Interview: Taves Is Not Your Regular Afrobeats Artist

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Taves Is Not Your Regular Afrobeats Artist

In recent times, the Nigerian music industry has seen artists pick and run with Afrobeats, extending the reach of the sound that has since gone global. Amid this gravitation to Afrobeats, Taves has remained resolute on his preferred genre; RnB. Unfazed by the influences of Afrobeats. Born Aluko Toluwanimi, Taves embarked on his songwriting journey at the tender age of nine, a talent he honed while listening to Asa. During long road trips from Ibadan to Port Harcourt, where his father resided, Asa’s melodic tunes served as a source of entertainment. Asa’s unique style deeply influenced Taves, who asserts that his music is anything but conventional. Despite acknowledging the dominance of Afrobeats in the Nigerian music market, Taves emphasizes that his genre diverges from this mainstream classification, which often encompasses all music originating from Nigeria and some African musicians.

Starting with songwriting at a young age, Taves gradually gained recognition by creating covers for songs that caught his attention. Among these covers were tracks like Ckay’s Beggi Beggi, Lojay’s Moto, and among others. Although these covers were well-received, Taves acknowledges that the impact was limited. 

In 2022, Taves’ life experienced a seismic shift. His cover for BNXN’s For Days was his breakthrough. As he has done for songs he found interesting, Taves did a cover for the track, and despite delaying the recording of the accompanying videos for several months, the final release surpassed his expectations, garnering positive feedback from listeners. Taves’ excitement reached new heights when BNXN reached out to him, expressing interest in collaborating and eventually signing him to To Your Ears Entertainment.

With an Atlantic deal in the bag, a growing discography, and two latest pack singles; Folake and Bodija to his name, we caught up with Taves for a conversation about his childhood, growing up in Ibadan, meeting BNXN; whom he reveres, his music, and his plans for the future.

How did your formative years impact your craft?

I was born in Port Harcourt. I lived there for a couple of years. I don’t remember anything from living there, but I still remember the long road trips. The part Port Harcourt played in my music opened my eyes to what’s out there, beyond the scope of what I can see. At the time, I lived from when I was 6 to 8, and I didn’t know that there was anything outside of Lagos, and maybe Ibadan where my grandpa lived. I moved to Ibadan when I was around 8. Ibadan is different. People tell me that when they hear my music it’s always calm, with no stress around it. It’s reflective of my environment. I’m not saying that life is easy there, it’s just that the people are easygoing. Nobody is trying to bother anyone. Chilled. People just wanted to go to the Polo Club, drink their beer, smoke their cigars, play their golf, visit friends, and relax. That kind of lifestyle and environment impacted the way I deliver songs. I will give you that intensity if it’s necessary but most times, it’s just very calm because I don’t see the need to stress, because people are still making music that impacts people in such a deep way, and they’re not doing anything crazy. 

Apart from Asa, who were the other artists that inspired you?

There are others. When I was in secondary school I used to listen to Khalid. I used to listen to Ed Sheeran a lot. All this is because of my love for guitar, and he entered my head. I listened to trap music when I was younger; Future and Lil Uzi Vert. When I got out of secondary school, I wasn’t a big Afrobeats guy. I started exploring different things. There’s a particular friend I have that used to send me underground artists. He was the first person that sent me Buju’s song. Nonso Amadi, Wani, Dami Oniru, Remy Baggins, and all these guys blew my mind. I didn’t know that artists were exploring the genre I cared about. These are some of the artists that influenced the Afropop-RnB side of what I do. 

You started songwriting at 9, how did you develop a love for music?

When I was very young, as young as I can remember, I used to embark on long road trips with my dad. He lived in Port-Harcourt, that’s where he worked. We’d go on long trips from Ibadan to Port-Harcourt, from Lagos to Ibadan. On the trips, he’d play old songs that weren’t old at the time. He played songs like Asa, which was the one that stood out to me, that was where my love for music started, I knew every Asa song and lyric by heart. I liked the fact that she played the guitar and I liked her style. When I was 8 or 9 I started writing songs and tried to teach myself how to play the guitar and it kept on for a couple of years, I also started uploading videos of me singing people’s songs on Instagram and the reception was cool. I dropped my first song, initially I had never been to the studio before that year. In 2019, my brother suggested that we take music seriously, he told me he would book a session for me and he finally booked a session. It wasn’t terrible but there is a difference between what I sing then and now, between 2019 and 2022. I released one EP in 2019, another in 2020 and 2021, and then I tried to improve my writing and my vocals. In 2020 I met this producer Davinci and I met this artist Specimen that he used to work with. They improved my whole craft and changed my perspective. 

You’re big on experimentation with other music genres. What motivates this?

I don’t listen to one genre of music, and when I see someone do something, and I love it, and I can do it, I don’t see the reason I shouldn’t do it. That’s where that stems from. When I hear Ed Sheeran go on some folk-pop sounds, I try it because I know I can do it. I will listen to the music and try. I know it’s not going to be perfect at first but as time goes on, it will be perfect. I remember when I started doing Afrobeats, it was bad. I couldn’t speak Pidgin properly, and my Yoruba was rubbish. Then, I didn’t feel comfortable in it. Now, I’m very comfortable with it. The Weeknd, he does the 80s pop kind of music and I could play you some unreleased songs that would burst your head, and you would be wondering how I am doing that but it’s because why shouldn’t we be able to do what others are doing? One thing I would hate is for people to put me in a box. I feel it’s important for an artist to have some level of diversity. I still think it’s important to have an open mind and try different things because you never know where your blessings are going to come from.

BNXN’s For Days Cover was your big break, but there are other covers you did. Tell me about them and why For Days stood out. 

I was the biggest Ckay fan that year. I did a cover for Beggie Beggie. The song was a beautiful song, with the elements in it. I did that because I needed to do that. I did it. People loved it, but it was just a cover. Then, I did a cover for Tems’ Found. It was a song I loved at the time. I did the cover because I felt I needed to do that. I did it, and it remained a cover. I did a cover for Pyscho YP and Tomi Agape’s Maria. That song was amazing. It blew my mind. I had to do a cover to it, and it remained a cover. All these were the covers I did before For Days, but when I did for For Days, you could tell that there was something there because immediately after I did a cover, I went outside to record the video. I held on to it for almost two months because I had never felt so confident about not recording a video for a cover before. I didn’t know what was wrong, but I just didn’t want to do it. That day, I got the strength to record the video and I did, and it was the beginning of the blessings. I did a cover of Lojay’s Moto. It was one of the best songs of 2023, and Lojay loved it. I had told him before I dropped it, and when I did, the reception was great, and it put a lot of eyes on me before I dropped Eleyele.           

How did you meet BNXN?

I knew who Buju was but it was in the summer of 2021 when I was still in uni when I sat down to listen to one of his songs that he had just dropped at the time, it was Italy. Then Buju dropped For Days close to the middle of 2022 and it was one of my favorites at the time. Someone suggested I should do a cover of the song, I do covers of songs and I did it recorded it, I didn’t shoot the video for a month or another month, and one day I was out with my friends, and on the last day of our hangout and I decided to the video to make my manager happy and manager happy, my manager was my brother. The reception was positive. I opened the notification one day to find that BNXN had reacted. I had to double-check to make sure it wasn’t a parody, he contacted me and one reason why I respect him is not just because he noted my cover, he wanted to be part of my music. He was part of my artist development and he allowed me to make mistakes and grow and this kept on until like another year and I finally got signed to To Your Ears Entertainment and then we dropped Eleyele. Eleyele is my biggest song out today. 

What was the experience like working with BNXN?

It has been an interesting experience working with Buju.  What I was doing then, is what I am doing now. He gave me the freedom to express myself in a way I feel like. Anything I am doing, he is at my back, and he is going to advise me. The reason I’m so open to listening to his advice and everyone’s advice is that he trusts me to make decisions myself, so when he shows another perspective, I don’t doubt him because he is one of the smartest people I know. He knows and does a lot of things himself because he is an independent artist. He is capable and I trust him more than everyone else in and out of music because he is my friend.

 Your songs tackle issues like heartbreak and other familiar issues. Is this a personal story or relatable experiences of others?

Every single song I have written and released stems from something I have gone through, and it’s not that way for a lot of people. Sometimes, I just write about random things and situations that haven’t happened to me and see if I can spin it because it’s still going to be relatable to people at the end of the day, but most of the time, all my songs are coming from personal experiences and it’s crazy a lot of the time when something happens to me or something goes wrong, I can’t write about it right then. It always comes months later when I randomly start working and it starts coming. Everything is my personal experience.


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A few of your songs stand out to me. Was rent due when you made Lovers’ ballad?

Hahahahaha. I made the song when I was 17. At the time I was listening to Trippie Redd, because of the way he sings, not about what he is singing about. His music touched my heart because of the way he sang. I wanted to see if I could do something like that. At the time, I was having relationship issues, and I capitalized on that, writing about something that had happened to me but in a fraction of what I had picked up from Trippie Redd, and it was me trying out something I hadn’t done before. The beat itself was unusual, and the way I sang, and what I was singing about was unusual, and I didn’t know that it was going to be one of the songs people would like most on that EP. I thought it would be Chantal.

Your career has been on a consistent progression, in what ways have you changed? What new things have you learned and unlearned?

We thank God. Since I hit the limelight, a lot more people have wanted to work with me. I’m used to working alone in my room with my setup. Eleyele, I recorded it in a closet in BNXN’s house. Realize, off Buju’s album, I recorded it in the kitchen, so now there’s a lot more attention on me, people want to work with me, and I am open to working with people now because I feel l need to get comfortable with working with other people in the studio. I am a big songwriting guy. I can spend two months on a song but now I am learning that if I am working with someone, not everyone, especially producers, and other artists can wait for me to write one song for two months because I’m still at the stage where I need to prove myself. I used to be a very shy person in a normal social setting. Now people know who I am, walking into an event or show makes me uncomfortable so I wear shades, but now I am more confident.  

Eleyele was the song that caught the attention of Atlantic Records, how did you make the move to Atlantic?

In the early summer of 2023, I started talking with Atlantic Records about Eleyele because that’s what they had heard, it was crazy, I have only one song that has done relatively very well and I got signed to Atlantic Records, a lot of people dream about it, even me. I had a conversation with my brother about the kind of songs I produce, they are not your regular conventional songs, I can give you conventional Afrobeats that everybody loves but I have the ones that are typically not for the Nigerian market, so I and my brother always spoke about international labels to push the music outside of Nigeria. Now, I’m working on some very insane stuff because I will die before I take any of this stuff for granted, everything has to be on tip-top and top form. 

What future projects are you working on, and what should the fans expect from you? 

Since last year, I have been promising the people who love my music a project, and last year it was very tacky, it wasn’t just time but the time is coming o. It’s very close. A project and amazing singles; kinds of stuff that you haven’t heard, even if you have heard it, you haven’t heard it like this. It’s going to be very insane. An EP is on the way, and then my debut album will follow.

With the Atlantic Records deal in the bag,  you’re now a top choice for collaborations. Who do you want to work with?

 In Nigeria, I would love to work with Lojay; he is fucking amazing. He doesn’t miss. Bella Shmurda because of the way he sings. There’s nobody that has a voice like him, and with Tems, and Asa. If I make a song with Asa today, the moment the song drops, that’s it. I have done everything I set out to do. Seyi Vibez; I feel we can do something crazy together.

In Africa, I want to work with King Promise. I love what he is doing. I want to work with Baaba J. I love her music and have been listening to it a lot lately. It’s amazing. These guys for now because I have been listening to them.