Interview: Meet Mavin’s Newest Signee, Lifesize Teddy

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lifesize Teddy

Lifesize Teddy appears on screen seated in the passenger’s seat of a car. She is just returning from the airport after her first performance as a Mavin star in Port Harcourt, her home city. The date is 12th August, only three days after her unveiling, and she is having, as expected, one of the busiest and most exciting weeks of her life. “It has been amazing”, she says, bubbling with ecstasy. “It has been amazing. It’s been over 48 hours now and it’s been nothing short of wonderful, people are receptive, and people like the music. I mean that’s what all of this is for and I’m really really grateful for that.”

Born Banigo Apiafi Treasure, Mavin’s newest signee has released a self-named EP at her debut as is customary to the label, she is now sitting back to take in the reaction from fans, which, as she notes, has been mostly positive. She soaks in a wide palette of sonic influences on the project, allowing her mood to dictate who she wants to be on each track and then constructing the soundscape of each song around her emotions; she announces “Na me be the girl wey go rock this party” on Hypnotic over hip-hop production outlined with mildly psychedelic keys before swivelling to the vividly strung chords of Butterflies, where she is besotted in romance.

To help her accurately transcribe these feelings into music, she has in her corner the finest of Mavin’s talent behind the boards, from popular figures like LONDON and Andre Vibez to emerging names like SEVN and Prestige. These acts have ample experience in helping young artists introduce themselves with an EP that conveys as much of their artistry and personality as can be done in five songs. “Fortunately for us, Mavin is armed with an arsenal of producers”, Lifesize Teddy says, laughing. It is evident her emotions remain the driving force behind the project, and it is intentional. 

“My music is the rawest and most direct reflection of who I am as a person, how I function and how my mind works. I’m very very heavily influenced by how I feel all the time.” She says. But while that accounts for her diversity in themes across the project, it does not account for her diversity in sound. That comes from her early childhood, where she benefited from a glut of musical influences.

“I grew up in Port Harcourt. I’m from Bonny Island. It’s a really small place. I grew up around music, a lot of music. I don’t remember a time in my life when there wasn’t a soundtrack playing. My mom used to play music all the time taking me to school and getting back. I think listening to this music all the time formed my artistic perspective. I listened to a variety of music, everything. I was playing Brenda Fassie to Rex Lawson to Osadebe to Lucky Dube to Kanye West to everybody. Beyonce, Destiny’s Child, Shania Twain, Sade Adu. I listened to everything. And then I started making music along the way. I started writing my own music when I was nine.”

At nine, she was making a prodigious entry into secondary school. There, as it was in the days before the internet, she had a personal notebook where she recorded lyrics of her icons. She recalls with nostalgia how she grew from writing lyrics of others into creating new songs for herself. “I loved music, I used to scribble other people’s lyrics, you know. You know when you’re trying to learn a song and then you just have to listen to the song over and over again and then try to write it in your notebook. I used to do that and then somewhere along the line, I just started writing my own lyrics. I didn’t even know what they were, just melodies in my head I just wanted to express”.

Lifesize Teddy


But before she thought to fashion these words into song, poetry was her first love, an affection that, if you listen to the Lifesize Teddy EP, has not quenched. “I started out as a poet, I started out writing poetry and then I figured that I could hone it into actual rap”. With so many genres shaping her music taste, her choice of sound could take so many possibilities, but she credits Kanye West’s College Dropout with making the decision for her. 

“When I knew that I was going to be a rapper was when I listened to College Dropout, that album sealed it for me. I listened to the album I think I was seven or eight then. I listened to the album and I learnt every song on the album and it was just a lot of positivity in music, it was new and rap was not always like that, you know. It was just a different perspective. Kanye’s perspective was fresh to me because I used to listen to a lot of other guys and it was gangs and stuff so I figured that I could rap about my own reality.”

In university, she went from writing rap lyrics to testing them on text battle forums on Facebook. At the time it was only a game and a distraction from school, but testing herself against rap enthusiasts around the world sharpened her writing and she got an idea of how developed her talent was.

“I used to write lyrics when I had class. I was so preoccupied with writing raps. I was text-battling older people on Facebook. Instead of working on school, I’d be working on my battle. I’d be writing my disses here and there. It was a funny time. Even at that young age I just knew how good I was. I knew I was really really good. I knew that I was rapping better than people twice my age. I did that for a long while before I decided that I really enjoyed this and I really want to do it”.

In 2018, Lifesize Teddy was finishing university, but her next step was undecided. She desired a career in music, but the pathway to it was unclear. That is, until Mavin artist and one of Lifesize’s personal heroes, Ladipoe, announced his first concert, Ladipoe Live. “I’m a big fan of Ladipoe, a super fan and he had his first Ladipoe Live, and apparently he was looking for a fan to invite and he had gone through my DMs because I had sent him DMs. I told him how amazing his work is and how important it is and I didn’t know that he had clicked my DMs and he had listened to my SoundCloud. So he invited me over to come to the show and open for him and we performed together.”

“I had no idea that any of the [Mavin] execs were watching. I was just having fun. I was with Ladipoe! I was super fangirling but I didn’t know people were watching. After the show, Rima [Ighodaro, A&R director at Mavin Records] followed me on Instagram and I followed her back and we just kept a relationship”. Ladipoe and his concert had shown her the door, but if she wanted in, she would have to knock on it herself. In 2020, COVID and lockdown restrictions had grounded activities in Lagos, and Lifesize Teddy needed a place to record music. She reached out to Rima to ask if she could use Mavin’s studio.

“She was so excited, she welcomed me, she told me to come. So I started using the studio. I was coming over with my producer maybe four days in a week. I was recording vigorously and along the line, I started seeing other kids. Those kids are Ayra, Bayanni and Magixx. That’s when I started hearing chatter about there being an academy. So I texted Rima and asked if I could join the academy and she asked [Don] Jazzy. Then I had to send my music in and they listened to my music. We had like a couple of listening sessions and somebody from the team texted me eventually to tell me that they were interested in me. I was like ‘Oh my God, really? you like my music, you really like my music?’ and yes they did, they do, they love my music.”

There is not a high proportion of rappers in Nigeria’s top-level or female artists of any kind, so it appears Lifesize Teddy has the odds stacked against her. But she is not deterred. She approaches this challenge with supreme self-confidence and a genuine passion for the art, two qualities that will be required for her journey. “I have so much space to express because this is the most important thing to me and this form of expression is very openly poetic, so I have space to be free, to do my thing and that’s what I really love”. 

Hip-hop in Nigeria has lived through several eras, but there are some who assume its glory days are in the past, with Nigerian Pop or Afrobeats having taken centre stage now. Lifesize Teddy thinks the opposite.

“Personally I think Hip-hop is just coming to life. It’s a process you know, Afrobeats didn’t just get here, Afrobeats took time, it has taken time work and effort from people before us. I think Hip-hop is just beginning. People have laid the groundwork for us, big shout out to MI, big shout out to Ruggedman, Mode 9 for laying the pipes. I think Hip-hop is really just beginning honestly and I’m just getting started.”