Pheelz has collaborated with some of the most notable artists in Africa, producing chart-topping singles and albums. After over a decade of producing hits for the likes of Olamide, Fireboy DML, Tiwa Savage and Teni, Pheelz is now topping charts with his own music. Finesse’ has become his global breakout single, gaining over 37 million streams on Spotify alone and amassing an impressive 15 million views on YouTube. In this conversation, we spoke about his inspirations, music, his relationship with ID Cabasa, and – of course, the single that took the world by storm- Finesse.
You are such an accomplished producer and singer/songwriter. People here in the UK might not really know about your achievements but, before we get into that, I would love to take you back in time to understand who you were and what you were like as a child. What was growing up like for you?
Growing up was very special for me because I had a very beautiful family. I have seven siblings and I’m the last born, so I was very protected and not too free. So it was literally church, school, and then back home. I was fine with that because the church had music and that was all I cared about growing up. I had a very musical background.
How did you get into even playing instruments at church because I know a lot of people start out singing in the choir?
The very first time I got into the adult church, I saw the choir perform for the first time and that just took me! I swept off my feet! I wanted that feeling I felt from the jump. I started trying to teach myself. I got my dad to get me a very small piano and I would label all the keys because I saw it in a manuscript in school and started training and playing by ear. That was how I started learning actually.
That’s crazy! A lot of people know you for being a producer but, where did the interest in production come from?
It was from the keys because I started going to cybercafes every day after school. At one point, my dad thought I was doing fraud because I was always in a cyber cafe after school. I was actually researching bare things not just music but Art, Fashion, Drawings, 3D, and Animation – it was everything! That’s all I still do till now. I then discovered that I could put the keys into a beat and make a song because I discovered Fruity Loops and that’s how I got into production.
So, who inspired you musically and production-wise?
It’s a long list! ID Cabasa is on that list, Don Jazzy’s on that list, Timberland, Pharrell, Yanni, Kenny G- it’s a long list! Kanye tops my list! It’s a very long list!
I can definitely see the Kanye influence as well. You mentioned ID Cabasa. I know you worked under him for some time. What was that like and what were you doing while you were working under him?
I wasn’t in school- I had finished secondary school and was waiting to go into college so it was during that break. I extended my break and didn’t go to college for a bit because I was working with ID Cabasa. It was beautiful. It didn’t really teach me anything, but it taught everything. He never sat in front of a computer and gave me a tutorial on how to produce. I came into the studio with ID Cabasa with 20 of my own beats on a CD, so I was already trying on my own, making songs for the church and for choir. He didn’t feel like I needed to be trained from scratch, he just needed to oversee, guide, and refine my skill.
The first time I heard about you was on Olamide’s First Of All which you produced. You went on to produce a number of tracks for his YBNL and Baddest Guy Ever Liveth albums as well. In more recent times, you’ve produced Teni’s Billionaire, Celia’s Song on Tiwa Savage’s album, you’ve worked with Runtown, Seyi Shay- your discography is crazy long! When would you say your big break happened?
That would be First Of All! That happened when I was 16 going on 17. That happened really young. It was definitely First Of All for sure. I was thrown into the deep end really early. Since then it’s just been banger after banger, new level after new level, new challenges, and ups and downs.
Some people don’t know that you’ve actively put out music over the past couple of years like Do What You Want, Honey, Gobe. I want to talk about your first EP Hear Me Out which dropped last year. For the people who haven’t listened to it, what would you say the project is about and what inspired you to drop an EP in the first place?
The inspiration to drop the EP was just the urge to be heard, shining more light on different aspects of me. I made all the lyric and animation videos myself. It’s my energy but interpreted in sonics. So for those of you who haven’t listened, go and listen! We’re going to be singing those songs word for word on stage together!
Absolutely they need to go and listen! So, moving onto 2022- ‘Finesse’! How did that happen and how did you connect with BNXN?
‘Finesse’ happened with me and Miichkel (pronounced Micheal). Miichkel is the producer that I just signed and currently mentoring- I’m his ID Cabasa! We were in the studio vibing, making beats, and recording and he started doing the ‘Finesse’ beat with the Keytar- it literally just went from there! We were just going! I think I’m going to post the original idea for ‘Finesse’. There’s an original melody idea that I did before I added lyrics. Watch out for that! I recorded the song, posted the video the same night in February, and the next day, it was blowing up! Three days later, BNXN hit me up in the DMs saying “Bro, what is this? Is this just a Tiktok sound or is it a record?” I’m like, “Bro, it’s my record. I just recorded it a few days ago. Do you want a verse?” He said yes then we linked up and recorded it!
As you said, you put the snippet up in February. I remember my friend sent it to me on my way home from work and she said, “You need to listen to this! What is this?” To me, It wasn’t surprising to hear because what you have produced and released has been crazy since day 1 but, I know to a lot of people their reaction was, “What in the world is this? Why is it so catchy?” ‘Finesse’ currently has over 37 million streams on Spotify alone, it had the number 1 spot on the BBC 1Xtra and the official music video racked up 8.2 million views on YouTube in two weeks! You’ve experienced so much success in your career so far, how does it feel to know that a song that you might not have taken so seriously when you made it had blown up like this?
It’s crazy actually. I just feel very blessed and very humbled by all the love. I don’t take it for granted. It just shows that I can make amazing music and I have a lot of people out there that will relate to my music. It’s really dope! A Lot of my craft has been behind other people’s brands and light, but it’s really amazing to shine my own light and have people see me for who I am and what I can do. I don’t plan on stopping man- this is going to be an amazing journey.
Please do not stop! We really want to hear more! So, how have you been able to take in everything that has happened? When you think about it, is it overwhelming or is it a feeling of this was something that was destined to happen?
It’s a bit of both. I knew this was always going to happen. I know I have a lot to say that a lot of people need to hear. I knew now or later that the time would come. Now that it’s here, I haven’t had time to process it! It’s been a lot since the snippet dropped and every day has been a new level. It’s a lot but I feel really blessed, really humbled, and just very grateful.
You are the guy behind a lot of artists’ music and artistry. What kept you motivated over the years to just keep going?
Just the love and passion for creating. I’ve had that passion since I was a child- not just music but creating. Just making and expressing my feeling and energy. That’s how I see all these things and that is what has kept me going. Just the love for what I do and how I do it.
Definitely! I think you’re super successful and you’re such an asset to the music industry. How would you define your success?
My definition is not what I have done but the people I have touched. I think that’s number 1 on my list. Having to inspire people and make people happy, sad, and reminisce- being one of those people that can offer that gift to the world is a success for me. Having millions of people accepting my light and making it the soundtrack of their lives is success to me.
That’s a really nice definition. A question I have always wanted to ask a producer is how do you see the sound of the music industry moving forward- especially in terms of the Nigerian Music industry?
At the core of it is the fact that it’s not really a sound, it’s a spirit. Things change, sounds come and go but that Nigerian stage, that Afrobeat sound? It’s everlasting. It has been since the days of Fela, Bongos Ikwue, and the likes. It is still here and it will still be here. Nigerian music right now is a blessing. We’ve been ready for all these doors that are opening now. A storm is coming because there are kids over here that are on the streets who are super talented. The streets are filled with talent, Art, and creativity. Now that opportunities are opening in the world, it’s a storm!
You signed to Warner Music in March- congratulations! What is next for you and what should we expect to see from you for the rest of the year?
Next is more music! A lot more bangers and more production as well. I’ve got some very heavy stuff dropping this year. I might dabble and give you guys an EP. Just a lot more tunes and more Art. I’m going to get into the Tech space as well- I have lots of ideas. I just want to create fearlessly. I’m going to move into areas people didn’t expect me to move into!