It’s the first of December and I’m just transcribing an interview with Demilade Akin-Alabi, known popularly as GenioBambino, producer, engineer, songwriter and founding part of Monster Boy.
I know, why the hell am I just putting down a conversation I’ve had since November.
It’s a long story but one that made me reflect on being patient about the approaches we take to our art, one Genio can tell you a lot about.
Monster Boy is home to one of the most sophisticated talents brewing in Lagos, Nigeria’s erupting music scenery. Finding him and relating to his music can be confusing at times, why? Because he’s not like many of us, and that’s a good thing.
He calls himself an R&B artist, something not most will be comfortable with, but this comes in a time when being in touch with your emotions is actually an important part of self understanding, and Genio makes sure his music allows him do that.
Things are never what they seem to be and our mainstream music has failed to cover the entire sphere of emotions felt by a normal human being.
That’s being challenged, Genio is here to create what he feels is exciting and emotionally conditioning for his mind.
Don’t take him for granted though, he has a lot of heart and heat packing when he decides to go rampage on a verse.
Different shades are coming forth in the African music scene and it’s marvelous watching the young titans rise, the story Genio has to share is one with hope, multiple disciplines, and something Retro… Dee.
Adedayo Laketu: The name man, tell us about the name and how it relates to your sound?
Genio: I was formerly known as retrodee and I decided to change my name from that because I felt I had grown out of that name and my music had matured. So I started looking for names, and at the time I was feeling myself because I can sing, rap, write, produce, mix and master.
So I was like ‘wow you’re a musical genius’. That led me to google translate; I put in boy genius in about 5 different languages and picked the one that sounded the best, only to find out later that it was grammatically wrong.
Adedayo Laketu: What’s the difference in sound between Retrodee and GenioBambino? What’s the maturity in your sound you noticed?
Genio: I feel it’s more mature, I’m talking about real things. Not just partying or girls, my music is more about my experiences and my life now and I’ve stopped making jukpa music. Retrodee made a lot of that, I decided to stop doing what doesn’t come naturally to me. If I have to force it I leave it alone.
Adedayo Laketu: But Retrodee was you? It was your experiences, becoming GenioBambino does that mean you as a person also changed?
What’s more about you now that’s affected and pushed the maturity in your music?
Genio: Yeah it was a younger me who hadn’t really experienced anything, Yes I did change as a person. I did a lot of growing up, I’d just say I’m older and wiser now and I understand myself a lot better. I’m still finding myself but I’m definitely a lot closer to what I’m supposed to be and that has affected the way I make music and my sound.
Adedayo Laketu: What’s the direction and approach GenioBambino has to Music? How would you define the sound and unique element this new persona creates?
Genio: I’m primarily an RnB singer. That hasn’t changed, I have a very laid back approach. I don’t feel music should be forced, It should come naturally.
My sound is still RnB/Soul, what makes it unique is the way I structure and write my songs, also how I’m able to incorporate my inspirations with my own abilities. I listen to a lot of music I think that helps.
Adedayo Laketu: Take us through your songwriting process and how you create.
Genio: It’s very spontaneous, Sometimes I don’t write and the words just come as I record, like with jungle fever, sometimes I write in the studio and other times I write when I’m on my own but the main thing for me is inspiration. I can’t write if I’m not inspired, When I’m inspired I can write for days when I’m not I get a huge writers block.
Adedayo Laketu: ‘Jungle Fever’ was a huge record, what was the mood behind that like? Did you expect it to have such an impact?
Genio: That was a very spontaneous record, I wasn’t even supposed to be on it, same as Odunsi. We just ended up on it, the song was done in about 30 minutes and I mixed it as we recorded, So it was finished in like an hour.
I knew it was banger ever since GMK played me the beat. I had a vision for it straight away, but It wasn’t my beat so I just recorded on it and played it for Santi and he loved it.
In the beginning he was like “WTF are you doing?” and then he let me do my thing, after i did the hook, I sampled my voice throughout the song. If you listen you’ll hear my voice all the way through. When Odunsi came in he went crazy and recorded straight away, he didn’t even say anything he just recorded and played what he did for us. Santi killed the verses, we mixed it, put it out the next day and the rest is history.
Adedayo Laketu: What’s the story behind your drive for music?
Genio: I’ve just always been fascinated by sound and drawn to good music, I grew up around a lot of music. My dad used to sing in my church band in England when I was very young, he used to take me to band practice.
I remember watching them practice, perform on Sunday, seeing how the music made the people feel and I’ve always wanted to evoke emotions with music that way. I didn’t actually start making my own music until much later though but when I did my passion fuelled my drive, still does. We also have a little healthy competition in my camp [Monster Boy], so I always want to deliver high quality music ’cause everyone else is, we make it a point that subpar music isn’t released from the camp.
Adedayo Laketu: Monster Boys is a music collective we’ve all grown to love and follow. What’s the history of Monster Boys foundation, the story and goals?
Genio: Well, I’ve known Ozzy B [Santi] for about a decade and GMK/Banky for about 6 years, I was the last to join the Monster Boys. I joined in 2011 I think, shortly after I started making music.
We spent a lot of time together during the summer and we clicked musically, we’ve been making music since.
The main goal is to push boundaries and make amazing music without succumbing to the constraints of the Nigerian music industry.
Adedayo Laketu : As an artist right now, how do you feel music is impacting shit?
Genio: Music inspires.
Music is the rawest for of expression.
With that being said I believe the music being made by our generation now is showing us how to get out and channel our frustrations, problems without being violent and it’s also giving us a way of passing on our experiences on to other people of a similar mould, educating them and giving them a broader view so the same mistakes are not made, thus, helping break never ending cycles.
Music is a very powerful thing.
Adedayo Laketu: Your last body of work ‘Virtuoso’ was really intriguing, it showed your growth as an artist beautifully. What was your thought process like while making the project?
Genio: Virtuoso is my first full length project, I wanted to really show what I could do, I wanted to show all the sides of me and share some experiences. That’s why I rapped on some songs, produced 8 tracks, mixed and mastered about 9 of them.
‘Virtuoso‘ means someone that’s highly skilled and that’s exactly how I feel and I wanted to show that with this project. I tried to think out of the box and be as versatile as possible without straying too far from home.
Adedayo Laketu: You racked in a few performances in the summer, how does it feel performing your music on stage as the mature you?
Genio: It feels great, I missed performing.
I used the summer to gain experience, get better at performing cause I still have a lot to learn. The next few will be a lot better.
Adedayo Laketu: Not many Africans create RnB though, we’re just seeing the genre grow more in recent times, why do you dabble in this specific genre?
Genio: I grew up listening to a lot of RnB, my parents loved RnB especially from the 90’s and 80’s, so I fell in love with the genre at a very young age, they played a lot from Luther Vandross to Usher, so I’m very familiar with the sound and it comes naturally to me.
Adedayo Laketu: What do you want your music to stand for?
Genio: I want it serve as guide. I want to share my experiences through it and help other people get over hard times, also to spread positivity.
Adedayo Laketu: What pushed you to learn all the facets of music?
You could easily just have learnt one part… what edge has this given to your music?
Genio: My passion for music is what has pushed me to learn, Like I said before I’ve always been fascinated by sound. So I listen to a lot of different types of music, This has made me a lot more versatile.
Adedayo Laketu: A moment in your life that happened cause of your music?
Genio: I got to sit in on a studio session with Icon and Tec, Icon played me unreleased tracks from his album and I got to play him music from my project, it was amazing. Two legends I really look up to, I was absolutely starstruck.
All images of GenioGambino are taken by Baroque Age’s Visual Director, Thompson. S. Ekong from Lagos, Nigeria.