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STRAFFITTI: FROM PHOTOSHOP, MICROPHONE TO FABRIC

About a year ago, we got into conversation with Mide OGY, manager and close friend of multitalented Nigerian artiste, Straffitti, where we discussed his journey so far as a fast growing artiste in the music industry. Today, we get to have a quick chat with Straffitti himself and get all the tea from the horse’s mouth.

Being involved in diverse phases of the creative industry especially for fashion and music, and being amongst the faces for arguably one of the least recognized genres in the Nigerian music space, Straff opens up about his life as a multidisciplinary creative, and what making trap/hip-hop music in today’s Nigeria feels like.

We’re steadily hearing “Straff the multidisciplinary or multi-talented creative” because you’re like into a couple of stuff, so we want to know who Straff is, and which Straff you’re mostly a fan of, yourself.

Straffitti is like yunno… whoever Straff wants to be, that’s it. Like, I’m into a couple of stuff,  but I’m still tryna explore more shit like…. I feel like Straff is a journey, it’s not really one person. Straff can be this today, he can be be that today, he’s whoever I choose to be because I feel like that’s what artistry means, that’s what creativity means, being able to like finesse different things in your own way, and still keep that same yunno… same identity as whatever I want to be in any field. So I’m still on a journey, still exploring, still evaluating myself, so… I really don’t know which Straff I’m mostly a fan of, I’m mostly a fan of Straff *chuckles* really and truly, so yeah, I don’t have anyone I f*ck with most, I f*ck with every Straff; the artiste, the fashion designer, the graphic artist, yunno, everything.

Oh that’s great. So let’s talk about the journey on how Straffitti became. I mean, did you become an artiste, fashion designer, graphics guy and all that, all at once? Or what was the process?

So I mean it was… it was firstly everything, I don’t even know where to start from because like yunno, I’ve been making music… not music but like rapping and shit, since like High School, but really and truly, the one that I started dedicating most of my time to was like graphics and shit, so after then, everything just started coming together like… through graphics, I could design clothes, yunno… then obviously I started taking the music more serious, and that was what it was.

Yeah, almost every artiste has that “it began in high school” story, but for you, was there like a moment where it was “yo this music shit, I think I’m really good at it and I’m giving it a shot”?

Errr, maybe when I started getting big ups from like…. artistes like Ice Prince, like when I played him my music and he was like “yo, you’re actually dope.” Or when, let me say… when I recorded a song and yunno M (M.I Abaga) was like “yo, brah you actually sick.” Or when I did my first performance, that was with Patrick Lee… that was my first performance, and people were rocking with me for real, for real. It’s really in that period I felt like “okay, okay this is something that yunno, might resonate me, so I can actually do this shit for real, for real.”

Speaking about Iceprince, let’s talk about your hit single ‘Kuronbe’, how did you as a budding artiste at the time get all those big names on one song?

Errrrm yo it was quite crazy ‘cos yunno, they were so like busy with schedules and shit, but obviously ‘cos they f*cked with me, and they didn’t see as like yunno “this artiste is an upcoming act” so they can’t work with me. It’s because like they actually saw the light and they f*cked with the song itself, so… it was quite hectic ‘cos yunno… trying to get one to drop a verse, to do this, to do that, trust me bro, it was hectic as f*ck. But yunno, it just all happened because all of them, they rock with me, they know the vision like… they support the movement, it’s everything bro.  It was fantastic to have them on the record, and I appreciate them, because yunno, it’s one thing to f*ck with an artiste, it’s another thing to see the light, and it’s another thing to actually help the artiste in whatever way you can. Yunno, it was a good experience for me, and I learnt a couple shit, you feel me?

That’s hard for real. So in recent times you’ve experimented with genres outside HipHop (Trap) you’re known for, is there a particular reason? 

Errr the only reason is errr… I feel like that’s what being an artiste entails, like for you to be able to finesse through genres and still kill it. Like look at the likes of Drake, Tory Lanez, yunno, artistes like that, I feel like those type of artistes are untouchable because they walk… they majestically walk on different genres and they kill it. So like for me, being an artiste is being able to like capture every genre in your own domain and kill it, you feel me? So definitely in more years to come I’ll be doing so much more than that.

Over time we’ve seen hiphop artistes switch to afrobeats and most times their excuse has been “I’ve got to put food on my table.” Does this mean hiphop music isn’t so profitable in Nigeria?

Sincerely I really don’t know, but, if you could tell from the charts, you could see that hip-hop is still being streamed in Nigeria, and it’s more of like foreign hip-hop. You see Rod Wave on the chart, you see Drake, Tory Lanez, Riddy Rich, Lil Durk, so many other artistes. It’s not bad if they don’t consume hip-hop, it’s just they don’t consume the hip-hop made in Nigeria, which is… it’s kind of sad. But like really and truly I don’t see Nigerian hip-hop as something that’s profitable for an artiste to start just doing, cos it’s something a little consumed, so it’s really hard to try making money off it. But for me, like making money is not really like why I do music, you get what I’m saying? Obviously I want to make money but that’s not the point, I feel like I love it, you get what I’m saying? Like I know several other ways I would have wanted to make money but yunno, i just chose music. Asides that I’m still making money from different shit asides music so, you feel me? It’s not just about switching to put food on my table, you get what I’m saying. But eventually it would reach a point where the genre would be accepted in Nigeria for what it is, and hip-hop artistes, rap artistes would start eating and stuff, but for now it looks like an open field with no seeds or soil to host the seeds.

Oh yeah I feel you. There was a time HipHop really popped in Nigeria, I think it’s had phases, so definitely, it’s going to pop again at some point. Do you think you’re one of the major faces of trap music in the country?

At this point, I don’t really know how to answer that question because yunno… there’s so many other artistes that are doing it. But *sighs* I think errr you could say I’m amongst the people that are tryna put that shit on the map, yunno the movement wise, the kind of artistes that I partner with, and all that stuff, I’m just trying my little bit. But yeah… you could say that.

 

Talking about partnerships, word on the street is you have a collabo coming out real soon, do you mind spilling some tea about that?

Yeah, I do have a collab with one of my friends, like that’s my bro… thats’s Gcl3f the producer, so we making fire, we making errrr an R&B tape that would later turn to a like series of like… yo when I’m tryna drop R&B shit, we also just do shit. And errrrm yunno, not really R&B, like we could go through different genres, but we would be having errrr yunno… it’s like an endless series of collab, cos we keep doing our shit, cos you know that’s my bro for life. You feel me?

R&B Straff is something to look forward to, really can’t wait. So how do you manage being multidisciplinary? Cos right now Thirsty Lab pants are popping, and you’re about releasing a new collection as seen on its Twitter page, and you’re still outchea tryna make more music, bro how do you divide yourself?

Yeah I just feel like it’s basically how you use like… yunno, plan everything and how you use your time, like that’s the most instrumental thing to me right now cos I might be broke as f*ck but like time is all that I have, so I don’t joke with that, you get what I’m saying? So like every minute, everywhere I am, I make sure I’m in the rightest place, at the same time I’m doing the rightest thing at that particular time. So it’s just the way that I see like… and also everything just flows into everything, like the music flows into the graphics like it flows into every other stuff so it’s literally like basically timing and planning, and I feel like God is directing me and guiding me through the part cos yunno I’m a very spiritual person and yunno it’s just what the spirit leads and I just follow it, I go with it.

You seem like a very serious and principled person, and like you’re always working, cos I remember one time we were at Mide’s cousins wedding and I saw you mumbling stuff to yourself like you were rapping, is that how it always is? Like your creative process is on the go? No “I gotta be in my space while I write my music”?

Yoooo *chuckles* I actually can’t remember that, but yeah. I’m not a serious person o, like nah *laughs* nah man, I don’t take shit that serious but like meen, I’m actually not a serious person to be honest, and Mide knows bruh, I just fuck around bruh, literally man. But, it’s just that when I choose to do something I just want to do it, like I’m a very… let’s say… I’m not principled also, I’m just like… when I choose to focus on some shit, like when I set my mind to get some stuff, like thats me, I always get it, I would get it even if it’s going to take me time, I know that, cos I know how to… I’m still mastering, I’m still learning, but I know to an extent how to use my mind, so most times it’s just me saying “yo I wanna do this” and that’s when I do it. Also like if I think of a design right now, I sketch it, if I wake up and I think of a design, I draw it down. Sometimes I just wake up from a dream andI write down the melody because that shit is not normal, do you understand? For you to wake up from your sleep and have you have a melody, please just put it down on your phone, or any idea you have from your sleep, that shit is magical. It just tells you that your subconscious is letting you know that “yo this shit is normal”, you have to just do it, write it, execute it.

Okay, I’ll just call you “direct and determined” then. Who or what have been your greatest influences as a creative, so far?

Errrr, my greatest influences? It depends on what area. Like if it’s for music I like Joey Badass, Tory Lanez, Logic, Schoolboy Q, I f*ck with Russ, errr I like ASAP Rocky’s music, yeah a bunch of them. But for art itself, like being an artist, I f*ck with Kanye, yunno like the mind thing. Russ also, like being an artist, it involves you producing, mixing, doing all that shit. Tyler, The Creator obviously, that’s one of the niggas that’ll always tell you “tell these niggas these black kids can make it out, can do it” you feel me? For fashion, I f*ck with James Jebbia, the founder of Supreme, and a couple others I also like Nagao, Nagao is the Bape guy, he started Bape but along the line shit happened, so he had to sell Bape and started his own stuff with Pharrell (Pharrell Williams) called Human Nature. I like Nagao a lot cos Nagao is all the way from Asia and he navigated into New York and the fashion scene and it’s just what it is. Nagao is crazy, I f*ck with Nagao. You know errr I’m still tryna learn shit on the fashion side but these are my influences for now, but running around, there’s a lot of people influencing me everyday, and I get influenced by myself most times. 

That’s great, you do know your stuff. So you got like half the entire industry rocking your brand now, has there been a moment where you’ve felt like you should just focus on the fashion and put a pause to the music?

There’s never been a moment when anything is on pause. It’s just… Most times you can’t keep on like… you know for me doing one thing for a long time is kind of boring, I just feel like I just need to yunno just spread out my wings and just see how much load I can put on it. So it’s not like anything is on hold, like music is dropping next month, so you can’t really say it’s on hold because music can’t drop next month if it hasn’t been worked on in a minute, you get me?

So how did you feel about the Lyrical Lemonade feature last year?

I felt great, it was a good one for me and everyone that worked on it, because we worked really hard on it, it was a good one yunno. All the way from Nigeria, you know that’s sick cos no one has ever done it from here, even on the continent, like it was… it was sick for me, yeah. And it’s one of my milestones in my whole career, it’s definitely one thing… cos I know how hard it was to get on it, but because obviously I put my mind to it and I didn’t stop, right from the start, right from the shoot date, I knew where we were headed to.

Define the year 2020 for you

I mean it was self-reflective, like I could just reflect on myself and re-strategize, and it was just… cos like so many distractions weren’t there as it used to be, so I had almost all of the time to myself to realize and rediscover some shit that I was doing that were wrong, and I had to realign myself like the stars.

Releasing a tape about a month before the End SARS protests broke out, were you bothered about it hindering your numbers? Or that didn’t matter for you at the time?

To be honest, I really didn’t know the EndSARS protests would start but like… I didn’t know anything about that so it never did matter to me but yunno. And it didn’t even hinder my numbers because people will always stream music regardless of what’s happening, like music is something that… right now it’s no more a luxury to listen to music, like how you pay for your Apple Music is how you pay for your water bills or your light bills, so Apple Music, Spotify and all that shit, it’s already turning to a necessity now, so listening to new music is no longer as luxurious as it used to be, so I didn’t think about it like that. 

Oh, alright. It’s been great chatting with you man, I hope we get to do a one on one someday, and have a more extensive conversation.

THANK YOU SIR!

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