Interview: BOJ lets us in on his Artistic Evolution and Gbagada Express Vol.2

Born Bolaji Odojukan, BOJ is a pioneer of alternative Nigerian music which is popularly referred to as Alté. Boj began his music career in 2012 as a member of the group, DRB Lasgidi, alongside Teezee and Fresh L. The group gained popularity in Nigeria’s music scene in the early 2010s, and Boj’s unique style and voice stood out, earning him a large fan base.

Simultaneously starting out his solo career in 2014, he dropped an album “Boj On The Microphone (BOTM),” and its title track won “Best Alternative Song” at the Headies Award that same year. Boj took this as a sign of the validity of his talents and dreams, soldering on into more singles and his second album “Magic” in 2017. 

In the midst of stellar offerings with close collaborator Ajebutter22, and other period-defining songs, his international break came in 2021 via his work on Dave’s smash hit single “Lazarus.” His third and latest album, Gbagada Express, released in 2022, is a star-studded body of work that celebrates his neighborhood, and it features Wizkid, Davido, Tiwa Savage, Fireboy DML, BNXN, Obongjayar, Mr Eazi, ENNY, Victony, and more. 

Most recently, his single with Ayra Starr “Line of Fire” is living healthily on streaming charts and radio airwaves, further asserting his position as a quintessential contemporary artist. During our conversation, BOJ told us about his journey till now, creating alternative music with intention, and how this generation is special and exciting for music of all kinds.  

In 2007 you and your friends formed a musical group, what was the aim and how was the name formed?

There was no aim actually,it was all about a group of guys who liked rapping though I was initially not a part of the group, it was formed by my friends who then named it Rap Royals and as time went on, more people joined and it became more than rap. We had people who also sang. From there we renamed it RR Boys instead of Rap Royals. 

You’re one artist who takes his time before releasing any project, is there a reason why you take your time?

I don’t like to rush my process and I think the Nigerian music market is the only market that releases music as fast as we do and I do not follow the Nigerian standards, I go by a world’s standard. However long it takes, I move with it and my management also understands this. 

Your last project Gbagada express, what was the inspiration behind it and what was the production process like? 

The inspiration behind the project is due to the fact that I spent a lot of years growing up in Gbagada and attending schools here. During the lockdown, I was in Gbagada mostly in my studio and I took time to be conscious of my environment. Afterwards I decided to name the project Gbagada Express. When the title was agreed on, I started working with different producers like Kriz beats and so many other talented producers. The people who I wanted to feature on the project actually reached out to me and they were people whose music I really liked so it was much easier.

What will you say in recent times has made an impact on your approach towards your music and your lifestyle?

My relationship has contributed a lot to my music and lifestyle. Growing up and experiencing a lot of things has also influenced me. My girlfriend isn’t necessarily my stylist but she has definitely contributed by paying attention to my looks. Before now, I never really paid attention to it even though I naturally had the style but when you are attracted to someone it’s a plus because you always want them to look as good as you do. 

It’s possible for an artist here in Nigeria to release their music and someone from miles away can listen to the song and automatically become a fan. I’m happy to be in a generation like and it can only get better.

What do you think about being born in this generation of music?

I feel blessed to be born in a generation where I can reach the people who listen to my music. A lot of artists before us had to pave the way either by court cases or coming out publicly to speak on what’s going on in the industry before we could get across to listeners but today, it’s possible for an artist here in Nigeria to release their music and someone from miles away can listen to the song and automatically become a fan. I’m happy to be in a generation like this and it can only get better.

If you were not an artist, what career path would you have chosen?

Honestly, I have no idea. I would have said football but I stopped playing years ago. Looking at it, I will always be an artist because it’s something I connect with more than any other thing. 

Alté music is moving at an incredible speed, where do you picture the industry to be in the next 5 years?

Right now it’s a level playing field, with artists coming up every day with incredible talents, it’s safe to say that we’re untouchable because we have the right force. The opportunities are endless and with the engagement Africa and Nigeria specifically have gotten it up to the artist to deliver their best. Also being in charge of the narrative and preserving the culture is something we are going to be seeing more often.

Do you have any projects coming up this year? Maybe singles? A show?

Yes I have an album coming up this year, it’s called Gbagada Express Vol 2. I have a couple features as well though not as much as the last. 

Do you have a mantra that you recite to reaffirm your goals?

I pray and I always remind myself that destiny is real and time doesn’t lie so what’s mine is mine as long as I keep pushing. 

Any word of advice for creatives out there? 

Keep believing in yourself, you’re the only one who can see the big picture of your dreams so don’t quit.

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