Tomi talks about making rap music in a clime where zingy percussion, affably sunny melodies and basic pop lyrics reign supreme.
His Instagram page is a gallery of picturesque enigmatic black and white photos. Browsing through his feed stokes visceral emotions and arouses curiosity. He oozes an artsy, poignant, clandestine aura—You immediately want to know who this guy is.
The interview started around 4:30PM WAT over Google meet. After I clicked the button to allow him on the call, he filled my screen. It was an almost immersive experience. I felt like I had dissolved into the screen and I was instantly in the room with him. He was in a white-colored room—a minimal setting, he donned a black tee, his thick beard was conspicuous.
“What’s good Chibuzo?” his baritone timbre vibrated through my speakers, his British accent made for special effects.
“I’m good bro” I replied, half-surprised that he knew my name.
Tomi Obanure is a Nigerian Rapper based in the capital city—Abuja. His sonic palette is eclectic — He wields a mastery over a selection of rap styles, from 90s-esque American rap, to drill/ grime. His cadence is solid, his voice commanding, and his bars tight. It’s easy to assume that the story of the start of his romance with music fits the stereotypical trope—the one where the artiste starts singing and playing the piano at six and always knew that music was their ‘thing’. His story is different — he never really wanted to be a rapper, or a musician of any sort when he was a child, he wanted to be a footballer. “ …, I still play football, …. They call me Lukaku”. When he was 15 he took a liking to rap and started writing rap songs. “… At that time, I knew I was good, I used to feel that I could take on any rapper in Nigeria at the time”. He was growing as an artiste but he never really got into the industry until after his University education in the UK. After his university education, he got back to Nigeria and shortly after, his career took off.
“I listened to your latest EP before this interview, … Erm, what’s the name again” I was genuinely disappointed in myself for forgetting the name. To be fair, I didn’t forget it per se, it just wasn’t coming to mind.
“No rest for the wicked”
“It was sick, I really enjoyed it”
“My favorite song off the EP is wickedest”
“Yeah, I get that a lot” He was chuckling excitedly.
“The Ep was fantastic, but I noticed something. There wasn’t a song tailored for the Nigerian market, like an Afrobeats song”
“How do I explain this, …, I didn’t want to douse the quality of the project just because I want to do an Afrobeats song, not everyone will do a Pakurumo, the kind of music I do, there are a lot of people that go crazy for that shit. Obviously, my music isn’t tailored for typical Nigerian parties but there are people here in Nigeria that connect with the music I do. Another thing is that the world today is a global village, people all over the world can stream my music and connect with it”
“How do you envision the future of drill and rap in general in Nigeria?”
“I see the future of drill and rap in Nigeria opening more doors, creating more opportunities… you know, a brand new genre of rap with regards to drill and it just getting exponentially bigger in the country, more fans, more international exposure. Yeah”
“So what should your fans expect from you?”
“More music, we got new music on the way this year, dropping an exclusive with Bitaclan, Urm I’ll sleep when I’m dead, coming December man, look out for that. It’s going to be crazy, hopefully Bitaclan should premiere one of the videos for the project, so that’s gonna be good too. That’s what we’ve gotta look forward to this year, next year’s gonna be crazy—Best singles, different genres as well. And yeah, more music, more music and more visuals especially!”
“Who are the other guys in Abuja, leading this revival alongside yourself?”
“Mannnn!!! There’s so much talent in Abuja… I have to, you know, you speak on guys like Arè, guys like Nathan, guys like KVV, guys like Champ, Naira Camp, Odumodu Black, The Replays. You talk on…, there’s just so much talent man, the city is brimming with talent and everyone is gang, trying to get equal opportunity to shine and it’s gonna push the scene forward. Yeah, Abuja to the world. Bam!”
In Nigeria the rap scene is more inane than it’s been since the 90s. This is because people in the industry generally believe that rap music in Nigeria is not financially viable or that it’s easier to earn a living doing Afropop or related genres. Tomi is an outlier to this school of thought, he believes that Nigerians love rap music and the potentials that abound for Nigeria rappers in the local and foreign markets are limitless. He and a cadre of renegades are changing the narrative. Releasing undiluted rap projects, selling out venues in Abuja, performing to crowds of young people singing their lyrics word for word. It feels like they’re starting a revival, the fire is growing in Abuja, soon it’ll spread to all of Nigeria, and then to the rest of the world.
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