Hanu Jay Wants To Be The Next Icon from the South

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“I just want to create and do something incredible,” Hanu Jay says when I phone in from Awka, Eastern Nigeria. Over in Lagos where the musician resides, he’s gearing up for the release of a new song and shortly after a project. It follows the exuberant Uber, a record with DJ Consequence that has been rated highly from the revered disc jockey’s debut album, Vibes From the Future. 

Aghogho Hanu Agbodje breathed his first in Southern Nigeria- Delta state to be precise. An area marred by the destructive governmental access to its oil grooves, Agboho witnessed early the defiance in certain forms of music. Minutes into our call, names such as African China and Kanye West were mentioned as influences. The former was a prominent act during Ajegunle’s musical reign from the late 90s all to the mid-2000s. Musicians from the area, like those from Aghogho’s native Delta, were inclined to protestant rhythms, dance-able as they were. The scene and its classic records was a great influence on young Aghogho, whose own music is a marriage of finely hit drums, melodious lyricism and most times, vivid experiences from his life. “Me and my producer were disciples of Kanye West,” he says, underscoring his zeal for daring aesthetics. “He always wants to make something for the future. When I make music I want to tap into that. [It has to be] something fresh, something really dynamic.”

Regardless of how one defines “dynamic” this should be an interesting premise: creating art from one’s immediate surroundings. For Hanu Jay this has come always naturally; one of his earlier records, “no smoking zone,” was created with his producer and friend Sally, inspired by a sign on the door. In the nature of southern icons like Duncan Mighty and Burna Boy, Hanu Jay is selling a gritty and deeply melodious product.

His debut EP Vibes was released in 2018, and shapes the earliest perception of Hanu Jay. With titles like Fine Wine and Rock Well, he leans boldly towards party soundtracks, and his striking vocals instantly stands out. On the first song, intuitively titled Dance, he beckons a lady, Adedupe, onto the dance floor and under the strobe lights. 24 months later, his sophomore effort was released. Titled Let’s Smoke & F**k, he continues the tradition of party bangers but with more experience, it featured more durable elements –improved songwriting, gravitas, an attuned ear for delectable melodies—and importantly, had “Uber” on the tracklist, a record which earned Hanu Jay the cosign of a respected figure in the Nigerian music industry: DJ Consequence.

As he remembers, at a mutual friend’s house they’d met and he played seven or eight songs. “He really liked ‘Uber’ and from there we exchanged contacts. I didn’t even know it would be on his album,” Hanu Jay confides. It was a collaboration which invariably raised Hanu Jay’s as a new school voice to look out for. Alongside songs by contemporaries like Bella Shmurda and Oxlade, “Uber” shone, and a video was swiftly shot by the gifted Dammy Twitch, famous for his work with members of Davido Music Worldwide (DMW).

A lot is being planned behind the scenes and Hanu Jay is warming up for what he has coming. This isn’t to say he hasn’t been prolific with the music; last year he was on a couple of stuff, from the nostalgia-inducing No Dey with Zlatan Ibile as well as TikTok, a warm ditty released a month later, in October. As we wrap our call, Hanu Jay speaks about “something really big” he has coming in the first quarter of the year. First to go will be the single INSANE and imminently Wow, Can I Blow Your Mind, an EP slated for release in March. What unique flavor is Hanu Jay bringing to the Nigerian mainstream? “It’s really about the music,” he asserts.

He’s intent on delivering, that much I could tell.

Find him at odd places arguing for the greatness of the contemporary. Published by lit mags such as Brittle Paper and The Kalahari Review, he is certain that he is destined to write The Great Ajegunle novel. Emmanuel Esomnofu is also a widely published music journalist and he is fascinated by all things Hip Hop and Reggae.

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