Interview
Image courtesy of Lucille Slade.

Lucille Slade talks to us about being an independent artist, cross-genre-music and her current projects.

Lucille Slade Isn't Trying to Stay In One Lane—She's Coming For It All

The rising South African artist speaks to us about wanting to make cross-genre music, her current projects and the challenges that come with being an independent act on the come up.

Lucille Slade is an up-and-coming South African singer who burst onto the scene three years ago after putting out a cover of Cassper Nyovest's track "Tito Mboweni".

Slade capitalized on the buzz around her now viral cover of the song by dropping her debut album Scratch the Surface the following year. The 10-track project was released under her then label Boom Studio. Since then, she's shared a number of gems including "Velvet" and "Khuluma Nami" having worked on the latter with Grammy-nominated producer, Evoke.

While the music she's put out has been R&B and pop-leaning, Slade pushes against attempts to box her into a singular genre, opting instead for free reign to create any kind of music she feels led to make.

She also featured on Stogie T's last two projects Honey and Pain (2018) and The Empire of Sheep (2019). Naturally, her unmatched work ethic and continued showcasing of her immense talent landed her on our 15 South African Artists to Watch in 2019 list and in 2020, Slade shows no signs of slowing down.

Currently working on her latest EP Love Me Slowly and set to collaborate with some of the biggest names in the game, we caught up with Slade to talk more about her music, what the grind looks like for an independent artist on the come up and her parallel career as a budding actress

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.


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How would you describe the kind of music that you make and who would you say you're making music for?

Right now my EP sounds like R&B pop because that's my genre influence. And predominantly for girls. It's predominantly for girls in relationships, trying to figure out each different phase of it. And I feel like there's a song for each different phase, like when you're in it, when you're over it, when you're ready to move on to something else—just like situational.

From your first single "Velvet" to "What You Think About That" and more recently "Khuluma Nami," how would you describe the continuity?

I think it's all sort of tied together by theme, like "What You Think About That" is about a relationship and asking questions. "Velvet" was more of a statement to me. It wasn't necessarily supposed to be about a relationship. My friend just said, "Hey, I need you to write something, it has to have the word Velvet in it." I was like, "Are you saying literally?" Yeah, so we just quickly freestyled something that made sense and expanded it to a full song. "Khuluma Nami" was a proper situation. It was just a very rough point in a relationship where you're not together, but you're figuring out if you still want to be together. That one moved really quickly. In less than 30 minutes it was done.

Would you say your process in general is like that?

It's different every time. Sometimes I might need to leave and come back because I can't figure out what to write or how to write it. Sometimes it just comes really quickly. That's why I admire artists who will book studio time for a specific amount of time because they know they're going to get it done within a certain time. I feel like that makes sense if you're in a team of writers. But if you're doing it alone, it depends.

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What projects are you currently working on?

For now, it's just that EP [Love Me Slowly]. We just shot the video with Stogie, which is cool. And then the song with Zinhle comes out soon. My EP is my focus for now.. There's other collaborations that people are calling me for and it's the weirdest time of my life. It's unexpected because I've been trying to do this since 2016, actively. And now is 2020, that's fast forward to four years. I did the covers two, three years ago, and I've had this EP music for the past two years, I just never felt like it was the right time. I'm getting calls from people, I am like, "Huh? They even know my name? That's weird." It feels like someone is about to pinch me and be like, "This is a lie." Just because it's been a long time coming.

You're not just a musician. You're also acting on 7de Laan. Which is the greater love, music or acting?

I'll be honest, they're both very different. And I think when you get to play in the soapie space, you realize the amount of work that it takes and it's just different. You're fixing different artistic muscles. So I'd say, I think music was always the first love, but there's a deep profound respect for acting and what the craft requires that I really enjoy but never had the full-on confidence to do it. I always say I didn't have the full confidence to do it before. And last year I was just like, "You know what? I think I'm ready to do it." It happened that things worked out in my favor but not by way of a lack of struggling. It was two years before I found the agency that I'm with now. For me, I didn't care if I didn't get anything. It was to say, "I want to do it regardless of the rejection, I'm willing to stand in the line."

Do you think the collaborations you've done so far bear testament to how cross-genre you want to be as an artist?

Yeah. And I didn't realize that because everything's happened so close to each other. So for me, it's great placement. So you can hear me on this, but you can give me on that as well. So if I put out my project you're like, "Okay well, she's versatile." I was saying on Twitter that I like Doja Cat. She does what she wants to do. I respect people who really like staying in what we like to call "lanes" but I don't think you have a lane. I think you could have multiple interests in the art world. And if you decide to go into say, technology, go into it but obviously have the understanding. I think we're lacking that in the country right now.

"[My music is] predominantly for girls... for girls in relationships, trying to figure out each different phase of it...I feel like there's a song for each different phase."

What are some of the collaborations that you would want to do in the future?

I'd say more girl songs. It always changes. Now I want a full on girl anthem. Even if it's just with Elaine, Ayanda Jiya and Shekhinah. I see the hip-hop guys doing it and it's so great when they can all come together. I'm like, "Why are we slacking, what is it?" Because no one occupies the same space in my mind. Like all these voices I named are so different. But imagine one crazy bumping track where the video looks like each individual, where girls see these girls together. That feels the way in which we need to go.

How would you describe stability in terms of a label and a place within the music industry right now?

There's no place for me at a label right now. And the reason why I say that is because I need to build what I'm building, or else I can't go into a conversation and don't have any leverage. It would not be in my best interest to do to any label in any capacity because I need to do what I need to do now. And what I've done is try to build a bit of a system. So I have like a business partner I work with. We don't even have the funds for it but they used to work at YFM so they knew the radio plugin systems. We just have a good rapport, so we work together and then we have someone who helps us with the admin. I want it that small right now cause that makes sense. Maybe when the time is right to have a bigger conversation if i want to occupy the bigger territories. But those can still be done independently.

Would you rather stay an independent artist?

I want to do a good three years of independence. And I say three years that things could move so quickly. Also know some of the systems that you can bypass. Even in terms of the playlisting, you could get a meeting with someone at Apple and not necessarily have to do it through the label where you feel completely stifled and hindered—there are different ways to do it.

But obviously I always will say with independence, the problem is capital. You want to shoot the great quality video, you need the money. It's nothing less than R20,000 and even when I say nothing less than R20,000, we're still playing it safe in South Africa. When I speak to people who are playing the worldly game in Africa, they're like, "You guys are so cheap with your videos." They're like, theirs is $100,000 if you're trying to play in the African market, obviously global. I feel like we need to start looking at it like that. It can't just be, "Oh, we have a hot song let's do a video." We're looking at Tiwa Savage, Wizkid, you know?

"We need to talk about the fact that just because you're an up-and-coming pop singer, or it seems like you're about to "pop", doesn't mean that your financials look like that or they can accommodate that. Reality versus perception kicks us in the ass."

What have been some of the challenges you've encountered as an independent artist?

Someone called me about possibly managing me and is like cool but I've always had an issue with that. In figuring out your team, you need to find people who are best suited to your personality. And nothing wrong with being like, "This is how I like things." Find people who can help you execute how you like things.

I think independence is that financial structure—hard. Because you still need to live. And then you're paying for styling, for makeup, for transport, for your band. It's a lot. And then people expect you to look a certain way. But there are ways to figure it out. I think these conversations are really important to have. Not enough people have it. It almost seems like we just want to put like the glossy picture on, "I'm so cool." I still take taxis. I'm on 7de Laan for two weeks and I'm still taking taxis. There's nothing wrong with it. I need to get from point A to point B.

What is your big goal for this year?

With this EP, I feel like I wanted to vision visually look right, sonically come together. I want to create a world for people to come into. So that goes all the way into the videos, what we do on stage. For me, it's just about figuring out what that looks like. Going into the studio, working with a choreographer because I want it to be routine, I want it to be that tight. I guess I'm just sort of creating what I look like and feel like as an artist on stage. Everything else that comes on will be the cherry on top but I think that would be a by-product of everyone seeing this vision executed.

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Photo Credit: Ikechukwu Okonkwo

Korty EO is the YouTuber Documenting Contemporary Culture in Nigeria

Thanks to her confessional-style videos and high-concept shows, Korty EO is one of Nigeria's rising YouTube stars.

There is a stillness in Eniola Olanrewaju’s upscale Yaba, Nigeria flat. It matches the abiding sense of quietness that almost seems to envelop the 24-year-old when she retreats into her world. Eniola, popularly known as Korty EO,is one of the most popular faces in the post-digital creative taxonomy that has swept through Lagos over the last half-decade. In many regards, she is a poster child for the boundlessness that characterizes the grind and hustle of young people in Africa’s most populous city. Over the last four years, she's worked as a graphic designer, writer, content creator, and videographer. Now she is one of Nigeria's brightest YouTube talents, gathering almost 200k followers on YouTube and more than 100k followers on Instagram.

But Korty’s story did not start in Lagos. She grew up in Bodija, Ibadan.

“It was a safe area but my house in Bodija was not around the fanciest sides," Korty said sitting in a rocking chair in her spartan living room last month. "My parents were very protective but that’s because they knew that our environment wasn’t the safest but if you asked me I was proud to say I lived in Bodija because it was a fresh area but I wouldn’t bring you to my house.” Growing up as the middle child in a family of five, Korty was aware of the limitations of her parents and strove to make a way for herself. She started out working as a graphic designer while enrolled in the University of Ibadan after a brief stint at Bowen University. “I saw that there’s a lot I could do and I could even not go to class if I wanted,” she said. “I was just freer and able to do my business.”

Her clarity of purpose meant that she always knew she was going to have to move to Lagos to pursue some of her grander dreams, even if she didn’t know what those dreams were at that moment. An opportunity came in 2018 when a modeling agency scouted her while in Lagos to get a certificate from her IT attachment office. But Korty was reluctant to step into the modeling world. “I said no because I used to think that models were shallow,” she said, half-joking.

Eventually, Korty decided to give modeling a shot. She was grateful for the extra income and the opportunity to explore Lagos’s creative community that her constant visits provided. In the modeling world, Korty was faced with having to navigate a labyrinthine maze of toxic booking agents and haughty designers who treated her poorly. “You can usually tell when someone is not so comfortable in a certain place," she said. "Because I wasn’t comfortable, a lot of stylists did not pick me to walk their shows.”

Mostly observing other models strut their ways on glitzy walkways, Korty started to document their lives in short videos that piqued the interests of her fellow models. Soon after, she joined Zikoko, where she worked as a writer and content creator before convincing her bosses at the time to let her helm a show named HER that was dedicated to showcasing the often-overlooked life of women in Nigeria. In December 2020, after working with Zikoko for close to two years, she left to join Mr. Eazi’s music accelerator program, emPawa, as its head of content. Where Zikoko had a big collaborative culture that emphasized creative cross-pollination, emPawa was more independently structured, giving Korty free rein to pursue projects and create her work in her own image.

It was while handling the YouTube channel of emPawa that Korty began to see the potential of the platform to host the quirky, confessional-style videos that she really wanted to make. “I was always looking at the analytics and understanding how the platform works,” she said. “After a while, I was tired of it and I just left because I realized that YouTube paid."

She, of course, wasn't getting paid immediately. The YouTube channel started taking off with a video documenting the thought process of moving out of her parents’ house and quitting her job at emPawa to create videos for YouTube.

Korty EO pink dress

Korty’s YouTube channel has taken definitive shape, anchored around two shows: Flow, with Korty andLove and Lies.

Photo Credit: Ikechukwu Okonkwo

That was in 2020. In the months since then, Korty’s YouTube channel has taken definitive shape, anchored around two shows: Flow, with Korty, is an exploratory show into the life of celebrities and trendsetters in the Lagos and wider west African cultural scene. While the newer one,Love and Lies, is a dating show that chronicles the drama and comedy that follows setting random people on dates in Lagos. When she shoots her subjects, what Korty aims for is submersion, seeking a way to remove any distraction from their immediate consciousness and get as much information as possible from them.

“I put my camera far away from them so they can even forget that it’s there,” Korty said. “It’s usually me, my cameras, and a photographer because most of the people I film are in some sense celebrities and once they see too many people, they become guarded but if you make them comfortable they can express themselves.” Editing, though, is where it all comes together as she applies her experiences while staying true to the vibe of the shoot. It usually takes place over an active period of one or two weeks depending on the quantity of footage she gets.

The distinctive contours of life in Lagos and the city’s ever-present trans-generational tensions weigh on Korty’s mind and spill into her visual content. “I think Lagos is the center for a lot of things because there’s a lot of people here so it’s easy to find various communities here,” she said. “Sometimes I’m very conflicted about where I stand because I’m old Gen Z. I’m 24 and there are people being 18-year-old in 2022. It often feels like I'm in the middle because where does the class of 1998 fit into it all.” Still, the grind, hustle, and growing fearlessness of young Gen Z'ers’s in Lagos inspire her more than anything. “There’s more evidence of people’s patterns and lifestyles (in Lagos) because of the Internet and that brings more exposure. I feel like the Gen Z culture awareness in Lagos is so strong that it’s being transferred to other parts of the country but Lagos is the pinnacle.”

Korty EO pink dress, white nike sneakers

“There needs to be a better process for how people get monetized in Nigeria," Korty said. "If YouTube says it’s catering for everyone in every part of the world, they need to do that regardless of the difficulties in the country."

Photo Credit: Ikechukwu Okonkwo

Still, existing in Lagos can take its toll, and navigating the YouTube payment model as an independent creator can make it even harder. “It was very difficult,” she said about getting her channel — none of Nigeria’s fastest-growing — monetized. “They have to send a pin to a post office. It’s very easy for people abroad but if you live in Nigeria, getting your pin and money is very hard.” Korty had to make a video detailing her frustration with the monetization process before further relief came and she worries about the next generation of indie creators hoping to share their talents with the world via YouTube. “With newer people coming into the platform, it’s really hard for them because they are confused. There’s a procedure but the procedure doesn’t work unless you get your pin and it’s mentally wrecking.

“There needs to be a better process for how people get monetized in Nigeria, if YouTube says it’s catering for everyone in every part of the world, they need to do that regardless of the difficulties in the country. I know that’s easy to say but that’s just it, it shouldn’t be better in one place than it is in another, and also I guess Nigeria should also care about these things enough to make it easier for everyone.”

Earlier this year, a video documenting Korty’s attempts to schedule an interview with Wizkid over three days in Lagos went viral. And it’s an experience that has only solidified her resolve. “For me, the main thing is that only a few things can stop me in this life," Korty said. "Obviously, the goal I had was to get Wizkid but the real thing was for people to see how if you set a goal and you move towards it, you either get it or move really close to it.”

For all the inspirational themes of her videos and persona, Korty is not a filmmaker that really cares about cajoling an awakening in her audience, seeing her role as more of a guide on the facts of a situation or phenomena. “I think for me, my role is to talk about certain things, shine a light on them and leave people to take whatever they want from the video,” she said. “That’s why I tell people that my aim is not to inspire. If it happens that you’re inspired, that’s on you.”

Despite all her protestations to the contrary, Korty understands the impact of her videos and is warming up to her role as an archivist of Nigerian contemporary culture. “When I do things, I don’t have plans but they start to unfold and people start to see what it can become,” she said. “I’m just trying to make it in life, I’m really not trying to be a culture shifter but I also feel like if that is happening and people are seeing a pattern, it’s now up to me to see if I can accept that responsibility.

"I’m very aware that there is a growing responsibility and, if I don’t accept it, I might not grow, I could just be stagnant."

In many instances, Korty is quick to reject tags or titles and as our conversation comes to a close, I ask what she identities as these days. “I’m starting to say filmmaker,” she said. “A lot of people would say that where do I get the audacity to call myself that because I make YouTube videos but if you put me up next to the YouTubers of today, there’s a clear difference. It’s also why I don’t like it when people call me an influencer because I didn’t sit outside Eko Hotels for three days to be called an influencer. Filmmaking is where I have found myself. In 2018, I was in fashion. Before 2018, I was designing. As time passes, I’ll stumble on something else. I don’t think I can do one thing for all of my life. But whatever I decide to do, I’ll succeed and be competing at the top.”

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Photo: Getty Creative Images.

Ghana’s LGBTQ+ Community Faces Increased Backlash During Pride Month

The marginalized community fights an uphill battle for acceptance as lawmakers push a bill that criminalizes the group’s existence.

The month of June is well known around the world as Pride Month, a month dedicated to celebrating LGBTQ+ communities all around the world. However, in Ghana, intolerance of the LGBTQ+ community and its members is at an all-time high. In November 2021, we reported on an “anti-gay” bill that had begun to make its way through Ghana’s Parliament, a bill criminalizing the very existence of LGBTQ+ individuals as well as LGBTQ+ advocacy.

The controversial bill which was titled the "Promotion of Proper Human Sexual Rights and Ghanaian Family Values Bill" proposed up to five years in prison for LGBTQ+ Ghanaians, forced medical procedures for intersex children, jail terms for family members and teachers who fail to report gay relatives and students, jail terms for public displays of same-sex affection or cross dressing, a 10-year jail term for LGBTQ+ advocacy, criminalizing the distribution of material deemed pro-LGBTQ+ by the press, among other harsh legislation that puts LGBTQ+ individuals and their loved ones at risk of falling victim to state-sanctioned discrimination or worse.

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Interview

The Alluring Distinction of Falz

Falz' contributions to Afropop are masterfully encapsulated on BAHD. We speak to him about his vast scope of sounds on the new album, Nigerian politics and more.

Falz is one of Afropop’s most distinctive figures. His songs have defined several periods of Nigeria’s push into international spaces, formed on the background of rap but possessed with amorphous creativity. With the backdrop of a global pandemic, the 31-year-old musician again found himself staring down the well of reinvention.

Having made appearances across several facets of the entertainment industry, he wanted to move into a new soundscape. He poured that motivation into his fifth studio album BAHD, a collection of twelve songs which show Falz at his most risque and naughty. “To be honest it’s a big mix,” he mentions to OkayAfrica some days after its release. “It’s arguable whether this is actually pop. This can even be looked at as an Afro R&B project, it’s an Afro-fusion project as well. I definitely touched on a few different genres while making BAHD. That was the aim from the beginning: I just wanted to have an album with a vast scope of sounds”.

Each featured guest uniquely broadens his vision. Whether it’s Tiwa Savage on “Beautiful Sunflower” or The Cavemen on “Woman,” there’s a seamless entry into the lush sonics of Falz’s universe. He tells me animatedly that he’s always wanted a song with the iconic Ms. Savage, and already has multiple songs with the Highlife-influenced Cavemen. His curatorial skills are present on “Inside,” combining the unusual duo of Timaya and Boy Spyce to fine effect. Apparently the record was created way before the latter was signed to Mavin Records, pointing towards Falz’s continued inclination for digging deep and leaning into new styles and sounds.

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Photo by Amy Sussman/Getty Images,

Tems Is Taking Over The World

The Nigerian songstress made history as the first female Nigerian artist to be awarded BET's Best International Act at this year's award ceremony.

Nigerian musical legend in the making Tems is one hell of a force. The singer has had a fleet of accomplishments in recent months, showing off her star power and the waves her music has made on global music charts. On Sunday, Tems became the first female Nigerian artist to accept the Best International Act award at this year's BET award ceremony -- also collecting the Best Collaboration award on the behalf of colleague Wizkid on their "Essence" remix featuring Canadian pop star Justin Bieber.

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