It is undeniable that Joeboy is an African pop star. Back in 2017, the Nigerian artist attracted the attention of Mr Eazi—whom he signed a record deal with— through a cover of Ed Sheeran’s global hit, “Shape Of You.” After a false start with the Mr Eaziassisted “Faaji,” Joeboy’s spotlight moment came with his 2019 continental hit, “Baby,” which gained heavy recognition in East Africa before rising to the peak in Joeboy’s home country, Nigeria. Since then, Joeboy has been on a never-ending rollercoaster. While he has ascended into popstar royalty, winning the hearts of girls across Africa, he has also amassed a reputation for making songs that are short and to the point. YUSUFF ADEBAYO in this interview spoke to him about his artistry, discography and his debut album, ‘Somewhere Between Beauty and Magic’.
Why did you choose to name your debut album Somewhere Between Beauty and Magic?
You know the first project was Love and Light. I spoke with Oxygen Mix—my mixing engineer—about what we should name the next project. When we were in Ghana riding quad bikes somewhere, Oxygen was like this place is beautiful. “Let’s call it somewhere between beauty and magic.” Another reason why we settled on the name is because the album consists of songs that are about different parts of love. Love is beautiful. Love is magic. These were songs I made with those influences. There are 14 songs on the album but for the singles before the album, you put out “Lonely” and “Celebration”. Many would wonder why you chose those songs as the forerunners. It just felt like the right time to put out those songs, and it was just the way I was feeling at that particular point. Because last year was really wild for everybody, for me personally as well. I just started enjoying last year around December. Also, there was so much negative energy on social media, it was crazy so that is why I decided to put out those songs.
You wanted to put out the album last year?
It was supposed to be out on October 30. Then on October 9, I dropped “Lonely” then End SARS happened, and I was getting serious disses like why is he dropping music now? If I had known, I would have stopped it before then.
Was that why you went to the End SARS protests?
You think I went to the protests because of that? No, it is an issue that affects every young person so I was still going to go either way.
In the entirety of your discography, one question would always continue to pop up and that is how you made the 2020 smash hit, “Nobody,” with DJ Neptune?
So I had a song with DJ Neptune initially, but I really wanted to keep it, because the song was really mad, then we agreed that I should. Then he sent another beat and that turned out to be “Nobody,” and that too turned out to be mad.
How long did it take you to create the album?
Roughly, five months but I was just editing; removing and adding. I record a lot of songs and send them to a particular set of people to listen to. The album was A&R’d by Eazi, King Promise, Samuel & Oxygen Mix.
What was the most difficult song to record on the album?
I think it was “Show Me.” It is not like it was difficult, we recorded it and when we wanted to master it, the files disappeared and you know when it comes to ‘re-recording,’ you have to feel that emotion again.
What’s your personal favourite?
It has to be “Count Me Out” because that was the most personal song on the album and it was the last song I recorded on the album.
Why did you decide to drop a five-track EP, Love and Light, first?
I remember when I dropped “Baby,” it was just “Baby” and the visualiser and I was not really out there. The same thing with “Beginning” as well. People just knew the songs. Eazi was like lets put them in a project so that people would know it is the same guy behind these songs.
Why the long wait from then till now for your debut album?
I was ready to put out an album in March 2020 if it was up to me, but there were some hold-ups so we had to wait.
So, Joeboy, what is the pinnacle for you?
I do not think there is a pinnacle for me. I just want to make music. I do not have a target except I get tired of music. I just want to keep doing music and help as many young artists as I can along the way.
What has changed since you became a superstar?
Just being careful of things I say and things I do, because there is this form of responsibility that is on you.
Do you feel your music is versatile?
Yeah. I believe when people listen to the album, they will realise that there is a lot of versatility. I think when it comes to singles, you can’t be too versatile.
What does it mean to be an African popstar?
It is a very good feeling. East Africa and Africa as a whole has shown me so much love, it is crazy. Many people think I’m from East Africa because of how they embrace my music there. I remember I met Baby Fresh at a studio in 2019 and he was like “Where are you from?” I was like “I am from Ogun State, Nigeria.” He was shocked. He said the first place he heard my song was in Uganda, and they were singing it word for word. They are also very supportive with streams and shows.
Is there anyone you are looking forward to collaborating with?
Aya Nakamura. Justin Bieber, I think we are connected. See now, Justin Bieber’s break-out was “Baby,” Joeboy’s too was “Baby”. We both [have the initials] JB. We both have a song titled “Lonely”. It will be really nice if we make a song together.
So many people you want to collaborate with and you had the chance to pull that off with the album but you didn’t. Why?
Debut album, I really want it to be just me, that is one thing. Also, when it comes to songs I really like, I don’t like featuring people.
Who is Joeboy when all is said and done?
Just a very normal guy that likes video games.
What do you want your legacy to be?
I want to be remembered as that amazing artist that always kept it real.
Is there a sophomore album in the works?
Yeah, definitely. It is possible this year, I think six months space is enough time to drop another one.