Nigerian music has been one of the centrepieces of the current Nigerian cultural renaissance. It’s perhaps a sign of the growth of the industry that it’s increasingly common to find people pursue career paths within the industry. Record Producer, A&R, DJ and Architect, TMXO falls within this category so naturally, he made a good subject.
My first question is simple. Did you always think you would get to where you are?
I always saw it, to be honest. I saw a bigger picture than here but I didn’t know when. The only thing was when but I always knew I was going to make it.
As a Producer?
As anything really.
What’s your background?
Architecture. I have a National Diploma in Architecture and a B.Sc in Architecture.
You talk about knowing you’ll be successful but not knowing when. When was that when for you?
Let me bust your head, from before any placements or anybody even gave me a chance. I think from the moment I gained consciousness. My earliest memory is being on Assembly Ground in Nursery School. There was this kid who was chewing gum- Robo chewing gum and was singing this Ayuba song. If I did not know what it was, I knew I was going to do something. I was going to be the guy.
You’re a Producer. The Nigerian music industry is not particularly conducive for behind the scenes guys. What was the first cheque you made as a Producer?
I wasn’t getting paid for a long time but my first cheque- actual money that someone paid me for a record- the song never came out but it was in uni circa 2012 and it was like N40k.
There was someone who gave me N60k once but he had to request for his money back. That moment made me become firm on the principle of “if I’m not feeling it, I’m not doing it”. I only really took it ‘cos I needed the money.
As a Producer, how do you make money now?
Advances, upfront, Publishing cheques, Royalties off of sales. There are different avenues.
When did you make your first million?
In 2018, I had a really dark time and I just said “Fuck it. I’m leaving Nigeria” and I sold everything. That’s how I made the first cumulative million.
When you say left Nigeria, where did you go?
I went to LA to school. I went to study Sound Design. I just wanted to be in America for a long time so I took this course which was going to last like 3-4 months. Cumulatively, the first time I saw like one million in my account was during that period.
So when you say you sold your stuff, what are we talking about?
My car. My laptop. A bunch of things. I basically asset stripped.
What about when you saw it from your actual work?
I think it was last year. I had savings from before and I was employed at one of the labels- Universal Music Nigeria so money was coming in consistently. I had made money from Deejaying initially.
How much were you charging people to DJ?
I was a very selective luxury DJ. I was getting some 300s and 400s here and there.
How did it feel?
I was on the toilet seat. I had been doing stuff back to back and I wanted to transfer money to pay for something. I opened my account and I saw a couple figures and was like “Okay! This feels good.”
What would you say are the secret(s) of your success?
I’m very stubborn. If I say I’m going to do something, I’m going to do it. If you like believe or don’t believe, it might take me 10 years or 10 minutes but I’m going to do that thing. It’s that Kanye West mentality.
Yup! To see the guy go from rapping about working at the GAP to being in business with them.
I’ve had a lot of full circle moments like that. When I was in America, I was going to school and trying to apply for jobs based on my experience at labels and I wasn’t getting any responses. Soon as I came back to Naij, I got the Universal gig. Most of the companies I applied to, the heads of those companies I have them on text.
Another full circle moment I remember was learning to make music listening to Sarz. Sarz ended up becoming my friend. Not even just colleagues, he’s my brother.
There are so many of those moments. I think it comes with the territory because you can start today and be at the top tomorrow and it’s the same guys who can have way different hats doing different things. What’s just funny to me is that those companies I applied to in America come to Nigeria and I’m having meetings with them.
Are you a religious person?
I’m not religious but I believe in God and pray through Jesus Christ. That’s what works for me.
What was your best preparation for business?
Being open minded and flexible. It’s never a case of I’m doing this so I can’t do that. I remember when we were younger and we would say “Fuck a 9 to 5. I’m not trying to do that”. I’ve resumed at work by 9 am, by 5 pm resumed to the studio. The next day resume at my shoe store.
You have a shoe store? Where?
In Phase 1. It’s not just me though. It’s me and a couple of guys. Thanks to the guys. I do everything I want to do and they front it.
I have always been like that though. When we were in Uni, we were throwing parties then I’ll intern with DJ Klem at Knighthouse. I was studying Architecture which is a 24/7 course.
What experience(s) would you say have shaped your financial attitude?
Being a content person actually does a lot. It’s not like there’s any one experience. I know how to adapt. If we have 100 Naira today, I’m good. If we have 100 million, I’m good. I don’t think there’s ever been any one moment of “Oh my God! I was suffering and I don’t ever want to go broke again”. Being content has always worked work for me. I know what the basic things are. I had a ’96 Camry but I drove that shit like a Benz.
I had this crazy run in 2019 where I didn’t even know it was happening until the end of the year when I looked back and took it all in. I started working at Universal, signed Alpha P, put out his EP, did a couple of songs for other people. Did Art X, then got the Grammy nomination(for producing Different off Burna Boy’s African Giant). All this happened in one quarter but if you deep it, it’s the culmination of like a decade worth of work. It wasn’t easy, at all. People hear LA and think it’s all rosy but there were days where it was crashing on the couch. I remember when I was considering going for the Grammy’s and my old teacher was reaching out to find out if I was coming. So I went from being a student seeking direction to earning a Grammy nomination.
Do you believe in giving back to the community?
I believe the reason why we are here is to look out for the next person- you’re not here to look out for yourself. Sadly. You’re put here to do something that’s going to make the other person’s life easier.
Everybody is creative- if you’ve created opportunities for someone you’re creative. The creator put us here to create. I always say that I’m a professional problem solver cos everything that has gotten me here was solving a problem I had. It also creates opportunities for you in the future cos anytime anyone wants to do a similar thing you’re the first point of reference.
What’s your attitude to succession?
I have to leave it for my kids. Na where you stop, your pikin go carry from.
Your favoured form of investment?
Stocks and everything. I’m very new to it. I’m new to money. One of my friends in America put me on to Bamboo so I’m studying it. Treasury bills and mutual funds have been good for me too.
When I hit the big leagues, I’ll enter property.
The shoe company I have with my friends has also been a blessing. That was off us putting like 3,000 naira each together. Something I did like, 11 years ago. In a bad month if I don’t leave my bed, I’m sure I can pay service charge. And the thing was I only got to be part of that business ‘cos one of my friends reached out to me as a resourceful person to help with it.
Do you have any mentors?
By default, my dad. The thing I learnt from him was just how to make things work. I appreciate him more the older I get ‘cos I get to understand his perspective better.
Do you indulge yourself?
Yup. Good food.
I like whisky too.
What one thing do you spend on most?
Food and fuel. Food is fuel.
Your most prudent investment?
Myself. I’ll always back myself.
Who will you love to see answer these questions?
Don Jazzy and Peedi Picasso are the first people that come to mind.