Over the years, advancements in music tech have steadily shaped the contemporary music genre. The invention of 808s for example, veered hip hop away from its funk roots, leading up to today’s trap sub-genre. As music production software steadily evolved, the adoption of technology to achieve faster results inherently stimulated the inception of DIY artists, creating music classified in a genre coined as ‘Lo-Fi’, or its more melancholic sibling, bedroom pop. Both genres are unorthodox styles of music, yet to be thoroughly explored in Nigeria.
In an age of social media and digital advancement, with access to a wide range of influences at one’s literal fingertips, this present generation of innovative artists have assumed the freedom to take experimental risks in the creative process of their music. Enter 19-year old Chike Ugwu, commonly known as Aussie Maze; a Lagos based Lo-fi rapper/singer-songwriter.
In a classic case of ‘big brother, little brother’, Aussie took up music in 2016 after years of growing up watching his older brother freestyle raps. Naturally, he initially leaned towards the hip hop genre, however, after discovering himself as well as influences from alternative artists he stumbled upon, his trajectory veered towards the bedroom pop sound. Since then, music has become a solace; a reassurance that there’s a progression of some sort in his life.
The core aesthetic of Lo-Fi production is defined by the inclusion of elements usually deemed as undesirable in professional contexts, as an intentional aesthetic choice. The deliberate distortions, fuzzy background noises and misplayed notes all aid in providing the warm, nostalgic feeling popular with bedroom pop; and this is exactly what Aussie’s music entails. Although he’s yet to release a full-length body of work, his SoundCloud discography is notably dense; showcasing his steady progression as an artist finding his distinct sound.
‘Noriko’, a Taylor Majay featured alternative cut, finds the artist in a state of wistful longing for his significant other. ‘And the sun will keep me warm/Even when you’re gone’, his layered melancholic vocals croon softly as he patiently waits for his lover’s return. Elsewhere on ‘sad boy’, a heartbroken Aussie is found recounting his pain to the deaf ears of a partner, ‘Because my heart is sad/It’s broken from the time I’ve been falling/And you know I’m sad/But you act like my emotions are foreign’.
While themes of love and failed/failing relationships are rampantly infused in his music, Aussie isn’t afraid to explore other subject matters. ‘Forgive me’, an attempt at more straightforward rapping, finds a despondent Aussie blankly spitting about the coming Apocalypse, ‘God save us/The end is near/Nothing keeps me warm but these overflowing tears’. Following in his brother’s footsteps, the rapper admittedly creates the bulk of his music by ‘freestyling and sticking to the melody that slaps the most’. Earlier releases like the loose-lyrical ‘Texaco’, ‘Fantasy’, ‘Fin’ and ‘Aqua Teen 17’ are clear testaments of this; seemingly lacking in a particular subject matter.
Perhaps the most fascinating feature Aussie possesses is his ability to sound like everyone and no one at all. Influences from Joji and TEMPOREX are evident on cuts like ‘Love Me’ and ‘You Suck!’ (a cover of Joji’s ‘You Suck Charlie), while elsewhere on ‘Moody Young Teens’, his steely, baritone voice grants him more Rejjie Snow leanings. And yet, the most impressive performance in his discography is on a song where his individuality is at its peak: ‘Femme Fantasia’; a sombre, tear-jerking track, depicting a relationship with two different girls, who both cause him emotional damage. ‘I’m losing focus/But as you can see/there’s not much to me/Should have been somebody else/Please stay’, he gloomily sings over guitar-led Lo-Fi production courtesy of Aquinas.
Given that Lo-Fi music is still an emerging genre in Nigeria, it wouldn’t be outlandish to assume acts like Aussie are faced with difficulty in finding producers who match their aesthetic. However, the underground Lo-Fi scene is a budding community; and they all seem to have formed an ecosystem – comprising young producers, engineers and artists alike, mutually benefiting from each other. Aussie has certainly used this ecosystem to his advantage, collaborating with artists like Osayuki on ‘Dreams’ and ICTOOICY on the title track of her chart-topping debut EP, Sorry I Don’t Like Phone Calls, as well as producers like weirdjason.
In an age where a majority of the more mainstream Nigerian music all seem to sound monotonous and lacking in originality, it’s certainly refreshing to see talents with clear-cut individuality. Aussie’s journey into the discovery of his sound is evident in his discography; he’s gone from freestyling nearly meaningless raps over beats to creating authentic, emotion-evoking music (think King Krule but smoother around the edges). His goal for the near future is to ‘spread his horizon’ by collaborating with more artists and releasing more music in general. With his unequivocal versatility and irrefutable talent, the sky’s just a stepping stone for this young man; it’s only a matter of time.