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Setting the Scene: Aifé | #Recovery

Aife Abebe | Ses Rêveries

For the eight installment of STS, I got to chat to another member of Stay Fly, Aifé. Is it safe for me to start calling myself a groupie now?

This interview has been in the works for a while - there are quite a few of those, admittedly. But finally, I've gotten around to sharing my interview with Stay Fly's very own lonely stoner. If you've been here since February, you'll know I actually ran into the twenty-one-year-old Management with International Studies student at the Chubbziano listening party. The interview was initially scheduled for a few weeks after that in March - and for a few minutes, it went down quite well.

But then Skype went on the fritz. After about half an hour of repetitive hello's and what's thanks to the eternally awful connection, the interview was rescheduled. And then rescheduled again. All hope appeared to be lost, it seemed. But then, last weekend, I got a message that the first single off Lost was about to drop. Excitement levels arose - and once again, an interview is set up, and now here we are.

It wasn't without its complications this time either though. I basically slept past the planned start time - so you can imagine the awful state I was in when I eventually rang him up nearly about half an hour late. A safe indicator would be the moment Skype abruptly turned my video off halfway through with zero indication and no way to turn it back on without having to hang up. Thanks, Skype, for having my back this on time; it would've been cool if he could've actually heard me properly too though.

Struggles aside, it was yet another candid and insightful interview that made me so pleased I started doing these in the first place! There are few things in this world better - to an avid music listener, anyway - than hearing exactly how these amazing songs you've had the pleasure of listening to were made; getting to meet and know the person who made them, hear them talk about their life, music, inspirations first-hand... It's kind of like the issue I had with the tooth fairy; sure, finding that one pound coin under my pillow was awesome while it lasted - but I would've liked to meet the miniature being leaving them and hang out in her world for a little bit too. I'm hoping I've done a good enough job transferring that feeling to you guys as well.

Apologies again for the horrow show that was this interview, Aifé lol. But it didn't turn out too bad, non?


What got you into music, both as an interest and professionally?

Aifé: Um... I don't know, I've always been into music, since I was about six/seven; listening to artists like Michael Jackson - he was, like, everyone's favourite artist when they were younger. Yeah, so I was just listening to what my mum listened to. And then, when I was about eleven, I started listening to proper rap. That was when I started listening to [chuckles] people like Bow Wow... Biggie, Snoop [Dogg] ... those were the people I started off with. When I turned thirteen, it was [Lil'] Wayne, all Wayne. He was my favourite artist... I couldn't stop listening to him - it was just all Wayne [laughs]. I started writing rap when I was thirteen so, yeah, it was Wayne that triggered me off into making music. But I was always interested in music; I listened to it, like, everyday.

What have been your musical influences, both sound-wise and lyrically?

Aifé: Um, I would say Drake, Kid Cudi... Wayne, obviously - his flow, the way he talks has a significance of flow, so him, definitely. And then later on, when I got older, I went back and started listening to Outkast - Andre 3K, he is just incredible; he's one of the best artists ever [laughs] in my opinion. But yeah, it was in my late teens - eighteen, nineteen - that's when I went back and listening to more of Outkast because then, I understood a lot more about flow and lyrics and the significance of metaphors and blah-blah-blah [laughs].

[laughs] ah, OK. And when it comes to writing verses, do you have a ritual, so to speak; or is it more relaxed... like whenever inspiration hits, you scribble on the back of a notebook, or something?

Aifé: To be honest, I kinda need to hear the beat first before I write a song. As soon as I hear a beat and it clicks, I just get this feeling inside; it's like, "this is it. I like this." Then I start freestyling absolute rubbish, like I'm speaking in tongues [laughs] or something like that. And then it develops from that into actual lyrics; putting in the metaphors, putting in the entendres and everything... But it's all about the feel, and then I go from there.

Right, right. Now, let's discuss the Green White Green mixtape... it wasn't entirely what I was expecting, if I'm being honest -

Aifé: [laughs] what were you expecting?

I don't know, something along the lines of... Where I'm From, basically but for, like, malaria or politics, corruption [laughs]

Aifé: [laughs] yeah, that's the thing. It was kind of like a... I don't wanna say "shot" to anybody [laughs] but it was kinda like that: we know what's going on in Nigeria, we know where we're from, we know everything about ourselves but this is what we're about. We know how music is made in Nigeria; we know how the music industry works, how people need to make hits constantly - like, you have to have an album full of hits - whereas we're not like that. We're more storytellers; and that's what that tape was about. From the intro to the last track, we just told stories about our current situations. I don't remember what the word is for that... it was just the opposite of Nigerian music and that's what it was meant to be.

Oh, cool, cool. And Lonely Stoner dropped in March last year, right?

Aifé: Yeah, Lonely Stoner dropped March last year.

Now, I wasn't familiar with most of them, to be honest, but there were some interesting collaborations, and the production was faultless. What was the process like, making that mixtape? The inspiration behind it?

[insert "can you hear me now/how about now?" microphone testing tango; resort to typing questions]

Aifé: Lonely Stoner was very much like Green White Green in the sense that it was basically me telling my story, describing what I had gone through and what I was going through; from my last year at Harrow to when the tape dropped which was my second year at university. In terms of inspiration, again, Cudi - you can tell from the title that he inspired that a lot. I was listening to a lot of Cudi then, so I decided to just spit real bars about me. I'd become a proper loner... as well as being a stoner [laughs] so I was just writing about what I was going through. I wouldn't say I was in a bad place, I was just a bit confused... I was lost [laughs]. Like, for reals, I didn't have my screws on tight.

[laughs] Yeah, Lonely Stoner was really insightful - like an audio representation of being under the influence; can we expect something along the same vein for Lost?

Aifé: Uh, Lost is different. Lost is very different, actually. It's kind of me finding myself, which is confusing 'cause it's called Lost but yeah, it is about me finding myself. It describes everything from dropping Lonely Stoner and being in that situation, and me finding myself from there; kind of like a... Recovery [laughs]. I know it seems like I'm just dropping plugs but it is like that. It's me going from being lost and confused to being me again. But Lost is gonna be a lot more developed, a lot more mature. Lonely Stoner was written and recorded within the space of, like, four months. This has taken me double that to put together, and I haven't even started recording. The sound is gonna be very different. It's gonna have a lot of storytelling, the usual Aifé direction, but it will sound more like a professional piece of work than Lonely Stoner.

How are you gonna be releasing it - iTunes or just streaming?

Aifé: It's gonna be released through my blog, first of all; then I'm going to upload it to Sound Cloud - but no iTunes.

What collaborations can we look forward to?

Aifé: Well, obviously DAP's gonna be on the tape. He's producing one, maybe two of the tracks. He'll have a verse on one of the tracks. Shane Chubbz is probably gonna be on it as well. I've written my verse, I've played the track to him and he says he's gonna do it - but you know, he's busy as hell so I can't say for sure. Also, Joel from Humdrum Town; I don't know if you've heard it -

Yeah, I've listened to the entire mixtape.

Aifé: Yeah, he's gonna be on it as well.

Your music is unabashedly drug-infused, but it's more Kid Cudi/indie stoner rap, less N.W.A./eighties' gangsta rap - what does the stoner rap culture mean to you? Is it supposed to be influential or a narrative?

Aifé: [laughs] that, that's a very good question. Well, firstly, the stoner rap culture; it's always been a part of rap, in my opinion. Loads of rappers like Dr Dre - I wouldn't say he's a rapper, actually but his album the Chronic, that was amazing. It was mostly Slim Shady but still, it helped emphasize the stance that weed has in rap. There aren't that many people who rap and don't smoke weed. A lot of them won't admit it like Kendrick, for example, but most of them do. But it is definitely influential. Is it supposed to be? I don't know. It definitely helps in the creativity sense of writing rhymes, writing music... I mean, when you're high the sonics, the sounds just seem a hundred times better; it hits you harder. So it's very easy to develop bars. But I wouldn't say it affects me that much. I wouldn't say, you know, "I'm a stoner." It's just... I don't know, it's just there, really [laughs]. It's just something you do sometimes, not all the time. It's not like I'm coming out trying to be Wiz Khalifa [laughs].

Did you consciously choose to go in that direction, musically?

Aifé: Um, no... actually, wait, let me think about that properly [laughs]. I did choose to go in that direction, actually. I'm very much a storyteller so if I'm putting together a tape, it is most likely going to be about what I happen to be going through within the last two years before that tape drops. So yeah, I did choose to go in that direction because I was in that place, but at the moment, I am not in that place. So Lost isn't going to be Lonely Stoner, it isn't going to be centred on [laughs] weed. I mean, I don't think Lonely Stoner was centred on weed either. It was just me describing myself but at the same time, I can see why people would think I'm going in that direction. But no, I'm not.

How would you describe your sound to someone who's completely unaware?

Aifé: I hate to box myself but if I had to answer that very precisely, I would just say Alternative Hip Hop. It's Hip Hop, it's rap, it's got all the criteria that describes Hip Hop - but at the same time, it's influenced by all types of music. I mean, I listen to people like Florence and the Machine, the xx, Daughter, Phaelah, Rudimental - I only just discovered them this year actually but they're crazy; they make dope instrumentation - and I'm influenced by that. For example, one of the first songs I ever did a cover of was Always Like This by Bombay Bicycle Club. I rapped over the beat and sang over the hook. So yeah, I would say Alternative Hip Hop because it's influenced by a lot of alternative music, rather than straight-up Hip Hop, boom bap or whatever.

Stay Fly started off as a rap group in Harrow, and now it's basically an international hip-hop collective. Would you say, with time, it could grow could grow into a label of its own?

Aifé: The funny thing about Stay Fly is, it was never really a rap group. To be honest, it started off as a label. It's funny you're asking if it could grow into one but it was meant to be a label; that's what it started off as. Basically, when DAP and I first got to Harrow, that was when we started making music properly. I remember rapping over one of his beats and I was like, "Yeah, Stay Fly, Stay Fly Entertainment" [laughs] and wiling out, and yeah we just ran with that. And then Shane came through a couple years later and he started making music with us, and it kinda just grew from there. We've got Joel, who sings. He was in the same year as me and Dolapo, but it took him a while to actually get into making music. And then Frederika came along. I heard her sing and I was like, "girl, you're crazy, let's do a track." And we did - and that was Stay Fly. It was never a rap group, because a rap group is more like... Slaughterhouse. We were never like that; we were a team, a team of individual artists - solo artists. But yeah, I'd love for it to grow into a proper label; that is my aim. I want Stay Fly to be a label of its own, definitely.

Last one, can we expect to see you at any shows this summer, or are you just focusing on making music?

Aifé: Um, I don't even know what shows are on so [laughs]... I don't think I will be - I don't know. I mean, it depends; if DAP and Shane are performing somewhere, I'm there. I'm there to support. I mean, Shane just did a show for Waffles 'N' Cream at their pop-up shop, I was there. So yeah, I don't really know at the moment, but if there's anything on, if my boys are performing, I'll be there. But yeah, I'm focusing mainly on getting on with Lost - I mean, Lost is written. I've written every single track, I just need to record them. I mean, Recovery is out now. Recovery is the start of my run, if you like. I plan on dropping music very frequently from after Recovery.


As always, it was an absolute pleasure picking one of the brains of one of music's talented up-and-comers. But in all honesty, you guys should definitely give Lonely Stoner a good run in order to fully appreciate Recovery, the first single off LostCorrupted Lungs has been on repeat since February and it just does not get old. Be sure to keep an eye on his blog for more releases.

Happy listening!

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