In February 2012, Blaqbonez’s energetic flow on the instrumentals to Terry Tha Rapman’s “Zombie” won the competition which awarded him an appearance on Terry’s 2012 mixtape. Over the next six years, Blaqbonez built a name for himself, triumphing over the hardest underground rappers and releasing four musical projects.
Last Time Under his 2018 project was a statement of an exodus from the underground and manifested a management deal with 100 crowns, a label imprint of Chocolate City. Blaqbonez went from writing verses on Facebook groups and winning underground battle rap competitions, to being backed by the biggest hip hop label in the country.
“Blaq is Blaqbonez, I’m still Blaqbonez, it’s just a different persona. The persona right now is Emeka the stallion, I am who I portray every time.”
His first EP with 100 Crowns Bad Boy Blaq saw the birth of a new persona and sound, merging his flow and cadence of rappity rap with trap and afrobeats melodies. Blabonez created a blend of hip hop that had mainstream appeal, making his presence felt on both sides of the spectrum.
As his artistry grew, so did his persona; fans online began to see a humorous and sometimes controversial Blaqbonez. He was posting funny videos of himself, and taking shots at mainstream acts, calling himself the “Best Rapper In Africa.”
“The moment I started being myself and people loved me for it, I realised omo this is exciting, I can actually just do exactly what I want to do without worrying too much, so I love it. It’s been freeing to be honest because, I don’t know if it’s artist training or something, but artists are supposed to act like they’re larger than life.”
In Blaqbonez’s following singles, Shut Up and BRIA, he incorporated dancehall melodies with his cocky cadence to innovate on the borders of hip-hop. Although these singles could be argued as not being rap, they proved his ability to create hip hop music that sold in the mainstream.
Mr Boombastic next, was a laid back blend of patois, dancehall and afrobeats melodies with a sung-rap flow. At seven tracks, Mr Boombastic was sonically richer than his other projects and showed the depths of his artistic growth and versatility.
Almost two years after Mr Boombastic, comes his debut album Sex>Love. “Now more than ever, this album is something that I wouldn’t have dared to do two years ago. Now I feel like whatever I want to say, whatever I want to talk about, people would listen because they fuck with me.”
“It’s a blend of every side of Blaqbonez that exists. It’s a more insightful version of me. There’s Bad Boy Blaq, Mr Boombastic, Emeka the Stallion which is like Bling. You know Bling is kind of different from everything I’ve released. There’s a blend of the past and the future, so everything is a part of this but it’s properly balanced to make sure it’s not a very scattered listen. It’s very important for me to keep everyone and I want this album to be that album that every single fan listens to and is like yes! ”
The underground hardcore battle rapper who broke out in a time when hip hop was considered to not be commercially viable has gone on to not only prove himself as one of the best emcees on the continent, but also show himself as a depth of artistry constantly reinventing himself and growing his fanbase.
Sex>Love didn’t just happen, it required much growth in sound and self through creative processes in various personalities that encouraged him to sonically experiment with music.
“When I started making the album I was just looking for singles. I started making it in December 2019, that’s where Haba came from. Not every song is a single material but it doesn’t stop it from being a great song. I started seeing the direction that my mind was going, so I stopped for a minute, listened to the songs, then I evaluated.“
“The truth is when I make love songs and I listen to them, even though the melodies might slap, I cringe when I listen to it because it’s not real to me. In that moment, I knew that this is the direction I need to go, I need to talk my own truth which is sex over love. I didn’t know the title but I knew the direction I wanted to go. At one point, I had so many tentative titles I can’t remember anymore.”
Haba was the first sign of a new Blaqbonez personality; Emeka the Stallion, visually animated as an intoxicated, sex-crazed version of himself. He followed up with the bawdy BBC, and a remix with Tiwa Savage. On Bling, Amaarae’s crystal-clear vocals and Buju’s raspy melodies reiterated the raunchy disposition of Emeka the Stallion.
“When Amaarae sent her verse, my heart melted. You know that feeling when you hear someone kill the song so hard you know the person took their time to deliver something amazing. Ckay played a song he featured her on and she featured him, and I was like this babe is bad! That was when I reached out for the Bling feature. Then Buju, we were out one time and I was listening to the guy’s voice and I was like shit this voice would just be perfect on Bling, so I hit him up. He came through and just dropped that amazing verse. It was exciting working with both of them.”
When I asked about his frequent personality transitions from an underground battle rapper to his current state post-Sex>Love, he says “I love it. For me, I’m just enjoying the vibe, I feel like I always need to refresh things a bit, I don’t need to do the same things repeatedly. That’s why I create personas whenever I’m going through any projects. I want people to feel like even though it’s the same guy, this is a different version. That’s why I always switch things up.”
Constantly crossing the line of “rapper turned singer,” Blaqbonez has maintained the hip hop fundamentals of a battle rapper and blended them with his evolving artistry, aided by his engaging online persona. Blaqbonez is at the helm of contemporary hip-hop, dipping his toes in Afrobeats and getting the best of both worlds.
“I feel blessed about being able to take it to a different level cause there are so many other rappers I started with. Somebody called me the other day and was like “bro, you’re actually doing this shit that we all talked about doing back in the day.” It was dicey in the beginning cause there was no guarantee that I could take it this far but look at it now. I’m happy. There’s a lot of pressure but at this point, I’m just focused on the quality of the music. I’m not trying to carry hip hop and be the face of hip hop, I’m just trying to make sure that my immediate goal is achieved. I want this album to be the biggest thing this year and that’s what I’m trying to focus on.”