Chisom Ezeh popularly known as Rexxie, is behind the new wave of sound known as Zanku Music. He has produced some of Nigeria’s biggest songs such as Zlatan’s ‘Able God’ and Naira Marley’s ‘Am I A Yahoo Boy’ among others. The Anambra State born music producer and multi-talented artiste is a frequent collaborator with Zlatan Ibile and Naira Marley. In this interview with DUPE AYINLA-OLASUNKANMI, the producer talked about his work with these artistes and how together, they have made some of the biggest songs on the music scene.
Can you share your childhood memories with us?
I was raised in Lagos and Abuja. Growing up in Lagos helped me to get accustomed to Yoruba tradition. My childhood was spent in Akoka, Shomolu, Lagos. I moved to Abuja for my secondary school education. It was in Abuja that I would say music first met me. After that, I returned back to Lagos and that was when music started for me. I worked with different upcoming artistes. We are three children from my parents and I am the first. I studied Computer Science from Taiye Solarin University of Education (TASUED).
What is your story, how did you find music?
For me, music started in school although I had been playing the keyboard in church. I was part of the school band at Government Secondary School, Garki. I was actually the Music Prefect. This was in 2010. We usually do covers of popular trending songs and perform it at the school assembly before the whole school. I became more curious to know how the popular songs were made and that inspired me to go into music production. I learnt on my own, I was self-taught.
How did Zanku sound originate?
I am the originator of the Zanku Sound. Let me go back a little bit. Before we started the movement, I had a terrible accident in February, March last year that almost claimed my life. It made me almost quit music. It was a tough period and turning point in my life. At that time, I had been experimenting on a new bounce and I didn’t (know) what to call it. I was always praying to meet CDQ and play the beat for him. I was not able to make the connection.
As fate will have it, I met Zlatan Ibile in a chance meeting. I went with an artiste, Thessy, who was featuring him to meet him at a hotel. After working on the song, Zlatan asked if I had any beat for him, then I played an unfinished beat to him. One thing led to another, he started to vibe to it and I liked what I was hearing him sing and I began to add more parts to the song. The title of the song was ‘Jogo’ featuring Lil Kesh and Naira Marley. In the lyrics, Zlatan sang a line that said, ‘Zlatan, abeg no kill us’ which has the acronym Z-A-N-K-U. He had this unique dance style that he dances any time the song comes on. People started to dance to it too.
What would you describe as a turning point in your music career?
‘Jogo’ went a long way. It was recorded in a hotel. I also met Lyta, former artiste with Olamide’s YBNL and we recorded his second single, ‘Self-Made’. Luckily, Olamide heard it and called me, inviting me to come record some songs with him. While we were trying to record ‘Jogo’, I played a couple of beats for Naira Marley and Lil Kesh. We recorded a couple of songs that is everywhere now. I did three hit songs such as ‘Jakpa’ for Naira Marley, ‘Again O’ for Lil Kesh and ‘Illuminati’ by Zlatan featuring Naira Marley. That night was magical, several hit music was born in one sitting.
Can you tell us about recording the monster hit song, ‘Able God’?
For me, what I would call the biggest turning point for me was the recording of ‘Able God’ featuring Chinko Ekun, Zlatan and Lil Kesh. It was just the right time and everything was happening in my life very fast. Mind you, I was doing all this recording while I was healing. I was still walking around with bandage on my body.
How bad was the accident and how did it affect your music career?
I was almost going to quit. It was a low point in my life. Actually, it happened when I was returning to Lagos from Ilorin. It occurred around Epe. The car somersaulted like seven times. It is still a miracle that I walked out alive from the wreckage. I had a serious injury on my left hand. I would say that ‘Able God’ announced me and people came to identify me with that sound that we called Zanku. We uploaded the dance on social media and the song just went viral.
Can you take us through your creative process?
First of all, I am not the type of producer that sits down and create beat for artiste. I don’t send beat to artistes. I like to be in the room with the artiste and do the music live. I like to flow with the artistes and feed on the artiste’s energy and vibe. It is all about creativity. This is why I am always selective of the people that I work with. It is a collaborative work. This is why I hardly work with certain people. I am not the type of producer an artiste will send voice note to on WhatsApp. We have to create it together.
But this put you at the risk of being described as a one-dimension producer, how do you react to this?
One thing about this life is that once you are known for something, you establish your niche. This means that whoever is coming to record with you knows what to expect. However, this does not mean that I do not do other styles of music. I have made hip hop sings for Chinko Ekun and Reminisce. I made high-life music for Lil Kesh. It was quite a hit featuring Duncan Mighty titled ‘Flenjor’. Don’t forget that, Lil Kesh’s ‘Self-Made’ was a high-life Jam.
What’s the special connection between you and Zlatan?
Like I said, I like to work physically with an artiste in the studio and Zlatan is that kind of spontaneous artiste. He is the type of artiste that if you send him beat, he hardly records it. He is the live-recording type as well. The way he loves to record is the way I also like to produce. He writes his lines on the spot. That is chemistry. Another person who I achieve that kind of chemistry with also is Naira Marley. He is a very creative artiste. I like artistes that think on their feet.
What are your thoughts about Beyonce featuring of Nigerians?
Afrobeats has come to stay. I think it is a big progress for our industry to get featured by Beyonce. I am a firm believer in Afrobeats. In the end, I feel like American musicians need us more than we need them. We are doing them a huge favour. We are the new wave and they need us right now. If you check Apple music and other digital platforms, you will see that Beyonce album is on every African playlist as a result of her cleverly featuring African artistes.
How best can Nigerian musicians tap revenue from digital streaming?
Nigerian artistes are now making a lot of money from digital distribution. It all boils down to working with the right people and understanding the business as well as the digital market itself. We have to understand how lucrative it is and the potentials available in digital streaming. Most artistes don’t understand how much revenue they stand to gain from it. That is being handled for me by Damilola Akinwunmi of Dapper Damn Entertainment. He has been a good professional.
What is the most important advice an up and coming producer should work with?
Keep believing in what you are doing, don’t let anyone put you down with negative opinion. Once upon a time, I used to allow people’s opinion weigh me down. For instance, before we released the monster hit, ‘Able God’, someone whom I highly respected said told me that my beat was getting ‘wack’. But for the first time, I disagreed with him. I had that strong belief in what I was doing for the first time. Also, work towards finding your own sound. Please watch out for more music from me. What should people expect from you?
At the moment, I am working on my EP. I want to put out a body of work that shows different sides of me apart from the one the world knows. I want to test the waters and put out different vibes. I feel like this is best way to let people know that I do other sounds apart from Zanku. I plan to feature African and international artistes. It will be out in November by God’s Grace. Before now, I dropped my own hit song ‘Fotifoyin’ by Rexxie featuring Teni, Naira Marley and Zlatan.
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