Joeboy… In The Pursuit of Happiness
How does life feel when you have crafted some of the most popular songs in the world and somehow have to level up for your next release since the world is constantly in motion? This question seems a perfect one for Africa’s Pop Prince, Joeboy. But the thing is, he’s already answered it with his forthcoming sophomore album scheduled for release shortly before summer.
With Joeboy, born Joseph Akinfewa Donus, being one of the most talented vocalists from the continent definitely comes with a lot of pressure, especially in a music scene as competitive as Nigeria’s. Yet, he keeps standing outside the box, with a puritan approach to making music he loves. At the forefront of Joeboy’s artistry is his storytelling. And at the back, his unending exploration of romantic love.
It all started when Joeboy listened to Ed Sheeran, the Irish love-steeped maestro. He posted his cover of Ed Sheeran’s ‘Shape of You’ and things began to take a different shape in his life. African music powerhouse and founder of Empawa Records, Mr Eazi, picked him up on his radar and handed him two choices: a $5,000 cash gift or a fully sponsored song release and video shoot. And, since April 2017, till date, it appears Joeboy has kept on betting on himself. And winning.
Fast forward to 2019. ‘Nobody’ by DJ Neptune featuring Joeboy and his mentor Mr Eazi came as a ‘force majeure’ on all the doubts surrounding Joeboy’s enigma.
Prior to that particular chart-breaking song, which later became one of the most shazamed songs in the world, Joeboy had already started gaining momentum with his breakout jams, ‘Faaji’ and ‘Baby’. It was a dream come true for the young star, who in less than three years had become an international sensation, inspiring over 10 million fan-created videos on social media.
So, how does one exactly respond to this blooming fame? Joeboy answered this with a striking song dubbed, ‘Count Me Out,’ the intro to his underrated-yet-wholesome debut album, ‘Somewhere Between Beauty and Magic’.
“As i reach here, e be like magic/ I drop hit, and I drop smash hit/ And na so e go dey/ I’m never stopping,” the lyrics run like a leaky faucet, unable to ignore.
While the 14-track album, with zero features, soared for its exciting sound, it quite literally fell through the cracks too quickly with the African music scene. Was this the end of an era? Were Africans suddenly weary of good music, with well-woven lyricism and meticulous sound engineering? Was it all suddenly supposed to end with just vibes and log drums? These conflicting standards can set anyone back, but not Joeboy in this case.
“It has been beautiful. I’ve grown a lot. Learned so much, and I have also become much more mature and confident in who I am as a person. I have definitely become a better person in all aspects of my life,” he cracks a smile, as he eases into the conversation.
For Joeboy, the secret behind his positivity lies in the very reason he started creating music. The 25-year-old enjoys creating music as listening experiences that shape not just the listener, but the singer itself. For him, life has been a steady ascent into reinventing his artistry while staying true to himself.
“I’m bringing more sincerity and vulnerability with the music, topics that almost every demographic can relate to and pick something from. Music that doesn’t follow trends and stands the test of time.”
Does this really make much difference in a pop saturated scene like Africa’s? Why settle for less, while you can tweak standards and stay on trends? It makes sense when you think of Joeboy’s fulfillments. The compass points to happiness, the genuine kind you get when you make something you are proud to show to the world. “I will always be ready to create a global hit. God has chosen me to be a vessel to spread my light and music into the world and with him I can never fail,” he says.
Testament to his continental awards at the All Africa Music Awards and the Soundcity MVP Awards, Joeboy’s stardom is an indisputable part of his reality now. But he says making more music is the his most deepest desire at the moment.
He alludes to a forthcoming yet-to-be-titled album project, which he believes will prune the hearts of listeners off all apathy towards artistic music.
“This next record is purely sweet and beautiful music. Music that sounds evergreen. 10 to 20 years from now people will revisit this project and reminisce about the beauty of my art,” he affirms. And if you have taken a listen to the album’s official lead single, ‘Body and Soul’ one gets a glimpse of a bohemian Joeboy, a me vs the world Joeboy, a musician with no cares for censorship. Just raw emotions and relatable music. And a lot of love.
He also talks about some new collaborations. “Yes I have a couple of collaborations. These are artistes whom I love their sounds personally, and what they stand for and our synergy on the songs are undeniable.”
Interestingly, Joeboy has become the apostle of love, lately. In one recent chat with Pulse, he talks about spending up to N50 million naira on his lover. And, even after teasing us endlessly on social media about the mystery woman, it is easy to believe that it’s not just marketing tactics and Joeboy is really in love.
But it’s a good thing, too. If Adele or Taylor Swift could go on year-long or months-long hiatuses to reinvent their artistry by deepening their romantic experiences, then Joeboy should be allowed to be head over heels.
On how he creates his music, he describes solitude as his best company. “I love to be alone when I’m creating music and just being in my own space. I love to introspect and stay honest with my delivery and lyrics. Most of the time, I record demos on the voice note app on my phone and when I get a vibe or sample from a producer I just write to it then record properly.”
Another interesting side to our conversation is the reality of cyber trolling. Every now and then, several musicians get defamed, insulted, or threatened on social media, by music fanatics or just ill-trained peer-pressured humans, and Joeboy’s innocent looks give him no immunity from this. “I pay cyber trolls no mind, I feel as a person if all you do is hide behind the anonymity of a social media account to attack people, you must really have nothing good going on in your life. So, sometimes I pity them and don’t take what they say personally. To me, they are irrelevant.”
On his relationship so far with Mr Eazi, the young maverick believes his time with the Empawa imprint has helped to immerse him fully in the music business of things. Despite his favourite part of it being able to “build something from scratch and see the final process of how people relate and connect to it,” his most profound experiences have helped him “as an artiste, you should be involved in every part of your career so you don’t get played.”
And, recently, his public spatz with Asa and Bad Bunny, respectively, over copyright issues confirmed the young dreamer’s subtle-yet-assertive maturity of the music business and its complexities.
For Joeboy and the entire music industry, it’s an interesting time right now. The world is paying attention. Afrobeats is on the cusp of global domination. He’s in love. His mentor is also in love and even engaged. He keeps on brewing thoughts of becoming ‘a generational talent’, explaining that it denotes people realising “that I am the greatest of my generation” and other similarly confident aspirations. His next album is also coming at a time when the ears of his audience are aching for authentic, relatable and creative storytelling. Everything looks in place. And Joeboy is on an endless race in pursuit of artistic sincerity, his most preferred and sustainable source of happiness.