We speak to the fast-rising Abuja-based rapper about his new project YPSZN2 and his take on the future of Nigerian hip-hop.
PsychoYP is easily one of the brightest stars to watch in the Nigerian hip-hop scene right now.
At only 21-years-old, YP has already amassed a healthy catalogue of music including two solid mixtapes and several collaborations with various artists in and out of Nigeria. His rap-sung melodious trap style resonates incredibly well with the younger generation and sets him apart in a hardcore-rap leaning rap scene. His 2018 debut project, YPSZN, placed him as one of the most prominent voices in the new wave of African hip-hop. It also earned him nods of approval from his peers as well as the veterans who paved a way for him.
His recently-released sophomore project YPSZN2, displays the rapper's growth and versatility as a song maker. "City of Kings," an ode to his hometown of Abuja, kicks off the album in high gear. Wavy cuts like "Strip Club" and "No Chaser" are the kind to bump loudly in the car or club, while "Superpowers" and "i&u" take you deeper into the rapper's earnest thoughts and emotions. The songs on YPSZN2 flow effortlessly into each other, giving the listener an enthralling and diverse experience.
The 16-track mixtape includes features from stars like Terri, LADIPOE, Blaqbonez, Skales and BOJ. Along with his Abuja-based hip hop collective Apex Village (including Zilla Oaks, Marv OTM and AYÜÜ) , YP is one of the key figures pioneering trap culture in Nigeria and steadily pushing melodic and experimental trap sounds within the country and beyond.
We spoke to the fast-rising rapper about his new tape, inspirations and his take on the future of Nigerian hip-hop.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Tell us a little bit about how you got started as a rapper.
As a kid I was always around music. My mum would would play Nigerian music, music from other African countries, and foreign music. I like to think she played a big role in putting me on this path by being in love with music. We'd have P-Square, Michael Jackson, Lil Wayne, and Drake (to name a few) on repeat every weekend. My two siblings and I all had experience with singing and rapping, but something about it just kept me going.
Eventually in about 2013 I met up with Kuddi, who was the same age as me, also in secondary school and had a whole studio. He engineered his stuff and I was just like 'wow.' At that point, the peak of it for a lot of people was recording on earphones with the little mic attached, and to just happen to meet someone my age, in my city... we both understood the bigger picture and how achievable it is with the right ethic and with people leading you the right way. Since then, we all just went for it.
How much do you think you have evolved as an artist since you dropped YPSZN1?
YPSZN1 was a big step for me. I feel like a lot of people were waiting for what I was gonna do next. I'm not the first artist out of Abuja, there had been a lot who had come out of the city and were making moves at paces we couldn't even understand. I think a lot of people thought I'd build up a lot of hype and it would go to waste.
I put a lot of time and thought into SZN1. The type of tracks, the arrangement, the producers, and since then I've realized a whole lot. I've evolved as an artist by how I express these tracks. SZN1 was great, I gave everybody a glimpse of what the journey is gonna look like. With SZN2 I'm a whole new person. A whole new artist. The music is at an international standard for me right now and I'm not taking my mind anywhere else.
PsychoYP - Be Like You (Official Video) youtu.be
What inspired this new tape in particular? What makes it different from the first one?
True story: I got back from uni one summer and I had a show. I wasn't even big at all this time. It was a prom and I'm 90% sure they only knew my songs because the sets year difference wasn't too big a gap from mine. After the show I posted a snap and a video on Twitter that said YPSZN. I looked back at it and nothing associated with me as an artist had ever looked so right before. I stared at it for a good five or ten minutes.
From then on I knew it was a sign, from somewhere, that my breakthrough wasn't gonna just come out of the blue. It's not gonna be a day or a week or a month. It's gonna be the longest lasting season ever. My season. YPSZN. The second tape is more of a revelation. The Nigerian hip-hop industry needs something. We've all said it and we've all wondered what it'll be. It's YPSZN2. It's the first hip-hop body of work out of Nigeria that you can comfortably take to SA and put it head-to-head with any rap/hip-hop albums that dropped this year from their top artists. Nigeria has never heard a project like this and, like I said in a previous tweet. "YPSZN2 is a dream come true for Nigerian hip-hop."
"The Nigerian hip-hop industry needs something. We've all said it and we've all wondered what it'll be. It's YPSZN2."
Tell us a little more about Apex Village and what it's like to be part of that collective.
Apex Village is a collective of some of the most talented people I know. They've all made a lot of things so easy for me and I can only do the same for them. It's one thing to just be in a group of talented people and it's another thing to be in a group of talented people where everyone can feed off everyone's energy and give it back 100% in everything we do. I know there's a lot of people who'd love to be in a setting like this.
PsychoYP - OGA (Official Video) youtu.be
What does "Alté" mean to you and would you consider yourself as part of that movement?
I'm not really sure what alté means even but, personally, I'm guessing it's an alternative lifestyle, different from the "norm" and it gives people ease of expression. I wouldn't tag myself as alté mainly because I'm not from Lagos and I'm not really sure how the culture is over there. Also I wouldn't think of my music as alternative. I'd say it's worldwide music. I've had producers come to me saying "let's make an international record" and it'll be a hip-hop/rap beat which is my comfort zone. So I'd say because I'm working with international sounds and lyrics I'm just an artist in my own lane for now.
Where do you see Nigerian hip-hop going in the next two or three years?
I love this question. It's going to be a beautiful scene. You see how SA's hip-hop scene grew into something huge. That's how it's going to be for Nigeria, but even bigger. I'm so glad that I'll most likely be up there representing with along with people Blaqbonez, Straffitti (to name a few) who can make a hip-hop record and take it to the charts at the same time our biggest artists are also dropping music. In two to three years we should be going number one from Nigeria with hip-hop records like it's normal. I don't know about everyone else but I'm 100% sure I will.
YPSZN2 is available now.