”There are people who think it [rare.] is hot trash. I am proud of it, I feel like my album is a classic…” Odunsi [the engine].
Odunsi has just released his debut album, ”rare.,” which has seen his status elevated in the conversations of the next generation of stars.
At 21, he is singled out as the likely breakthrough artist who stands the best chance of paving the way for the future of the ‘Alte’ genre and with his debut headline concert due before the end of the year, the possibility is one that is fast becoming more of a reality.
In an interview with Pulse, Odunsi shared the inspiration behind his album, reactions, the ‘Alte’ movement and his headline concert.
Producing or singing, which comes first?
”It depends. Like at different points in my life, I feel like there is a shift between my mood and sometimes I’m in production mood and I want to create things from scratch.
And sometimes I feel like I want to make music and put things out. But I started producing first, so a lot of times I feel like that part is easier for me to fall into.”
On when he started making music professionally
”I will say two years, I started in 2016. I dropped my first song in 2016, I dropped my first EP in 2016, last year was the year that I started getting a bit more traffic back home.
That was when I dropped ‘Desire’, it was more radio-friendly and got more people to get accustomed to me. This year I dropped a single, ‘Alte Cruise’ and it has just been a lot of conversation. I feel like it’s a combination of music and different things that have happened plus the features have put me out there.”
On the recent Twitter reaction to ‘Alte’ artists
Sometime in November, the ‘Alte’ movement became a trending topic on Twitter as users on the social media platform reacted angrily to certain of their expressions with Odunsi becoming the victim upon whom their venom was poured and he speaks of the incident,
”It’s bittersweet. These are things that as a student of the game, I watched so many documentaries and all. There are so many movements that have happened in music and these are things I knew will happen at the point.”
When you posted the picture, did you envisage that sort of reaction?
”I didn’t. For me, I feel like the difference between me putting out the picture now and then is a lot more people know about me now and are just beginning to understand me.
It’s like people hear the name so much and be like what is special about this person. Off surface, if these are the things you are seeing the first time you are hearing about me and you’ve heard other notions that people have whispered about me, that was what happened and there was a narrative to kick it off and it started moving pretty fast and once it started I knew where it was going already.
There is already a trend with things moving around my name, especially when it is negative, once it starts, things go very fast even beyond my control.”
Does this get to you?
”It used to get to me at first, I just got used to people reacting to me in large numbers, I didn’t know a lot of people knew me or cared and then it started getting very constant.
Then I just realized that you can’t have one without the other. If you really want to make a difference, if you really want to make something new, you can’t like have everyone understand it immediately then after a while, it becomes clearer, as people understand it.”
On starting out as a rapper and the transition to singing
”Anyone who is like 22 or 23 that is doing music now, you probably started rapping first because of Lil Wayne. A lot of people act like it’s not true but they probably don’t remember very well, that is how I started expressing myself and I thought that I was going to die a rapper, but obviously, with time, you start to find yourself.
When you get older, things that you’ve heard before you even had consciousness begin to come to you and that is what happened to me, I became like a product of things I heard when I was pretty tender, so that was like how the transition happen.”
Do you make your music to be understood or just making music from your own perspective?
”Basically, an expression, To be honest, the understanding job is not my job, my purpose on earth is to make music and inspire people. People will understand it, my job is to pass the message, it doesn’t mean everyone will get the message at first, but with time, it will spread around.”
On the album, does the title, ”rare.” define your person?
”Yeah, I think it has to do a lot with my introduction to minimalism.
I already had that sense as an artist before, but I just became more intentional about it. People who know nothing about music like technique, storytelling or writing and are just melody friendly, they will have something to take home and people who have reached the stage of complex listening, they listen into things more than other people do, they also have things to take away, that is what my style is designed around.
People who really want to criticize my work from the standpoint of being a critic for a long time at first they always miss it because it’s just like you are trying to be deep, but I am not trying to be deep, you are just finding something deep.
And then there are people who are like ‘it’s so deep’, I think they miss it also because it is not that deep. So there is always that imbalance of comments and I enjoy it cos art should always cause a reaction, I grew up watching and listening to people who caused a reaction, I am a fan of the era. that is what I modeled stuff after.”
Would you call your style where you put so much attention on detail, on aesthetics and expression minimalism?
”Yeah, it’s more of an expression thing than anything else, (laughs).
It’s just like when people do something but you don’t see anything but you can tell that there is a reason for it, you can tell that it is an expression. They are not trying to get everybody to get it at first, it is more about the comfort of conversation.
Minimalism is like a clean slate and you decide what you want to put in and they decide what to take from it.”
How long did it take you to put the album together?
”One and a half to two years. From late 2016, had some songs, re-wrote and just kept working.”
On working with Davido on ‘Divine’
”I had the song for a while and then I met him for the first time at Burna Boy‘s listening party in January.
That was the first time I met him and he just told me we should hang out soon, a week later we hung out and he books space for us to work and he says ‘play me some music,’ so I played him some songs on the project.
The first song he heard was ‘Falling’, he loved it and I played ‘Divine’ next and immediately the song started, he said I am doing this. We worked on the record the whole night. He made me restructure the song, taught me a lot about song arrangement.”
How did you make him lean towards your own sound and not the other way?
”Funny enough, I felt that pressure but he didn’t allow me. He made sure I didn’t do it, he told me ‘leave the relatability to be my job, do you’.
I even had a part where I was singing in pidgin in the first version and he said take it out, we argued about it a little bit, but he said no. Then I began to understand how he has been here for so long.”
On Star Signs with Runtown
”It is like most of the other songs on the album. It is just me opening my head and putting out little things going on in my mind, it is just like me talking about the kind of women that I always end up in conversations with, just talking about something more complex, more detailed into what is going on in my life.
The dynamism of a song like Star Signs, like I am on a Nigerian pop song talking about zodiacs with Runtown on it, that is very unique.”
On the Disco influences
The album is littered with 90s disco influences not just in the music, but the art cover and preceding visuals and he explains why;
”Those were the first set of songs I ever heard. I have older siblings and my big bro used to play songs from the 80s/90s and as a kid, I was already internalizing all these songs and at times I found myself humming it and I revisit it. It’s just me reconnecting with the sound.”
On being tagged leader of the Alte movement, do you feel any form of pressure?
”I don’t know. No one ever says it directly to me. I won’t lie, I feel like there is so much going on and I don’t want it to be a case of rounding up a whole movement to one person, it doesn’t make any sense.
There are so many people doing great things from Santi to Lady Donli. I get that people try to narrow these conversations to one person but I don’t feed into it.”
On his headline concert
Odunsi is set to hold his maiden headline concert, ”rare live.” on Monday, December 24th and he is excited about the event;
”Just savoring the moment, it’s a special moment for me, It has been like less than a year since I started properly doing shows, so I am just enjoying the moment, not being in a hurry, catering to people who I owe, who have invested in me.”
On if it is coming a bit too early in his career, he replies firmly, ”Hell No.”
How important is this concert in your career path?
It is very important. For the first time I am curating something for myself and the people who have invested either time or anything to my music.
It is special for the movement too because we are doing our own thing and the people who love you, they can’t keep going to other people’s concert to get a bit of you, That is really what will grow the industry
It’s on the 24th of December at Hard Rock cafe. Just follow @odunsitheengine for the details and links.”
An Odunsi concert, what should we expect?
”This is my first headline and also the first time that the wholesome energy of the people that support and love me we are all coming together to celebrate an album I dropped two months ago, that I believe will be impactful in years to come. It is a celebration of all I have gone through.”
What has been the reaction since the album was released?
”It has been mixed, I get messages from all around the world, people talking about how it has changed their lives and there are people who think it is hot trash.
I am proud of it, I feel like my album is a classic. I think it is one of the best albums that have come out of the country in a while, well-curated, flow, roll out and also timing.
Usually, album conversations in the country last like a weekend, but mine has been two months. I realize what position I am in and I understand I have to control my narrative. You need to realize what value you bring and let people check it compared to their opinions.”
Would you say the album represents your journey so far?
”In terms of vision, yeah, I believe my vision was brought to life.”
Why do you think a lot of people think it is ‘hot trash’?
”I don’t believe it is a lot of people, I believe it is a number of people, but if someone says it is trash, it gets a lot of attention.
Great art always polarizes, I was expecting that. The good thing about a great album is with time, it simmers. When ”808 and Heartbreaks” first dropped, it polarized hip-hop fans, the older fans said it is hot trash, the younger ones said it changed their lives.
You will recognize that those are the kind of things that after times cause things to happen. I just wanted to do it just to show people I did it, to show people that if you really want to express yourself through your music, just do it.”
The complaint on the album has been towards the lyrics, do you think the production took the attention more than the music?
”It’s definitely an understanding thing, and also like a taste thing. It is mostly like exposure to styles.
The more they listen to projects like that, the more they understand it. By the time you listen to relatable songs or people immersed in punk/funk RnB stuff, you notice that the vocals sink into the production to create an emotion because if it is about lyrics, you will realize I am saying a lot, lot more than other people are saying actually.”
On his deal with Universal Records
Earlier in the year, Odunsi announced a deal with major label, Universal Records, but after the release of his album, which was pushed on his independent platform, questions were asked and Odunsi clarifies the deal;
”I have a singles deal with Universal. I put out ‘In the Morning’ with them and I will still work with them but it is not an overall deal.”
In his final messages, Odunsi appreciates those who have been supporting his music, ”To those who love the album, thank you very much, for supporting me and getting my dreams closer to being true.”
”People forget that I am just a kid, trying to find my way around and it’s kind of tough here and for those who think it is hot trash, I just hope you are alright, I hope everything goes well for you. It is an opinion which is cool.” Odunsi jokingly concluded.