Music
Photo courtesy of Drizilik.

Drizilik Is Carving Out a Space For Sierra Leone In the Afrobeats Scene

We speak with Sierra Leonean star Drizilik whose sophomore album, Ashobi, tells the story of Sierra Leone’s unique musical relationship with Africa and includes an appearance from Idris Elba.

I first came across Drizilk in 2019 when he released his "This is Sierra Leone" music video on YouTube—a cover of Donald Glover’s “This is America,” which was also included on his debut album, Shukubly.

Since then, he’s emerged as one of the country’s most exciting new musical talents, earning the moniker of Sierra Leone’s ‘king of new school music.’ The 2021 MTV Africa Music Award 'Listener's Choice' nominee has rocked stages from Freetown to Lagos to London in hopes of capturing the changing narratives around Africa’s music industry, with a Sierra Leonean twist.

Benjamin Menelik George was born in 1994 to a Krio family in the capital, Freetown. For the first ten years of his life, the city experienced many upheavals from the influx of internally displaced people escaping Sierra Leone’s devastating rebel violence in the country’s rural areas. Against all this, Drizilik tells me that music was always in his blood, and that he was inspired to start writing raps following the release of Drake’s 2010 album, Thank Me Later, but the thought of taking music professionally had never come to mind.

“I used my holiday money to buy cassettes just to know what was going on in the music scene outside. Back then I didn’t know I wanted to become a musician, I just enjoyed the music. But one holiday in 2011, my friend won a computer from a lottery and he downloaded the version of a DJ program. Normally we would just play football but that year, I made my first freestyle recording on an instrumental by Fat Joe and J. Holiday. We would record the audio on Windows sound recorder and sync it with the beat to get the record. It felt like something I could perfect.”

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