The Nigerian star reveals that he was ready to quit music—but is now coming back stronger-than-ever with hits like "Para" and his forthcoming album, No Bad Vibes.
In 2013,L.A.X made a grand first statement in Nigerian music in the form of “Caro” his first hit song with Wizkid. Not long after, he signed a deal with Starboy Entertainment and released another hit alongside Wizkid, “Ginger.” For many, this enigmatic artist seemed like another ephemeral one-hit wonder, but L.A.X’s near-decade consistency has stamped him as an irrefutable fixture in Nigerian music.
Year after year, L.A.X released a combination of club bangers and sweet serenades in an exploratory stage that led up to his 2018 debut album Rasaking, which featured Yemi Alade, Maleek Berry, Davido and more. However, it wasn’t until after the release of his 2020 album, Zaza Vibes, that his efforts started to seem set in stone. “During the time I was about to drop that album, I was actually ready to quit music. I was like, 'This is the last album I'm going to drop and after this, I'm not doing music again'"
Auspiciously, Zaza Vibes put L.A.X on a refreshed pedestal and his evolution on display for listeners in Nigeria, and around the world. L.A.X has taken these new laurels in stride, building on the momentum deep into 2022 with collabs like “Options” with Ayra Starr, and solo offerings such as the mellow serenade “Waist Drop” and the August-released “Para.”
“Para” is an emotionally charged Amapiano track fueled by a frustrating phone call that prompted L.A.X to do some self-aggrandizing. "For 'Para,' to be honest, I was angry that day. The day I recorded that song, someone actually pissed me off regarding my music and I needed to vent my feelings,” he tells us.
Emotions out of the way and currently on tour, L.A.X virtually sat with OkayAfrica to discuss the evolution of his sound, processes of standout songs, the kaleidoscope of sensations that come with resonating with diverse audiences on stage, and his incoming album No Bad Vibes.
How did the name L.A.X come about?
When I was in secondary school, my nickname was L.A. Everybody knew me as L.A. When I started music—I did right after secondary school—it wasn't even as if I knew that I was going to do music, but I just used to record or be in the studio with a couple of friends. When I decided to start, I started calling myself L.A.X... I added 'X' to the 'L.A' and I just found an abbreviation meaning for it: Live And e(X)cel. That's how I got the name.
How did you find your way to music or did it find you?
I think I always tell people that music found me because when I was younger, I wanted to be an accountant or a business person. So, right after secondary school, I used to go to the studio with a couple of my friends and I never even used to record. I was just always there because I liked the way they created something out of nothing. It was just very crazy to me.
So one day, I went to the studio and my guys hadn't come, the producer guy was like, "Bro, just do something on this beat now. Don't you even have any knowledge about music?" So I recorded something that day, and to me, it didn't sound nice. I went to the studio the next day and he just played the song, and people inside the studio were like, "Who's this? This person's voice is nice. This person has a unique voice." From there, I started going to the studio everyday and it just became part of me.
Over the years, the L.A.X that we've been familiar with has gone through different stages of evolution. What drives you to constantly evolve and how do you go about it?
So, I always push myself to want to do more and I feel like the reason why I'm doing music, over the years, has—I wouldn't say changed, but—when I started doing music, I just wanted to do music for people who wanted to get away from feeling sad and wanted to be happy. I wanted them to just listen to my music. I've removed every other distraction like, "Oh, I want my song to be the biggest song in the world." or "I want to be the biggest artist in the world." That's not why I'm doing music. Even if it's 10 people that listen to my song and get excited and happy, it's cool. It's why I'm always talking about no bad vibes every time I'm explaining what my music is. I think that's what still keeps me. So, I'm not trying to look for the biggest song or the biggest anything, I'm just doing it because of the love and how my music makes people feel.
Your last album, Zaza Vibes, did very well, to say the least. How do you feel about your listeners' reception to it?
I've said this to only a couple of my friends. This is the first time I'm saying it for it to be published. During the time I was about to drop that album, I was actually ready to quit music. I was like, "This is the last album I'm going to drop and after this, I'm not doing music again." One week before the album dropped, I remember calling the label and saying, "You know what? I don't even want to drop the album again. There's no need to." Then, I dropped it like, "Let me just see what this is going to do." I was just looking at the numbers two to three months after and the songs were getting good numbers. "Go Low" already started blowing up. Then, "Sempe" came, and everything just started aligning. And I was like, "Thank God I dropped it." For me, I was excited that people understood where I was coming from with the music and they received it well.
What did you want to communicate the most with your latest drop "Para?"
For "Para," to be honest, I was angry that day. The day I recorded that song, someone actually pissed me off regarding my music and I needed to vent my feelings. I was in London, actually, and I got off a phone call, and it was so funny how the next phone call I got was from my producer and he told me that he just gave somebody one of the songs that was supposed to be on my album. You know how producers send beats to various artists. So, someone else already made music with the beat he sent me and that artist was ready to drop, and I already put the song on my album.
So, he called me and said, "Bro, I gave this person the beat before. I didn't know she was going to use it, but now, she has used it. Can you please take it off your album?" I'm like, "I just got off a phone call that pissed me off. You are now telling to—." I just told him, "Bro, I'm not even angry. Just send me another beat. I've left that one." And guess what? The next beat he sent me was "Para." Immediately he sent me the beat, I just sent him a message, "Bro. God bless you." I just went into the studio and what you are listening to on "Para" took one take. Apart from the "gongo aso" part, everything else was one take. I didn't even rewrite it or redo anything. It was how I was feeling that I said on the song, and obviously, I had to look for a chorus that people would be able to vibe to, so that's how "gongo aso" came into it. But that's how I was feeling. I was angry that day.
That came straight from the soul.
Most of my songs actually come from a certain place. Sometimes, it may be a story somebody tells me, and I go to sing it on a song. It may be how I'm feeling. The whole Zaza Vibes, I was feeling down because of heartbreak, and my career too. I wasn't really feeling good during that period. It's why I was thinking of quitting. That's how I actually recorded that album. If you listen to that album, there's a song called "Feeling." That's how I recorded, and that's how I was feeling. I now decided that instead of recording this album and singing sad songs, why don't I just sing songs for people that are heartbroken but need to get out of it. That's when I now said that this is going to be my vibe. I'm going to be singing songs that are uplifting and just make people happy.
Can you tell us anything about the new album that's coming? Things to expect or the name?
For the album, it's just the same me. It's just like Zaza Vibes II. It's just me still on the journey of making people happy, and that's why the name of the album is No Bad Vibes. So, I'm going to start a movement with the No Bad Vibes thing. I'm going to be doing a lot of things around it, even apart from the music that I've been working on. I'm going to be throwing parties with the name "No Bad Vibes." Just creating the world of "Life is just to be enjoyed." You don't need to overthink anything. Just live life. Even if it's not going fine for you, one day, it's going to. I feel like this is my best work in a very long time. I feel like this is my best work out of everything I've done.
How does it feel to have that wide range of people across the world resonating with your music that came from just somewhere within?
Trust me, it's crazy. Because coming from even what I said before, thinking that I wanted to quit music to now seeing people jam to it. The last show I went to was Norway and I could count how many black people were in the crowd, and it was over 1,000 people, and it was just white people singing the songs. East Africans singing, Swedish people too. It was just crazy. That just keeps me moving and makes me happy that I can still continue feeding people this music.
L.A.X - Sempe (R3HAB Remix) (Official Visualizer)www.youtube.com