The streets of Lagos are populated with people who see music as a passion. They see it as an art with which to change the world and ensure that their names live on long after them. Jody is one of the dreamers. When we talk over the phone about what he wants to achieve with his music, the singer doesn’t add his intent. “I want to be remembered for my impact and the wave that I’m bringing to this industry,” he tells me. “I don’t just make my music for the moment, I want people to hear my music and know that I am different.”
At the moment, the singer is in the midst of an artist rollout that has seen him transition from another music hopeful to the first name on OHK Entertainment, the record label owned by afropop stalwart Skales. Born Chukwuemeka Ugemba Emmanuel., music has always been present in the life of Jody. Born and raised in Lagos despite hailing from Enugu, singing provided an outlet for Jody to express himself even if he wasn’t always sure it was something he wanted to do professionally.
“I’d always been singing even if I didn’t know it was something I was going to do professionally because I was considered a happy child growing up,” he tells me laughing. “I used to disturb everyone with my singing, it wasn’t intentional, it was just what I loved.” In high school, he picked up interest in the professional side of things when he listened to a demo his elder brother recorded. “I listened to the track and I was excited and told him I wanted to do this too,” Jody tells me. “He started out rapping and that influenced me as well because I started writing rap songs. All of that shaped me to be who I am right now because I knew I could sing, I just didn’t know I could take it to the next level like this. I picked up interest in singing much later in life.”
Singing led the rising musician into the byzantine Instagram world of covers and freestyle songs, and it was a strategy informed by his relatively modest financial situation. “Most of what I used to do was covers because it was really hard to get money for studio sessions in the beginning and I had to ask my mum for money in the beginning for studio time. It was stressful but later I just decided to start downloading beats and doing freestyles. Any chance I had to work, I’d just do covers,” he remembers.
A freestyle he did in 2018 caught the attention of Jos-born producer, Chopstix, and it was the beginning of a whirlwind journey that would end with him meeting Skales courtesy of the producer. When he was introduced to Skales, the singer asked him to keep working on his music while they stayed in constant communication. “He was always checking in on me from time to time to ensure I was fine and that the process was going smoothly; that encouragement was important for me,” he says. “When he started working on his Mr. Love album, I worked with him on some tracks and I’m glad I had the opportunity to work on that album and after that we did a couple more songs together. I think at one point he just felt it was the right time to take things to the next level and he called me up that we had to start working on my project, that’s when I knew we were about to go official.”
Working on the project that would introduce him to the wider world was a pleasant mix of surprises and familiarity. “I always had this vision of what making my debut project would be like,” he says with a visible sign of excitement in his voice. “It didn’t matter whether it was an E.P., album, or compilation, I just wanted to know what that feeling would be like. I knew I could churn out five to ten songs but I wanted it to be together as something that was mine and that people could enjoy. A lot of the producers I met were people that I’d just met at the time while others were people I’d known for a while, so, it was a nice balance and it was all natural. We’d be having a conversation and they’d tell me about a beat they were going to send later. We kept going back and forth. At one point we just decided to listen to all the songs we had and decide what made the project.”
The project he is talking about is Waves, a six-track extended play that sees him match the boisterous with the club-ready lingo of Nigerian pop music. It is a collection of songs that means a lot to Jody. It wasn’t easy but at the same time it was something that needed to happen. I needed to go through the things I’ve gone towards to be able to make the music I’ve made now. I sharpened my skills through it all and that’s been a blessing for me,” Jody says.
As our call comes to an end, I’m keen to know what he sees in his future. His answer is succinct and precise in equal measure: “ I want to touch people’s lives and become one of the biggest exports of afrobeats. There are already people doing it but I want to make my own mark.”