Motherlan, the creative collective was founded in Nigeria in 2018 by a group of like-minded skateboarders whose shared vision spilt over into other disciplines, including art, fashion, and footwear. Since making the move from Lagos to London, it has been behind collaborations with global brands, including AwakeNY and Dr. Martens, cementing itself as a creative tour-de-force.
Founding members include Slawn, Leo (Soldier), Oneydi and Paolo, however thanks to the creative freedom found in the UK capital, the group has taken newer members on board, including photographer Fin Flint, musicians Trill Tega, Zac CV, Co-Pilot and Dior.
To kick off the new year, the collective has launched its latest venture, Cypher. The music video follows a freestyle that was recorded in one afternoon, reflective of the infectious creative energy shared by the group. We caught up with Motherlan to get the low down on collaborations, creativity and making music.
What is the new year looking like for Motherlan?
Onyedi: The ball is rolling.
You have previously said Motherlan is about presenting yourselves in your own way. What is something that you guys do differently from the rest?
Frederic: Well, I don’t know if it’s about what we do “differently” but more about the consistency. There’s skaters and there are great skaters, good artists and great artists; what really separates the good and the great is how long can you be great for. The reason Messi [and] Ronaldo are so great [is because] they did it for so long. Also just being yourself. Staying in your lane can be great – again to talk about football, Messi didn’t try and [score] 100 goals with his head like Cristiano. He knows his talents and stuck through with it.
Motherlan was formed from a shared mindset of skateboarders in Nigeria, how did you build the community in London?
Motherlan: How did we build it? Well, like you said it was a mindset in Nigeria, and there were a lot of kids like us with that mindset, we didn’t have to create a manifesto or brainwash anybody. If you were Motherlan, then you were Motherlan. In London, it was the same thing, we kinda came from Lagos on some nerdy sh*t. I think people would’ve thought our intelligence on skate culture or even pop culture would be bad cause we’re “Africans.” [It] sounds crazy, but that’s the mindset or stereotype people would label. We didn’t even have to do much, we were just ourselves, and people liked us for it.
Who influences you guys? Is there anyone in the worlds of music, art, or fashion that inspires the work you produce?
ZAC CV: Hmm. Personally I think Dean Blunt. I don’t listen to Carti, but he’s definitely doing his ting, and Fin Flint he’s a really good photographer, take it from me.
How are creative decisions made within the group?
Onyedi: Creative decisions are inputs from everyone. Whenever I have an idea for a design (I can’t use Photoshop for shit), I call up Petr or Slawn and sit down and execute what’s in my mind. They’ll also have opinions, and we incorporate [them] together. Then I’ll present it to [the] gang and get a general opinion. It’s basically like that for everyone. I trust their word because we are the epitome of Motherlan. This is us.
How has skateboarding informed other creative projects, for example art or music?
Slawn & Soldier: A lot of Skaters are raw and have their own styles. Pretty much every skater can do an Ollie, but what differentiates you from others is your style, your posture, your swag. When I make my art, I’m tryna bring something new to the world, but I understand I’m using a paintbrush just like most other people. What skating taught me is how to make it my own, how to even reference myself, create things [with] consistency, but make them different with their own stories.
When it comes to producing music and music videos, how do you guys come up with ideas?
Paolo & Josiah: We made a video production company during Covid called BrthaBrtha. Josiah Bello leads it. We just run videos the same way we run everything else. We plan, create boards of reference, we watch a couple films and start pushing buttons. Collectively, when it comes to music production, Alex Dugdale, Paolo, CV and a few guys like that need to be interviewed separately, like on their own, in their space. Genius.
2023 was a big year for Motherlan, which saw you guys collaborate with Dr. Martens. Is there one event or highlight that sticks out?
Collectively: It would be unfair to single any of them out [because] whoever gives us an opportunity is a baller. Before doing anything with anybody else, it’s probably in circle projects that we anticipate the most.
I can’t lie, it’s fresh to see what we do and pull a trigger. You have to have some real people on your side to do that [because] we live in a world where companies don’t just give big figures to just anybody. They look at stats and figures and progress and return. I think the projects we are excited about are the future ones we have lined up, in all honesty.
Since being founded in 2018, you guys have expanded with new members joining the group. What does it take to become a member of Motherlan?
TrillTega: I know what you mean, but ‘becoming a member’ sounds a bit cringe. Think of us less like a club, but more like a cult. If you wanna break down the mentality and structure that holds you down, then you’re Motherlan; if you’re just doing your own stuff, creating and minding your business, then you’re Motherlan. You don’t have to be a young cool rebel, one us just graduated Aerospace Engineering, with honours, on some bad boy sh*t – STILL MOTHERLAN.
You guys were founded in Lagos. How important is it to honour Nigeria in Motherlan’s output?
Collectively: I can’t lie, Nigeria is where it started, and it’s where it’ll evolve from. As much as we’re in London, Lagos is where all of us call home, and we see that the most when we come back. We’ve seen a lot of brands come from Nigeria and copy the next streetwear design but no sign of respect or spreading knowledge about your surroundings. Tega goes back everywhere for a city concert cause he’s really the guy like that back home. Can’t say too much, but Nigeria is still home like that for all of us collectively, all our family is there.
Cypher features verses from across Motherlan, including Slawn, Onyedi, and Soldier, as well as new members Trill Tega, Zac CV, Co-Pilot and Dior. How did you start making music as a collective?
Onyedi: Slawn, Leo and I used to fuck around and make music when we were mad young for fun, all of that shit is out there on the internet, and a few heads know what’s good. But we got friends that actually do this and are talented. In terms of us making this song, it was basically a freestyle recorded in a couple-hour session, and [we] shot the video the next day. Making music together is raw cause it doesn’t take much construction, things seem to usually just fall into place how it’s supposed to.
You guys have caught the attention of Supreme, with Fin shooting campaigns for the brand, and you guys starring in them. How does it feel to be recognised by such a major brand?
Slawn, Leo, Onyedi: Supreme have always shown us support when we first moved to London. They look after us, and working with them has always been natural. Fin Flint the GOAT.
Who normally wins at S.K.A.T.E.?
Finally, is there anything else you would like to share?
Motherlan, everywhere you go and join the cult.
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