Images courtesy of the artist.
Interview: Ruger Targets Global Dominance In ‘RU The World’
We talk to the Nigerian artist about his debut album, RU The World, fusing Afrobeats with dancehall, and bridging cultural gaps.
In the current landscape of Afrobeats, no one is doing fusion quite like Ruger. The 24-year-old has consistently merged Afrobeats and dancehall sounds into a signature style he has maintained since his 2021 hit single “Bounce.” Two years prior, the Jonzing World label boss D’Prince made a big bet on the daring youngster clad in an eye patch and pink hair—that bet didn’t take very long to start paying off.
Ruger’s debut EP, Pandemic, was an instant smash due in both parts to its sonic quality and the freshness it provided the Nigerian musical landscape by finely blending genres. “Dancehall and Afrobeats were the type of songs I grew up listening to so it got infused in me unconsciously and immediately I found that sound, I mixed it together and headed for the studio,” he says.
Ruger has continued on this path with an assertiveness that was present the first time we spoke two years ago. With two other successful EPs in check and a recently released debut album, RU The World, Ruger isn’t hitting the brakes or letting convention dictate the manner in which he approaches his artistry.
RU The World comes as Ruger’s definitive statement of the global conquest that music has enabled him to embark on. Garnished with sexual innuendos, tales of dalliances, and occasional chivalry through its 17 tracks. It’s also intentional about healthy cultural exchanges between Nigeria, East Africa and the Caribbean, by virtue of seeking out key figures in those scenes.
In our conversation, Ruger exuded the confidence of an artist certain of their chosen sound, and unwilling to succumb to external pressures. We caught up with him to discuss his debut album, lessons from touring, and making music that stands the test of time.
This interview has been edited for clarity.
How does it feel having your debut album out in the world?
It feels good. I feel like a piece of me is out. It touches on a lot of things I would love to say and it’s something my fans have been expecting so it’s like a relief to get it out there, I’m looking forward to bigger things.
Why did you feel Ru The World was a befitting title for the album?
I would have gone for Rule The World but people around me tend to call me “Ru '' so I went with it. Also looking back at my impact, how far my music and image has gone, it was the best title. On the album cover, the world is wearing an eyepatch that gives you an idea of what the album is all about.
You have a peculiar style that mixes Afrobeats and dancehall elements, how did you figure out this style and at what point were you able to make something satisfactory to you?
Afro-dancehall is something most Nigerians don’t want to accept immediately but I’m bringing it forward with a very bold step. I feel like Nigerians are not really open to explicit languages, but I’m using my sound to make it clear that these are the type of songs I like to make. This style of music is pertinent in this album because it’s something I enjoy. It might take time for people to accept this type of sound but it’s something I’m pushing with all my strength.Dancehall and Afrobeats were the type of songs I grew up listening to so it got infused in me unconsciously and immediately I found that sound, I mixed it together and headed for the studio.
With the suggestive and explicit themes listeners have associated you with, would you say you are carefully creating a signatory sound?
I’m not carefully making these songs but I go with my instincts so with how listeners may perceive me, it’s totally backed up by the kind of songs I like making. Like I said, it’s slowly sinking in and I’m enjoying how it’s going.
Do you have a particular description for your music?
Melodious and raw with no filters.
Is bridging Nigeria and the Caribbean something you intentionally try to do?
Yes definitely! I’m slowly tapping into their market, I sold out a 7,000 capacity venue in Suriname early this year and I’m looking to do the same in Jamaica, by the grace of God. I want to get familiar with these people. Like in my album, I have songs with Stefflon Don, Govana, Projexx; they’re from Jamaica. I have also seen Jamaican artists come out to support my music, like Kranium who went on Twitter to talk about the album and give his support. They recognize what I am doing and definitely I hope to collaborate with them more, spend some time in their country to make music and push myself there.
How would you describe the creative process of your album?
Most of them were premeditated, some were random. Some of the best hits are gotten from random thoughts and studio sessions. I went into every studio session with the aim of being expressive. I didn’t go to the studio with pressure to create a hit but to express myself and I think people can relate to that. Some recording days were hard, and some were easy, regardless, we were able to release the album and people have welcomed it warmly.
Among the features on your album, which one would you say was most memorable for you in its realization?
Definitely the one with Sauti Sol. It was one of the random thoughts that came to mind that actually came true. I usually finish making my songs before featuring an artist so when I decide who to feature, I will only have to take a verse off it. I had just finished a show in London and was on my way to Kenya and I asked if Sauti Sol were currently in the country and they said yes so I asked my team to link me up with them and when we did, I played the song, they loved it and we proceeded to make the song together. It was easy, fun and memorable. They are really passionate about music.
I noticed you linked up with Jugglerz twice on this album, is there a particular chemistry that makes you both connect well?
Yes. Anytime Jugglerz and I link up, it’s just very straightforward, we make very songs immediately because I’m drawn to quick progression, they understand that and have the same mindset. So immediately I got to the studio which was in 2022, the second session happened in April 2023, we made hit songs. They are a set of 4 German producers that work together and it’s amazing that they want to tap into the Afrobeats space and I love that.
Your shows are always electrifying to say the least so how do you keep fans engaged while maintaining that energy?
I feel my shows are the most interactive shows of any artist in Africa because I’m very interactive with my fans. I even sit down and ask them questions. I see my shows as a get together in a very big space and the fans as my friends because they also interact with me. It’s so interactive to the point where they notice songs I don’t have on my set and ask me to perform them. That’s just how it is with my fans and I; for every show, they come out in numbers to sell out my show. I’m a very funny person naturally so I could crack a silly joke on stage and while they’re laughing, the next song comes on and everyone is lit again! It’s an amazing feeling
What have you learnt the most while you have been touring and what do you love the most about tour life?
What I love the most are the fans definitely. One thing I learnt is whatever way you feel when coming to the show, communicate it with your fans. Like me, when I come to the show sad, I tell them that I’m not in a good mood and would love them to cheer me up and they start cheering me up. I have done some shows where I let my mood affect my performance but I have learnt that it doesn’t have to be that way and it’s fine to communicate your feelings with them because at the end of the day, they’re your fans who will always want to support you.
The last time you spoke to OkayAfrica, you said you want people to see you as an artist who puts out real music. What does it mean to you to make music that stands the test of time?
It’s like you are in a simulation because the song is about you and most of my songs are about relationships or sex and they are things we do so when people tell me I sing about only these things, that means you didn’t listen to the full album. I saw a comment that was asking why the first 5 songs on the album were about sex and I replied “did you listen to Tour?” That means you didn’t listen to all the songs. Some tend not to follow people’s opinions without listening for themselves. For me, they are things people go through so they are relatable. I’m of the belief that regardless of how my song might be misunderstood, it will be understood in the long run.
After seeing the early reception of RU The World where would you say your mind is at moving forward?
Moving forward, it’s tour time. It’s time to spread the word further. I think I’m starting with Australia next year; that makes me really excited. I also have my headline debut show in London which will be happening in October. I can’t wait to perform some of the songs on the album.
From Your Site Articles
- Watch Ruger Take Over a Ship In the New Video for 'Dior' ›
- Ruger Unveils Debut Album 'RU The World' ›
- Ruger Is Afrobeats' New Swashbuckling Star ›
Related Articles Around the Web