Delving into the mind of the futuristic, forward thinking multi-hyphenate Nigerian Creative, Prodigeezy
It was in February 2021, I recall, that I got in contact with Iyobosa Rehoboth who goes by the moniker, Prodigeezy, to have a chat about his journey as a creative. At the time I initiated this contact, I did so because I observed the wide and deep variations in the creative approaches Prodigeezy has tried and successfully expressed his art through. If I could attach an adjective or noun to his creative pursuit, I would. But what name would you ascribe to a person who basically explores new creative spaces, becomes successful at them and then moves on to something even newer?
Having been an early comer to experimenting creatively with new technology in the early 2010s and having also worked in the photography and videography space of the music industry for almost a decade, Prodigeezy’s approach is built on human-centred storytelling. Presently, he is expressing himself building and escaping into 3D Extended realities such as Immersive technology, Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality, Crypto Art and all that surrounds it is really not a thing of surprise. His process is mostly achieved through Community building and Thought Leadership, employing exponential technologies into product development.
At the time we had the conversation that led to this article a year and six months ago, he made mention of the fact that he was getting into the fourth phase of his professional career as a creator. He also teased that he was working on a brainchild he wasn’t going to elaborate on. I decided to wait to see what it was before publishing this article. Of course, I got tempted a few times to just let it out. I think it is the right time now, having seen the beginning of the birth of his work in the Nigerian NFTs space through the Heads by BNXN collection and the Nigeria NFTs Community. In this space of time, Prodigeezy has also been a part of community projects such as the Guardrail Project.
This story you are about to read is told by Prodigeezy himself. The purpose of its publication at this point in time is to help you, the reader, understand that his journey to this point has not been a cold trail, but one guided by intention and begun with fortitude. Ultimately, it is my hope that you get to live in Prodigeezy’s lenses as you walk through this part of his still not-yet-fully-written life story.
PS: THIS STORY IS WRITTEN FULLY IN PRODIGEEZY’S VOICE. PLACES WHERE THE INTERVIEWER POPS IN WAS ONLY LEFT IN THE STORY SO IT MAINTAINS ITS ORIGINAL FLUIDITY. IT IS PUBLISHED IN TWO PARTS
PART ONE: STARTING OUT, REACHING OUT, FINDING BALANCE…
I started out on my creative path about a decade ago now. I can say personally that my journey into creativity started in 2010 when I realised that I had a flare for creative endeavours. I think that was when I wrote my first article. Through it, I realised that I have an inkling towards creative writing. That’s where it really all began.
I transitioned slowly away from that into Design. It just seemed like doors were opening as I just kept chasing every creative venture. Luckily for me, that period was the advent of the internet. We were just beginning to have mobile internet and Blackberries at the time. I learned to use all of that.
I hopped on YouTube pretty early too. I’m probably one of the first people who used YouTube as soon as it became popular. On YouTube there wasn’t that much content focused on trying to teach people how to make stuff at the time. It was a tailored niche. There were only a few people doing “How-To” tutorials then – any kind of tutorials at all actually. Most contents you would find on YouTube at that time were funny videos and compilations. People just uploaded weird stuff. A lot of people were still experimenting with the platform at the time.
From YouTube, I hopped into making graphic designs. I was studying computer science as a Part-time student then. I was into networking, programming, all of that stuff. Those were my just-fresh-out-of-high-school days. I worked on that for a while.
When I got into Uni. I met a guy who was a rapper. We kind of partnered up. I said to him, ‘Let me start doing your Graphic art for you to promote your shows and singles with’. That was how we got partnered up. While I was working with him, my role somewhat became like that of a Manager. It got me exposed to the entire showbiz life – the music video life. That was my first experience of showbiz and the music business. And it was just low-key. This was back in Port Harcourt. I had to understand from a fairly small, almost non-existent industry.
Lucky for me, I figured out how to move in a space like that. I think I started by wanting to be more around creators – musicians, other music video directors, photographers and all that. So that was how the passion built up for me.
I was already gaining a bit of popularity with my graphic design works. I was pretty good at it, I must say. I was making a lot of stuff for people and for my artiste at the time, including churches and people from various industries. In fact, in a small town like Port Harcourt, word travels really fast and even faster if you’re good at what you do.
Through graphics I realised I needed to learn some level of photography in order to make my work better. I somehow convinced my family to get me a camera. I think that’s the mistake that everybody made; when they put a camera in my hand. As soon as I had one, it didn’t take me long to figure out that cameras could also shoot videos. I realised that making videos was the coolest of all the things I was learning to do.
I kind of saw the future in a glimpse. I saw what was possible with video. At that time, what we have right now with content video was not possible. It just wasn’t possible to make content videos in 2012/2013. First of all, the internet was painfully slow. You couldn’t even consume a lot of video content on the internet. That was the first problem I encountered.
Anyway, I figured out I was really passionate about this video thing and I couldn’t return to Uni at that time because there was a strike. Regular ASUU strike in all of its glory. I was going to be sitting home for a year. But on the bright side, I had my camera in my hand. I began to really hit the street, doing all the work.
After a while, my artiste left Nigeria so I was back to being all alone.
‘What am I going to do now? Who do I create with?’ I found myself asking… So I asked my family, ‘Can you guys put me into Film School? Let me see if I can go learn this thing for real and try to make a life out of it.’ After countless arguments for a couple of months, I got into Film School. I think I studied filmography. I learned that for a while. It was basically picking up a few history on film with a bunch of people. I wasted around for about a year. Then in 2015 I think, I moved to Lagos.
Interviewer: You said you started as a creative writer and then you went into design, before you got your camera.
Yeah. When I moved to Lagos, I didn’t really come back with the intention of being a music director, I only wanted to be a Director Of Photography (DP) – like a cinematographer.
So what changed your perspective of things —
What changed was the reality of the structure of the industry in Lagos at the time. It was a lot. Even now, I think it is still really bad.
There was no structure. There really was no pay nor respect for DPs. I was just fighting for survival. I needed to just survive. This was a new city for me. I didn’t really know anybody. This was my first time coming here. I basically had to start from scratch. So it was important to me to start making money as soon as possible.
I tried my hands on DP for a while. I DP’d an art film for Imoh Umoren. I DP’d a bunch of stuff. I think I was a good DP.
After a while, I realised that it was much easier to come around being a director. And because the first space that I had really worked very well was the music video space. When I came I was with Aje (filmworks) for a while. I really resonated with his work.
As a matter of fact, the reason that I really remained in Lagos is because of Aje. He asked me to come. But I couldn’t see him for a long time. In my mind I was like ‘let me just jam at my friend’s place for a bit then go back to PH’. I finally got a chance to meet him, so we started working together. I ended up moving in and living with him for a long time. I think it was for a year or so.
During that time I worked as his DP Aiding. I gained a lot of contact in the music space, music business generally. That was my eye opener to follow where the money was. I thought it was glamorous, getting to know people very quickly and leveraging some brand power. I got into that and worked with him for a while. Then I wasn’t feeling the situation after a bit. So I decided to pop out and then I had the opportunity to work with a new company. It was a company that was just expanding. The Aristokrat group. They were trying to branch out into a more corporate structure.
Burna Boy was an artiste under the Aristokrat group and it was in this period that he had his first big break wit Like To Party and Tonight. Aristokrat Group had made a bit of money in the first couple years of that era. They wanted to move from living in a mansion into a much more let’s-build-a-system, build-an-office, bring-people-together sort of corporation.
At the time I joined in, they had gotten a space and they had some of everything I just mentioned. They had put a system together. They had built an office, and they launched a video production company alongside the brand. PeeDi Picasso who runs Aristokrat is a friend of mine. He reached out to me and said “This is what I’m building, are you interested?” because I had told him I was out looking for a job. “If you see any opportunities let me know” is what I had told him.
At the time he reached out to me He said, “I can’t find anything for you, but this is what I’m working on and it’s new and fresh so if you tag along with us we can run this together and see where it goes”. That was what happened. The year was 2016.
I became one of their principals, and we signed a deal. The name of the video production branch of the company was Aristokrat Vision Production. It was under that system I shot my first music video in 2016. The video was for Ozone’s Destiny.
That’s my first music video. I shot that and we launched it. But I really was trying to get to the point of understanding the media business, and PeeDi is a fucking mastermind. When it comes to making moves, building and maintaining connections, putting things together and just optimising profit, He’s your typical kind of guy.
While he was running the business, I learned a lot from him. I learned a lot of things from people that walked through the doors of Aristokrat. It was a good time. I met so many people. A lot of celebrities. That’s when I first shot my first Burna Boy video Which was “Boshe nlo”.
I was doing a lot of work myself, just trying to put myself out there. I started learning client relationships, I started learning how to do things the right way; how to properly document, how to properly propose, how to get money out of projects, things like that. So I worked with him. It was actually very profitable. We made a lot of money in 2016 just from all we did. PeeDi really grew the business.
But then, I felt like I needed to move on as well because I’ve always had the desire to do my own thing. Every single person I’ve worked with was aware of this. They would be like “This Geezy guy he’s just going to work here and bounce”. It was always like that because I made it clear that I had the intention to build my own thing; that I had my dreams. So it was always like “I’m gonna be here, I’m going to work with you and do the best that I can, but one day I’m gonna have to Bounce!” That’s what happened with Peedi and the Aristokrat Group. I left when I felt the time was right.
A year later, in 2017, I was back in the streets. It was actually a very brutal year for me because I was just trying to find balance. Life was really just pushing me here and there. What I really wanted to do was launch my own video production company. I made a couple moves, got hit here and there. I Knocked a couple doors and eventually, I launched GCO which started as basically just a video production company at the time. We started working on that and everything that anyone sees today is a product of those decisions I made in 2017. What GCO has become now is a communications group. We just don’t do videos anymore. We’ve branched out into a lot of other things.
Basically, my dream of becoming a media mogul is just getting started at this point because right now I feel like I’ve finally found balance as a media entrepreneur, as a creator, as a director – in every form of my creativity. That’s basically where I am right now.
PART TWO: SOCIAL CONSCIOUSNESS, THE BIG BREAK, CONSTANT EVOLUTION…
INTERVIEWER: You mentioned that at the beginning of your creative journey, when YouTube was a new thing came out you were one of the first few people to experiment with the program –
– That’s a harsh claim Sha. I wasn’t one of the first people to use the program. It’s more like in my music community where I was at the time, I was preaching the Gospel of YouTube like “Yo! You guys should check this new website out!”. Because then, what people were spending time on was Facebook, BBM… even Twitter was just starting to Pop. Nobody was really watching videos. Then you had data plans of 100mb a month. You remember? Like 500mb a month. So you couldn’t really stream much. And the internet was 3g. 3g was the best you could get.
But I used to go through that stress of just trying to stream because it was a new way to find information and I was just looking for information. Even prior to that period I was one of those guys who had hard drives; hard drives of videos and random things that I loved to share with my friends.
I think I always had the inclination that the media of content and videos was going to be the future. The future was actually happening then, I just didn’t see it clearly enough to make a prediction. But I had a feeling that something like that was going to be big. So I was definitely one of the first in my group of guys to use YouTube. That I’m sure of.
And I know that I’ve consistently used YouTube for a long time since then. It’s almost a decade now and I still use YouTube. I’ve literally built my life around it. YouTube has taught me so much. And I can say that it was my University. YouTube was my University. Still is, because I’m always learning.
INTERVIEWER: I was driving at the fact that you somehow just enjoyed using YouTube and believed in its potential and you really keyed into it… I think it’s fair to say that you love to discover new technology and you try to help people see the potential whatever you’ve found carries. The same thing is going on presently with how you are exploring and expressing yourself with virtual reality…
Exactly. It’s happening all over again and the same way I felt with YouTube is the same way I feel right now. It’s about to happen. So yeah. You’re right. You’re definitely right about that.
And that’s the thing about being one of the early testers of any new technology. Because you get to use it in its raw form, such that you understand the basics of it. So that even when it’s now commercial, even when it is now mainstream, there is a certain type of attachment that you have to it. There’s even a certain type of understanding. Because before something goes mainstream, there would have been many different versions of it. And before it gets to that point, a lot of things would have been scraped out. What you see is the final pretty product. And you just take it as a product but you never really understand how it works. And that’s how I understand video.
I understand videos and the making of them down to the psychology of how it affects people when they watch it. Do you understand? That’s because I was there at the beginning. Well, the beginning for me. Because I also went to film school and I tried to understand it in its early form through its history.
When VR gets everywhere, people are not going to be bothered about studying the history of how polar distance is necessary for getting good footage in your VR system. No one’s going to be bothered about all of that. They’re just going to snap it and try and have a good time.
That’s the thing about being an early tester. It gives you that edge over others and you can truly say that “Yes I was one of the early users” — And it’s not even a thing to brag about. It’s just a point for you as a human being. Just that you’re lucky to have seen it become birthed and it’s just a life experience that you hold onto forever. You get what I mean.
INTERVIEWER: Now, let’s talk about your awakening to social consciousness and working with an artiste like Falz –
The third part of my journey – Because I like to think of my career in different parts – (I think I’m just about to enter the fourth part now by the way) – the third part was when I began to do social story telling and like story telling for sustainable change and sustainable design. So when that became a part of my life I just genuinely became interested in contributing to the messages that people see everyday in ways that it influences their lives. In ways that it channels them to do positive things. In ways that it just immotes you to take action. And that was when I met Falz actually.
Meeting Falz was a very interesting experience for me because I had tried to work with him for a long time prior to that. It just didn’t happen. You know how it is when you’re trying to prove yourself. You have to keep sending messages, meeting people at parties, meeting people at weird places. Yeah. But after a while I got an opportunity to do something for him. It wasn’t a music video. It was just some other kind of video. He went on tour and he wanted me to shoot something. I did the shots and delivered them to him.
The second time he reached out he was like, “Okay I’m doing this live session with Simi…” – which never came out by the way – “…I want to film it”. We filmed it. It came out really dope but some ownership issues popped up here and there, and it never came out.
So, I had worked with him on some level. We were communicating but I had just never made him a music video. He always gave his video direction jobs to Clarence (Peters) or some other people, not just me. And I understood it. I was a young director and the biggest video I had at that time was “Boshen Lo“. And it was just not good enough. It was good enough to get me some minor jobs but sometimes it wasn’t enough to get me newer and bigger gigs.
So, a crazy time in my life happened when I was just having a very terrible year. This was the year 2018. It was a bad business and personal year for me. I was actually in a very very tough situation. I think I was even homeless at some point. It got to the point when I decided to just go home to see my family and try to recalibrate; “maybe this Lagos thing isn’t for me”, I thought. So, I went back to PH. I think with the last 40k I had in life, I booked a flight ticket, went home and I was back in the house that I grew up in. Back in the house where all of my dreams started and it was just a very profound moment for me that night.
In my head, I thought “okay, whatever happens happens, I’ll leave this nice dream. I lived in Lagos, I did all of these. Maybe it’s time to hit reality”. But then that same night…
Crazy story, people think it’s not true but this actually happened. About 4am the next morning after I got home, Falz called my phone super early in the morning and he said “Yo! I just recorded this song and I would really like to have you shoot a video for it, and you have to shoot it tomorrow”. It felt like a dream so I hung up the phone.
He called back and said “How far, can we get treatment today? Can we shoot?” He was really really in a hurry. That was maybe a Tuesday when he called. I was back in Lagos on Wednesday. This was me, a guy who left Lagos for home on Monday. I was back in Lagos on Wednesday. We shot the video on Friday and it was out on Saturday. It was the video for ‘This Is Nigeria’.
Because of all of the fatigue of that week (I was so tired that weekend – having to fly to and fro, plan and shoot a music video, I was so tired). Immediately after that shoot on Saturday, I was in my friend Wande’s apartment. You must know Wande. He was not even in Lagos at the time. After the video, he went to Abuja for a family thing. So I was just alone in his house. I slept till 8pm the next day to tell you how tired I was. When I woke I was in some kind of trance because I wasn’t really sure of what was going on. I remember my friend had a birthday party that evening at Ted Chaplain’s. If you know Ted Chaplain…
Yes, I know a Ted Chaplain song with Ozone –
“I’m trying to get across to you
Feeling kinda lost without you…”
Exactly. Tete is my friend. We both grew up in Port-Harcourt. Tete was having a birthday that day. This was on Saturday. As I got into the house at night like, about 9 o’clock PM, I observed some girls at the door. They were watching something that seemed to have their interest on their phone. They were just watching and laughing. I didn’t pay attention to what they were watching.
Just as I got into the living room, Te was talking to these girls I saw outside like “Yo! Yo! This is the guy, the Geezy guy who shot the video”. Apparently what they were doing was they were watching the video we had shot two days ago. Because I wasn’t really on the internet I didn’t know what was happening. They were like “Yo! This video is crazy.” In my head I was thinking, “We shot it yesterday and it came out this morning”. Already that was a crazy thing. I remember that I uploaded it all night. It’s actually a mad story.
Anyway, it turned out that everybody in that party that night had watched that video some time during the day and they were mind blown by it. And apparently it had gotten to a million views within 24 hours. It was something crazy. And then, that’s just the exact moment my life changed. If you actually ask me.
INTERVIEWER:So you consider that moment as your big break into the industry?
That was definitely my big break in life overall. That was when I knew that all of these shit was worth it. And that you can actually build something amazing around it. I don’t even know how many views it has right now, it’s got a lot of views. I think 40 million. I don’t know…
So yeah, it was after then that I had a shift in things for me. I think I’ve been busy ever since. So, yeah, I took that flame. I burned it through the whole Moral Instruction, Hypocrite, Killin Dem. Through that era basically. That was for like two years. It’s been almost two years now. Burned it up until now.
Now I’m just trying to experiment with something. And this is a new stage of my career right now. If anyone asks me what I’m doing right now, I’d tell you I’m floating. Because to be honest I’m trying to express the thing that’s trying to come out of me. I don’t know what it is yet but I have a glimpse of it. I’m not ready to put it out yet but I’m getting glimpses of it. That’s just a short overview of my career so far. So it’s compressed into ten years from the very beginning. But from the time that it actually professionally kicked off. Let’s just say a little over six years.
INTERVIEWER: About that ‘This Is Nigeria‘ video, what was going through your mind? I mean the whole story, the whole concept. I know it was patterned after Donald Glover’s This Is America video but the way you portrayed it… I’m sure there were a thousand options situations to pick from on things going on in Nigeria but you were so specific about the snake, and there was a backlash about the hijab girls. Throughout that period, there was a massive controversy over the video in the country. What was going through your mind?
I just felt like finally the world has seen what was in my mind. ‘This is Nigeria’ was a representation of how my mind worked. And all of the subjects and objects and scenes that you see in ‘This Is Nigeria’, they were personal to me because they were things that were affecting me at the time. And I could have said the same for Nigerians because our situations obviously were a shed.
At the time, the elements I inserted into that video were the ones that were my personal concern. For example, like the snake swallowing. Were our minds not blown when we heard that a snake swallowed 36 million Naira? Do you understand? So me I was like ‘What the fuck does that even mean’. I was mad about it. That was the only avenue I had to express myself. So when people saw what it was and how it was made, it was a bitter-sweet experience. Because I was like finally! I have a chance now. But also it was so real because everybody carried it to the severity of our case. The video was kind of like an eye-opener. The amount of people who fucked with the video tells you how much severe the situation was. So it was bitter-sweet. Like, okay cool for me. But like the rest of us are actually just out here, including myself. And we could just die any moment. Literally, as a Nigerian. And it’s crazy cos’ I was even watching that video like a few weeks ago and not much has changed since then. It’s so sad.
INTERVIEWER: Not much has changed since forever.
Not much has changed since then. It’s so sad. Like, even if you make another one and it goes viral again, I mean. It is what it is. Let’s not really get into that. But that’s what really happened. And then I joined some organisations that were interest groups in certain things. Like, one for the global goals another for irregular migrations. I just had a couple of interests here and there. That has also powered some of the work that I’ve done, most of which I can’t even show because of the sensitivity of what we’ve done. And because of clauses and all that. But that was the point in my career where I used my voice to actually talk about things that matter to me and that also matter to others.
INTERVIEWER: You’ve been collaborating with Falz since then. You shot ‘This Is Nigeria‘. Then you shot a visual ‘Sweet Boy Association‘, and another video for The Curriculum. Most of them are socially conscious songs. And I know that most of these videos could work in that way because they were with Falz and Falz is very socially conscious. Is this something you put into consideration when you’re trying to collaborate with people? Their beliefs and their principles?
Not all the time. Because at the end of the day I’m still a commercial service provider. Sometimes people come to me with certain ideas and I have to do it because it’s my job to do it. But in a way, Yes as well. Because I wouldn’t necessarily compromise on my own principles. So if for example somebody came to me with a certain project that would display certain things that I don’t believe in, things that I don’t want to be associated with through my voice, I’d have to turn it down. So in a way I consider people and their values when I work with them.
But I’m also not picky when it comes to that as well. I’ve also realised that I have a skill that has to be monetized. I prefer finding a balance. And it’s not really everytime that I want to talk about social issues. To be honest I got tired, we all do. Do you understand? I wouldn’t necessarily call myself an activist. I’m not a freedom fighter. I just have a specific type of voice that can tell specific types of stories. So I try to channel that.
But all in all, I feel like the scope of my work is still tailored around my principles as a human being first of all.
Okay. Now to ‘Barawo’. The video came out when the End SARS protest was getting hot and the concept of the video is Justice. Because the guy who was stealing the money to me represents like…
Retribution is the word you’re looking for.
Exactly, Retribution. The guy stealing the money in his agbada seems to represent parastatals who are being corrupt with public funds. He had his fun with the funds till the end where he was grabbed and then punished by the people. When I watch videos I attach characters to people. I don’t see them as the artist would. So the guy was being punished by the youths per say…
Yeah. Under the leadership of our youth president. Either OBO, Wizkid or Burna. You understand. So you’re right.
Right, right… Looking at it from that perspective and the video in all representing what is going on in the country, do you feel like what happened in the video can transcend into our own reality? Because I know that’s your imagination. But in the near future, do you think –
But it did actually. And the way to think about videos is not to think about it literally even though sometimes these are actions.
So, the young people punishing the politicians and all of those elements in the video didn’t necessarily mean in a literal way like, one day we’re going to come to your house and beat you up. Nah! It was in a much more symbolic form.
And if you think of it, it kinda happened with the protest. The whole EndSars thing. That was what happened. Because the Idea of ‘Barawo’ was people having enough. People who had gone through too much. They have had enough and they finally decided, you know what, we’re going to go to where our enemy is and we’re going to take over his hole, we’re going to fuckup his house, we’re going to eat his food, we’re going to basically trash him out. That’s the sequence that happened in Barawo.
If you relate that to the Nigerian situation, we had had enough. These guys have been killing us. They’ve been killing us for years. For decades. For the first time in a long time we decided that we’ve had enough. We’re not going to take this anymore. We didn’t necessarily go into the government house. We went to the gate in government houses all over the country. We went to the streets. We went to the monument. We went to the tollgate. All of these places. And we displayed our anger. Obviously we cannot take up arms or whatever, I don’t support that. We cannot go anarchy on people. But we did what we could with the power that we had. That’s what happened if you ask me.
It’s possible. It can happen again. In Fact it will happen again. It might not happen in that form. That spirit of retribution, of taking back what is stolen from you. Or at least speaking out and demanding for what has been stolen from you, that will continue to happen. And I really hope that it does. And the fun fact is that the concept for the Barawo video was not planned according to the protest. The protest happened randomly in between. Right in the middle of it. I feel like every single person has reached that stretched out point, with the whole Sars situations and Brutality situation. Including myself. Because I’m a victim of that myself.
Last year, I had so many issues with Sars, I spent so much money, I went through so many cases. I’ve been harassed in the police cell, I’ve paid money, I’ve stayed all night. I’ve gone through all these things. Do you understand? I feel the pain of it. Even though I’ve not been shot, I’m still alive. But I feel the pain.
And Ajebo was another interesting connection. Ajebo Hustlers. Ajebo is from Port Harcourt as well. So the first time, when I told you that I got a camera. I was doing the music business then. The first place that I ever took my camera to shoot a video was the Ajebo Hustlers Studio. I took my camera there and I shot. I was working at the studio as just a graphics guy. I used to hang out with PM. Then they weren’t really a group… Okay they were in a group but it wasn’t called Ajebo Hustlers. It was called Ride Boyz. So there were three people; PI, Diego Knowledge and another guy whose name was also Geezy.
They had a group going on and I used to hang out with them and with their manager. So when I got a camera, I took it there. We used to film their freestyles, film their interviews and the first ever music video set that I was on, I worked as a PA on their music video called Tombo Music. You’ve probably never heard of it but if you check the internet, the internet never forgets. So maybe later you can check out Tombo Music. Tombo music was one of the earliest videos from these guys and they’ve been grinding for a long time. So when they moved to Lagos, we reconnected.
We’ve worked on a couple of jobs together in the past, so when they told me they had new music coming I just thought “cool stuff, it’s really something I’d like to do”. This was even when their first song came out. I hadn’t even approached them about shooting it.
So now the people who signed them – that’s The Avante. Avante is a good friend of mine. Sam Frank and David Avante. Super close, myself and David have been through so much I can’t even talk about in an interview. So David hit me up and said “Yo! I have this song, you know ‘Barawo’ the remix is out, it’s with Davido. Similarly, can we shoot tomorrow?” I’m like “Guy! Calm down”.
I went over to where they were and we started to talk about ideas for the video. It was a split moment when it clicked “Yo! This Sars situation is actually something that we all go through and even though the song doesn’t directly talk about that, it could represent it visually”.
If you notice, the guys that were being beaten in the video; the guy that gets punched into the water, the guy that gets slapped, the guy that gets tired and all that, that is a representation of my anger for Sars. I wanted them to rough them [SCOFFS].
The first version of treatment was that they went to where the Sars guys were, they kidnapped them, then took them into the house and started shooting them one by one. They started shooting all of them one by one. That was the first version of the treatment. But obviously we could see even then that that couldn’t make it to the production so we tried to do a much more minimised version of it.
The point I’m trying to make is that all of these expressions are from a place of how I feel in everything that I talk about. And I find a way to include every other person’s experience into it in such a way that people can relate to it.
So if I’m facing the Sars situation, I know that you are too, but you might be facing it in a different way. So, what I do is instead of me talking about it in the way that it happened to me, I’m going to talk about it in the way that it happened to you just so you can relate. I’m satisfied with knowing deep inside that it also happened to me.
That’s one thing I do with all my socially conscious work. And even with my more commercial works I also try to make sure there are some kind of human elements, human emotional elements that people can connect with. That’s the call of storytelling.
That’s how I’ve been creating. But obviously I’ve found a new way. I keep telling you about this new way but I’m not going to tell anybody yet.
Yes. I can’t wait to actually hear it out. To see what it is about.
I’ve found a new way to create. I’m not there again. I’m not in that place anymore but that’s where I was. Yeah. That’s kind of like the story if it. All in all I create because I want to satisfy that inherent need to create. And even when I don’t create videos, I’m always creating something. There’s no day that I don’t try to make something out of nothing. Even if it is like a line of text, I just try everyday.
I have a calendar event that is recurring at 10:45 everyday. At 10:45 everyday I try to come up with ten new ideas. They don’t necessarily have to be creative ideas. It could be an idea on how to make my supermarket experience better. Just something random. I do that as a brain exercise to make my brain aware that creation is a part of me, I am creating my existence. That’s how I keep my mental faculties alive as far as creating is concerned.
Let’s talk about ‘Killin Dem‘ with Burna Boy. You said something about not necessarily being conscious, socially conscious in your music video. And ‘Killing Them’ more of a dance video than –
Really! What ‘Killin Dem‘ is, I made a lot of moves in it but the intention of Killin Dem was in a way you could call it a socially conscious video but it wasn’t socially conscious for the event of operation. It was a conscious effort to give afrobeats music a — I needed it to be attributed to an image. I wanted people to think about afrobeats and think about visuals, and think about ‘Killin Dem‘ and in a way I feel like that was very successful because of the feedback that the video got.
This was ‘Zanku’, which was a core of afrobeats at the time. It is a dance. Zanku is one of the biggest songs and dance moves this industry has ever witnessed, and this was Burna at his second peak. This was Burna after Outside, before African Giant. Burna was just trying to get to this position that he is right now. He was really already an international figure. Do you understand? So when people thought about Afrobeats in that era, that was the end of 2018/ 2019. They were not thinking about Wizkid. They were thinking about Burna. At that period.
There was a ‘Fever’ era where people were looking at Wizkid. There was a Davido era, where people were looking at Davido when he did the projects with Minaj and all of those people.
But all of these had – they were fresh at the time of the protest. And I feel like that time when ‘Killing them’ came out was a very instrumental time for Burna because this was around the ‘Ye’ era. And ‘Ye’ had gone really far. ‘Ye’ had literally popped.
Anyway, I felt like that was the intention of what it was. And even the dance moves, the representation of the culture, the representation of the people, it was just a way to show that this is what being African and Nigerian and Afro beat is all about. This is the energy that we put through the song. The video has an energy, the energy captures and matches to it. The energy of Afrobeats. The ginger of Afrobeats. That’s just me as a creator. That’s how I see it.
So, a lot of people just – I hear them saying it was a nice video that’s very good to watch. Most times they end up talking about a driving urge and interest to watch the video. To me, that’s the underlined overview. You don’t know why you like something, but you do. If you think about it you’re going to find out why.
That was why I wanted to do ‘Killin Dem‘. I remember at the set, I said to the producer “I want this to be the greatest Zanku video ever”. That was my mindset. I wanted everyone in the world to see that this is what Zanku is, this is what Afrobeat is based on, this is what being Nigerian is all about. I don’t know if there ever was a bigger Zanku video.
I don’t think there is, to be candid.
There is not. I don’t think there is a bigger one. So in a way, that was also a very spiritual project. There are some projects that I’ve done that are just so important and needed to have been done. Whether or not I was the one that did them. They needed to have been done. Killin Dem is one of them. This Is Nigeria is one of them also. And you don’t just come by such projects every time. Like they come up and they look for you. And if you’re willing and you’re ready to take up the task, it falls in your palm. That’s what I believe.
So, I understand that you work with organisations and collectives and you have a lot of stuff you run with a lot of people. How do you balance everything with your own creative process and tasks, and with your own organisation…
It’s not easy. It’s very difficult. But I’ve tried to find systems. I’ve tried to depend on systems outside my brain. If that makes sense. I rely on things that obviously improve productivity – calendars – I rely on automations. Because you have to understand that before I became a creative, before I was making videos and doing all of that stuff I was in debt a geek, like a nerd. And I was a really good one. I still think that I have it in me. I still do a lot of technology stuff, so like a lot of my life is still based around computers. Computers saved my life.
If I didn’t have computers in the beginning when I started coming of age, I don’t know what I’d be. My entire life has evolved around using computers to achieve my goals. So if you think about graphics, about photography, if you think about all these things it’s always about the tool from technology. Even my interest.
My interest in photography which led to my interest in video was not because of my aesthetics or the art or whatever. It was primarily because of the tool. I liked this idea of holding a camera. I liked the idea of “Oh my God! This is a digital camera, it has a censor and has a lens attached. You take a picture, the censor transfers the image digitally to a card and you can have it.”
That was exciting to me because I love how technology works. So that was how I built my interest in cameras and all.
So even till now, I still rely on a lot of technology, in a lot of computers to try and balance even my personal life. So I have automations set up because I would forget when I set it. Do you understand? I still have to try like everyone else. On some days I get it right, on some days I don’t. But I’m actively working on it every single day. That’s how I balance it. Sometimes I put more energy into a specific part for a while and then I float back. So it depends on the gravity of what I’m about to do.
For example, now that I’m working on videos, I have many projects till later December. I’m not gonna be able to for instance work on a VR project. Do you understand or try to build a good database or something like that? I’m not gonna be able to do that. But obviously I have the way to structure it. Even a platform that I launched recently; Data platform actually. It’s my new baby. Something that I’m just working on. I’m going to work on it for the next 24 months. But even so, I’m working on it in batches. I worked for a few months with my team, released the data version, and kept it there. I’m going to cycle it again. By January I’m going to come back to it. Try to get it to version 1.0. That’s how I function.