, Wi, Willis give dem,” with his tagline towering across the entertainment scene, Daniel Williams, professionally known as Yung Willis, has created a trademark as one of the most proficient hitmakers of his generation. In barely three years, he has crafted some of the biggest hits ever churned out by Nigerian mavericks, from Phyno’s 2021 banger, Highway, to Falz’ Squander, to Patoranking’s Celebrate Me, and most recently Timaya’s Cold Outside. His mood-lifting melodies have become a main staple of most social gatherings across the country. And with his arsenal of radical ideas and professionalism, the Abuja-bred musician is poised to be one of the biggest names in the African music industry. 

To fully clothe the artistry of Yung Willis, you would need to adorn him with his songwriting and singing hats. Despite producing for some of the biggest superstars, Yung Willis has also been silently growing as a singer and songwriter. With his debut album dubbed, Life Of The Party set to storm the music scene, it becomes a pivotal point in his discography as he reveals his singing and songwriting persona to the world. Without a doubt, Yung Willis’ ability to nitpick the DNA of sounds and surgically fit them together to create an amazing fusion, like his Amapiano and Highlife fusion in Phyno’s Highway, is going to resurface in his forthcoming LOTP record. 

Catching up with Guardian Music, the young producer travels down memory lane, underscoring some of the most significant moments in his career so far, his creative process, as well as serving backstories into some of his biggest hits, as well as his shocking transition into singing, and many more. 

How did you begin this music journey?
Well, I started music in church from a young age. I was playing drums and keyboard. But, professionally, it started when I came to Lagos, in 2018. I had just finished university and I was ready for it. I tried to push my music here. It was tough, at first, leaving Abuja and relocating here. But we kept believing and pushing. By the end of 2018, I was able to meet Falz and Praiz, and they were the first popular guys I worked with.

How did you meet Falz?
It was through my friend, Chillz, who was an A&R at Chocolate City. Chocolate City was having a recording camp and I was invited to do my stuff there. I met Chillz there and he was interested in my sound. He took me to Falz’ place. Falz was very free and chilled. I played my beats for Falz and he vibed to it. Funnily, the first beat I played for Falz has actually become one of his most popular records, Talk. He dropped ideas on the beat that day, and we didn’t finish it, but some days later we finished recording it.

Was there a reason you waited to finish university?
I went to Afe Babalola University, and I studied International Relations and Diplomacy. I think I am a diplomat, by heart. I can convince anybody. I had to finish university first. Before university, I was to go to a full-scale music school. However, my parents felt that it was more realistic for me to go to a university first. They told me to finish university and then pick up music. I am still grateful I went to university. It was one of my best experiences. I sing, but many people do not know that. Back in university, people knew me as an artiste. That experience encouraged me. I even won some campus talent shows. I had a fanbase in university. I also had a fanbase in Abuja. So, I took the step to come to Lagos to pursue the dream.

How did you come up with ‘Yung Willis’?
The name Yung Willis was actually given to me by my brother’s friend. My elder brother is also a singer. His name is Steve Willis. I was just doing my own thing. The guy who actually named me is a popular person in Abuja. His name is Mr. Seth. He used to be the biggest. He produced a lot for Mode 9ine and Style Plus. I looked up to him. Before, I was bearing Yung Deezy, because my name is Daniel. But he said I should use Yung Willis because my name is also Williams. That was how the name stuck.

Now, you are an established hit-maker. How does it feel for you? 
I am still very humbled. The journey is beyond now. There is still a lot to be achieved. I am grateful to God. It is not my power.

What is the most challenging record you ever produced?
The most challenging records I worked on did not eventually come out. Most times, with these challenging records, we get into a lot of back and forth on the beat and delivery, and eventually nothing comes out. Honestly, all the songs that we have released were not challenging in that sense. Production is all about trust. The artiste and producer have to trust each other to give their best. So far, most of the artistes I work with are my friends.

How was it like to create Highway?
Phyno and I are close. I have produced some songs with him, before we made Highway. He reached out to me to work, in December 2021. Before Highway and Squander, there were not a lot of Amapiano songs in Nigeria. I am someone who likes to try new things and research. I wanted to fuse Amapiano with a touch of highlife. That was how I came up with Highway.

Cold Outside is one of your biggest jams. Do you have any input on the A&R of those records?
I was the one who called BNXN (formerly known as Buju) to come and work with Timaya. Timaya had already told me that he likes BNXN’s style. I called BNXN and he came to meet us up and we went to Timaya’s house to work. Remember when he tweeted that Timaya gave him peppersoup to drink? It is true. We were at Timaya’s house. I had done only like half of the beat and BNXN was just vibing.

So, it was a freestyle? 
Pretty much it. BNXN is a very talented artiste. The first melody was just spontaneous.
So, you are branching out as an artiste soon.

Life Of The Party is an album that would explain myself as a producer and gradually explain myself as an artiste. I have songs that I didn’t sing on the album. I have loads of songs where I took the chorus. It gets to a point where you want to try everything. When I came to Lagos, I wanted to introduce myself as an artiste, but when I came here I decided to follow up with the production. As I keep getting older, I feel like I can thrive in it now. It is part of my evolution.

Did you produce any song on the album?
Every song on the album is produced by me.

Tell us some of the notable names on the album. 
I like to do music with my friends. So, pretty much everyone on this record are my friends. I have a song with Timaya. It is going to be one of the biggest songs in the country very soon. I have Falz, Ajebo Hustlers, Yaba Buluku Boys, Alpha P, Victony, Blaqbonez, Skales, Tekno, and a lot of others.

So, this is basically a party record?
Yes. I am trying to create something that once you press play you would not be able to stop.

As a producer, what is your creative process?
It comes easily and naturally. It has to do with the energy. The artiste just has to trust me to give them hits. Then, we just have to basically free our minds. For me, it is literally energy. Once we are happy and there are no ego issues, then we can sync. No matter how popular the artiste is, we both have to be on the same level, to create. It doesn’t mean I would disrespect them. I have situations where some artistes come in to the studio and they want to give off the vibe that it is a privilege for you to be in their midst. But, for me, I am not the type of producer to be chasing artistes. They probably heard my work and wanted to get into the studio with me. When I met Wizkid, he was very humble. When we met, I asked him ‘Baba, which kind of vibe?’ and he said ‘Yo, my g. Just free your mind. Give me anything that would work.” To me, that is very important – the tone of the room where we are working. For me, my process is good energy and vibes.

Do you have any interest in the alternative music industry?
There are some artistes in the alternative music scene that I like. I really like Falana’s sound. We have actually worked, but I don’t know why the song is not out. Me and Pretty Boy D-O also have worked together. He is a very energetic artiste, with a good sound and good vibe. For me, there is a lot of emphasis on good vibes. I am a very happy person and I like to work with people on that same level.

So, why do you even do it all?
Again, I would say it is all passion. I would also say that the whole church background, playing drums and keyboards was fun for me. It is still fun for me. Sometimes, when i visit Abuja, I still play the drums at the family church. I just really like music. The interesting part of everything is the fact that I am still getting paid for what I really like to do. To me, this is work that I already like to do. Making music is something that I enjoy doing, and if you are paying me while I am at it then that is very interesting.

Tell us some contemporary mainstream acts that you would like to work with.
I would say I have worked with Joeboy already. I think it would be cool to work with Rema. His sound is dope. I have worked with Oxlade, but it is not out yet. I haven’t worked with Fireboy yet, but we met before he blew up.

What’s the future of Yung Willis?
Yeah, I am still a young man. And I believe that as I am growing, I should not restrict myself. I want to keep trying new stuff. I have gotten to a stage where Willis Give Dem is known. Many people do not know that I also write songs for artistes. I would sing the songs, record them and send it to the artistes to pitch it to them. Sometimes, they like it and we use it. Sadly, Nigerians aren’t really used to giving credit to songwriters. But at the same time, it does not mean that they do not give me my royalties. Eventually, I envision opening a record label where I sign some of the acts that would take the industry forward. I hope to have one of the biggest music groups in the whole of Africa.

Tell us three things people do not know about you. 
I like to paintball. People do not know that I am really funny. Lastly, I can be a husband material too.