Hip hop, since its emergence to the Nigerian music scene about two decades ago has contributed its own fair share of impact in the music space, through creative storytelling techniques, word plays and metaphors used in creating such content. Thus, it is no doubt the Nigerian hip-hop scene is in a state of resurgence as a result of what some describe as a stereotyped rap scene.
Meanwhile, amidst all of these, Abuja based Artist, Zilla Oaks (Rodnee Okafor) has proven to be a force to reckon with in the new age hip-hop world as he is a part of the Abuja movement called, apex village.
His first project titled, NEG:RO (NEW EAST GOD: RODNEE OKAFOR) which was released in 2015 talked about his journey and emergence unto the music scene as a rapper and his indigenous roots, Imo State, Nigeria.
Born and raised in the United States of America, before heading to his mother and fatherland, Nigeria to further his secondary education and eventually pursuit a musical career.
Zilla Oaks love for hip-hop is really evident in his music with his work ethic, lyricism and attention to his craft thereby, paving the way for a portfolio of personal projects and features.
In view of this, we caught up with him to discuss his musical journey thus far. Emmanuel Obokoh presents the excerpts.
What would you say has been your contribution so far towards promoting true rap culture in Nigeria through your music?
I feel like it is hard to put out just rap music in Nigeria and get the recognition you want especially being an independent artist, but the journey I have taken so far has allowed me to drop two major rap/ hip hop projects titled, NEG:RO and NO ZZZZ while releasing fusion and Afro beats music in between at a comfortable level. These two great hip hop projects I put out stand the test of time for our culture when things are all said and done.
Your music style is peculiar to the usual Nigerian rap music, I think there’s a familiar sound to your music, relating to American artiste Travis Scott, would you say he has had an influence in your style of music?
I grew up in Texas, Houston. So anyone who ever brings up Travis, I see the reason why. First off he is one of my music idols and I have been listening to him since when he started doing music properly.
I gain a lot of influence from Travis but that is just on certain levels of music. I however have other artists I try to listen to and tap into because I feel it is no crime to be inspired. The likes of Kendrick Lamar, J Cole, and Jay Z are also great examples.
What is your motivation and ambition for your music?
God is my motivation. Asides God the fact that I gotta make this money and take care of my family in the nearest future is all I need. My guys at Apex are a big motivation also, so I thank God for those brethrens.
You lived in the U.S for a long while before you came back to Nigeria, how were you able to settle with your music, and how much do you think the western culture has influenced your music?
It has a lot. It is a part of me I cannot take away because I lived there for so long. I feel like I have that Houston Vibe embedded in me and I take that mentality to the studio every time and blend it with whichever vibes I can get to make a jam.
You put out an album titled No ZZZ (no sleep), what has the reception been like so far?
It has been great; I have performed songs from the new project over 40 various times and 20 venues round Nigeria and gotten enough awareness from the project.
Early this year I had interviews at Wazobia, Cool Fm, Sound city as well and other Major radio stations across Nigeria from Lagos to Imo. They really picked up my songs and have been giving me constant air play.
I got to perform in Lagos during the summer off my tape No Zzzz which was a blessing because I had a great show there at the Lemon Curd. The receptions in general for the projects have been really blessed.
What would you say has been a really strong positive contributing factor to the growth of your music so far?
My current music label, Apex Village which is a collective of creatives who basically push each other since our inception in late 2017. It has been an avenue for encouraging all our careers as we support each other whenever we need to in terms of music production, promotion, marketing etc
Talking about the growth of African hip hop, there has been recent comparisons between the Nigerian rap industry and the South African rap industry over superiority, what is your take on this?
I feel like it is very true as Nigeria could possibly have a bigger market for rap and hip hop but some major labels are not ready for the growth of indigenous grown rappers. They rather pay rappers from outside the country to perform at shows. But in S.A, they have proper rap platforms and a recognizable underground scene. We have a proper underground scene in Nigeria but nobody seems to give us structure so this year we are making that for ourselves. We cannot continue to wait for anyone to notice us.
What are your favorite songs on the No ZZZ project?
Wow . . . that is a tough one. Okay… Zoomin, Nu Thang, Zizou, Jungle, Hail Mary, Calm Down, They Don’t Even Know, Famous 2, Famous, OTFTBG, Zzzzillintro, and All Night.
What is your favorite collaboration so far?
That would be Zizou featuring Ayüü and Marv.
What is next for Zilla?
Watch out for my next project . . . I might just name it Oakszilliary.