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Being a producer gave me more experience on how to sing – Kel-P

By Chinonso Ihekire
04 March 2023   |   3:04 am
Kelvin Udoma is cut from a different breed. The 26-year-old producer-artiste has coined a legacy of creating music that is very difficult to ignore.


“I regularly dance in the studio for like one to two hours before making my beats or recording the songs. Every time I do that, I always believe that’s how anybody listening to the music will feel because this music makes me dance.”

Kelvin Udoma is cut from a different breed. The 26-year-old producer-artiste has coined a legacy of creating music that is very difficult to ignore. From producing on Grammy-winning records like Wizkid’s Made In Lagos and Angelique Kidjo’s Mother Nature, to creating his just-released debut tape, Bully Season Vol 1, the Aristokrat Records front man, professionally known as Kel-P, is among the prominent sound shapers behind the globally-appealing sonic shift in Afrobeats. 

Despite being known for working with stars like Burna Boy, Wizkid, Rema, among others, Kel-P steps out with a 5-tracker EP with no guest features. With Bully Season Vol 1, the young musician creates a stunning body of work, which is a statement record addressing an age-long skepticism of his singing prowess. He delves for an embracing Pop sound, with a melange of Caribbean and African influences, hacking an authentic and unique sound style that reflects in-depth fusion.

In Bully Season, the young maverick returns to his first love – singing, exploiting his experiences from recording other acts to make technically perfect music. And for his narratives, he explores the concept nearest relatable to him: love. 

Unlocking stories behind his musical evolution, the renowned musician sits with Guardian Music, despite a 9-hr time difference, breaking down the concept of being Afrobeats’ ‘bully’, balancing production with singing, his famed 2022 Grammy win, as well as his dreams to share his art with the world.  

What is Bully Season?  
I am not a bully, because I don’t bully anybody. I know the word bully means violence and all of that, but in my own terminology, what I am trying to get the people to know is that Bully Season actually refers to my work ethic, all the work I have done. What I have passed through in my life as a producer, back and forth, making music for other people and all of that, and now I am trying to show myself to the world that ‘I can do all of these but you guys don’t know me yet.’

So, I am basically trying to let them know that I can make the music, I can write the music, I can sing the songs and very soon, you are going to see me performing the songs on stage and all of that. So, yeah that is me expressing myself as a bully in the music industry. 

When did you start nursing the whole idea of being a singer?
That’s the first thing that happened in my life. I never wanted to be a producer; I was actually in a group. We used to sing together, we called ourselves Dynamite. We were four in number then when I was in the university we became seven. And then, in 2017, we went to a studio to record. It was Sarz studio actually, in Fadeyi.

We went to make a song together and Sarz was like, ‘why won’t one of you become a producer, because you guys are seven in number and nobody produces music and all of that.’ And I told Sarz, ‘of course why not.’ And then I decided to be the person to be the producer. Throughout the whole of 2017, I was living with Sarz, because he trained me; he showed me how to make beats and all of that.

I fell in love with that craft as a producer and I kept it going. And because I was able to now produce my own music and record on my own beat and also produce music for my group that we were together and yeah, I kept it going.

Were you the leader of the group?
I was not really the leader to be honest with you; I wasn’t even the leader at all. I was the guy who couldn’t even sing among members of the group. So, when we are out singing in the church or whatever, they put me at the back, because every time I stay at the front, I go flat and everyone laughs at me. They put me at the back so nobody really hears my voice.

But I decided to take the production step because I met Sarz in 2017 and then when I took that step, it worked out for me. My level of music grew, my knowledge of music grew, my exposure to music; I became more exposed to music. I got more exposure, because I was now a producer. I started creating; I started listening to music.

Basically, Sarz just put me on that side of my life as a producer and then I kept it going and I started producing for a couple of upcoming artists back then in Nigeria in 2018, until towards August 2018. And I met Burna Boy and then the rest became history.

How were you able to navigate having that kind of foundation of doubt from people?
I mean, it’s those kinds of doubts from people and those kinds of things people say to me and those kinds of negative words people tell me to bring me down that actually made me stronger and made me put in more work. Being a producer really gave me more experience on how to sing. When people are working hard, I am doing the smart work. I am doing the smart work, because I work with everyone.

I have recorded every Afrobeats artistes you can think of and I recorded them in the studio. So, while working with them, I am learning in the process, seeing how they are making their music, and seeing how they are arranging the process. So, it’s like I am producing the music for you guys and at the same time, I am learning from you. So, that’s how I gathered the whole experience of singing all of that and put it in my own career right now. I am always learning the process. If I am working with a very talented artiste, I am learning. 

Is Dynamite still active?
It’s been a long time. Like everybody split and found their ways. In 2018, I first found my way as a producer. Like when the production thing was working for me, I decided to focus on it because I wasn’t singing anymore. I decided to focus on it fully, because the production side started working for me and I made hits. I decided to take this seriously, so I didn’t have time for the band and the group anymore. 

How were you able to balance singing and production? 
I’ve always been singing even when I was producing for everybody since 2017; I record and keep. Every of the beats I make, I make them with my vocals like actual songs. Then, I take my vocals out and I save the beat and And I play it for artists. That’s how I make my beats; I cannot make my beats without vocals.

So, if I’m in the studio making a beat right now and there is no artiste there to sing on the beat or to inspire me, I sing on the beat.
Does it mean you probably have a Kel-P version of all our favorite jams outside?

Every song you can think of… I have vocals on them that are saved in my laptop, my own version.

Why was it always music for you? 
It started in my childhood when I was 11-12. I was just listening to music, and it’s not like I was actually going to the studio or something like that. I was just a huge fan of music, and I was always listening to music.

I started listening to a lot of RnB as a kid; the early 2000s type of RnB. That is when I actually started listening to music and all of that. So, that was how I fell in love with music. Like I said, I never knew I was going to become a producer, but I knew I was going to become an artist. I always wanted to sing, because I’ve always been singing in the church. I have always been singing in school, from the cultural dance we do, to the inter-house sports, I have always been finding a way to sing, and I have always been listening to music. In 2016, I joined the band and, in 2017, I took everything professionally. 

When you were growing up, what were some of the influences you had?
When I was singing as a kid, I was listening to a lot of RnB like I said. I was listening to Akon, I was listening to T-pain, I was listening to Nelly, the song I sampled One More Night, was a sample of Neyo’s Dilemma. I was listening to Neyo, because I knew then Neyo was writing and producing a lot of Rihanna’s and Beyoncé’s songs. I was listening to all of them, mostly RnB.

I started listening to Afrobeats, I think, when I heard of Wizkid or towards when I heard of P-Square. Yeah, I started listening to Afrobeats, when I heard of P-square and 2Face. I took Afrobeats very seriously when I heard of Wizkid in 2011. 

You recently worked on the soundtrack for the Hollywood blockbuster, Creed III. How did it all come about? 
So, shout out to Bas, my family out here. I am in Los Angeles, at the moment, so they are my people out here. When I first came to America, Bas was the first person, the first artiste I met. And we kept that relationship strong and he hit me up and said that they are working on the soundtrack for Creed III. And I was in LA at that moment.

So, I went to the production camp. I think they were like 35 people in that whole building making music; from artists, to producers, songwriters and all of that. They made 300 songs. So, for my song to be selected, to be in the movie, is a very big opportunity.

On the soundtrack, I actually have two songs. I had produced the record with Bas and Black Sherif, and then the Director, Michael B. Jordan, was like ‘yo, why don’t you just jump on this thing and give us a verse?’ I was like ‘Micheal, are you serious?’ So, I did a verse on it and I was featured on the song as an artiste, and I produced the record too. So, yeah, that’s how the Creed thing happened.

How are you planning to connect with people as an artiste now?
Apart from singing and putting my face out there, I am going to start performing in April; I’m going to hit the stage in April. The first place I will hit the stage is in Portugal, at one of my friend’s concerts. I am going to start performing. Once I do that, from there, I am everywhere.

So, right now, I am just pushing the song, promoting the song. My team and I are just pushing the song to make sure that people get to know the music, the music gets across to people globally before I hit the stage. So, when I hit the stage, they will be singing it with me. 
Any favourite songs from the record?

Trust me, this is a body of work I made like two and a half years ago. I just left it there, because I think I recorded 120 songs. I was so busy working on people’s albums, if not, I would have recorded probably like 500 to a thousand songs. So, I picked five songs for this EP. They are all my favourites; my favourites keep changing. I am also working on my album. 

Are you still producing music?
Yeah, I am still producing. I’m the executive producer for Adekunle Gold’s album. His first single comes out in March; he featured Zinoleesky on it. Wande Coal drops his album March as well; I produced most of it. Davido drops his album in March; I produced his songs there, Shizzy and me. Mr Eazi is dropping his album too and I produced almost the whole project. I am still producing basically. I am working on Rema’s new album at the moment. So, production will always be there; being a producer will always be there. 

You already have a Grammy award as a producer. Any hopes to get it as a singer?
Yeah, exactly of course. I would really be so excited to take my award and travel to different countries when I win the Grammy as an artiste. That’s when I will tell people that you really have to respect Kel-P. At this point, if they are not scared of Kel-P, then I am not sure what is wrong with them. I am about to do a lot and I keep telling people, I don’t think I have used up to 4 per cent of my brain.

So, there is so much in me to do, but I never wanted to do them earlier, because I needed confidence to build myself. I also needed exposure. I wanted my name to be big first before people get to see my face and all of that. I had a plan and all of that; the plan now is working. 

What’s your advice for the current and the next generation of Afrobeats producers? 
I mean, just take it to the next level in whichever way you think you can do and then be different- be unique. Be more experimental; do what people are not doing and all of that. Right now, what is happening in Nigeria, everybody is like, ‘oh, producers are moving into the artistes, producers have started singing’ and all of that.’

So, a couple of producers too want to start singing. But to be honest with you, it’s going to be different. This whole singing thing is going to be different entirely. If you are not even prepared for it, don’t try it.

Don’t do it because this producer did it, so it’s working for him. There is no harm in trying, but don’t do it because another person is doing it. Be in your own lane and be unique. When you are unique, people would know and people would pay attention to you. It doesn’t happen overnight and you will keep growing. 

So it’s more workload?
Yeah. I got a session at 4pm with BNXN in LA. So, I’m doing 4pm-8pm. Then from 9pm-3am in the morning, I am in the studio as an artiste recording my own songs. So, day time, I am a producer, night time, I am an artiste. So, if you don’t know how to be persistent, how to be consistent, if you are not ambitious, if you don’t have that work ethic, to put in the work, you cannot do the work I am doing.

Do you often rest though by the way?
Yeah, I do, because I don’t smoke, I don’t drink; I don’t have anything to think of. I am not in a relationship; I am fine. I just focus on the right things; that’s why I don’t want to occupy myself with a whole lot of things.

I have a whole team that does everything, so I just focus on the music. That’s why I have time to do the music. I don’t have any nonsense, because that time is very precious. I could use it and sit in the studio and be creating beats or whatever because I have a lot of work I am doing. 

Finally, tell us three fun facts about Kel-P that people will be interested to know.
Kel-P likes to sleep. Actually, Kel-P’s favourite thing on earth is water, followed by sleep and then followed by music.

Those are my three favourite things. And Kel-P doesn’t talk too much. Kel-P doesn’t like people that talk too much. About 80 per cent of the time, Kel-P is making music. He is either making beats or recording songs. He dances in the studio for like one to two hours before making the beats or before recording the songs.

You dance?
Yeah, straight up. It’s either I make the beat halfway and I start enjoying myself and I get distracted by myself and I stand up and dance for like one to two hours before I continue making the beats. Or I record the song halfway and I am enjoying the song too much, I get distracted, stand up and dance for like the next one to two hours then I’ll now go back to recording the song. So, that’s how I express myself in my own working space.

Every time I do that, I always believe that’s how anybody listening to the music will feel because this music makes me dance. So, anybody listening to the music, they will feel the same way. So, it’s starting from me. That’s the fun facts and secret things about Kel-P that are no more secret again. 

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