Average reading time: 4 minutes.
2021 was an amazing year for Ladipoe. His single, Feeling feat Buju TYE catapulted him from being a Nigerian wonderkid to an international phenomenon. The song reached number #1 on the Top 100 Nigeria Apple Chart in May (his second single to top the chart) and the song has garnered an unbelievable 80 million streams.
The talented artist’s reach has seen him on stages from Tanzania all the way to the United Kingdom and early in October, he earned a BET Hip Hop Awards nod for Best International Flow.
But his newfound success was never on the cards. The singer/songwriter attended college at the prestigious University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to study Biology and Chemistry. His time in school would become the fertilising ground for his music career. A hobby he shared with his friends Jeffrey and Kurt, Ladipoe would make music in his dorm, tapping into different sounds. At that time, he did it just for fun—the goal was not to become a musician.
“It was unintentional at first,” states the 29-year-old rapper, adding, “I kind of just got into it and I like to write. I’ve always loved stories. That’s what I picked up when I hung out with them [Jeffrey and Kurt] and that’s how it really started for me. Kurt used to produce and make beats with Jeff. Jeff would give me some of the beats they were working on and I wrote verses. it took a while before I figured out how to say a particular thing. At that time, it wasn’t a career, it was just a pastime.”
After graduating, Ladipoe worked for a while in the United States before moving back to Nigeria where he then actively pursued a career in music. The move would also help him to cement his artistic vision as he refined his sound more.
The singer/songwriter explains, “When I moved back to Nigeria I started to make active decisions that took me down a different path. It was a highly unorthodox move for me, especially as an African kid and as a Nigerian boy whose parents had sacrificed so much. It was monumental, it was different, it was taboo…that’s the thing about passion. And this passion is something that can fulfill my life. Who doesn’t want their life to be fulfilled? Who doesn’t want their purpose to be fulfilled?”
Ladipoe’s parents had strong reservations about his decision. A career path in STEM (science, technology engineering, and math) is more stable than being a rapper. But he did have support from other family members like his brother, his sister, his cousins as well as his partner.
The Ilesa-born muso says, “Parents, if anything, just want you to be good in life and they want you to be stable and secure. And I know that everything I do is a risk. I take risks every day. They are still nervous, but they’ve come a long way. Before, it was like, ‘why are you doing this in your life? Now, they are starting to see a different trajectory and they see the focus in my eye. I put a lot into music, and I know where I want to go. I have big goals and a lot of ambition.”
Ladipoe started off as an independent artist in 2014 and released a couple of singles that made their rounds on the radio. He became well known for his crafty flow and unorthodox selection of beats that would set him apart from his contemporaries.
Famed music executive Don Jazzy understood his artistry. The record producer and CEO first heard one of Ladipoe’s songs on the radio and immediately reached out to one of his friends. By 2017, he was signed to Mavin Records – making him the first rapper on the roster. After joining the notorious label, Ladipoe released his 2019 debut album, Talk About Poe.
The success he has amassed is a shock to everyone but Ladipoe. He has steadily been preparing for his rise and that is eloquently communicated in his new EP, Providence. And while Ladipoe has been ready for this level of success, it is still a major adjustment.
“Fame has always been there but it’s now on a different scale. I enjoy my privacy–allowing people in is not very easy and natural to me and that has been the biggest adjustment. I have to redraw the lines of where my public life ends and where my private life begins,” explains Ladipoe.
More success brings a bigger spotlight and a busier schedule – one that will be harder to manage with a newborn baby. The next big challenge for Ladipoe is to find the balance between being a superstar and being a father. He says, “I think that’s just going to be a day-by-day thing. There’s just no other way, I’m in new territory, in a new space, and all I can do is rely on my family and on myself. I do want to be present for my family no matter what and at the same time, I want to achieve my goals.” We have no doubt, he’ll find the balance.
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Words | Lee Nxumalo @Lethabo Nxumalo
Editor | Nikki Temin @NikkiTemkin
Images | Kemka Ajoku