We speak with Bad Boy Timz about the Headies, working with Olamide, the success of "MJ" and his run in 2020.
For once, Bad Boy Timz seemed flustered. On stage, receiving the award for Rookie of the Year at the 2020 Headies, the ascendant star isn't quite sure what to say, but then sure as day, he starts talking and everything is back to regularly scheduled programming. "As soon as I climbed the stage to pick up the award, I knew that I was in for the big leagues," he tells me confidently via Zoom a few days after the award ceremony.
When Bad Boy Timz, born Olorunyomi Timileyin, speaks, it's with the same high-octane energy that made his 2020 sonic offerings a welcome respite from last year's COVID-19-imposed listlessness. As part of the new vanguard of Nigerian musicians expanding the scope of afrobeats, the singer melds traditional music instrumentation with modern delivery techniques built around popular lingo and joyous melodies. Whether they be one-take freestyles or painstakingly written would-be pop anthems, Bad Boy wants to have fun—and he wants you to have some too.
"MJ," the song that catapulted him to mainstream attention is a pseudo-tribute to Michael Jackson that turned out out to be one of the biggest Nigerian songs of 2020, inspiring two remixes—with Mayorkun and Teni—and providing a pedestal for him to make a star turn on "Loading," a standout off Olamide's latest album, Carpe Diem. Timz went on to close the year with "Have Fun," a song that he says was made at the happiest moment of his life, and with a Headies win in the bag, he is looking forward to the next phase of his career.
Below, we talk about his 2020, working with Olamide, winning at the Headies, and his thoughts on the future of afrobeats.
Photo: George Ray.
You won the Rookie of the Year award at the 14th Headies, how did you feel, being recognised for your talent and hard work?
It was a great moment for me because it just dawned on me that you'd shine regardless of what you're going through or what is happening around you. Before I went to the award show, I had just one thing in mind: I wanted to trend on Twitter. That was all I wanted, my mind wasn't even on the award. And as soon as I stepped on the red carpet, I saw myself on the trends list and was pleased with that. But the award is very prestigious too and I'm so excited I won it because I know that there are more eyes on me and they are ready to be fed with greatness because I've been working so hard and this is the right time to let people know that I have a lot to offer. As soon as I climbed the stage to pick up the award, I knew that I was in for the big leagues.
You have a great relationship with other rising stars in the music industry, how important are those relationships for you?
I'm open to everybody. All the guys that were nominated in my Headies category are my guys. During the rehearsals for the awards show, we were just having fun and trying to predict winners. Beyond that, all the new school guys are my friends. Fireboy, Remmy Boy, Olakira, Jamopyper, Zinoleeksy, and Alpha P, they are my guys. I have songs with almost all of them. With the new generation, we are just trying to do things differently, and I'm sure the world would see it soon that afrobeats is taking a new turn, our artists are trying to work hand-in-hand for a greater cause.
You had a whirlwind 2020, have you been able to slow down and process all that happened for you last year?
Not really. 2020 was my breakthrough year. It was crazy how everything aligned for me. I dropped my first single of the year, "MJ," and we charted in three hours. For some reason, the song was released three hours before it was scheduled to drop and by 1AM., it was already charting. From our end, we expected people to stream the song and engage with it but also there were so many songs out at the same time but "MJ" just went off and it was great to witness.
Bad Boy Timz - MJ Remix (Feat. Mayorkun) Official Video youtu.be
It felt like you just had a moment with "MJ" and everything just kicked into gear, did you have a feeling that it was going to be that song?
I actually did because the song was a one-take freestyle but it just felt so good. I played it for my label and they told me to finish the song because it was going to be our next release. Even the day I recorded it, I made a reaction video of myself enjoying the song. And I just knew from the onset that it was the song for me to establish myself.
There was a lot of chaos in 2020, how did you protect the part of yourself that has to make all these fun songs from all the uncertainty?
I made "MJ" early in January 2020. At that time, Coronavirus hadn't really affected activities, so I wasn't even aware of anything until around March. And going from then I just tried to make myself as safe and calm as possible. When I recorded "Have Fun," it was basically the happiest moment of my life because I had just reconnected with a friend from high school and he's just like the happiest person I've ever met in my life, you rarely meet people like that: people who don't care what they are going through but just keep the positivity. I just caught the positive energy off him and asked him to go to the studio with me. We went in there and all I could come up with was, 'I just want to have fun, I just want to spend money.'
Is there any special way you're dealing with superstardom and all it brings?
Sincerely, there's no pressure on my side because this is how I've always been. From my university days, it's been about that lifestyle, but certainly, it's on a bigger scale now and I just try not to let it get to my head because there are a lot of famous people and there are still many people that don't know me. I want to get to a stage where I don't have to introduce myself anymore, even when I travel abroad.
What's your creative process like?
It mostly depends on my mood. Sometimes, I'm at my happiest and I just do one-takes; when I do this, I try as much as possible to leave it as it is and try not to tamper with the vibe—at most change some wordings. Other times, I have to be in a calm space to write the lyrics out so it makes sense and follows the storyline I'm trying to create. There's no format to it, it just happens based on the situation.
Photo: George Ray.
"Loading," your collaboration with Olamide was so well-received, do you remember how it was made?
Two months after "MJ" came out, Olamide reached out to me, he FaceTimed me. I'd not spoken to him for about two years if not more because we spoke for a bit after a freestyle video I did that went viral. So, Olamide reached out and told me that he'd been working on his album since March, he also said that the album would be incomplete without me and asked me to pull up to his place. Fortunately, I was on the mainland due to my parents wanting me to work in a safe space during the pandemic, and less than two hours later, I was with Olamide. He was shocked that I came so fast and we just got talking. We were also watching some throwback videos, just to catch a vibe before getting to recording and Olamide just asked about my challenges and my experiences. He gave me some advice too. Then P.Priime linked with us. At that time, Olamide was getting a tattoo done so he asked Priime and me to go record before he joined us. 45 minutes later, we'd finished the song, Olamide came in and in another 45 minutes, he'd done both verses. He's a legend, he'd just go to a corner of the studio and start spitting bars. It's mind-blowing stuff. We did another song on that day and funny enough it was the same day Olamide and Phyno recorded "Shilalo."
Were there any takeaways for you, working on a project with an icon like Olamide?
Definitely! Anytime I'm in touch with Olamide, he always has gems to keep me going. He'd tell me that no matter what was going on, I'll be great. He's like a big brother to me in this industry because I've known him before any of all this happened. He opened his doors to me without knowing who I was. I slept on his couch for two days the first time I met him. And the magic of it all is that every time I meet Olamide, there's something new to learn or understand; so, even before and after recording for Carpe Diem, he's still been great for me