May 2017 witnessed the release of Morell’s long-awaited debut album Musa Jikan Musa, which translates to “Musa, the grandchild of Musa” in Hausa.
On the cover of the album, Morell squats in front of a mud house with a thatched roof. What looks like a makeshift band of Northern musicians is pictured playing some local instruments behind him, with the splendor of mother nature hovering right behind all of them.
The cover epitomizes the simplicity of life in the rural parts of Northern Nigeria, a life far away from industrialism or the man-made, technology-dependent and chaotic environment peculiar to most urban areas. And just like the trademark band he ties around his head, Morell wears the part of the country he hails from on his sleeves.
Morell’s debut album is a long time coming but it is worth the wait. The 13-tracker, which weaves around love and insightful reflections, is unarguably one of the finest projects released this year. And in an industry where albums are no longer ‘trendy’, Morell was able to deliver a project that displayed growth, confidence and balance in his craft.
His vocals and messaging combine to give his music an ethereal feeling that makes his listeners long for more. And on emotionally rich songs like “Borno”, where he situates the pains and struggles that have ravaged the Northern part of the nation since the Boko Haram epidemic, Morell reminds us that we could always tell our authentic stories through our music.
Given all that has happened to him this year, it was only expedient that we sat down to have a chat with the man, his music and his life.
Most times, you are usually referred to as an indigenous or Hausa hip-hop act, how does that make you feel?
Honestly, I don’t think about those things. It’s so much work to put in to start worrying about trivial stuff like that. I’m trying to let my music speak and fight for me. The more popular my music gets, people will be in a better position to really say who I am musically. For now, I simply can’t blame them. They don’t know me and my music enough. But they will.
Morell has been around for quite a while, how come you are just releasing your debut album this year?
Man, life happens to us differently you know. But I feel like now is the time and that is my debut album as it should be. I’ll change nothing about the timing and the challenges that led up to that stage. This album leaves room for a lot of growth for the next time around and I like that.
How much was being born in Bauchi influential to you becoming a musician?
I wouldn’t say it was influential in any significant way really. Just a birth place
I know Morell used to rap, I know Morell sings, what genre of music do you do?
This question again. Morell still raps. Morell is limitless when it comes to music. That’s just what it is but I’ll lean more towards the side of being a Singer. I enjoy singing.
Musa Jikan Musa dropped in May 2017, talk us through the album process and what has the reception been like months after its release?
The reception has been good and we’re still pushing it as hard as we can so we expect more great feedback and love for the album. Making the album was pretty nice and comfortable as most of the recordings were done in my home studio and I worked with some really talented and humble musicians on it. We had fun.
Talking about the album, “Borno” which is my favorite track was released as a single in 2015 and remains relevant till date, how real was the song to you?
Absolutely! Borno is a song that came from a place of pain and love. Being from Borno State and watching the insurgents rip it to shreds was heartbreaking for me and what better way to speak about it than with a song.
Let’s go back a little, you released ‘Anti Social’ ft Olamide in 2013, that was supposed to be your break into the industry but things went cold after, what happened?
I fell out with the label so I literally had to start all over again.
Also in 2014, you released “Wazobia” with Reminisce and Phyno, all these guys have gone ahead to become some of the biggest indigenous acts in the industry, does that put you under some form of pressure?
Hell No, I believe in God’s timing and I keep working so it’s nothing to feel pressured about. I’m coming.
You have a thing for shooting really good videos, “Aure”, “Safay” videos are quite dope, any more videos expected off the album?
Thanks bro. Yessssss! Just thinking about what we have planned is blowing my mind. Many more amazing videos on the way.
What is your opinion about the Nigerian music industry? What are the biggest challenges you have faced so far?
For an indie artiste like me, funding is always a problem. You know ideally we’re supposed to have super labels who just have everything figured out and throw in money into your marketing so the music really gets to where it should. Now you have to worry about so much, the good part is, you have to keep moving and learning.
What is the next level for Morell?
The next level for Morell is always growth. Morell will just keep getting better and putting out the best music on the continent. I’m going on tour! The MIC Tour is hitting 15 venues in the north. I’m coming with my other northern kings. People like Classiq, BOC, Badman Binladin, DJ Abby, Kidpro, Hotyce and many others. We’re announcing first dates very soon. I’m already working on a new project and videos so expect that.
Who are your major influences?
It’s hard for me cos I really love music and so I have a thousand people who have influenced me in some way. I really like Akon and Rock-city. In Nigeria, Burna Boy, He is dope!
With all that has happened in the North, do you think artists from that part need to tell their stories more?
Definitely! That’s what music is really for at the end of the day. You have to project your perspective to the world and I try to do that with my music too.