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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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Phyno, Falz and Phenom Link Up for Socially-Charged Single 'Get the Info'

Phyno's new track is an indictment on the state of Nigerian society.

Nigerian rapper Phyno enlists fellow Nigerian MCs Falz and Phenom for his latest single "Get the Info," a socially-charged track that sees the artist addressing some of the most pressing issues facing their home country.

The track opens with words about government corruption, before the rappers deliver passionate verses atop the laid-back hip hop production from Major Banggz.

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The Decade In Afrobeats: Top Artists Share the Moment They Knew African Pop Music Would Take Over the World

In this retrospective, we asked Davido, Efya, Sarkodie, Falz, Lady Donli and many more to share their memories of Afrobeats music from 2009 to 2019 and what comes next.

The year was 2009, and the DJ had just gone through a spectacular run of some of the biggest Nigerian songs of the era: 9ice's "Gongo Aso," "Lori Le" by X-Poject and P-Square's "Do Me," to name a few. I was at a family friend's engagement party, and I had to sit down afterwards because my feet were starting to hurt after giving it my all on the dance floor while in heels.

It was a moment. Before then, the only music I had heard and fully accepted as "Nigerian" were the classic "oldies" from King Sunny Adé, Ebenezer Obey, Sonny Okosun or Fela—the staples my mom would play in the car on the way to school and all the other juju, fuji and highlife tracks that seemed to be mainstays at the "African hall parties" we'd frequent. These songs were familiar but they always felt like the music of a different time, of an older generation—especially to a first-generation Nigerian-American teenager like myself. If my friends and I wanted to hear something we felt we could dance to at these parties, we had to wait for the cursory run of "This Is How We Do It," and the "Cha Cha Slide"—if that ever even came.

Around a decade ago, though, this began to change, and in between the typical party anthems, there'd be this newer sound (not yet commonly referred to as Afrobeats) that marked the "young people's" time to hit the dance floor. It was a fairly new experience for most of us, hitting the "yahooze" and being able to enjoy music that felt like it was both wholly Nigerian and wholly for us at the same time. The parents didn't seem to mind it either.

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5 Women Doing Amazing Things Behind the Scenes in South African Hip-Hop

Behind every successful South African rapper of the last decade is a woman helping to get ish done. Helen Herimbi spoke to a few of them.

South African hip-hop had a great run in the last decade. As we start a new era, it's important to highlight the women who have played a pivotal role in the growth of the genre.

​Thuli Keupilwe

Thuli Keupilwe is the founder of LAWK Communications, an artist booking and representation agency that now works closely with the likes of DJ Maphorisa and Kabza de Small.

But she's not all about the yanos. Thuli has worked with urban music brands like Dreamteam SA and Homecoming Events, but in 2016, she cast her booking agent net wider and started LAWK Communications where she worked with DJs Capital and Sliqe.

The following year, Thuli received a phone call that would force her to level up. "Boom," she exclaims. "February 2017. PJay from B3nchMarQ called me. I was the one that pushed A-Reece to get onto his first Maftown Heights around 2014 and we're all from Pretoria so I'd known them since forever."

B3nchMarQ and A-Reece were gearing up to leave Ambitiouz Entertainment and when she agreed to be their booking agent, Thuli hadn't anticipated how much it would stretch her. Partly because the artists weren't initially permitted to perform their own songs—problematic for an agent who is meant to book them for gigs.

"I didn't see that coming at all," she says. "I was going up against the big guys, people I looked up to. I realized I needed to get a lawyer." Eventually, the artists were legally permitted to gig. "I had one of my biggest years with Reece after that. I am still with him till today."

A-Reece had managed to amass an enviable fan base size mostly from his online and streaming presence. Thuli works closely with him and counts using A-Reece's "Rich" song in a sync deal with the gambling website BET.co.za as a milestone in their partnership. "It was a good check," she chuckles. "And he was being himself and that's the most important thing to me."

Kay Faith

Authenticity has been the drive behind Kay Faith's work. The Cape Town-based engineer, producer and budding vocalist began her career behind the boards during sessions for the likes of Yasiin Bey, Nasty C and E-Jay.

She put out her own EP, In Good Faith, in 2017, and in 2018, she became the first female producer in the world to be featured on Apple Music's New Artist Spotlight.

She has also given us hip-hop bangers like "Slam Dunk" by Da L.E.S and YoungstaCPT. The latter is a frequent collaborator of hers. So much so that when his album 3T won the Best Album category at this year's South African Hip Hop Awards, she felt it was a win for her too. Especially since projects she'd worked on had been nominated and lost before.

Read: Meet The Woman Engineering Your Favorite South African Hip-Hop Releases

"When we started [the song] 'YVR,' I had this emotional feeling that it would be something big for Cape Town," Kay excitedly says. "From recording to mixing to mastering and featuring as a vocalist on 'The Cape of Good Hope' and 'KAAPSTAD NAAIER,' I was behind all of 3T. I even co-produced the 'Pavement Special' intro and the 'Outro' with Chvna.

"We spent 11 months crafting and him trying to get it to be perfect so it was a surreal feeling when we won Album of the Year. I even sent out a tweet saying: 'Can we just take a moment to realize that the South African Hip Hop Album of the Year was entirely engineered by a woman?'"

Kay's upcoming album, Antithesis is slated for a 2020 release. "It's going to be the first album of its kind, I believe," she says. "And I'm really trying to play with that idea of being the antithesis of hip-hop. I am a woman, an Afrikaans kid, in hip-hop. When I walk in, people don't expect me to be an engineer or a hip-hop producer and when I roll out my accolades, then they're like, 'damn, Kay's got game.' That reaction is what this album is about."

Phindi Matroshe

For Phindi Matroshe, the outside reaction to her work is not the most important thing. Phindi is a publicist and talent manager who owns At Handle, a PR and social marketing solutions firm. She was there before Nadia Nakai became a Reebok or Courvoisier ambassador and before she had sold-out ranges with Sportscene's Redbat.

She was also there when Nadia bagged a Best Female pyramid at the 2019 South African Hip Hop Awards. And she was right beside her when she scooped awards at AFRIMA 2019 for Best Artist, Duo or Group in African Hip Hop as well as Best Female Artiste: Southern Africa.

"Winning awards was never the mission," Phindi confesses. "Honestly, we have never done things to try and get awards. Nadia truly loves what she does and it feels great when that is acknowledged and someone pats us on the back for work we've done. I really love and respect what I do and don't see it as a job."

Having handled publicity for the likes of JR, Tumi Masemola (of Gang of Instrumentals), Shane Eagle, Major League DJs and more, Phindi pivoted to managing Nadia. She says: "Seeing the things we talk about come to life or when we're in the boardrooms signing those deals, those are personal milestones for me."

​Ninel Musson

Ninel Musson has been brokering some of hip-hop's biggest deals for over a decade. She co-owns Vth Season, a boutique full-service entertainment marketing agency with Raphael Benza.

A former party promoter and publisher of the wonted.co.za website, Ninel helped start a record label wing of Vth Season where AKA was their first signee. Together, they turned AKA into a mainstream success that the artist could bank on when he started the now defunct BEAM Group independent record label with Prince Nyembe in 2016.

Recently, Ninel and Benza, together with the Sony Music team, presented AKA with diamond and platinum plaques for several songs at a surprise dinner. "The music we went on to create became some of the best-selling records of all time in South Africa," Ninel says matter-of-factly. "When we started with him, the major labels said SA hip-hop would never go this far. We said we believed it would and then we did."

​Sibu Mabena

Cassper Nyovest seems to make it a point to work with women. In addition to Cassper's sisters running his Family Tree store, several Fill Up dates have seen PR maven, Sheila Afari at the helm. And while it's clear that the Fill Up series was always the brainchild of Cassper and his longtime friend and business partner, T-Lee Moiloa, bringing it to fruition has also included the skills and power of women behind the scenes. Women like Sibu Mabena, a multi-hyphenate creative entrepreneur who owns the Duma Collective.

"The day I landed back home from the EMAs, I went straight to The Dome," she remembers. "I said: 'yo, T-Lee, give me a job. I want to work on this thing.' He was like: 'bra, there's nothing for you to do.'" Sibu stuck around at the Dome, watching the production come together when a lightbulb went on in her head.

Read: Sibu Mabena Works Behind The Scenes in South African Hip-Hop, And She's Kicking Ass

"I thought: 'Cassper has 11 outfit changes. Who is helping him with those?' So Gareth Hadden from Formative, who was building the stage, said they needed someone to help with those changes. I forced myself into the Dome, and the next year I pitched to T-Lee to run the stage at Orlando Stadium. The following year was Fill Up FNB Stadium and there, I got a bigger job to run the talent operations. That's how we started doing the Fill Up Intern Search."

In the next decade of Mzansi hip hop, Sibu has her heart set on parties with a purpose. "All the things I have learnt along the way have led me to contribute to AKA's Fees For All Mega Concert," she shares. "I'm not coming on as just a creative or event organiser or marketer. It's demanding all of me. We're all tapping into a more philanthropic and less commercial role than we usually have so the pressure is that much greater."

There are plenty more women who've got game. From Lerato Lefafa, who has been a part of the team that brought us the SAHHAs and Back to the City to Bianca Naidoo who is a big part of Riky Rick's triumphant trajectory to women like Spokenpriestess, Caron Williams, Azizzar The Pristine Queen, Loot Love and way more who have, in the last decade, used their media platforms to lift up Mzansi hip-hop. In the next decade, women will still be a huge part of hip hop. It'll be interesting to see where that contribution takes the movement next.

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Photo courtesy of CSA Global.

In Conversation with Congolese NBA Player Emmanuel Mudiay: 'I want more African players in the NBA.'

The Utah Jazz player talks about being African in the NBA, supporting basketball in the DRC and how 'everybody knows about Burna Boy'.

Inspired by his basketball-playing older brothers, by second grade, Emmanuel Mudiay already knew that he wanted to play in the American National Basketball Association. Then in 2001 his family, fleeing the war in Democratic Republic of Congo, sought asylum in the United States.

In America, Mudiay saw basketball as a way for him to improve his situation. After impressive high school and college careers, he moved to China to play pro ball. Picked 7th overall in the 2015 NBA draft, the now 23-year-old guard has made a name for himself this season coming off the bench for the Utah Jazz.

Mudiay attests to the sport having changed not only his life but that of his siblings. Basketball gave them all a chance at a good education and the opportunity to dream without conditions. Now he wants to see other talented African players make it too.

We caught up with him to talk about his experience as an African player in the NBA, his hopes for basketball on the African continent and who he and his teammates jam out to in their locker rooms.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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