The biggest positive about Afropop has always been how the genre succeeds at introducing myriads of point-of-views that go on to present a tapestry of wider life in Nigeria and beyond. Whether it is Burna Boy’s socio-political critique of the Nigerian system to Tiwa Savage’s deconstruction of African femininity and Davido’s song of jubilation and celebration, Afropop is welcoming of every POV that it can get. The singer, Stainless, is uniquely up to the test of presenting a diverse POV that many don’t have.
“I grew up everywhere because I moved around a lot and that allowed me to experience different cultures from different places,” he says over a Zoom call late in October. Talking about his experiences, he says: “In Benin City, I used to stay on this street called St. Saviour and I was like the hood in Benin. I lived there for a while and it taught me independence. From there, I moved to Aba and was there for a few years before I moved to Lagos and I learned how to deal with the fast pace of life in the city. From there, I traveled out of the country and got to see the outside world and all it can offer.”
Now back in Lagos to pursue a career in music, Stainless’ career started predictably in the church where as a youngster he was a part of the choir as a drum player. His brother, Filon Jay, was also an inspiration, helping to clear a path for Stainless to begin his career as a touring artist. “He was selling out shows and all and I go for those shows,” Stainless says about his brother. “Going to those shows and seeing how people reacted to his music and how he imparted people made me want to try my hands at music.”
Even then, his resolve wasn’t solidified until he randomly came by “Holla At Your Boy,” the breakout single by Wizkid that convinced him to get into music fully. “I went on YouTube and I was looking for Wiz Khalifa but Wizkid popped up and I saw “Holla At Your Boy.” I clicked on the song and started listening to it,” he explains. “While I was listening to it, I just started hearing the beat very clearly and I was like if this guy can do this, I needed to start doing my own thing and that’s just how I started.”
Since then, his career has been on a steady incline, starting from writing in a garage to opening for some of the most celebrated acts out of Africa. “After writing to the instrumental of “Holla At Your Boy,” I started writing to different instrumentals, it was almost like an addiction at a point,” Stainless says. “I would find instrumentals on YouTube and I would just write to them. From there, I started going to the studio because previously I used to record in a garage and any empty space I could find.
Continuing, he says: “Through those recordings, I started to get shows through my brother. Every show he was going on, he’d bring me along, and, over time, I just kept getting better at making music. I also started doing shows but I was very independent and it’s just progressed to where I am right now.”
Last year, Stainless decided to return to Nigerian fully and since then he has established his reputation as a musician to look out for. He first came to mainstream attention with “Fiona,” a euphonious Amapiano-influenced track that talked about his attraction to a love interest before following it up with “12 A.M,” the song that definitely pushed him through. “The thing with me is that when I first started music seriously, I knew it was going to be it for me and I had to take it all the way. Normally, I’m always unsure about stuff but this is the only thing that I’ve been extremely certain about,” he says about his process.
Stainless’ debut body of work, an extended play titled In My Head, is forthcoming but before that, he has put out a single called “Liqour” to further detail his ruminative style of music and introduce listeners to his world. “The project is basically a collection of my thoughts and feelings,” he says. “I blended a lot of elements, so it has soul in it and you can tell from listening there I’ve been doing this for a while and there’s also confidence there but, at the same time, it still talks about love and life experiences.”
The project was A&R’ed by leading Nigerian music executive and singer, Bankulli, and working with a figure like that was a big experience for Stainless. Describing the process, he says: “I’ll call it a rollercoaster because there’s a lot of emotions involved in it and at the same time it’s a blessing as well because I haven’t been in Nigeria for a long time recently and if anyone had told me I’d be working with Bankulli, I’d have thought it was a joke. But he’s been here for me, he A&R’ed my project and brought everyone that worked on the project with me.”
But with a project on the horizon, Stainless has only one concern: standing out. Explaining his goal for his music, he is as succinct as he is confident: “I want people to be able to relate to it. I want to be my own person, not a clone or anything like that. I want people to listen to me and be able to say, ‘That’s Stainless’ music.’”