In Talks With Odeal: “I said to myself, every November I’d make an effort to put my best work forward.”
6 Dec 2021
What were we doing before Odeal landed on our radar? In fact, it doesn’t matter.
When his breakout track swarmed our playlists, I had a strong feeling that the then emerging talent would be one I would see go from strength to strength. That wasn’t by chance and apparently, my intuition is valid. More than anything, that is the power of recognising true artistry when it is in front of us.
Odeal is a hybrid of Nigerian, British, Spanish and German culture who waves the alté flag in a bid to champion his uniquely blended identity.
The South London artist remains a student of his craft and has proved he can provide anthems in mellow-smooth and Afro-inspired packages – but the real magic is that it doesn’t end there. The “Vicious Cycle (Policeman)” singer-beatmaker unlocks his range with every short journey made to his computer and he tells me all about it in our chilled afternoon conversation below.
“I wanna start by asking – toxic R&B or tearing your shirt, begging R&B?”
O: Toxic R&B. Do you know what it is? It’s ‘tell your story’ R&B, I feel like sometimes with toxic R&B, people can force it.
“Why do you prefer that? Like Brent?”
O: Because it’s more real init! You can tell a girl ‘I don’t need you’, it’s alright.
“You’re known to sprinkle a couple of toxic bars in your music as well. Talk about being a guy in the singing space, the expectations and the realness of your music?”
O: It’s not a straight fairy-tale. R&B can paint that picture but in reality, it’s not always like that. Mine certainly isn’t so I just tell it how it is, you feel me?
“I mean you came out with quite a staple song – you drove a girl so crazy, you had to call the police?!”
O: She did a madness! She did the madting! (laughs)
“That was your breakout track! Let’s talk about making Vicious Cycle…”
O: That morning I was supposed to be in a lecture and I started making this beat. With every beat, I already hear the melody. My boy was in the room when I was trying different things and I actually didn’t know what to do. I pressed record and started doing the hook’s melody. I pressed pause and my boy was like ‘that one is it’. From there, I just finished the rest of the song.
“How much of your music is about you?”
O: A lot of it is. There is some exaggeration here and there for entertainment purposes.
“That’s allowed. I wanna ask – do you ever get scared or nervous when you put out something that’s too truthful?”
O: I’d feel scared if the melody isn’t good. If the melody isn’t good and they actually hear what I’m saying, they’re gonna be like what?! The melody is a good package for what I’m saying because if you deliver it the right way, they’ll hear it – and as long as it’s the truth!
“I need to attend an Odeal masterclass. Talk abouot your process? How early did you start making beats?”
O: I took making beats seriously in 2019, but I started from early. I snuck my laptop into my dorm room when I was in boarding school, in Naij, and was playing about with FL. Fast forward a couple of years – I grew an interest in beat-making because I knew what I wanted to hear, so being able to make it was important to me.
“Were you always sure you wanted to be an artist or were you happy to be a beat-maker?”
O: Na, definitely always wanted to be an artist. I played football before and actually went into music at 14.
“With your singing journey, were you singing at church? School?”
O: I never really sang like that. I wasn’t really down to do it like that, I just went off and did my own ting.
“The best thing about your whole brand is that you do it yourself. You’re also such a hybrid – between being a South Londoner, UK resident and Nigerian. How has all of this influenced your sound?”
O: Yeah. Funnily enough, I haven’t spent all of my time in the UK or Nigeria – I was actually born in Germany and that’s where my mum lived. My dad lived in Spain and I moved there for another three years before we moved to the UK. I moved around quite a lot, just based off my parents and their jobs. Obviously, growing up around different cultures and dialect, I’ve always been confident that if another person doesn’t understand me, another person will. That’s why a lot of people have different connections to me – someone who loves “Vicious Cycle” might not love “1942” … I’ll let people be the judge but as long as you’re locked into me, you’re guaranteed to like something.
“Nobody really knows where to put Odeal. Are you alté?”
O: Yes. It’s a Nigerian genre that has afrobeat as its base but with different genres intertwined, you can really go anywhere with it. It’s the liberation of Nigerian artists being able to express themselves through different sounds. Not everyone is gonna do the core Afrobeats. I fit perfectly into that category. I’ve always wanted to be an artist that can get nominated for this category and that category because I pay attention to the detail of the genre. I’m not afraid to live in different spaces.
“Drake is one of those! Wow, I wanna discuss your artistry with you. You’re self-taught and you’re a true artist.”
O: For a long time, up until recently, I didn’t listen to a lot of music that wasn’t my own. I just listen to my music and – I know sounds – think how can I make it better.
“All the best people say that! What’s the correlation? Producer-turned-artists always have some kind of head start.”
O: 100% and I don’t know! Funnily enough, when I started making beats, my singing got better because you come to understand the pockets. It’s easier for you to sit on the beat and you just know where you wanna go with it. I think that makes for the best songs; I can’t lie.
“Wow, I just wanna see you do this ONE time! Let’s talk OVMBR – what’s that all about?”
O: O.V.M.B.R is the collective, the crew, the gang. It’s different artists, fashion designers – it’s a whole collective. As time goes on, it’s gonna grow. The month of November (OVMBR) started back in 2017, when I was severely ill. I was in hospital for the majority of November and that’s when I started making music. My whole thing is the three stages of death: when you actually die, when your soul leaves your body and the last time people say your name. I never wanna get to that third stage. I said to myself, every November I’d make an effort to put my best work forward.
“What does OVMBR actually stand for?”
O: It stands for: Our Variances Make (us) Bold (and) Relentless. What makes us different is our upbringings, we have different stories and missions but it’s all about coming together and executing it to the best of our abilities. It’s more than staying in the ends, we’re actually trying to get the world to know what we’re doing. It’s our job as a collective to make sure everyone’s dream comes to life.
“I did not expect so much substance… this has to be why the music hits! Now, take me through the differences between OVMBR: Roses and OVMBR: Hits No Mrs?”
O: Last year’s project was a different taste from what I made prior. I’m harsh on myself – I see it as I was still developing with all the Vicious Cycles, that was me just having fun with expressing myself. It was just a vibe and I wanted to show people I could do different type of sounds. Alte, R&B… I wanted to show that I can exist in different places. This year, I’ve become more informed. I know how deep music goes and what is right. The music is quality controlled and more mature.
“You’ve hit the nail on the head with that – I agree that your sound has matured. Your projects are concise and every track hits the mark! I’ve been singing “1942” all morning… is that your go-to drink on a night out?”
O: Uh…no. It definitely isn’t. Tequila is not bad though, I can’t lie. What do you like Wray N Nephews?
“I’m a Tequila girl – I can’t do Wray! Are you more of a disciplined drinker or are you like me?”
O: I’ve never ever thrown up – I can never allow that to happen to me! Never. I just have a good tolerance, my dad used to get joy from watching his friends get drunk. I don’t really be doing too much. I get lit too, don’t get me wrong. I just can’t vomit… it’s off-brand!
“Man, you’re just a heavyweight! You don’t strike me as the outgoing type of guy though?”
O: You’re right, still. I’ve been out after lockdown and stuff but I really enjoy my own company. It’s gotten to a point where my boys don’t even ask me to go out, they just go.
“Do you get socially anxious at all? People know you!”
O: Nah, I don’t. It’s a great experience to meet people that like your music because I like to know who’s listening…
“You’re always on your game, Odeal!? Everything is about sharpening up, making sure you’re-”
O: Literally! 24s!
“When was the last time you took a break?”
O: The last three days, I tried to take a break but I kept finding myself at the computer trying to make beats. It’s actually terrible… I wake up, eat and make a beat. That’s the only thing that drives me and it makes me happy.
“I hear that but burnout is real my boy! Music is obviously very personal to you… how has it been working with a label and others?”
O: Not everyone understands you. When I was independent, I didn’t have to articulate and explain anything. Now, I have to explain ‘yo, this is this and this is why this is good’ like… At the end of the day, it’s two parties coming together for one main thing. You feel me? As an artist I can understand but I think it can take some time.
“You’re hanging in there. Where do you sit an artist like Odeal in this UK scene?”
O: I feel like I just sit in my own lane. I don’t know exactly how to answer that but I feel like I’m on my own journey. I feel like the people who supported me when the vision wasn’t so clear… I’ve got to make sure my music is at a level where they can tell their friends ‘I told you so.’ You know? That’s my job.
“You’re a very confident player. Do you get that from your background in ball?”
O: Not even, you know. I think it’s just the man I am. This is not for now, it’s forever.
In the mood for more exclusive chats with the UK’s leading talents? Find the likes of KO, Ramz and Stevo The MadMan here!