Just as the world started getting over the hangovers of the COVID-19 pandemic, and major concerts resumed across the world, something unexpected happened to Adewale Oguntade. For the music producer, songwriter, and singer professionally known as Ajimovoix Drums, it was an era of new-found fame. His instrumental record, Focus Dance Beat, took the music industry by surprise. Its pulsating percussion and piano rhythms became a highlight for every dance floor, music concert, and party where Afrobeats music was featured. The Focus Head Dance was showcased by superstars during performances, including Burna Boy, Poco Lee, Davido, among others.
It was surely an exciting feat for Ajimovoix drums, who later peaked on the Apple Music Top 100 chart. However, it was not the most surprising feat for the street-hop/pop sound whiz; later that year, he released an extended play dubbed, Border To Border, which signaled his entry into the singing circles of Nigeria’s music industry. In Border To Border, he preached his ghetto gospel, giving hope through his melodies and voice. Barely a year later, he has now just released a sophomore EP dubbed, That Unserious Focus Boi, a 10-track mélange of harmonious instrumentals, passionate singing, and inspiring lyricism.
Like other music producers who have since broken into the singing space of the industry, including Pheelz, Young Jonn and KDDO, among others, Ajimovoix Drums comes through with the aura of a veteran and the hunger of a newcomer. In That Unserious Focus Boi, he affirms his mettle as a vibrant singer, and a conscious lyricist.
In this interview, he catches up with Culture Custodian, reminiscing on his journey from the soundcard to the microphones, hustling as a construction worker before breaking into the industry, his evergreen affinity for street-hop/pop, his creative inspirations from the heart of Ikorodu, a bustling Lagos suburb, as well as his vision to become a world record holder.
Tell us about this new album.
I am so proud of this record. I am living my dream already. I wanted to create something that will resonate with people. It is called That Unserious Focus Boy, because I am always pushing in spite of the impression people might have that I am just a street music maker. There are inspiring songs on the album, alongside dance-heavy music. It’s all ear-candy vibes. They will help to inspire and move you forward. It is a muse for the young generation, inspired by most of my life’s experiences and things I have heard from people.
You are notorious for your party-favorite instrumentals. What inspired you to start singing?
Actually, before music production, I used to be an artist. I used to be a lead singer in a group before music production called. I felt like I couldn’t just let that particular vibe or scene of me go offline like that. In my lane, I know I’m very good, so I had to pitch it up and start from somewhere. And I’m hoping everything works fine for me.
So are you saying that you began music production as a source of income, and not necessarily what you’ve always wanted to do?
While the music scene was growing, around the early 2010s, the music production landscape was improving too. I think towards that time, was when my interest in it started growing massively. During that period, music producers started increasing their rates due to the change of sound. Autotune was introduced to us around that period too. The level at which producers got equipment and software increased because they started investing more. I tend to learn fast, once I have my mind set on something. I was not scared by the cost of the investment. I knew that all I needed was dedication. Funnily, the studio fee actually made me run; then, it went from N7,000 to N9,000 to N10,000 to N15,000 and N20,000. Do you know how many days I had to work on a construction site to make 20k? 25 days. So, I tried out music production. However, I forgot about singing shortly after I started making beats. I was surviving. I didn’t go to the construction site anymore. I didn’t have to go to the farms. Then, I started listening to people whom I thought I could sing better than. And somehow, I just found myself making music again. I had even made my last EP before my viral instrumental, Focus Dance, blew up.
The whole EP?
Yes, the whole EP. I added just one new song.
How did you make Focus? Describe the events that happened when it blew up for you.
Errrm, Focus is a mystery, I won’t lie. I remember talking to one of the guys on my publishing team. She’s a white lady called Debra. She said that there is something about “Focus” that is yet to be unveiled. Like, it still has this extra life, and I should just watch and see. I wouldn’t be surprised if “Focus” should come back to life like how it was before. It has this vibe of staying a long time. It may look as if it’s ending now and then tomorrow, you just hear it blow up. What I was really happy about was how people who listened to focus, could not actually get over the sound. Immediately the sound came up, they vibed to it. I was not actually surprised when I saw Burna Boy dancing to Focus. He danced to “Lagos Street Vibes.” Naira Marley was just coming up. All these people, from Naira Marley to Don Jazzy, to others, who were vibing to “Focus”, they actually did it with “Lagos Street Vibes,” and some of my other instrumentals that went viral. In fact, when I saw them playing the Focus instrumental at a show in the 02 arena, that was when I was shocked. Burna Boy started taking the dance everywhere. The day I saw Micheal Blackson doing the “Focus” dance, I was like, is this a dream or what? People don’t actually know how that felt to me. I think I’ve tried my best, and I still have more to give. The day one of my friends sent me that snap Rihanna did, where she was vibing to the “Focus” dance beat in a club, I was convinced that the track had become very popular.
As a producer, you are notorious for street pop. But as an artiste you are very mellow and introspective. Why?
Apart from all these indigenous artists, one of the things that drew my attention to music was that I really wanted to sing. I just didn’t know how to put it down. I was like, I have to make it look different when the time is right. These are the types of songs that come to my head anytime I want to play anything. I think those sounds were my kind of vibes when I started singing too. I was doing it towards that pattern, which was a very calm sound. I don’t actually do dance music, but what actually drew me into doing dance beats was when I started seeing boys doing dance beats. I was like, ‘what is this one playing? I can actually do this beat.’ So I tried it with one titled Eko o jina, fi ese salo.
Oh. So you were the one behind that Eko o jina beat?
Yeah. So when we did that, I had just moved from my dad’s place to a friend’s place, within the main heart of Ikorodu. The kind of people I actually worked with then, wanted hits. There is something about the environment. As an entertainer, once you are in that hood, you will have that vibe and inspiration. The kind of sounds and the lifestyle they live will definitely generate something for you as a music producer. You see them playing street vibes, those Ajegunle songs, and the like. And I am good at summarizing sounds. I can actually listen to Joeboy or Wizkid’s songs and summarize the sound in a very “street” way. You will definitely like it.
When you say summarizing the sounds, what do you mean?
Like I can just handpick instruments from different sounds, and try to replicate what they did in my own way. So it’s remixing what I did from other people’s songs into a street vibe. I think I did that with Focus too.
So, what’s your vision for “Street pop” music and also your own career?
I’m the kind of person that doesn’t actually get scared when a sound is not accepted at first. I believe once the sound is good, it will definitely hit. Lagos Scatter took five years after its release before it blew up. Lagos Street Vibes took like four years before it blew up. Focus took over three years before it blew up. I call my sound the talking beat like you can actually say something without vocals on them to the beat. Like, this is what this beat is saying; this beat is telling me to move this way and dance this way. It’s a concept, and that’s my vibe. So I foresee myself as a world record holder. I have a lot to still deliver, greater things are yet to come and this is just the starting point. I see myself as a leader, with the dream of grooming so many people. I used to see myself this way, and I’m starting with myself on that. For Afro-pop, it’s growing. In ten years, it will be bigger. People are really vibing to it, a lot of guys are making music with it. The instrumentals are doing very fine, and I prefer listening to them rather than listening to some music these days.
So for you, the melody is like the most important thing. Is that why you put just instrumentals sometimes in your EP?
Yeah. This is my signature. Sometimes I don’t even feel like adding my tags to what I create, but later I’m like, people are really listening to this. You see a lot of guys doing this because they just want to trend. I try to differentiate sounds. When I listen to instrumentals, there’s this thing I see in a sound and I don’t think anyone sees it.