“I feel very proud to be Nigerian” AfroBeats Artist Lojay Discusses the Rise of Afrobeats and His Latest EP Release

Lucia Botfield

By Lucia Botfield

Lucia Botfield

29 Mar 2023

We caught up with Lagos-born and bred artist Lojay, to discuss the release of his new EP, Gangster Romantic. Lojay is a rising star, emerging in the Afrobeats scene with his first EP release ‘LV N ATTN’ in 2021, quickly rising, making music with the likes of Chris Brown and Wizkid. His new EP touches on his own experiences navigating love, touching on emotive subjects. Lojay’s smooth vocals and intelligent lyricism place him as a rising star to watch, with a unique, personal and authentic sound that reflects Nigerian and Gospel culture collectively. He emphasised his intentions with the release, as a carefully curated collection which his listeners could truly engage with.

Can you talk me through the creative process of your EP release, Gangster Romantic?

Gangster Romantic is an anti-romantic project. I was very keen on vividly expressing myself through a story, through very visual lyrics everything that has happened in my love life in the last eighteen months. I wanted to make it a very vivid depiction of my journey, the rollercoaster emotionally that I have been on. It ended up really telling a story that was just perfect, it was everything that I wanted it to be. It is anti-romantic in the sense that even though it is still lover-boy Lojay, it is from a very different perspective, a hardened one. I always use my own experiences in my music. For me, the most important thing is a connection with music, human beings naturally connect with stories. I’m very big on authenticity. I want to keep it real, I want to keep it true. Truth hits more. One line of truth can hit more than four lines of lies. We can all relate.

Which artists do you listen to, and take inspiration from?

I listen to a lot of music. I know what I’m looking for sonically, I do something I describe as active listening; I’m listening to pick things apart, get inspired, and get ideas. It’s listening to music with purpose, not just for the fun of listening. I do it subconsciously, even if I’m just listening to music in the car. It could be anybody, that’s the beauty of it. I could go from Bruno Mars to Frank Ocean, to Post Malone. I could go old-school, and listen to Lagbaja, this artist from Nigeria who is a very big folk artist. I like to consume a range of things. Sometimes I like to just sit down and listen to gospel music as well.

Does religion and religious music play a role in your music then?

Yes, very much so. I was raised in a church home in Nigeria. My mum is a pastor. I was raised around a lot of Christian music, I played instruments in the church for a period of time, I was really infused in that church, emotional sound, and I think that definitely plays a role in the music that I make today, you can still feel and you can still tell.

Were you quite musical as a child?

I’ve always enjoyed listening to music. I wasn’t chasing music, or trying to be a musician, I just used to listen. Through doing that, I subconsciously started to formulate a style that I could relate to. Over time, that idea has built and developed into this thing that is Lojay right now.

How would you define Lojay? How would you describe yourself now?

It depends on what sense. Musically, I am very melodic, my sound is very soulful, lyrical. It can be quite edgy, quite sultry and sexy. My music has a way of evoking a sense of sexual tension in the air when it is being listened to. Personally, I am a very passionate person, especially when it comes to my craft and art in general. I am very particular about people pursuing their dreams. I’m in a happy space right now, I am in a solute space where I am quite grounded and I feel as though I know myself now than ever before.

How have you seen yourself grow over the period that you have been making music?

It’s been a really long journey between then and now. I’ve not taken a lot of time to think through everything that has happened. There has definitely been a lot of growth, and a lot of changes in my life and in my sound. Even in the way that I look at music, and the things that I want out of it. The only thing that has stayed the same is the people around me, and I am grateful for that.

My dad initially wasn’t in support of me pursuing music, but after time, he came to see that it was this or nothing for me. He then started to see everything falling into place. He is definitely proud to see me now, and how I have grown. I used to always make music in school and in class. I used to skip classes to go to the studio. I’m big on chasing the passion. Anything that genuinely makes you happy is the only thing you should focus on.

What do you want to achieve through your music?

The thing about music, is you have never really made it. No matter where you get to with music, there is always another realm you can enter. I would want to do stadium tours in the untapped territory. I really have a dream of performing in Japan. It’s a place where you would not necessarily find AfroBeats, if I could get AfroBeats into a space like that and have people genuinely f*cking with it, I would feel as though I have accomplished something.

How do you feel about the rising popularity of AfroBeats, it becoming more mainstream music? What effect do you think this has had on the genre?

Afrobeats is the sound that the world wants to listen to. It is exciting that that’s the case. It’s sustainable, there is literally a whole continent of people who are carrying the sound, regardless of whether the rest of the world decides that they want to listen to it or not. There is also a whole diaspora of people from that continent. There is little structure to the music industry in Africa however, most of the investments that have gone into African music has come from the Western world. I believe that this robs us of ownership, to be honest. Some of the biggest African songs don’t even belong to Africans, they belong to these businessmen and executives, and there is nothing we can do about it.

AfroBeats is definitely changing. A lot of AfroBeat musicians are becoming more and more aware that their music is now for global consumption, and everybody needs to step up their game in terms of what they are giving out to the world. I had a conversation with French Montana last year, and he said he was in Dubai hanging out with some friends, and they played a song for him which had been stuck in his head. He played it for me, and it was this song by Bad Boy Timz, called Skelele. At that point, it was a week after it had been released. At that point, it made me realise that these global spaces were listening, and listening heavily to AfroBeats.

There is a motherland back to Africa movement that is going on globally. If you look at America, which is basically the leading country when it comes to the music industry, they are going through a phase of black empowerment. African-Americans are getting more in touch with themselves and their roots, and wanting to find out more about themselves. They’ve realised that where they come from, we make this amazing music called AfroBeats which gives them a sense of identity. I feel as though that plays a really big role in its popularity. This music has always consumed Africa, but this international appeal stems from Africans in the diaspora having something that they can champion as their own.

It makes me feel incredibly proud as a Nigerian. However, I’m a pessimist. It also makes me feel incredibly anxious; is this going to be a thing where they squeeze as many AfroBeats as they can into the world, saturating the whole market with it?