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In Conversation: Aisosa is Nigeria’s Newest Lover Boy and R&B Champion

In Conversation: Aisosa is Nigeria’s Newest Lover Boy and R&B Champion

In Conversation: Aisosa is Nigeria’s Newest Lover Boy and R&B Champion | Afrocritik

“Writing and singing about love comes easily to me. I love writing about the bright and not-so-bright side of love. Happiness, yearning, longing, infatuation, and depression are all different parts attached to love which is at the centre of it all, and I love to explore these themes.”   – Aisosa

By Emmanuel Okoro

While conversations persist about the state and lifespan of Afrobeats in West Africa, the region’s R&B scene is relentlessly buzzing with fresh acts challenging norms one record at a time. One of such talents introducing the world to their unique sound is Michael Timiyen Igbinosa, popularly known as Aisosa.

The artiste, originally from Edo State but raised in Lagos, burst onto the music scene in 2021 with his debut single “All Time Low”, which was positively received by fans and critics. Aisosa quickly followed it up with “Abeg”, a staple R&B single that placed the spotlight on his career.

His performance on “Abeg” earned him the title of the ‘Fresh Prince of Nigerian R&B’ from The 49th Street, and secured him a spot on TurnTable NXT, a list celebrating Nigeria’s next-gen superstars. Last year, Aisosa released his debut EP, At Night, You Flood My Thoughts, a collaborative effort with producer, Undie Julius, and it was no shocker when it was listed as one of the best projects of 2023 Q1 alongside Davido’s Timeless and Lojay’s Gangster Romantic

For Afrocritik, I recently caught up with the singer and songwriter to discuss his upbringings and multicultural backgrounds, his unwavering love for music, his music-making process, and his latest two-track pack “Moonshine/PYT”, among other things. 

For our audience meeting you for the first time, can you tell us a bit about yourself?

My name is Aisosa; it is actually one of my names and not a coined stage name. I am the first of three children. I am a singer, songwriter, recording, and performing artiste from Edo State but based in Lagos. I would’ve called myself an all-round musician but I am still learning how to produce, mix, and master music.

You are originally from Edo State but grew up in Lagos. Did the multi-cultural locations, in some way, influence your music?

I grew up hearing a lot of Yoruba language and music, and as you may know, Lagos is like a cultural hub. Artistes from all over the country come to Lagos;  you hear a bit of everything and pick up different things from what you hear. But the predominant kind of music you hear in Lagos is laced with Yoruba. If I were to write a song that has a Nigerian language, it’s most likely going to be infused with Yoruba,  which I sort of did with my single, “Abeg”. 

In Conversation: Aisosa is Nigeria’s Newest Lover Boy and R&B Champion| Afrocritik

You got admission to Obafemi Awolowo University to study Computer Engineering, but you made the switch to study music. How did your folks take the news of your decision?

That’s what everyone keeps asking before they even ask me about my music.  Music is still a career that most parents would not allow their children to go into. And that’s because music is a tough landscape to be in. I have been pursuing Computer Engineering since my secondary school days. I wrote JAMB twice and wrote post-UTME to several universities for Computer Engineering, and after I got admission, it became apparent that I needed to study music.  The conviction was very strong, and it was as if the scales fell from my eyes. I had lost my mom since 2013, so my dad was the only one I had to make an impression on. I approached him with the topic, and he could tell that I was serious about it. He okayed it and has been very supportive since.

Did you think it was important for your dad to back you up on this?

Yes. To this day, even now that I have graduated, people still question my decision to pursue music. I understand that that may be coming from a place of love and concern because they see music as a huge gamble. But I keep telling them that I’ll be fine and my dad is fully supportive about it. So, that makes it easier. 

Obafemi Awolowo University, in recent times, has produced some of the biggest names in Nigerian music; from Bayanni, Blaqbonez, Fireboy DML, and Asake. How do you see yourself contributing to this remarkable tradition?

If you are a musician and you tell people you attended OAU, from their responses, you’d feel like you have an edge, because they naturally expect you to be talented like the names that have passed through there. Those artistes you mentioned are household names. People still happily talk about them. I never witnessed them perform when they were students, because I was several sets behind them. The only artistes that were from my set were Fave and Kold AF. I’m really looking forward to getting to that point where I become big enough to be brought up in these conversations. 

Afrobeats is the common denominator for the music in these parts. But what would you use to describe your music, and what do you think sets your sound apart in the music scene?

If I were to describe my music with something, I would say I make R&B. But if I were to give it a name in local parlance, I’d say ‘lover boy music’. Writing and singing about love comes easily to me. I love writing about the bright and not-so-bright side of love. Happiness, yearning, longing, infatuation, and depression are all different parts attached to love which is at the centre of it all, and I love to explore these themes.  

I think I have a peculiar feel to my music. The feeling of my music is something unique to just me. I have done a bit of experimentation on House, Afrobeats, Pop, and Amapiano-esque music, and interestingly, even though they sound different, people can tell that I’m the one singing on them. So, that sort of helps me spread my wings as far as I can. 

In Conversation: Aisosa is Nigeria’s Newest Lover Boy and R&B Champion| Afrocritik

Who are your biggest musical influences and how have they shaped your sound?

At various points in my life, different musicians influenced me. When I was around 15, I was listening to a lot of Ed Sheeran, which is interesting because I don’t think I have done anything that sounds like his music. But it’s in there somewhere, because I draw little inspiration from everybody, it is a part of my subconscious learning. I also drew inspiration from Beyonce, Tay Iwar, Johnny Drille, Nonso Amadi, and many others. I listen to so many people and they all influenced my sound one way or the other. 

Walk me through your creative process when making a new song. Where does Aisosa start?

Most of the time, I start with the beat. A producer either sends me a beat or I work with the producer in the studio. I sort of prefer the latter as it gives me real-time interaction and allows us to build on the music on the go. So, I select the beat that jumps at me and start working on my melodies. I don’t really care about words at this point, but just the feeling the beat gives me which is channelled through the melodies and flows. At this point, my phone recorder is on and taping all of this, because I don’t want to freestyle and forget. Most times, I don’t do all of this in one take. So, I listen to the recordings again and rework them. 

More often than not, I take parts of the recording from one take and merge them with another melody from another take. It’s a sort of Frankenstein move. Once the melodies are sorted out, I begin to write and flesh out the lyrics. Writing lyrics, for me, is interesting because I’m presented with a blank page. Most of the time, I don’t know where I’m headed when I start. I just see the story take shape and form as I go. When I was writing “Ily!”, I didn’t know what theme it was going to be. But as soon as I wrote “How did we get here? Slow dancing in the dark”, I got the hang of it. So, it just attacked it completely. 

After writing the lyrics, I put down the ideas for the adlibs, and get to work. Because I’m chasing perfection, I tend to record multiple takes until I am satisfied with my delivery, and that’s it. 

Your central theme on your debut EP, At Night, You Flood My Thoughts, is love and longing. Was that an intentional creative decision or it just happened on the go?

Yes and no. Yes, it was intentional because, at a point, I knew it would be nice to have a conceptual project where every song is important to the narrative. But when I started writing the songs, there was no direction.  I was casually chatting with UndieJulius – the producer who worked on all the music – in my room at OAU, and he brought out his laptop and started playing a beat. I loved it, and that beat became “Ily!”. Another time, he sent a beat, and that became another song. One day, I called him and said, “Let’s work together on a project. You produce all the songs, and it will be a collaborative project”. He agreed, and by the time we started working on the third track, it was apparent that the project needed to be conceptual. What made it interesting was that the first two songs we made flowed into each other, so we decided that the next couple of songs needed to contribute to the set narrative. 

You’re right about the central theme being love and longing, but it was also loosely based on the stages of grief. Each song highlights a specific stage when you really think about it. “Ily!” was me coming to terms that I am in love with a lady and I have not told her yet. “Lie to Myself” was me telling her that I love her only for her to say she doesn’t feel the same. I was in denial. “Poison” was me simply responding negatively to being rejected, even though my feelings were genuine. And then, “Prisoner” was me crawling back to her, and that was acceptance, bringing the project full cycle.  

Some musicians experience creative blocks which may impact the output of their music. Have you ever encountered a block before? What do you do to scale through it?

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I have had several creative blocks, and even in the course of making the EP, I experienced it as well. Sometimes, it might just be imposter syndrome. When I was writing “Poison”, I felt like the first verse was so good that I wasn’t sure I could deliver on the second verse. It took a while to write a second verse that could match the first in terms of quality. 

The worst block I ever experienced was a time when everything I wrote felt bland, and I just needed to take a break. I did this for 5 months, and during that period I allowed myself to rest and listen to more music, and it helped refuel my creativity.

I feel like musicians should listen to music outside their core genres, whenever they are experiencing blocks. I think it might open up their perspectives to new approaches to their own music.

Aisosa 1 scaled

Let’s talk about your new project. Your two-track pack, “Moonshine/PYT” is available on DSPs. “PYT” is my favourite song. How did you go about making those songs?

Interesting story; “PYT” would not have made the release. I recorded it in 2021 for something and it didn’t fall through. So, I was wondering what I was going to do with the song. “Moonshine” was the song I was planning to release, and I saw the opportunity to attach “PYT”, instead of letting it go to waste. Imagine my surprise when people, including you, started saying “PYT” is their favourite song when it was only “Moonshine” that would have been released.

Do you see yourself switching up your mellow sound later?

I love working with beats that I feel. I am a lover boy at heart, and I grew up hearing ballads and sweet melodies. So, I typically gravitate to music with melodies and emotions. However, I also see myself switching up the sound, because I don’t want it to get boring to listeners at some point. I may not completely leave this sound, but I would love to experience life from the ‘other side’. 

I have noticed a chunk of your projects are collaborative between you and producers. Do you see yourself working with other artistes? Who are your dream collaborations?

Your question is stacked, because yes, I have worked with several producers on my music, and I haven’t really worked with another artiste. I just hope it isn’t giving the impression that I don’t want to work with others. I just haven’t been opportune to do so.

I’d love to work with Tay Iwar, Nonso Amadi, Odeal, Tems, Ayra Starr, Qing Madi, Asa, Ed Sheeran, and the Cavemen.

You’ve been in the industry for close to 3 years. What are some of those insights you know now that you wished you knew when you first started? Are there any advice you’d want others to learn from?

I have been very fortunate to work with people who have made life easy for me. Music is very expensive, and hearing about that early on in my career would have made me more prepared. Learning about the business side of music is very important. A new artiste needs to learn about splits, contracts, and royalties, as it would help you advance in your career. 

Don’t be pressured into doing things just because of how fast someone else is moving. When you are talented, people will naturally want to latch on to you. The advice I will give is to be very careful and discerning about who you let into your team and space. Work with people who genuinely care about the music you create and not people who see you as a cash cow. Artistes need to give themselves time to grow and develop confidence in what they do. Some artistes tend to withhold themselves because they’re waiting for the perfect moment to launch their careers. Start from where you are; you may not be moving at the best pace but you will move, and that is what is most important. One step is better than no step at all. 

Emmanuel ‘Waziri’ Okoro is a content writer and journo with an insatiable knack for music and pop culture. When he’s not writing, you will find him arguing why Arsenal FC is the best football club in the multiverse. Connect with him on X, Instagram, and Threads: @BughiLorde.

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