Music

Sess The Problem Kid Debuts His Free Mixtape, 'PRBLM'

We talk to in-demand producer Sess The Problem Kid about his first instrumental mixtape, 'PRBLM,' which you can download here for free.

In-demand producer Sess The Problem Kid is releasing his first instrumental mixtape, 'PRBLM,' for free and we've got the exclusive for you. 


In an interview with OkayAfrica, the producer talks to contributor Sabo Kpade about his new project, the process behind his beat making, being Falz' go-to producer and his work Falz’ joint EP with Simi.

Speaking to us from Lagos having just returned from what seemed like a much needed holiday after a very busy year for him, Sess is in good spirits, consistently engaging and excited to start the year by dropping 'PRBLM Instrumental Mixtape.'

What's your studio setup like?

I have a home studio and another one away from the house called Studio Cadenza here in Lagos. It used to be the Bahd Guys official studio but we did some business and it's now mine. If I'm home I'm mostly in my studio, if I'm not at home at mostly in Studio Cadenza.

Why a free mixtape?

Upcoming artists need material to work on, so the idea is to give them something to vibe to, an opportunity to create and I felt like this is the right time to bring it out, especially for those who can't pay for it.

I'm saying, "this is a Sess beat, go HAM on it." We're all going to be rich so this is not about money.

Why are all the beats on the tape named after the elements?

I see the mixtape as a living thing, as an idea I birthed. The elements define life.

None of these free beats have the 'Sess The Problem Kid' tag on them. Why is that?

I cannot give away my tag. It'll cost too much. At the same time I don't want to put a tag that will influence who ever wants to use it on how to approach a song. It's a plain canvas, artists can go out there and do whatever they want to do with it.

Sess. PRBLM Instrumental Mixtape cover.

What production software do you use?

Fruityloops. I tried to use Logic which wasn't bad but, like I tell people, it doesn't matter what software you use. What matters is if it helps your creativity, if it helps your workflow.

Everything is the same, only the mechanism is different. A compressor on FL is the same as the one on Logic, as long as you know what you're doing and what you're trying to achieve. I've been using FL all my life.

I remember reading a Teju Cole interview, in which he talked about how people would come up to him and ask what the best camera is to use for photography. He would always tell them “the one you have.”

Yes, the one you have. I know people who have made sick beats using pretty basic tools.

For how long have you been making beats?

For ten years. I'm 28 now.

Can you remember the first best you made?

It was so dead. It was so terrible. But this has been a life time journey for me. I'm not just trying to make big records and bounce. I try to be the best producer I can be at every point in time. Right now, my melodies are changing, my sound is changing.

What was the first beat you sold?

I can't remember what it sounded like but I remember how it was sold. I was playing beats for friends just having fun. One friend liked one and I jokingly said, “guy, buy this beat” and he did for 2,500 Naira, I cannot forget that price. I used the money to buy chow. I was so happy.

One Working With Falz

It's a strong personal feeling of mine that Nas would have made better music through his career if he had a producer with whom he jelled the way Sess and Falz do. It's not necessary, but it always enhances. Jay Z had Just Blaze and Kanye West as backroom staff and that, in no small part, contributed to the fact the music he made with those two since the early 2000s is some of the best he's ever made.

How did you link up with Falz?

Through Toby, my manager. I came down to Lagos from Kwara, we vibed and took it from there.

You two match so well and it all happened through a simple introduction.

A lot of producers go through their careers never finding that one artist.

Is it necessary to have one?

No, but it is a blessing to have someone with whom you know you're always going to make magic. It's good because you grow together, you develop together.

What if your individual tastes and interests change?

You can work around that by trying to understand each other's direction. You can saying to your partner that your sound has changed. Where is it going to? What are you trying to achieve? And then try to see if you can sync with it.

Is that how you work with Falz?

Yes. You can always have constructive discussions.

How did “Wehdon Sir” come about?

The phrase “wehdon sir” is an inside-slang we've had in the Badguy crew for about a year now. People outside the circle heard it and like, so we thought we'd make a song about it but we also wanted to make it about something satiric as the phrase is meant to be sarcastic.

Your beats for Falz are always complimentary, unlike other partnerships where the beat is a third character.

Working with Falz is easy because he knows what he wants. If I'm working on a beat and Falz says he doesn't like an instrument in it, I take it out. Even if I'm like “yo, this sound is dope,” I still take it out because at the end of the day it's about Falz.

You're his Jason Kidd then.

Exactly. You have to compliment the artist.

On Working With Falz and Simi on Chemistry EP

The entirety of Falz and Simi’s joint EP was produced by Sess, whose production is never showy and always in harmony with the material on the songs.

Save for his signature tag, Sess doesn't yet have a signature style that makes beats immediately recognisable as his. He is the producer with whom you create a sound, not the type who couldn't help his proclivities.

He tells of the many times he's been asked why he didn't use his “Sess the Problem Kid” tag on the entirety of Chemistry, to which he answers, “I did that on purpose. It's about the chemistry between Falz and Simi. My beats were just a vessel”.

Are you happy with how well the EP has done so far?

Yeah, I'm very proud of it. It was very tasking. I'm used to working with Falz but not Simi, who is a singer, writer and music producer in her own right. She mixed and mastered the album.

She's dope. Trust me. The problem was in streamlining both Falz and Simi’s tastes. If I make a beat, one might like it, the other might not. I worked on so many beats before we decided on the the seven that made it to the EP. It was very tasking.

What's it's like working with her?

She's an amazing songwriter. She'll never settle for less. Simi will only do what she wants to do. I like that, people that push me, people that make me better.

How many songs did you record in total?

We finished twelve but there were many that were either abandoned or set aside.

Any plans for them?

Not right now. If either Falz or Simi want to do something with them, then yes but nothing for now. They probably might never see the light of day.

Sess. Image courtesy of the artist.

Which producers do you rate?

Sarz. I always say I'm a Sarz-geek. When I heard “Beat of Life” featuring Wizkid I almost gave up production. That beat changed my life. I like Kanye too and Pharrell, Timbaland. Timbaland will go into a studio and create his own snare.

What do you call the sound? Is it house?

It is Afro-EDM, and he did that years ago before it became a wave.

Is he signed? What is he doing?

Sarz is good. He's actually trying to sign his own artists now. I also rate Maleek Berry, Masterkraft, Krissbeats and Leriq.

I won't tell Don Jazzy you didn't mention his name.

Don Jazzy is a major player in the development of Nigerian music as a whole. He created one of the biggest artist we've had in Nigeria’s history.

Sabo Kpade is an Associate Writer with Spread The Word. His short story Chibok was shortlisted for the London Short Story Prize 2015. His first play, Have Mercy on Liverpool Street was longlisted for the Alfred Fagon Award. He lives in London.

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From Chale Wote Street Art Festival 2016. Photo by Ofoe Amegavie.

5 Ghanaian Creative Spaces Doing Afrofuturist Work You Need To Know

These Pan-African outfits are actively visualizing and creating realities for black people that are better than the ones we inhabit now—get to know them.

In her praise for Octavia's Brood (an anthology of science fiction stories from social justice movements), filmmaker dream hampton quotes these words of adrienne maree brown, a co-editor of the anthology: "All social justice work is science fiction. We are imagining a world free of injustice, a world that doesn't yet exist." A respectable appropriation of brown's statement would be: all pro-Black/African activism is afrofuturism in praxis.

In that frame of social justice activism being twined with the useful framework that afrofuturism is—envisioning and exploring viable realities for black people all over the world—here are five Pan-African outfits out of Ghana who're doing advocacy work, and variously tasking our imaginations to visualize an existence for black people other—and better—than the one we inhabit presently.

Accra [Dot] Alt

Photo courtesy of Accra [Dot] Alt.

The "Alt" in Accra [Dot] Alt stands for alternative, which should say much about this organization's orientation: an invested interest in facilitating the alternative. To that end, A[D]A creates programs which provide spacial and other forms of support for the expression of alternative thought, and also for spawning boundary-breaking art. A[D]A's most popular initiative, the annual Chale Wote Street Art Festival, since its inception in 2011, has been thematically preoccupied with imagining and creating existences that are more humane and fulfilling—particularly for black people.

The African Electronics Trilogy exemplifies this. Between 2015 and 2017, the Chale Wote Festival's themes, African Electronics, Spirit Robot and Wata Mata—have altogether exhorted festival participants to "tap into a super power grid [and] create a new encounter with reality that is entirely of our choosing and construction." The theme for this year's festival, Para-Other, does not stray from this visionary mission. A[D]A partly describes Para-Other as an order "embracing of a black labyrinth and establishment of an aesthetic that captures our cessation of flight and transit into a non-contested existence."

Last time the statistics were checked, in 2016, over 30,000 people were at Chale Wote; which is a more than 6,000 percent increase from the number that attended the first edition of the festival. Talk about possibilities.

African Women's Development Fund (AWDF)

Photo courtesy of the AWDF.

This grant-making foundation, Africa's first pan-African women's fund, was co-founded in 2000 by three African women: Hilda Tadria, Bisi Adeleye-Fayemi and Joana Foster, who passed in 2016.

Since setting up, the African Women's Development Fund has funded and supported close to 1,500 women's rights organizations and women-led initiatives in countries all over the continent.

In April 2017, the institution launched their ground-breaking AWDF Futures Project. The initiative is basically composed of projections on the future of the continent as seen through an African feminist lens. These projections are based on a mix of data/trends analysis and sheer imagination.

The AWDF Scenario Stories is one aspect of the project. It comprises of four short stories imagining four different kinds of futures—desirable, undesirable, wild card, transitional—for African women, in Africa. The protagonist in each of these scenarios (set in August 2030) is Mariam; a queer, intelligent and free-spirited young woman in a wheelchair.

The full narratives of Mariam navigating each of these four futures can be accessed, in both text and animated audio-visual formats, on AWDF's website, together with the Futures Africa: Trends for Women by 2030 report.

What will Africa be like in 2030? What would we see if we looked through the eyes of a woman? The AWDF Futures page holds a number of possible answers to these questions.

AfroCyberPunk Interactive

Photo courtesy of AfroCyberPunk Interactive.

Sci-fi writer and self-proclaimed afrofuturist, Jonathan Dotse, created AfroCyberPunk in 2010. Then, it was a blog whose focus was on "exploring the creative potential of African science fiction and speculative narratives."

Almost a decade after running as a blog, AfroCyberPunk morphed into AfroCyberPunk Interactive—a digital hypermedia content developer and publishing house—in 2017. Still, the preoccupation with "exploring the future of Africa" (as went the blog's tagline) remains prime. A part of what could be referred to as their mission statement reads thus: "Our roots in afrofuturism continue to inspire the recurrent themes, motifs and aesthetics of our publications. We aspire to [...] address the global imbalance in the representation of marginalised peoples and perspectives."

Founder Jonathan Dotse is himself at work on his debut novel, a cyberpunk mystery/ psychological thriller set in Accra, Ghana circa 2060 AD.

All of the above certainly do echo these words offered by Jonathan in a blog post titled Why Africa Needs Science Fiction: "As Africa marches onward into the future it is important that we as Africans begin to critically visualize the development that will take place on our own soil, and our vision must be based on our own unique reality, cut from the cloth of our own societies and tailored to our specific needs."

Drama Queens

Photo courtesy of Drama Queens.

This feminist and Pan-Africanist theatre organisation optimally embodies the idea of Sankofa: an examination of heritage to select and use, presently, the positive and helpful values, in the ultimate service of creating the future.

Drama Queens is founded on the ancient Egyptian philosophy of Ma'at—which adjures for justice, balance and harmony as ways of being. The world being as it is now—generally unjust, imbalanced and disharmonious, against black people specifically, and more specifically against marginalized black communities—renders Drama Queens' work futuristic.

To ground this, they are avowedly working towards "a just, balanced and harmonious world where highest respect is given to nature and all nature creates."

This year, for instance, is Drama Queens' year of "contributing to an end to homophobia towards the African LGBTQ+ community" through various activities such as theatre productions, facilitating queer film production workshops, social media discussions and talk events.

Nana Akosua Hanson, founder and director of Drama Queens has said in an interview that her organization aims, ultimately, "to end oppression by changing mindsets through the use of cultural tools, to revolutionalize thinking and bring forth the existence of an Africa without heteropatriarchy, and a continent free from the exploitation and destruction of racist nations." Sounds about Afrofuturist.

Squid Magazine

Photo courtesy of Squid Magazine.

Comics, games and animation are probably the most popular media through which creators indulge in futuristic thinking. Add to this the truism that critical, intellectual engagement and documentation are of lifeblood importance to the efflorescence of a culture. Put together, it adds up to the fact that Squid Magazine (simply, Squid Mag) is doing essential afrofuturist work.

Started in 2015 by Kadi Yao Tay and Kofi Asare, Squid Mag is dedicated to the "exploration, critique, promotion and archiving of African creativity manifested within comics, games, animation..." As it happens, Squid Mag is one of the very few, if not only, platforms on the continent that wholesomely covers African output in the above mentioned media.

There's a rather poetic resonance as to why this outfit is named 'Squid.' Here's the import of the name, as explained on their website:

The name is inspired by squids, sea invertebrates that release ink as a defense mechanism. We find it poetic how such a mechanism can be a metaphor for painting a people's realities and dreams fluidly in an ocean of canvases. An ocean that is threatened to be overrun with narratives that exclude us.

So now you know, if you didn't know before, where to go in search of a sea of narratives—of realities and dreams—that include us.

*

There is a great deal more than can be said for the imagination—and exercising it. It begets creation, after all. Thus, what these and other entities are doing—engendering alternative socio-political imaginaries for all peoples of African descent—is such a needful venture. But after all is said and visualized, the ultimate challenge, most probably, is to act, to create. Blitz the Ambassador puts it succinctly on his afrofuturist song, "Africa Is The Future" (long since renamed "Africa Is Now"): There ain't no future unless we build it now.

moshood lives in Accra, from where he writes across genres. He has recently taken on painting. He tweets here: @thehamzay

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