LayZee Ella–known on official documents as Onose Emmanuella Bagudu–was just about to begin her final-year studies at the University of Benin when the ASUU strike struck. The Edo native used that union-given time to work on her sophomore extended play, Feel Everything, scheduled for release on September 9. It will be released under Warner Music Africa.
Like many musicians, the singer, rapper and songwriter started out making covers of popular songs. She launched her professional career in 2020, releasing the song Sober. In 2021, her debut six-track EP, When The Lights Go Off, was released.
Produced by Dunnie. LayZee Ella’s latest single, Medusa, features Khaid and was released in July this year. In this slightly revised interview, she makes clear, among other things, that she is “telling the story of my life with each new song”.
How would you describe your upbringing?
As a child, I wasn’t really exposed to a lot of people. I was mostly indoors. It was me, the library, and music. The age difference was much between my siblings and me, so there wasn’t much to talk about. But I had an older brother who was into music. He tried grooming to sing. But I couldn’t hit high notes, and it got frustrating. Then I listened to lots of old-school rap music and noticed they usually told a story.
So when I was about 8 or 9, I started writing raps, and my interest in music kicked off.
Where was all of that happening?
I grew up in Benin. To add to what I said, as I was mostly indoors while growing up if I had something to say but no one was around me, I would make it into a rap song.
I gathered that you’re a big reader of books
Well, I used to, but not as much these days.
Were your parents always in support of you making music?
They still have their doubts to this day. That’s normal because everyone wants the best for their child. For them, the best is going to school and doing a professional course. I was a student of Medical Lab Science at UNIBEN. That’s the part that was chosen for me.
The cool thing is that although they don’t support it, they don’t get involved. They believe you are in charge of your life.
Did you complete your studies at UNIBEN?
I’m not done yet. I was just about to get into my 400 level before the ASUU strike started.
How are you able to balance school with music?
I care about school; I’m a serious student, but if I ever had to choose between school and music, I always pick music first. Life is short, so you can’t waste time not doing what you love.
Have you been active in the Benin music scene?
Not really. Not even on campus. The thing about being in music here in Benin is that you can hardly believe that you would amount to something. Because the people you see trying to do it don’t pass a certain level. It feels like the effort you put in won’t be as appreciated as it should. Also, I feel the show promoters don’t understand the value of my talent. I noticed these things while in Benin and it just made me uninterested. But I have plans to set up something eventually in the music industry here because there are a lot of talents in Benin.
What challenges do you face as an upcoming artist?
The challenge I used to face was self-discovery. I had to discover myself. As soon as I did that, everything else sailed smoothly. I can’t say I have any serious challenges.
What runs through your mind when you make music?
Most times I already know what I’m feeling before I step into a studio booth. Sometimes, it could be a recent experience. Different experiences make me feel different ways, and I always want to talk about them in my songs.
Who are your musical influences?
Drake. Swae Lee. Burna Boy, who is my GOAT. Wizkid. Rema.
How would you describe your music?
It depends. I’m trying to make different things at different times. Last year I put soul in a lot of the music I made. But in my next project, the mood will be happy and nostalgic, from the beats to the songwriting. I can’t say specifically the kind of music I want to make.
When will your EP, Feel Everything, be released?
September 9. The project will have the feeling of a new experience. There’s a song in it, Summertime, that has a new-found love feeling. There’s another one, Put It On Me, which is really sexual. And there’s another one that makes you want to bop and dance. Another song in the project has a triumphant vibe.
What are you doing when you are not making music?
Living. Letting myself experience new things. I play FIFA sometimes. And I like dressing up, even when I am not going anywhere.
I’m telling a story, my story. I feel most people wouldn’t get it right now, but it would become clearer with time. It’s why every new record is different from the previous one. Because I’m experiencing new things every day and telling the story of my life with each new song.