Interview: Terri Is Stepping Out of the Shadows


Photo courtesy of the artist.

Interview: Terri Is Stepping Out of the Shadows

We talk to the Wizkid-signed artist about the story behind the massive hit "Soco" and his latest Afro Series EP.

Certain afrobeats songs have made in-roads in international markets and paved the way for the genre's ceaselessly-rising widespread recognition. Among these history-defining songs were D'banj's "Oliver Twist," Tekno's "Pana," Davido's "If" & "Fall," Runtown's "Mad Over You," and of course, Wizkid's "Soco." Wizkid released "Soco" under his label imprint, Starboy Entertainment in March 2018, and the song spread like wildfire across Africa and beyond. "Soco" was an Afro-pop wonder delivered at a time when the 'afrobeats to the world' movement was gathering steam, further cementing its electric nature. The Northboi-produced song was co-signed by celebrities across the world like Rihanna, Cardi B, and Paul Pogba and has accrued well over a hundred million streams across streaming platforms worldwide.

"Soco" was not only a trailblazer amongst mid-2010s afrobeats records, it was also the introduction of the first Wizkid-signed artist, Terri. Just weeks before "Soco" was released, Terri was discovered by Wizkid's longtime producer, Mutay, who saw him covering the song "Oshe" on social media.

Before "Soco," Terri Akewe was well on his way to fame. At fifteen, he had performed at street carnivals in his neighbourhood and, one time, was carried all the way home by neighbours after winning a Coca-Cola sponsored singing competition. Before his life-changing meeting with Wizkid, Terri had a seven-track EP ready for release, as well as a viral song titled "Voices." "One time I was on set with the video director T.G Omori, he told me that 'Voices' was the first time he heard of me" Terri tells me as we settle on a plush couch at his home in Lagos.

Regardless of Terri's initial career trajectory; signing to a label headed by afrobeats' biggest superstar was bound to accelerate his musical journey, and at the same time, cast a huge shadow of expectation on his career, especially given a debut as spectacular as "Soco." With his latest EP, Afro Series, powered by the sensational single "Ojoro," one thing is clear: Terri is stepping out of the shadows into his own spotlight and he is doing it on his own terms.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Photo courtesy of the artist.

How long have you been making music?

I think I recorded my first song when I was 15. Before then, I used to sing a lot and a lot of people knew me. I performed for like two years at carnivals, back to back. I remember for that first song, we paid the producer half of the fee to record, and were meant to pay the other half after mixing and mastering, but immediately after we heard the first version, we didn't go back to mix and master it (Laughs).

The year after, Coca-Cola had this competition where they were going from region to region. They came with a studio van and we had to record there instantly. I actually won that competition. I remember that the whole community went home with me that day, screaming and shouting.

What was your stage name then?

(Laughs) Stone Teezy.

So, you're in secondary school making music & getting reception, did you ever think that you wanted to make a career out of it?

Yeah, it was from that point that I knew. I was trying hard to get into university because I knew that if I got in, I would have the opportunity to do music. I knew my music was quite good enough to convince certain people. The time I finally got in and was supposed to resume school was when I got signed.

Photo courtesy of the artist.

How did you get signed?

I was about to re-release my EP, Out Here, properly so I did a cover of a Wizkid song to get some attention on Instagram before dropping the tape and Mutay saw it and messaged me. I remember we recorded the video like three times. The next day when I came back to tell my friends that Mutay messaged me, everybody thought I was joking. Before I even met Wiz, I knew that that was the turnaround of our lives. I went to a hotel and stayed for like two weeks until I saw Wizkid, I was scared to go outside (Laughs). I just wanted them to see me online and see that this boy has done something significant.

How was "Soco" made?

We made it in like 30 minutes, so I didn't expect it to go that far. I was very surprised when I went online and I saw that Terri was trending. "Soco" happened the second time I went to link with Mutay and Wiz. The first time was just me meeting Wiz, and him telling me what he had in mind for me.

"We made ['Soco'] in like 30 minutes, so I didn't expect it to go that far."

Was it too big for you to handle?

"Soco" was quite big for an introduction song and I did not have any idea about it. When I did "Soco," I had no manager and there was a lot of pressure from people on the outside. Normally before labels unveil artists, there is a recording phase. Most artists that are signed to labels right now have this period before the announcement is made, the artist development period, where you are recording, where they do branding, I didn't have that period, that had to happen after "Soco."

What was that feeling like, you getting that co-sign from someone like Wizkid?

It was crazy. I couldn't picture what he was saying. He told me that the world needs to hear this sound..

Do you feel like the comparison that you sound like Wizkid affected the reception of your music?

I feel like every new kid is always compared to Wizkid, we don't make the same type of music. The space where I am at musically is different from where he is. Made in Lagos made that clear to everybody.

Terri - Ojoro (Official Video)

"Ojoro" was the lead single from your debut EP, Afro Series. Tell us about it.

I had "Ojoro" for a long time, I held onto the song for like a year. I couldn't release it because I knew I could not just drop it the way I dropped my other songs. I knew it had to be when I was dropping a project so I could drop it before the project.

Why was there a long wait before you dropped your debut project, Afro Series?

I had Afro Series for a long time, but there was Coronavirus and we were trying to be too perfect. We concluded to drop the tape in December 2019 but it didn't drop till May 2020 because of Covid, planning, a lot of things. When it came out, it was good. We made a statement that this is Terri.

The tape got leaked. How did that happen?

I don't know. Enemies. But we were very lowkey with the tape. We had a listening session where we played it from our system. Everybody else we gave it to was a private SoundCloud link. I was so shocked. I was the one that noticed, and I alerted my manager instantly. Because of the leak, I had to drop the tape the next day after I dropped "Ojoro," and it ruined our initial marketing plan.

Terri - Come Around (Official Visualizer)

After Afro Series, you were featured on Wizkid's Made In Lagos album on the track "Roma." How did that one happen?

We made "Roma" at Eko Hotel, I didn't even think it was going to be on the album. Wizkid played it to me but he was going to travel on that night. He just told me how he wanted to make the song and I did my part.

What's next for Terri?

Correcting everything that hasn't gone right so far. I have stayed in the studio, amidst everything I have maintained a sharp mindset musically, so there are going to be a lot of singles

What do you want Terri to be remembered for?

As that guy that never dropped anything bad. I don't want to be the artist of "now." I want to make timeless music. For me, I am on a different type of journey from everybody else, I am sticking to my journey, and I am not trying to skip any part.