THE KEY TO LONGEVITY WITH FALZ
The term legend gets thrown around so freely in today’s industry that it has almost become devoid of meaning. Instead, the true measuring stick of legacy in the 10-second Tik-Tok landscape should be longevity. When it comes to Nigerian rapper Falz, his career has proven to be the crossroads where longevity and legendary status meet, crafting countless chart-topping singles for over a decade that have inducted and introduced countless international fans to the cult of creativity bubbling beneath the surface of Abuja.
He is not a musician easily categorised by genre having dabbled in the sultry waters of countless genres and stood side-by-side with everyone from Juls, SIMI, Ms Banks and Tiwa Savage. He will tell you himself that he is primarily a rapper, yet you would be none the wiser if the first glimpse of Falz was plucked from his latest album BAHD as he picks up a new audio palette filled with bright vocal harmonics and bold front-man delivery to paint us a new world to delve into and discover.
We caught up with Falz following the release of BAHD to gain some insight into his creative process, finding out how he keeps things fresh for himself and his audience after 10 years at the top of his field. We also had to find out what it was like to work with Ms Banks, how the Nigerian music landscape has changed during his tenure and what makes longevity so difficult to attain in an ever-changing industry.
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When it comes time to craft an album bro, how much of it is a clear-cut idea when you begin? Do you go in with a concept that you want to work around, an audio palette that you want to play in? Or it is very much a process of experimentation where you just get in the booth and see what happens.
I guess for different albums it changes, but most of the time I have a rough idea of what the sound I want to create is or perhaps a certain theme I want to base things around. Then it becomes a process of getting in the studio and building or picking beats that move the project in that direction. That’s when the work starts.
“Theme” is an interesting word, do you like to view albums as sort of an expanded single with one storyline running through it?
Yes, definitely. I see myself as a storyteller and as an album artist. Some artists thrive as single artists and others who appreciate the craft of compiling an album. I like to think I am the latter, for that reason when you listen to my projects you can feel yourself slip into a theme or see yourself going on the journey I’m taking you on.
When you are in the studio, who is sitting in that producer chair next to you? Do you like to work with the same producers consistently to build that chemistry or do you like bouncing off new input?
I mix it up for variety for sure. When you work with new people you realise how many different staples of working, thinking and creating there – particularly how many different sounds are out there to work with that different people can bring to the table. I love experimentation, whether it’s with new genres of ways or working. So it tends to be one producer one day and another the next.
What was the hardest track on BAHD to make? Is it now your favourite because of that?
That’s a tough one. Thinking back on it now I don’t think any of the tracks were especially hard to make. Shout out to the producer, featured artist and co-writers for making this project as seamless as possible. The only thing that I found unusually challenging was that I’m primarily a rapper but on this project, I sing a lot more than I have done in the past so I had to push my vocals to a place they hadn’t been before.
You have such a lengthy catalogue of tracks, what does your writing process look like now? Is writing therapeutic for you still or does it feel like work?
It’s definitely still therapeutic. It’s everything to me man, it’s life, it’s my avenue to be able to express how I’m feeling or what I want. It’s my opportunity to speak and if you listen to my work you hear my personal thoughts. Music is life so it hardly feels like work. Writing and recording music is still to me the most fun thing in the world.
How hard is it to build a setlist for a live show now? You have so many projects and fans will have a single they wanna hear but it might be off 27 or if it was me I would wanna hear tracks off Stories That Touch. How do you change your set depending on where you playing?
You have a point, it gets so difficult sometimes because everyone wants to hear something a little different to the person they’re standing next to. A lot of times people want to hear tracks off my first album and other times it’s a track I’ve made in passing that has affected someone in a way I could never have seen that means the most to other fans. I try to gauge the tone of the event as well as possible. I do a lot of advocacy work and activism a lot of times I’m performing at events for specific causes. For example, I was in Lagos a few weeks ago trying to get as many people as possible registered to vote as we have our elections coming up. We did a free concert so everyone could gather around and sign up so with that significance in mind I thought it would be important to go through my catalogue to find my most conscious work that could help awaken these people.
With that in mind, have you got a guilty pleasure track you like to play live just for you?
My favourite track to perform is ‘Bahd Baddo Baddest’ because there is just so much energy running through the song. Every time I perform that track it’s like the crowd is possessed. The henry on that record is too much, I don’t think I or the producer knew what we were making when we were in the studio crafting that track. It’s become so so crazy.
One of the standout collabs on BAHD, that I have to thank you for introducing me was The Cavemen on ‘Woman’. Those guys are awesome bro. How did that track come about bro? How did you guys get connected?
Everyone that I worked with on this project is genuinely someone I have always wanted to work with. The Cavemen were no exception and they set the tone for every feature of the project as they all went so seamlessly and straightforward with everyone coming through when they need to. I’ve always loved The Cavemen and what they can do with music is amazing – they can time-travel you to a different era. Being able to do that in today’s era is so hard. I needed to have those guys on this album because I wanted to collect a vast range of genres that slotted into the overarching theme and they fit into that vision so well.
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Speaking of past collaborators, we had the pleasure of interviewing SIMI, who you of course appeared alongside on a whole album for Chemistry. We were talking about the now global reach of Nigerian artists across the world It would be great to get your take on what you think has changed most about the Nigerian music scene during your time.
Can I be completely honest with you? I don’t think a single thing has changed. I just think the rest of the world has caught up. This amount of talent. This amount of beauty. The sweetness in this amazing crop of artists has always existed. New guys are popping up on the scene today that weren’t here before but our music has always been this fantastic. People are only just catching up now, which is great to see, but crucially African music is here to stay – all they had to do was let us in. We aren’t going anywhere again. The world is becoming smaller so music that is popping in Nigeria is now being felt everywhere because everyone is now catching the vibe at the same time.
We would be remiss if I didn’t ask about ‘Bop Daddy’ with Ms Banks, how did that collab come about? Were you a fan of hers before getting to work on a track with her?
I’m a massive Ms Banks fan. I love her style and desperately wanted to work with her on something. I sent her that beat and in a matter of days, she had the verse back to me. She smashed it, it was such a fire verse. Everything that happened to that track – we could never have seen coming. ‘Bop Daddy’ became so big and still is to this day. I just wanted to make a nice piece of music that was a perfect fusion of Afro and the UK sound. I think we were able to do that.
Lastly Falz, you are no stranger to a collaboration album, so if you could work on an EP with any musician or producer from history, who would you choose?
I think it would have to be Fela Kuti. He is iconic for so much more than just his music. He was equally iconic for the things he stood for and the way he carried himself. I think if he was still here and we got in the studio together – it would be magic.