Abuja is buzzing with musicians with alternative sounds, that cut across a range of ‘a bit’ to ‘largely’ different from our mainstream Nigerian sounds. One of such musicians in the city of lights is Cheso.

Cheso (real name: Owajicheso Ogbuluijah) is a Port Harcourt-born musician based in Abuja. The dreadlock-sporting creative is a producer and recording artist and his style can best be described as Afro fusion.

He debuted in 2011 with the single Groovy Feeling produced by Maffy Beatzz. Back then, he went by the moniker “Skez” and was based in Ghana, studying to get a degree in architecture. He went on to spend nine months in S.A.E Institute, Los Angeles, studying Sound Engineering, before returning back to Nigeria to continue a career in music. He then rechristened himself Cheso, and became affiliated with Alien Prose Entertainment and released two singles in 2014, off an EP titled Preface that would not see the light of day.

He has since become independent and released some more singles, the most popular one being Can’t Feel My Face—whose intro bears strong similarities to Drake’s song Passion Fruit, despite being released months earlier. And this year, he has shot a video for that single, and released a debut 6 track EP titled: Love Yourself, Love Yourself (L.Y.L.Y pronounced: Lilly).

We met with him for a chat and here’s what we talked about:

So this is about 6 years down the line since your debut and first EP launch attempt. Now you’ve finally dropped your first EP: L.Y.L.Y. It has 5 songs and an intro, that’s 6 tracks. What’s the inspiration behind L.Y.L.Y?

It’s what I’ve learnt in 6 years, or let’s use the 2014 attempted debut, it’s what I’ve learnt in 3 years. Because 2014 is when I  became active doing music, like this is what I wanna do.

L.Y.L.Y is all centered around: you can do it, you matter, and nobody holds the key for you to do anything. You need to unlock whatever limitations you’ve given yourself and do what you want to do. Because I’ve had nasty experiences, I’ve gone through a lot, taken a lot of L’s.

L.Y.L.Y is about growth, it’s about self belief. I’ve come to the realisation that you need people along the way, but the core thing you need is yourself; to believe in yourself.

Back then you were working with other producers. Your first three songs weren’t produced by you.

Actually 2 weren’t produced by me, “Neku Nek” and “Groovy Feeling”, but the rest were produced by me.

So you producing yourself is not quite new, your entire Preface EP, you produced it yourself?

Except “Neku Nek”.

Wow, so you’ve  produced two projects by yourself, do you think you’re always going to produce yourself?

No, I’m not. I definitely will stop at a point in time. What producing for myself does right now, is crafting that sound, that style, letting people know that this is who I am, this is where I’m going to. I actually started producing because people couldn’t get what I wanted. Shout out to Sugarman… Bones, he’s the person who taught me how to produce in 2008. That was because I didn’t see people that could give me what I wanted, even far back then. I’m getting to the stage where I know there will not be time. So what I’m doing with my production is just stacking up. What I’m doing with the songs I’m putting out is letting people know, this is my style, if we’re going to work on a song together, you’re not just going to do anything, because I’ll trash it.

So you’re trying to give people a template? You’re defining your style?

Yeah, and right now I’m working on three projects simultaneously, they’re almost done. And it’s the definition of style, they’ll sound different but you’ll hear me in every single one of them, clearly.

Let me trip back to one of your singles. “Can’t Feel my Face” was released around September/October 2016. The sound was really fresh, but have you had people compare it to Drake’s “Passion Fruit”?

No.

Have You heard “Passion Fruit”?

No.

Okay, I have, and I’ve had this discussion with people. Your song was released last year (2016) and on Drake’s More Life album was released in March this year. The instrumental of “Passion Fruit” sounds very identical to the intro of Can’t Feel My Face. And I’ve had this discussion with people who I’ve had to explain to that yours was released first. You should listen to “Passion Fruit”.

I will.

You’re releasing music exclusively to SoundCloud right now?

Yes I am.

How do you feel about being a SoundClound artist?

Well I don’t mind, you need a conduit to go from point A to point B. Chance won a Grammy from being exclusive to SoundCloud. Not to say we’re trying to do that, if other avenues come out for us to have our music and we can control how that’s perceived and what revenues come from that, that’s fine. But now it’s just SoundCloud I have, when others come, I’d use it.

Did it bother you when SoundCloud had financial issues and it seemed they might’ve shut down?

Yes it did. Yes it did. I remember seeing it and I was supposed to drop something the next day or the next week, then I saw it. SoundCloud is closing, ah! we are finished. Because of all those platforms you can have like a direct link with, SoundCloud is the most popular. Then I saw the tweet from Chance and I’m like ah! Uncle Chance has fixed it for us.

And I just want to say this SoundCloud artists are artists, Jaguda artists are artists, NotjustOk artists are artists, they’re artists. You should not say because…. for me, that’s the same thing as tribalism. It’s a silly thing to do to undermine an artist’s skill because of the platform, if you undermine it because you feel he’s not good, that’s fine.

You’re hosting an event on Saturday, November 4th. Could you tell us about it and what to expect. You said on twitter that there are other artistes on the line up, Efe Oraka confirmed she’d be there, you’ve not told us who the rest are, and you said you’ve been rehearsing. So tell us about it.

Well the event, Feels with Cheso, is on November 4th, at Casalinda in Wuse 2 by 6pm, and it’s a Kickstarter for a long process. The aim of that event is to know who the fans are, know who the followers are. I’ve had people call me and go “where are you, we don’t like the silence, what have you been up to, let’s see something”. And it’s very dangerous when people start asking that, because the next question is going to be more of that, then there’s not going to be any other question, you are forgotten. We planned it this way to bring people into the creative process, and show a bit of what happens in the process. It’s going to be an interactive session, there’d be an admission fee, we’d show you how we do it and we’d like to know, how will you like it to be done, because you’re a consumer, this is like a market.

The product is there already, but we want to give it in a way that people understand the value of the product. It’s going to be chill, we’d have throw pillows and mats for people to sit, you can have your drinks, just free yourself. It’s going to be like, after we’ve performed the songs we’ve prepared to perform, we’d like to throw it out to the people and ask what do you want to hear, and we’d perform it. The only songs I don’t think we’ve rehearsed are “Groovy Feeling”, because it’s from a long time ago, and maybe “Neku Nek” and “Supaghetti Body”, but we’re trying to fit that all in.

We’d allow the people ask questions, we’d ask questions, you can interact with our instrumentalists, it’s going to be a free flow of information.