‘My music would always reflect experiences of the average person’
Casually dressed on a Monday evening, his warm personality is the first thing you observe; his smile easily gives it away. “You’re from The Guardian,” he says, as he led the way into the cozy office space in the hotel. He looks tired, his eyes drooping from long hours of media interviews since he left the Big Brother House. His eyes lit up when his music was announced as the topic of the conversation; you could feel the passion it stirred within him.
Prior to winning the Big Brother Season 5 (Lockdown edition), the Philosophy graduate of the University of Lagos (UNILAG) has been on the forefront of promoting his latest project; an extended project (EP) dubbed WhoisLaycon. However, this latest win has become the highlight of Olamilekan Agbeleshe’s sojourn as an artiste; it’s set to transform the life of the 26-year-old Ogun State native. In this exclusive interview with CHINONSO IHEKIRE, he spoke about his childhood, growing up as an artiste, winning the BBNaija reality show and his dream of using music to transform lives.
A lot of people watched you in the Big Brother House for 71 day and have observed different facets of your personality. Who is Laycon?
Laycon was just a normal artiste trying to promote his music and use it to better himself and everyone around him. He was always recording songs over and over, trying to improve. He was always trying to get engagements on Instagram and allow people to know about him. But that was who Laycon was before Big Brother.
When did the journey of becoming a musician start?
Music for me started when I was a kid. However, I didn’t start recording professionally until 2012. My first major project was put out in 2016 and it is titled Young Black and Gifted. Basically, I have always been doing music since I can remember. I was always free styling in secondary school, singing people’s songs. My secondary school was Lagos State Model College, Meiran; I grew up in Agbado, Lagos.
What’s your source of inspiration?
When I first started, I took cues from the kind of music I wanted to make, which I was very adept and very versatile at, that’s rap music. Eventually, I understood that I could sing. I derive inspiration mostly from my surroundings; my experiences from people around me. I basically use it to speak, and I say the things on my mind.
There’s a whole lot of philosophical notes in your songs, is this just a penchant for you or there’s an agenda for you doing music that reflects on the human condition of an average person?
Well, I am an average person; my experience is what brings about my music. So, if I am an average person, then my music is supposed to be about an average person’s experience, which people would have heard or seen. In my EP, I basically told a story of an artiste who knows this is what needs to be done to get heard and, also, this is what I need to do to feel like I am actually doing something I love.
Being a rap artiste, you have to find the balance between being a rapper and being a marketable rapper. I say marketable because you can be a rapper and you also have to make sure that your music is marketable to people; you have to find a balance between both. WhoisLaycon EP was basically just I trying to find myself in this industry. While trying to understand that you need this or you need that, but you still need to be yourself in this industry.
The truth is you can grow far and wide, but your experience is what shapes you. You cannot lose your identity; it is what made you who you are. For everything I did in the BBNaija house, it was because of my experiences before then. I cannot change the person I am because I got bigger. It is not possible. There is no level of stardom that you can attain that would change the person that you are. So, I feel like I don’t think I am going to change. I don’t think the whole point of making music is going to change and I don’t think the kind of music I am making is going to change. Yeah, at a certain point, you are going to address the life that you are living, which are the experiences at that point. So, your music would revolve around it. If it is different from what you used to do before, that is because you are in a different place.
For Jay Z’s Reasonable Doubt, he wasn’t in the same mind-state as Blueprint, and he wasn’t in the same mindset of Watch the Throne, and even Watch the Throne wasn’t in the same mindset as 4:44. So, you can see that his experiences grow, but eventually, you would still go back to the foundation for everything; and that’s the truth.
Tells us about your family background?
I have two elder brothers from my mum; we are three kids from her. My late dad had two wives and my mum was the second wife. I have other siblings, but they are more like extended family. So, when I am talking about my family, I talk about my two brothers from my mum.
How was the vibe like growing up with them? What were the fun memories?
I learned a lot from my Dad. My parents were not always around too, so, most of the things I learned were from my brothers. Then, some of the things were just from seeing people do things. A foundation of who I am is basically from different experiences of people from different places while growing up.
Did your parents ever oppose your music?
Yeah, they did. The trick was, I won a TV in 2011 or so. I went to an NYSC Camp with my brother to do some things and they were doing a competition. I rapped and then I came third. I won a TV and I took it home and that was it. I was allowed to do music. When you want to do something and your parents are opposing it, I think you just have to give them a reason to believe in that thing. Once you give them that reason, then you would be supported.
You were an Independent artiste for a while. What brought you and your label, Fierce Nation, together?
Fierce Nation has always been family before I got signed. The thing is, I was serving before I got signed. I just finished my youth service when I got signed; it was a no-brainer. I had known the label owner since 2004 or 2005; it was always going to happen.
Looking at Laycon the artiste, it seems you have a way of blending Hip-Hop and Afro-pop. How do you create that balance?
The whole point is to make relatable and quality music. The track Motivation is a Hip-hop song. However, people love it because it is relatable. They understand what I was talking about, and that makes it marketable.
Do you think people are losing faith in core Hip-hop?
Because a rap song is marketable doesn’t mean it is not core Hip-hop anymore. Motivation is actually core Hip-hop; the first track on the EP. WhoIsLaycon is very loved by people. I don’t think anybody is losing faith in Hip-hop, to be honest. Personally, I am not losing faith; it’s just evolution. There were times when people were listening to funk; there were times when people were listening to just jazz. Over time, you see the fusion of different genres. You can see that people are ‘trapping’ (i.e. performing Trap Music, a stylised form of rap) now. It is just music growing. Just because you are growing with the times, doesn’t mean that you are losing the core; the core is still there. You can’t be obsolete; you have to move. That is what shows your growth as an artiste. You can’t retain the same principles that you used to start; it is not going to make sense. You have to evolve as an artiste. Hip-hop is still there; it has just grown into something else.
Who are your top-five in the industry?
I honestly don’t have a top-five; I would love to work with everybody. That is how impressed I am by our industry; everybody has something important in his or her sound to the extent that when you put it in your song, it is distinct. I don’t feel like I would choose to work with one person over another person; I would choose to work with everybody.
Speaking of working with everybody, you have already jumped on DJ Neptune’s Nobody Remix. Any sneak peek into what that sounds like?
Hahaha, Just wait for it; it would come out.
Let’s look at your winning the BBNaija, how does it feel winning that show?
I feel great; I am not going to lie. It is an awesome feeling. I just wanted to promote my EP and I came out there as a winner; that means a lot to me. It means that people have a lot of faith in me; people can understand and they buy into the kind of person I am. They feel that I deserve to have the opportunity to use myself to grow others. That is the whole point of winning. It is not about just winning the show. It is about winning in life. You have to use the privilege you have been given to make others grow, and to enrich their lives; that is it for me. I am grateful and I am looking forward to impacting society positively.
What was your game plan like coming into the house?
I honestly just went there to promote my music; I did not care if I stayed for three weeks. I only cared about getting into that house. I wanted to just continue singing and telling them about my music and pushing my EP. I didn’t really think about going into the final until week six. I didn’t really envision winning until getting to the final. Even during the finals, I thought Dorathy was going to win until they called my name. In short, e shock me.
Your Instagram account has already passed 1million unique followers. Were you also marvelled at the results your team achieved with promoting you while you were in the house?
They did a wonderful job. Maybe I haven’t said it, but they are wonderful. They are a huge part of this; they made this whole thing possible. That is why I owe them a lot to make sure that this is not in vain. We have to grow together as a team, including the fans – the Icons. We have to come together and move together.
What were your best memories inside the house?
Winning first of all was the best memory, then the Guinness task; then the Airtel task; the Johnny Walker and Indomie tasks too. Then, the Lipton task… I had a lot of wonderful memories handling the tasks; I had a lot of fun in the house. The Saturday night parties, those were fun times; I actually miss everything.
Are you ever going to comment about the situation with Erica in your music?
Well, with music, it is funny. I am not going to dwell on a whole lot of things that people expect me to dwell on because, to be honest, I have moved past a whole lot of things that people think I haven’t moved past. The thing is, when I go into the studio and I say that ‘this is the kind of song I want to make’, there is a 90 per cent chance that you would not make that song because it is another thought that would come into your head; it doesn’t work that way.
Let’s look at the music, what’s your creative process like?
I can basically work with everybody. There are times when I send an already written song to a producer and he makes a beat for the song. There are times that I listen to the beat and I write a song to it; I can work in any kind of situation. I don’t necessarily have one step that I always follow; it could be different. There are times I freestyle and then I write a song to it. There are times when I find the melody first; it differs basically.
How are you getting used to the stardom?
Well, it is one thing for you to expect stardom and it another thing for you to just meet it; it has been exciting, eye-opening. It has helped me understand that there is a whole lot I need to start doing because it is not just about me anymore; it is about a whole lot of people who stand behind me; people who utter every word I utter without thinking about it so much. It is left for me to do my thinking and make sure that I am not going to mislead anybody. I am not going to allow people to pass the wrong message through me or through themselves.
How do you hope to go through that pressure?
It is not pressure for me; it is just me understanding that I have more responsibility and I have to be conscious of that every time. It is like saying how do you deal with the pressure of being a sensitive person? You would just know that you have to be a sensible person; it is not pressure in any way. I just understand that when I am a sensible person, I am not a sensible person for myself; I am a sensible person for millions of other people.
So, what’s the future for Laycon?
The future is bright. I know that there is a whole lot of positivity and a whole lot of love and light; there is a whole lot of impact to be made on a whole lot of people. It is just something I am looking forward to and cannot wait to start experiencing. It is a process and I can’t wait to go into it fully – from the music, to the family, to the fans. I have also understood that you can’t rest on your laurels.
What about the song with Trikytee and Vee? How is that coming out?
We are all busy right now, but definitely it would be done.
To conclude, tell us five things your fans don’t know about Laycon?
Laycon doesn’t know how to swim. He doesn’t know how to drive. He doesn’t know how to ride a bicycle. Laycon doesn’t like eating watermelon. Laycon actually prefers to sleep with the lights on.
How did you even cope in the house?
I had to adjust. The truth is you are not going to always get everything that you always want; you are not comfortable in your house and that is why you went to Big Brother’s house. So, you can’t expect to be too comfortable there.