Vector Interview

Vector Interview: The Energy Still Lives In Me

Vector’s long years in the game have all but eliminated the need for an introductory paragraph. The rapper, born Olanrewaju Ogunmefun David, released his debut album, State Of Surprise, in 2010, where he proclaimed himself “Legendary” among many other things, and has worked through the decade and more since then living up to that tag. 

At the tail end/current point of that journey lies this album, Teslim, which was named after his late father and is also short for The Energy Still Lives In Me. It debuted in November 2022, and with it Vector draws us closer than ever to himself, as he applies his signature penmanship to general topics like bad politicians and the state of the nation, as well as intimate areas like family and the circle of life, death and reincarnation. 

Vector joins me over a thankfully stable Google Meets connection for an interview, and we walk through his album’s creation, his choice of features, Nigeria’s presidential election and, oh, Arsenal FC. Vector’s responses have been lightly edited for clarity. 

After offering belated condolences, I ask Vector when exactly he thought to honour his father, who passed in July 2017, with an album. I expect in response perhaps a period of months over which that decision was made, but Vector surprises me with the exact moment. “It was at the funeral”, he says, and to be even more specific, “It was when the casket was being lowered. I thought, his energy still lives, in me. The Energy Still Lives In Me. Teslim“. 

With such a poignant realisation, the next natural question was why its release took five years, a period that was interspersed with other projects, VIBES BEFORE TESLIM: The Journey To Self Discovery, an album; and Crossroads, an EP. He tells me he is intentional about music releases. “People are always eager to put you in a box, you know. They say this person can rap, is good at rapping, he cannot sing. Even when the person can do both. I was lead tenorist in a choir. I made VIBES BEFORE TESLIM to show another side of me. So it was VIBES BEFORE TESLIM, which is the journey to self discovery, then I was at Crossroads, then Teslim itself which is the self discovery from before“. 

Vector Interview
Vector Interview

The album is curated with just as much attention to detail, and a closer look reveals family ties run deeper than just the title. The track, “I Need You” features Milare, his first daughter, and singer Ichaba, as they lace a track about the continuity of family and lineage. When I point out to him how Teslim is about the ties between his father and him as much as it is between him and his children, Vector can not agree more. “Yeah, exactly. And that is why I made this the first track, just after the introduction“. 

In addition to his daughter, Vector has 11 other guests on the project, and I am curious to know how he picked them. “Well, left to me, I would rather have no features at all“, he confides. “The music is not something I am really eager to share. I like my features to come naturally. I feel a lot of today’s music tries to be algorithmic, too much business. For me music remains an art. I look for people that I can vibe with. Like GoodGirl LA. She was not the most popular, wasn’t on charts and all, but we made it work“. 

The song he is referring to is 2021’s sleeper hit, “Early Momo”, which should be given to upcoming artists as a reference material for chemistry in romantic tracks, and becomes even more special when you realise it was created by an artist not ordinarily a purveyor of the emotional.

I met GoodGirl LA one day at a phone launch event and we just vibed. For me I always want to see what an artist’s (vocal) range is before we work, what they can or can’t do. We happened to meet later that day in Ikoyi at a studio. At that time I had already recorded “Early Momo”; I had the chorus which I recorded in Magodo. So I played it to her and asked if she could vibe with it and she was like yeah, no problem. And she did“.

Vector Interview

The track was released on Valentine’s day in 2021, so its appearance on the album was nearly 2 years after its release, but with how good it sounds, and the new facet it brings to the EP, nobody can fault its inclusion. 

Other tracks on the album are decidedly more ‘Vector’. On “Soki Sombolo”, he comes for detractors with lines like “Awan kan o l’aiye/ Awan kan o ni’se/ Soki sombolo ni wan”, basically speaking to those whose primary occupation is the lives of others. When asked if he has anyone in particular in mind, he answers in the negative.

You know, you scroll through social media and see a lot of stuff said about you. A lot of lies and vile statements. And I don’t really care what people say, if I’m being honest. I just put it out there for those who are weak minded who believe everything they see, because when something gets said over and over people begin to take it as the truth“. 

“Fefe (Ferrari)” and “Big Flexa” show a more boastful side to him, but Vector insists the former carries a deeper message than the title suggests. “Shado Chris sings [in french] on the chorus, apologising to his girlfriend because he has to come back late at night because of his hustle, but he knows she wouldn’t mind if he comes back with a Ferrari. It’s about hard work and its reward“.

Vector Interview

Never one to spare an opportunity to shove back into the limelight societal ills we would rather pretend do not exist, the Cracker Mallo–assisted “Insomnia” talks through well-known issues like EndSars and the lesser-known like a building collapse that killed children in a primary school. It also stars the investigative journalist, David Hundeyin, and I am curious to know just how this cross-media cameo came about. “Well you don’t exactly plan these things, but they are always easier when they are a fan. I know David is a big, big fan, so we made it work“.

“Clowns” with LADIPOE comes for corrupt politicians, and while we are still around the subject I take the chance to ask about his views on the upcoming presidential elections. He is eager for everyone to make the right choice though he is tight-lipped about his own.

I’ve never been one to try and influence people. I believe everyone can make the right choice after looking at the candidates. I have met a couple of them in person, and I was even offered endorsement deals four years ago and now. In fact, I had an event and a presidential candidate came and ate. But I believe in the end it should be an individual choice“. 

Vector Interview

When asked about what’s next from him, Vector is obviously taken aback, seeing as he released this album only three months ago. “Well you don’t really plan the next step. You work towards it, yes, but you can’t really plan”. He then gets into details: “Well I have a” Soki Sombolo” remix coming up, and it’s going to contain a feature. The B Side of the album is also on the way, and Olamide and Tay Iwar are on it. So I guess that’s what’s next from me”. 

As we exchange closing pleasantries, I congratulate him as a (fellow) Arsenal fan whose club currently sits at the top of the Premier League, and he surprises me with intricate tactical knowledge that you would expect from someone with formal coaching training. It brings his intelligence and personality to the fore once more, like in the attention to detail he shows on individual tracks and the deliberateness with which he plans releases.

As he is many years deep into Nigeria’s rap scene, it is crucial that he continues reinventing to remain competitive. Teslim serves as a reminder that there is still plenty more in the tank, and he does this while honouring a late father, bouncing through a variety of rhythms and speaking up about Nigeria’s murkier side. What more could you ask for? 

Vector Interview
Vector Interview

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