Bloody Civilian… from Taraba to Black Panther and global charts
When Emoseh Khamofu used to scribble sheets of paper and present them to her father, as a kid, she had no idea that she would later work on one of the most acclaimed music projects across the world. The chanteuse, professionally known as Bloody Civilian, is among the most radical of emerging mavericks in Nigeria’s music scene.
The 25-year-old music producer, singer/songwriter and filmmaker scored writing, production and singing credits for her duet with Rema on the song titled ‘Wake Up,’ off the official soundtrack for the Marvel Blockbuster, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. She currently has her debut single dubbed, How To Kill A Man, which further strengthens her persona as a free-spirited and anti-institution artiste.
From the vast plains of Northern Nigeria, to basking on global charts, the next-up maverick catches up with Guardian Music to discuss her revolutionary approach to music, her militia-esque artistic persona, working on Black Panther: Wakanda Forever and many more.
Let’s get to know you. What’s the inspiration behind the name “Bloody Civilian?”
The inspiration just came basically from the military violence, up north. You know I’m from the North.
What was it like growing up in the North and how long were you there?
All my life.
Tell us about where you grew up and how did you navigate your way as an artiste?
Abuja. It’s my culture and I guess it has inspired my art because it is the environment I grew up.
I grew up in Abuja but I also in previous years lived in Jos and Kaduna. I’m from Taraba and Kaduna.
Originally, your parents are from Taraba and Kaduna?
So how were you raised?
I grew up in a very conservative environment. The north is very conservative, of both Christians and Muslims. So I pretty much did everything that I had to do in isolation and this came as a result of not being allowed to really go out.
When did you start making beats? Is that what you started with, like your focus?
I started writing songs from when I was eight. When I was eight, I used to write songs and give them to my parents, mainly because my dad is the musically inclined one. He used to be a musical tourist in a band back in the days. So growing up, I had like a lot of music I listened to. There’s this weekend job that he does with his group of band, but he worked primary as a civil engineer. My mum was a doctor. She was supportive but she didn’t really understand music per se.
When you scribble those lyrics and give to your father, what did he do?
They would read it back and give their opinions on it. That’s how it started.
Did you know you were going to take music seriously?
No. Everyone thought it was a hobby, including myself. But my dad took it a little seriously. He wanted me to study music in school but I studied Civil Engineering as well.
Great! So from Civil Engineering, when did you make that flip switch moment to start beat making or are you still juggling Civil Engineering?
No. Right now, I’m a full-time artiste but I decided not to rig myself of both choices at a point. Eventually, when I started bringing in more opportunities as an artist, as a producer, I was then able to let go of Civil Engineering; mainly because my parents are not nepotistic. So they wouldn’t set me up for a job and things like that. Finding jobs in Nigeria is pretty hard. I definitely feel like I am able to make the right choice but this generation. Unfortunately, we don’t have the things our parents had with education and infrastructure. And then, the real money right now, I would say, is more in music and tech.
Who were the few people that started trusting you with your sound and what type of sounds were you making?
To be honest, when I started, I was in school and I was just doing beat making as content. The people I made beats for, they were always just for free. It wasn’t like a thing that I was doing. My contents online are the reason people knew I make beats because I would post stuff online. I guess it’s the privilege of female doing it; that makes it go viral and it was just how I started my social media presence and that’s where I got the bulk of my followers.
So was that where you first met your manager? You worked with Seni?
No. The first time I met Seni was at the Black Panther camp. He wasn’t my manager yet. So Seni is a new occurrence.
So when you met him, was it off social media?
Yeah. He knew about me from online and then that’s when they were looking for female producers and he suggested me.
Speaking of opportunities again, there are millions of professions across Africa and you got to be on The Black Panther album. How did that moment feel for you?
I was ecstatic. You can imagine it was a recording camp with so many artistes that were way bigger than I was at the time. I saw a lot of people with songs that you would have thought would make it in. It was just so surreal. I went there not trying to pass my hope up because I knew that the chances of putting the album up was so slim.
How was working with Rema like? Were you the one that wanted to put Rema on the record?
Not initially. I feel like that part of sorting out the features was solely done by the Marvel team and Ludwick, who were heading its production. But on my part, when I heard Rema’s voice I was definitely impressed by it. Rema is a very good lyricist and it also shows that he is versatile because I think he didn’t even see the verse coming.
So it was originally your song? You had made to the song before the camp?
Yeah. I had made the beat, made the vocals and written the song. The second verse was still there, I think they kind of pushed it to the third verse then he wrote his verse as the second verse. So he just made the arrangements really cool and I enjoyed what they made of it afterwards.
One of your distinguishing features is the fact that you are kind of futuristic with your approach to music? What were your influences and how did you experiment until you got to this point?
Growing up, we had, I think specifically, my age group of people; 25 and above or as low as 24, 23. We listened to what essentially is a very good spot in Nigerian music in terms of song structures and instrumentals. I know that the music weren’t catching up with where we are today, but in terms of musicality, we got the best. Asides from that, on a global scale, when we look at it, we grew up on some legendary sounds especially for Black people worldwide. We grew up on the best R&B. We grew up on the best Afro R&B, with Style plus and people like that who were really making waves; people who were chanting the tones. There were so many experimental people. And unfortunately, people who didn’t really get to enjoy the benefits of what they created because really, we are all just benefiting from what was done before us.
Nneka; somebody I also love so much is Lagbaja. So when I hear music from that time, I know that every one of those songs that we decided were beautiful songs, were actually risky for the artistes. And those are the kind of people that you know really inspired me to make music. I don’t think I want to be confined in anyway because I believe I’m human and as we grow, we evolve. I don’t want a situation where I’m just trying to chase like hit songs and roll out songs that I personally do not believe in. Generally those are my influences and that’s how I get inspired to create.
What inspired songs like How To Kill A Man?
Generally, when I create music, I love when it provokes feeling in me. I remember when I started writing the song, I was like I can never put out something like this and I was laughing. Then I thought about it, I was like hey, wait. When it comes to emotions, like anger or different emotions that are intent like jealousy and envy, people struggle to be honest about what they are feeling, mainly because of judgment and what people would say. On the topic of men specifically, I feel like with the song. I was like I could either bring out a preachy song and the moment people see it, they would be like it’s one of those feminist songs and then they toss it out and I just feel like one could come out and say yeah. Or say I am at this point of anger where I have had to handle it with humour.
So, that’s how I wanted to approach the song. I wanted it to be something that people would listen to and find it hilarious. Like see the humour in this situation. The song is just really about being able to express what it is you are struggling with and bring out the humour in it and make it entertaining. It’s also about to feel well and how it resonates with people. I know people will interpret it their own way but it serves the purpose of what I wanted it to do for me.
Do you have more projects dropping soon?
Yes, I have a music video coming on Friday for How To Kill a Man. Aside from that, I have a single coming hopefully top of the year or before the end of the year that I am working to release.
Also, I’ve been working on an EP. It’s virtually done but I want to wait and find the right time to release the EP because as an artiste that is new, nobody wants to hear your music when you are new. So, I’m trying to just make sure that I do well with these songs and put the EP out at the appropriate time.
Speaking of struggles, you mentioned that you are trying to interpret your realities into music. Can you tell us a bit more about these realities?
There are a lot of things that I struggle with. I know that for the most part, sometimes I can be hard on myself. I know that I could have achieved a lot more out of my life and out of myself if certain things were in certain places. So the things that I wish were there for me, I just want to make sure that my own life is dedicated to making sure that they are there for women that come after me. It’s nice and cool to be the first woman or only woman to do things but I think I’m getting tired and it’s getting boring hearing first of this, first of that. I’m like can we finally open a gate for more women to be able do things like this.
I feel like my talent could have been cultivated at a younger age. If not for having to eat food, I could spend two days back to back just working on my laptop to make beats or working on different things. The only break I would take is to go and eat. I wouldn’t even play outside with anybody. You know, things that normal kids would do, I wouldn’t be doing any of those things. I would just be on my laptop making beats. It was really an escape for me and it was me giving real labour to these things that I wasn’t even getting paid off for. And I’ve not seen that kind of passion in me, in any other thing. So, what I feel was worth the struggle for me was that in the infrastructure of things, like I didn’t have places to go when I didn’t understand things – things I wanted to learn. Obviously now that I have the opportunity, not that I have the money, I’m doing the things that I feel infrastructure could have done for me. And I feel this is the issue with Nigeria. Like even if you have money, you are probably going to have to develop your own road, your own borehole. You know, things that people don’t typically have to do in other places and I see these things also in skills and trades. I wish there were places I could go to refine myself as a producer.
A lot of people say it’s just to go to this or that space, but if you think about it, there were a lot of times when I did not feel safe in these spaces, making me very isolated. For the most part, it’s now that things are going well that people are coming around me and I have actual friends. Prior to this, I was very alone and I didn’t have many people that I could go to that were friends and could also help improve me as a producer. Most women that I’ve spoken to that want to go into beat making complain about this same thing. It’s when the beat is starting properly that your mother calls you to go wash the plate or do random things, unlike the boys that were left to just play around. I just feel like the environment should be made better for women and girls to be able to really own their craft and develop themselves without disturbance.
Also, for them to be able to aspire to more than just domestic labour and taking care of everybody else. As a society, we should feel that it’s okay for women to take care of themselves first before they offer help to anybody else.