Rexxie… Conversing champion of the street
The most shocking thing one would discover about the superstar record producer, Rexxie, is actually where he comes from; not many people would easily believe that a street-hop maverick is actually an Igbo man from the South Eastern nerve-centre of Anambra and not a South-western Nigerian.
Nonetheless, despite his roots, he has succeeded in wielding his music as his biggest cultural tool, unifying the entire country with his litany of chart-topping hits.
The next, perhaps, most intriguing fact about him is that the soft-spoken producer is also one of the few Street-hop powerhouses to have been awarded by the American-based Recording Society, also known as the Grammys, for his work on Burna Boy’s Killing Dem (featuring Zlatan), and Angelique Kidjo’s Do Yourself (featuring Burna Boy).
Born Ezeh Chisom Faith, Rexxie has kept the heartbeat of Street-hop music at a very progressive tempo. With his infectious grooves, from records like Ko Por Ke (KPK), Zanku, and Coming, among others, it is evident that even the pioneers of this genre – from the Mad Melons to the African China’s, among others – would be grinning in awe of him. His template for creating some of the most danceable tunes has become a paradigm for other emerging producers across the country, and the secret to his success rests beyond his rapid percussion and upbeat piano chords. It all starts and ends with his restlessness to outdo himself.
And after playing for over a decade, from school bands to his father’s piano in the church, among others, Rexxie is finally at a pivotal stage in his career, with two extended playlists – Afro Street and True Champion – and global recognition for his craft being some of the ripest fruits of his labour of love for the streets.
Catching up with The Guardian, the young producer unpacks tales of his journey to the limelight, revealing how a single lie navigated his career path, working with some of the biggest names in the industry, as well as his relentless drive of keeping the art of street-hop close to his heart and to your ears.
How did you come up with the name Rexxie?
NOTHING serious though; it was in Secondary school. I was in a group like that; it was all those Health Club and stuff like that. They told us to create a nickname. I just remembered that Rex means King; I liked the word. So, I tried to make it sexy, so I gave it Rexxie.
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Lagos and Abuja.
At what point did you know you would go into music?
Right from time, music was the only factor that helped me connect socially with people. It was the only thing I could use to relate with people. I was the kind of guy that had this low self-esteem. So, music was what people used to understand me and connect with me. It grew from choir to school, to being in the band. I just knew there was something about it.
When did you first get your hands into record production?
I was playing musical instruments right from time. In secondary school, I used to play for the band; we used to play popular songs, like Styl Plus and Asa. I used to love playing Asa; I got fascinated by how these songs were made.
At the time, I was making a song for the band. So, it was very intriguing. There was a time when I lied to my friends in school. Like I said before, it was a social factor for me. So, I lied to my friends in Yabatech that I produce music. And as at then, I had never seen production software before. I played them a beat that was for someone else; they believed it and recorded a song with it. The song became a jam in school then. They wanted more from the producer that made that beat. So, I had to start learning it on the low.
I got a system and started making beats. At first, they felt that what I was producing after wasn’t sounding like what I had lied to them that I produced before. But over time, I started catching up.
So, who was the first popular person you made a beat for in the industry?
I met Chinko Ekun and Zlatan. I had this thing with Zlatan that had a big influence on my career.
How did you guys first meet?
So, I had an accident that was so bad that it made me stop playing music. There was this girl called SI; she is a talent manager. She just called me and told me that there was a song I needed to help record. I used to be a mobile producer and I used to work everywhere. So, I didn’t know the guy wanted to feature Zlatan.
I was surprised to see Zlatan. So, I recorded them both. Afterwards, Zlatan asked me if I had any other beat for him. I played a beat for him and we made our first jam titled, Jogor. That was how we started making songs.
You started out with Street-hop/Pop. What made you go in that direction?
As a creative person, you have to find your niche. For someone like me, I look up to people like Masterkraft; he was musically oriented but still jamming in the clubs. There was something about how I saw that street music was not appreciated enough in the country.
When I was in school, I would always hear street songs playing and people would vibe to them and go crazy. You might not even know the artiste behind the song; people who were dancing to it would not even know who sang the song. I felt that music needed packaging. At that time, CDQ was doing it right at that time with songs like Indomie. I had a beat I was making down and I told myself that if I met CDQ, I would give him that beat. It was that beat I ended up playing for Zlatan for the first time. It was just that mindset that I had at that time. And I was looking for the perfect artiste that would give me what I was looking for.
Do you think Street-hop is more appreciated now?
It is still appreciated, but Nigerians are used to double standards. There are always seasons in this music thing. Everybody has his/her season. So, it is appreciated basically.
Going into your EP, True Champion, you gave us a different feel of your work. What birthed the idea for it?
Omo, SAPA (street lingo for financial constraint). That was 2020; it was Coronavirus season. I had dropped an EP called Afro Street, which was basically me trying to explain what I was about. I had Zlatan, Naira Marley and Barry Jhay on it. The EP was a stepping-stone for me; it brought positive attention to me. I got a music deal, but I kept it lowkey. I had to take the deal.
Like I said, because of SAPA, I had to give them another project. It was beyond just a creative project; I had to just deliver something. Sometimes, I feel like I perform better under pressure. So, I had the True Champion EP ready by 2020, because I wanted to do it and be done with it. We had to wait to package the album, and God just brought his blessings and gave me a song like Ko Por Ke (KPK).
Imagine me having all those artistes and my next single was KPK with Moh Bad. I dropped that single and it just changed the status quo for me. It looked beautiful in everybody’s eye.
Let’s go back to Burna Boy. How did you two first meet?
I actually met Burna through Zlatan. I had worked with Burna Boy years back, but I don’t think he remembers; it was just an opportunity, but we didn’t get to meet or interact. After that, I followed Zlatan to a show when Burna Boy and himself were still on good terms. Their song, Killing Dem, was still popping everywhere. So, we went to the opening of Big Brother Naija.
We met backstage with Burna Boy, and it was all good energy. We agreed to go to a studio after the show, but we didn’t go to the studio immediately; we went to a strippers club instead. From the club, we went to the studio and that was when we recorded Gbeku. So, it was cool energy.
After like a month, I got a message from Burna Boy’s assistant saying Burna Boy wanted to link up with me. So, Burna Boy linked up with me. He is an Outsider, so we met at the club again; we were always meeting at the club. We always had that energy after the club of “let us go and make a jam.” I was not working with the mindset of making an album; I was just enjoying the process of making music. It is all big vibes.
At what point did you become self-assured in your talent?
I was not self-assured; I found myself at the point where it was either music or nothing. Music became my hustle; I was using music to eat. That time, I was in school and my mother was sick. There was no time for anybody to send money to me. I became a man in like two seconds, you know! I had to start taking it seriously. Like I said before, there is a thing about being under pressure that just works for me.
You have a catalogue of hits. Tell us about some of the most challenging records you have ever produced?
I don’t think I have a challenging record. It is always good vibes.
Could you give us backstories from three of your favourite songs?
Okay, let me talk about Coming. First of all, Naira Marley is one artiste that believes in me so much. He keeps me up, you know, that is why I like him so much. I was in my house with his DJ, DJ Splash. And I was just making a beat at home, and I felt like it was a Naira Marley jam. We drove to Naira Marley’s house and I went with my laptop. Once Naira Marley sees me with a laptop, he knows that he is ready and we are about to create magic. I played the beat and he was feeling it.
However, because he already had an image of what we expected him to sing on that song; we thought it was going to be rap or street vibes. He just took the mic and after 30 minutes he started singing “Coming, fantasy!” I was amused like what is this guy singing? It was funny at first. But over time, we started filling the beat and it was now making sense.
The sweetest part is that, after a month, Busiswa came. He played the song for her and told her that he wanted her to feature in the song. And she heard it once and went straight to it. She started her “whooo” and “heeeey.” It was fun like that.
Another song is Soapy. Naira Marley had just come back from that EFCC matter then. He needed to drop a song; he had been behind bars and it was really like a burden for everyone that cared about him. When he came out, he wanted to sing, but he was so down. He made a song, but it was not there. I played another one, and as I played that “pan, pan, pan pan pan,” he just told me, “that is it!” Without recording it, he was already assured. Once he took the mic, he killed it. We dropped it and it was a hit.
For someone with your range, who is that artiste that intrigued you with their work when you produced for them?
I think there are Artistes. I would say Burna Boy; his production flow is amazing. His vibe is right. Victony, Zinoleesky, BNXN (formerly known as Buju), and Mohbahd.
You have done some Amapiano and even love songs. Did you feel challenged going outside your niche?
See, me I am bad o! The issue is about the fact that people already expect you to do what they already know you for. I don’t even get the chance to express myself in other ways. Even if Tiwa Savage says that I want to work with you and I start playing RnB, they might like it and say it is nice, but there is a reason that they wanted to work with me in the first place. It is because I am rexxie.
I am not just a beat-maker; I am a producer with a brand. And they might be expecting me to play the regular gba gba gba sound. But for the few artistes that want to go the extra mile, we can make some other types.
Do you feel like you want to explore your full range some more?
Yes, but it is not something I am forcing. So far, I am just growing my sound. The way I sounded in 2019 is not the way I sounded in 2020. Rexxie is honing that street sound still. I don’t know where the sound is going, but I am hopeful that in the near future people will understand that when they say Afrobeats to the world, they will realise that Steet hop is one major factor. That is what I am trying to build.
How did you feel when you got your certification from the Grammys?
At that point, I just felt normal. The Nigerian mentality and the way Nigerians run their awards didn’t allow me to even rate the award. I just saw it as just an award; I can’t lie.
Growing up in this industry, I was never regarded. Even the Headies never nominated me for producer of the year. And other award companies too. It already messed with my mind about the idea of awards. When the Grammys came, I didn’t really see it as a thing. But when I held that certificate, it had a different feeling. Tearing the FedEx mail, I felt like this was something. I valued the second win. I was like I cannot wait for it to come.
Where do you think you want to go with the music?
Omo, I just want God’s will to be done. There is a lot to offer. There is a lot on a man’s head. The ideas are plenty. I just want Rexxie to go bigger; more songs and albums. I just started!
Where I see Rexxie going is a point where you would say “e get one-time wey that guy is Nigerian producer. It used to be a thing of the past.” That is where I see Rexxie.
Do you think you would diversify into singing at a point?
My truth is not telling me that yet. I don’t think I can sing yet. I am just chilled.
With where Afrobeats is right now, there is a lot of fusion. Do you see any hope for fusion in Street-hop?
When you say Street-pop, it means what is making the street pop. The street would always pop. It must pop in any way. There must always be something influencing the street. The street would sha pop! When I say pop, I mean there was a time when Amapiano came and everyone was like what is this guy doing? When KPK came, it popped. Moving on to Bella Shmurda, Zinoleesky and others, we kept it popping. Street must pop.
Do you have any fears with the music at all?
My only fear is me; It is only you that can hold yourself down. You know what is right and wrong. There is the God-factor, but it is up to you to help yourself.
Do you have any crazy fan experiences?
For me, it would be the fan hate. It gets to me. It is all loved every day, but the fan hate is a lot. Especially from Twitter, they always find a way to enter my life. I just tell them to calm down. They keep complaining that Rexxie is making the same type of beats. It is always heartbreaking, but I just tell them to leave me alone. The flipside is the girls. However, they would be fine. I am in a relationship.
What is your own creative process?
Right from time, I am the on-the-spot kind of producer. I don’t know how to have beats and go to a session and play them. From when I started production, I go to a studio and start making a beat from scratch, and artistes vibe to it.
How are you convinced that a song is finished?
When it touches the soul.
So, looking at the current generation of artistes, who are some of the names you think you would like to work with?
For me, I would say Rema. I would love to create magic with him. No other name comes to mind, right now. The alte scene is doing great too, but I am not sure yet. I think it is just Rema. That is who is coming to mind.
What inspires your fashion style?
I just like supporting brands. I have my own fashion brand coming out soon. It is going to be street wear. It is called Pondit. I call my fans pondits, like Rexxie Pon Dis One. I like to just support brands, basically.
Any current celebrity crush?
None, I no get.
Finally, tell us two things that people do not really know about you…
Firstly, I am a nice guy; I don’t know why people do not believe me. Also, people misinterpret me as a very outgoing person, but I am actually more of an introvert.