The Songful Oxlade Is A Rare Breed
Over the years, the Nigerian music industry has celebrated several trendy musicians. But amongst those that left their footprints in the sands of time, only a few classified as the vocal powerhouse with multiple timeless songs credited to their names have received extra applause. With stars like Onyeka Onwenu – the elegant stallion, Christy Essien Igbokwe – The Lady Of Songs, 2Baba, Wande Coal, Faze and the likes of Praiz amongst those in the upper echelon of icons who have serenaded with their voices, someday we won’t look too far to find Oxlade in that midst. For those that truly know him, they won’t giggle at my optimism. This young lad is a rare breed. He’s songful.
The success of a couple of new generation musicians divides opinion, but Oxlade is an exception. On opposed, he’s one of the best vocalists in the country – A consensus by his colleagues. From artiste Fireboy DML, Blaqbonez, and Praiz, they have publicly heaped praise on him. Just as easy as pie, whenever Oxlade sings, and belts notes like falsetto, his soft-spoken cadence, and vocal precision are pleasing to the ears. From his Oxygene EP’s lead single called ‘Away‘ to those he featured on like DJ Tunez’s Causing Trouble, his voice has won hearts home and abroad. It doesn’t take rocket science to know that it takes something special to retain the listening audience in the Nigerian music market. But Oxlade has nailed his voice down in the hearts of a legion of audience.
What’s not to love about Oxlade? – The story of a boy that grew up with his grandma and gradually becoming a standout music star has trappings of a blockbuster movie. Christened Ikuforiji Abdulrahman Olaitan. As a child on the way up, he never had the average sweet fairytale. But his struggles made him a better person. “I grew up with my grandmother. I remember an uncle who works with the Nigeria Broadcasting Corporation heard about a scholarship opportunity called ‘Change-A-Life’ by Funmi Iyanda. It was a platform to support single mothers and orphans. It was the scholarship that covered my cost in primary and secondary school. I will forever be grateful. The lesson learned has instilled discipline in me as a person and a performing artist. My experiences are reflective in my songs – they are genuine from the depth of my soul.”
With songs like Happiness and Ojoro, Oxlade began his journey into the music industry as he garnered teaming fans across digital music platforms like Soundcloud. As an incredible songwriter and vocalist, within his contemporaries, he’s revered. Partnering with Fireboy DML on the song called Sing, the applause ringed in.
Superstars like Davido applauded him – so much that everyone thought he was going to become a signed artist under their indie label called DMW. Despite that not coming to fruition, Oxlade continues to put in the shift releasing songs like Sugar and also featuring on tracks like Blaqbonez’s Mamiwater (released before the track ‘Sing’) and DJ Tunez’s Causing Trouble. As those songs gained massive traction, his fame glowed.
There’s no doubt that Afro-pop music known internationally as Afrobeats has become a global brand. With every Davido credited with one billion streaming numbers and Burna Boy’s achievement as a Grammy Awards nominee, there are new generation musicians like Oxlade now following their footsteps and transforming into household names. That said, we should not be mistaken to think that life is easy for these young guns, especially those not signed with any of the known independent labels. Oxlade can testify to that. “For someone like myself that lost his mother when I was a young boy, and I also don’t have a father who fully supports my music career, so as well not having a major sponsor from the beginning, my journey into music has been a rough one. I have had to go through depression a couple of times to be where I am. I even quit music at some point, but thank God I’m in a better place now. It’s not been easy, but we keep pressing on.”
To everything, there’s a season and a time to every purpose under the heaven. Oxlade understood that phrase. He developed grit as he watched the careers of his contemporaries like Fireboy DML, and Blaqbonez took a flight before his. As someone special, he rejoiced with them, and he battled his despair and despondency until his time arrived. With his name now buzzing in the industry – not just a reputable solo artiste, but as one of the most requested for feature, he’s reaching for the skies.
“I have collaborated with a few juggernauts in the industry such as Davido, H.E.R, Skip Marley, DJ Tunez, Falz, Simi, e.t.c. Making music with them has been exciting. I never thought I would have been sharing studio – making music with these folks at this stage. Thank God for growth. They are still many more collaborations on the way. I can’t spill all now, but I promise it’s going to be worth the wait.”
The year 2020 has seen several Nigerian musicians released a body of work in the form of an EP. And Oxlade has his in Oxygene. If you have not been privileged to listen to all the songs, it never too late to do so.
From the intro track, ‘O2‘, you will be ushered into some eargasmic tuneful music. Second track Hold On, textually; it will hold on you spellbound. Then comes Away as track three – the highlife guitar strings and the incredible vocal arrangement makes the song fan favorite. The song Kokose and Weakness were crowned by track six called Tables Turn featuring Moelogo is a fantastic piece of reassuring music. Oxlade’s ‘Oxygene’ released in March stands amongst the best. “My debut project Oxygene is basically about love. It encompasses all that I felt at a point in time. I was in love, I was hurt, and I channeled everything into writing those songs. Some of the best songs in life come from a place of deep feelings. That’s what inspired that project.”
As an indigene of Lagos( Epe LGA), the commercial hub of Nigeria, Oxlade is climbing up the ladder to be among the most commercially viable performing artistes in Nigeria, Africa and beyond. He knows his onions as a musician. Likewise, he understood the technicalities of how to become successful in the music sector. He understands that talent is great, but being patient and having a perfect working arrangement with other creatives is king.
“The Nigerian music industry is currently at a stage where the music is gold, and everyone wants to have a piece of it. I believe that African musicians need to step up their creativity and prove that we are the best at what we do. We make music everyone enjoys, and we make people happy. At this stage, the industry has experienced exponential growth. I am glad to be a part of the new Afrobeats movement.”
At the age of 23, Oxlade is churning out music classified as evergreen. His headspace is always in the right place. The curiosity as to what inspires Oxlade’s music has become a kitchen table talk. “My surroundings and personal experiences influence how I make music and the type of songs I make. Also, some of my mentors – the likes of Wande Coal influence my music. But my sound is original and unique to how I feel and what I do.”
For every young artiste, the way they spend their spare time when they are not doing any music-related activity is crucial to their emotional and psychological balance. Several musicians that are a one-hit-wonder lost their mojo because they hang around the wrong folks and make the wrong decisions. “For me, I spend my spare time with family and close friends. They are always around me – they give me strength when I’m weak.”
With a management deal with The Plug, and an anonymous sponsor backing his project, Oxlade has found a way to develop a support structure that has so far worked for him. Across the industry, he’s highly ranked among the best new generations artistes. If one takes a look at all the reputable music charts, Oxlade has found a home in all of them. This songful Oxlade is a rare breed.
Socials – Instagram & Twitter – @oxladeofficial
Words by Sesan Adeniji – Instagram & Twitter – @sesanadeniji