Timaya talks to us about evolving from 2006'sTrue Story to his latest album, Gratitude, while making his mark as one of the first mainstream Nigerian artists to have begun the afro-fusion wave.
On a December afternoon in the Lekki suburbs of Lagos, I can hear "Dem Mama," the hit track from Timaya's debut album True Story, being played in a store not far from the Airbnb I am staying in. It's a few hours before I have to interview the Nigerian star but as I listen to the song, I am fascinated not just by how relevant it still is but also by how much it still remains a bop through and through.
A few months before this, I last heard "Dem Mama" during the October 2020 #EndSARS protests in Port Harcourt, where Nigeria youths marched through the city protesting against police brutality singing Timaya's words. Back when it was released, True Story, the album which includes "Dem Mama," was an instant hit. The very distinct and very 2006 album cover was everywhere, the songs were played in the clubs, at home, in the cars and Timaya was on everyone's lips. The album was somehow filled with club bangers, protest anthems, and perfect singalongs. A testimony to Timaya's artistry.
Born in Port Harcourt, the capital of Rivers State, Timaya, whose full name is Inetimi Alfred Odon, briefly studied Banking and Finance before dropping out to move to Lagos where he worked with Eedris Abdulkareem as a backup singer for three years before leaving to work on his solo music. In 2005, Timaya released "Dem Mama," a song that bravely took on the 1999 destruction of Odi, a town in the Niger Delta area of Nigeria, and went on to release the True Story album. The rest as they often say is history.