2018 closed with Funbi debuting his official studio project, ”Serenade”, a 7 track concept EP that weaves intricately into each other as he tells tales around love, relationship and heartbreaks.
When a list of in-demand singers and hook-killers in the past few years is compiled, one of the premier names that have made the music look quite effortless is the talented Funbi.
From his collaborations with rap duo, Show Dem Camp to his affiliation with The Collectiv3, Funbi has been around the industry corner for close to a decade, but his biggest break yet came when he released the single, ‘Hallelujah’ in 2016.
The quasi-gospel anthem earned him his first proper mainstream hit and he has not looked back ever since.
”It was humbling,” he speaks on the acceptance of the song. ”The first time that I performed ‘Hallelujah,’ this was even before it was released, I performed it at Gidifest.
I had a choir with me and we sang it together, it was kind of spiritual and before I was done performing, I had people already singing to the song and it was in that moment that I knew that Hallelujah was going to make a difference.
”So when I released the video, the reception was great, it has been an overwhelming blessing because through that I have been to places I never thought I will be, I have been able to perform at a stadium and these are things I have always dreamt about.”
The journey before he released ‘Hallelujah’ has however not been all perfect or smooth. Having roots in Ilorin, Kwara State, the young and ambitious teenager soon made the move down to Lagos in 2002, where he has been trying to make music ever since.
”I grew up as a choir boy and from then I met a couple of people that were in the industry who kept on telling me that I can do this professionally.”
His father had paid for his first studio session when he was aged 14 and looking back he is grateful for every event that has brought him this far.
”The journey has been rough, It’s been a bit of up and down. There have been moments when I felt like this was it and then something happens to derail it.
For me, I don’t even regret anything because I feel all of that has helped me build character, helped understand things better. I’m glad just making music for the love of making music.”
Recollecting his very first attempt at taking the craft more seriously, he credits veteran rappers 2Shotz and Ice Prince for giving him his first shot at the big stage, but for a lot of music lovers, it was only after M.I Abaga released the second series of his ”Illegal Music” mixtape in 2012 that the name Funbi popped up on their radar.
”Someone who was cool with him introduced my music to M.I, this was after I did a song with Ice Prince, that was the very first song I ever released, so I got into the studio with MI and we did ‘Beg For It.’
His influences ranges from the likes of Usher, Craig David, Ginuwine, Chris Brown as well as older acts like James Brown, Fela Anikulapo Kuti, Joni Haastrup and Orlando Julius, but he refuses to be put in a box, ”My roots are in R&B but as I grew older, I start to expose myself to more music and influenced by other genres like Funk,” he explains.
”A lot of people got to find about me from ‘Hallelujah’, when I created ‘Hallelujah’, it was more about the place I was in at that very moment. For me, I wanted to express the way I was feeling and I felt like that kind of sound was the best way to express it.”
He appreciates the importance of having people around him who have encouraged and pushed him more even on days when he came close to giving it all up.
In 2015, The Collectiv3, an elite company of talented individuals that include Temi Dollface, Show Dem Camp [Ghost and Tec], Tomi Thomas, Nsikak, Kid Konnect, Poe and Funbi himself released their debut project and one of its stand out records was the pop banger ‘Adore Her’ featuring Poe alongside Funbi.
”It started from working with Ikon in the Red Room studio.” he speaks on how he became a member of the assemble.
”I had met Tec from SDC earlier, he is the one that introduced me to Ikon and we started working. So everybody always used to come around and the idea for the Collectiv3 just came up and we became a family.”
After a long wait and impressing with collaborations and guest verses, Funbi released his debut tape, ”Serenade” on his birthday, November 4, 2018, an EP where with his fluid vocals, he channels the sweetness of his influences, the crisp of modern day sound to tell the stories of his experiences.
”A lot of people had been expecting to hear a project from me, I actually put it out on my birthday which had always been the plan to birth something on the same day I was born.
Music for me is an expression, ‘Serenade’ is a very personal project because it stems from my experiences with different people and relationships that I have been in, It’s a complete story but you can still take each one out and it will stand on its own.”
A track by track breakdown of ”Serenade”
”The first song ‘Show Up’ talks about meeting someone for the first time and you start seeing them everywhere you go, it happened with me.
Then it leads to ‘Show Your Color’ which basically is talking about your true personality. And then it leads to ‘Serenade’ which is at the point I am trying to win the person over and I am doing all to express my feelings.
Then ‘Voodoo’ which is the point where I am mesmerized by everything this person is doing and I just want to be around that energy. ‘Body’ with Seyi Shay which talks about two bodies becoming one, then there is ‘Ride WIth You’ which has Efya on it, talking about nothing is going to break the bond that we created this period.
It goes to ‘I want it back’ which is on the second Collectiv3 project [Live. Create. Repeat] and talks about in most relationships there is that difficult point where you come to that you feeling that you put in so much and now you taking all back.”
Funbi had settled on the title, ”Serenade” because it best expressed what he wanted to achieve with the EP, an emotional experience.
On his next steps, he says releasing visuals for some of the songs is key and then a couple of singles, plenty collaborations and if fate will have it another project before the end of the year.
He identifies Poe as one he seems to have the most synergy with while not ruling out the possibility of a joint project with the Mavin artist.
His well grounded soul style mixed with his pure R&B roots has seen him compared with voices like Johnny Drille and Nonso Amadi but he says there is no competition in any form.
”I can see when people say there are similarities between us. Everybody is contributing to the global sound of music and I am just glad I can contribute. I am not looking at somebody else and thinking that is the competition.”
Finding a common ground between communicating his real feelings and pushing a path towards mainstream appeal may present a conundrum for Funbi on occasions, but he refuses to compromise or let that derail him from his purpose.
”In as much as there is a sound out there that you feel like is the popping sound, you can experiment but don’t let go of your roots. I want to connect with the world, I want to feel like I have touched people’s lives in different corners of the world.”
With the proficiency he has consistently shown, rolling his emotions with rigor and conviction while telling relatable stories to create infectious music, Funbi has come to stay and for him, ‘Serenade’ is just but a starting point.