From a Lagos slum, Olamide became one of Africa’s biggest music stars. A new, global deal is taking his vivid pop to the wider world.
Bariga, a sprawling northern suburb of Lagos, Nigeria that is home to more than 700,000 people, is infamous for its impoverished housing and gang culture – and for pushing a raw, jarring sound into the Nigerian mainstream. Olamide, long one of Africa’s biggest music stars, was one of the kids responsible for that shift: 13 years ago, he was walking the streets of Bariga, plotting his way out.
“Surviving was hard,” says Olamide, now sitting in a comfortable Lagos home on a sunny Friday afternoon. “Bariga was not far from the other slums you see across the world, from Mumbai to New York and London – life in the ghetto is almost always the same everywhere. There were days when being able to afford three square meals was a big deal for my family. All of that motivated me to hustle hard – I wanted to see the whole world and experience different cultures from what I grew up seeing.”
Olamide Adedeji grew up listening to Yoruba music legends such as King Wasiu Ayinde Marshal and King Sunny Adé, but it was the contrast of DMX’s growling bars and Jay-Z’s ice-cool lyrics that appealed to him when he started making his own music.
He is now advertised on the side of London buses and has scored millions of global streams, with a versatile artistry that spans delicate Afropop and harder dance tracks as Yoruba lyrics bleed into English and back again.