Music
Photo and styling by A Day Living.

Runtown on How Staying True to Himself Produced His Biggest Hit Yet, 'Mad Over You'

Get to know rising the afrobeat star, where he speaks on how owning his truth is taking his career to new heights.

Music is a universal language and something that brings people together from all walks of life. Even if the language is not familiar to all listeners, the energy is! This is something that rising afrobeat star, Runtown, born Douglas Jack Agu, has understood clearly and implemented in his approach to creating records. Whether talking about his hit songs, "Mad Over You" and "For Life" or even his latest record, "Energy," Runtown stays true to his roots while expanding his sound beyond the borders of West Africa.


Now 28, the Lagos-based producer and vocalist has collaborated with some of the most important names in the afrobeat industry, including Davido, Wizkid and Phyno.

"I spent most of my early years in between Abuja and Lagos," he says. "After the passing of my father I permanently moved to Abuja with my family. I was born in Enugu State so I went back often and that's where I crossed paths with Phyno. Phyno and I moved to Lagos and started our music careers there. Lagos is where everything happens in the music industry. It was only right that I made the city my permanent home. I connected with my label Eric Many and the rest is history."

Photo and styling by A Day Living.

Beyond working with major artists, he has also done a number of international tour stops over the last year in cities ranging from Kigali, Rwanda to Houston, Texas. Outside of music, Runtown been involved in social initiatives like Afrika Fifty6, which is dedicated to empowering young Africans through fashion, art and music and he has even spoke at Harvard University's African Student Association in Cambridge, MA.

Although he's regarded as a traditional "afrobeat" artist, Runtown takes inspiration from all genres of music and fuses them to create his own unique sound. He spoke personally about the international artists that have influenced him: "I'm inspired by all types of music. I love afrobeat but I also get inspiration from other genres of music as well. I love Sade, her music and vibe is crazy. I'm also a fan of Stromae, who's a dope Belgian artist."

Photo and styling by A Day Living.

Photo and styling by A Day Living.

Although Runtown has been buzzing for years, his track "Mad Over You" became a major hit that dominated the radio and accumulated over 50 million views on YouTube, putting him on a new trajectory.

"'Mad Over You' is my biggest hit thus far," he says, discussing how his career changed after the release. "After releasing the song in November 2016, things took off. Bookings came from left and right. I started traveling to different countries for shows. Lots of opportunities presented themselves."

With travel came exposure to new cultures all over the world and allowed him to open his outlook and spread his message to a mass audience. When asked about the rise of afrobeat influence on the world stage, he states, "I think is dope how our sound has crossed over and artists like Drake, Omarion and others have incorporated it into their music. However, I don't think people have been properly educated about its origins. If you ask someone who's not familiar with afrobeat, who Fela is and what role he played in afrobeat, you would be surprised that they wouldn't know."

Photo and styling by A Day Living.

Despite this, he feels there is an opportunity for people with influence to properly credit afrobeat's forefathers and connect the new listeners to African culture as a whole. "Africa to the world! The rest of the world is scared of Africa," Runtown says. "The media has shined such a negative light on the continent and people are scared to come and see all the beauty Africa has to offer. But thank God for all the social media platforms that have allowed individuals like myself to show the world how dope it is here."

He believes that with the rise of the genre is a responsibility for artists to represent the continent and elevate the culture. "Afrobeat right now is at the forefront and that's because there are a lot of dope artists putting out quality music that is crossing over to the rest of the world," he says. "In regards to staying true to its roots, I think a lot of us African artists are doing that because that is why the world is loving our music."

Photo and styling by A Day Living.

Overall, Runtown credits his success to his ability to take risks and stay true to himself, regardless of what other people tell him. He hopes that his story can inspire others to do the same and recognize their own value. "The biggest and most rewarding risk I've ever taken is just doing me and not conforming," he says. "I have my own style of music and I have stayed true to it and it has paid off in the long run. My advice to young people would be to never give up. Every artist has his or her own style. There will always be room for originality, even in an 'over-saturated' music industry."

Runtown is set release a number of tracks in the coming months and hopes to keep spreading positive messages that empower others. Listen to his latest release, "Energy," below.

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Photography and styling by A Day Living

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South Africans are Reacting to the Constitutional Court's Ruling on Spanking

Not everyone is happy that spanking is now unconstitutional.

Yesterday, South Africa's Constitutional Court ruled that the spanking of children is now unconstitutional. The ruling upheld a previous ruling by the High Court back in 2017, that criminalized spanking after a father beat his 13-year-old son "in a manner that exceeded the bounds of reasonable chastisement". Parents or guardians can no longer use the common law defense of "reasonable chastisement" should they be charged with assault for spanking their children. While many South Africans as well as children's rights activists and organizations have welcomed the ruling, others have rubbished it entirely.

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AKA is Taking His Orchestra Show to Durban

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Cover of Isha Sesay's 'Beneath the Tamarind Tree'

'Beneath the Tamarind Tree'—an Excerpt From Isha Sesay's Book About Remembering the Chibok Girls

Read an exclusive excerpt from the Sierra Leonean reporter's new book, which offers firsthand accounts of what happened to the girls while in Boko Haram captivity in an attempt to make the world remember.

Below is an excerpt from the seventh chapter in Sierra-Leonean journalist and author Isha Sesay's new book, "Beneath the Tamarind Tree," the "first definitive account" of what took place on the ground following the abduction of 276 schoolgirls by Boko Haram in 2014.

Continue on to read more, and revisit our interview with the reporter about why it's important for the world to remember the girls' stories, here.

***

"We should burn these girls!"

"No, let's take them with us!"

"Why not leave them here?"

The men were still arguing, dozens of them trading verbal blows while Saa and the other horrified girls looked on. None of the men seemed particularly troubled by the fact that the lives of almost three hundred schoolgirls hung in the balance. Amid all the yelling, the girls had been divided into groups. Each batch would burn in a different room in the school buildings that were aflame just a few feet away. Tensions were escalating when a slim man with outsize eyes suddenly appeared. Saa had never seen him before. Like many of the insurgents, he too looked young and was just as scruffy. But when he spoke, tempers seemed to cool for a moment.

"Ah! What are you trying to do?"

"We wanted to burn them!"

"Why not take them with us, since we have an empty vehicle?"

His suggestion triggered a fresh round of quarreling. The same positions were expressed, and the newcomer continued to calmly repeat his idea of taking the girls with them, till he finally got his way. The girls later discovered his name was Mallam Abba. He was a commander.

"Follow us!" the men shouted.

None of it made any sense to Saa. Why? To where? As the insurgents shuffled her out of the compound, she felt as if her whole life were on fire. All Saa could see was the ominous orange glow of flames consuming every one of her school buildings. With every step, the fears within her grew. She struggled to make sense of the competing thoughts throbbing in her head. This isn't supposed to be happening. The insurgents had asked about the boys and the brick-making machine; they'd systematically emptied the school store, carrying bag after bag of foodstuffs and loading all of it into the huge waiting truck. With everything now packed away, Saa had thought the insurgents would simply let the girls go home. After all, that's what had happened during their previous attacks on schools—they'd always let the schoolgirls go, after handing out a warning to abandon their education and strict instructions to get married. Saa had simply expected the same thing to happen once more, not this.

She scanned the crowd of faces surrounding her; the creased brows and startled expressions of the others made it clear that everyone was equally confused. Whatever the turmoil they were feeling, they kept it to themselves. No one said a word. Saa fell into a sort of orderly scrum with the men corralling and motioning her forward with their guns, each weapon held high and pointed straight at the girls.

Saa and Blessing moved in unison, along with the hundreds of others, snaking along in the dark through the open compound gate, past the small guard post usually occupied by Mr. Jida, which now sat empty. Yelling came from nearby Chibok town. Saa could smell burning, then heard the sound of gunshots and people running. It was bedlam.

Just beyond the compound walls sat a crowd of bushes. As she and the men moved out into the open, Saa felt their thorns spring forward, eager to pull at her clothing and scratch and pierce her body. Careful not to yell out in pain, she tried to keep her clothes beyond the reach of the grasping thicket with no time to pause and examine what might be broken skin.

Saa retreated into herself and turned to the faith that had anchored her entire life. Lord, am I going to die tonight, or will I survive? Desperate to live, unspoken prayers filled her mind and she pleaded, repeatedly, God save me.

She was still praying as they walked down the dirt path away from the flaming school. The shabby-looking men with their wild eyes gave no explanation or directions. They simply motioned with their heads and the sweep of their rifles, making it clear to keep moving. As the reality began to sink in, Saa felt her chest tightening. Her heart was going to beat its way out of her body. But she couldn't allow herself to cry or make any sound. Any kind of display would make her a target, and who knew what these men might do?

The insurgents walked alongside, behind, and in front of her; they were everywhere. Every time Saa looked around, their menacing forms filled her view. Initially, all the girls were steered away from the main road and onto a rambling path overgrown with bushes; the detour was likely made in an attempt to avoid detection.

Parents lining up for reunion with daughters (c) Adam Dobby


***

This excerpt was published with permission from the author. 'Beneath the Tamarind Tree' is available now.

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