Exclusives Interviews 5 December 2022

GRM Exclusive: Blaqbonez Talks New Album, His Uni Days & Being Unapologetically Himself

5 December 2022

Blaqbonez, the rising global artist and self-proclaimed “Afrobeats rapper”, is a breath of fresh air in the industry right now. Born and raised in south-Eastern Nigeria, this 26-year-old star is the embodiment of audacious creativity. He is not afraid to push boundaries and stand out from the crowd; in fact, that is his modus operandi – “I want to be the guy that does it differently forever… and I want to be remembered that way.” 

Following on from the success of his official debut album, Sex Over Love in 2021, Blaqbonez wasted no time in returning to the studio to cook up some more magic. He dropped his second studio album, Young Preacher, at the end of October this year, filled with tracks that traverse a number of musical realms. The project twists and turns through genres from afrobeats to hip hop, R&B and dancehall, and embodies Afro-fusion in its entirety. Blaqbonez has finessed the art of versatility and diversity in his craft, producing a body of work that is as unpredictable as it is fulfilling.

Young Preacher is an album that was waves before it was even released. The lead single, “BACK IN UNI”, quickly went viral across social media platforms due to its unforgettable content. Blaqbonez directed the video himself: the visuals pay homage to some of the hottest moments in Afrobeats music this year, with Blaqbonez dressing up and recreating music video scenes from Wizkid, Oxlade, Ruger, Bnxn, Ayra Starr and Asake.

“Those were the moments that made the year… I just wanted to make a video that warms your heart when you watch it, a video that just makes you feel good, makes you feel excitement. I feel like that’s what I am, I’m an exciting guy. I wanted people to feel that in this video.”

And when it came to the song itself, which was made in collaboration with Grammy Award-winning London producer JAE5, Blaqbonez says it was one of the most memorable studio moments for him. “It just seemed like it was meant to be. The session was so smooth, everything happened so easily. The lyrics and everything. I’m grateful for that session.”

As for the rest of the album, the lyrical content is honest and raw at times, and playful and daring at others. The star isn’t afraid to explore topics of love, sex, promiscuity, life lessons and success. When asked about the mark he wants to leave with this project, the rapper expresses his desire to create music that is more than just enjoyable to the ear. “I wanted to talk about topics that people are not expecting to hear. I [wanted to] bring in my life story for people to take away.” And for Blazqbonez, his music is a window into his soul. “I feel like music is basically an expression of who you are. I don’t usually have an ulterior motive – it’s just me expressing myself… When I have thoughts, I put them down. I put it in the music.” And despite his fearlessness, there is still so much more he wants to say. 

Blaqbonez discovered his musical flare when he was a teen through the world of battle rap, where he would spar with opponents in intelligent lyricism and verse-writing. “You would go online, face-off with somebody, write your verse and attack that person. I would battle week in, week out; day in, day out… it built my fanbase. The battle rap carried me to where I am right now.” And that battle rap spirit within him wants to push things even further than mainstream music allows. “As a battle rapper, we want to say so much…it’s really complicated and hardcore. But you have to also consider that not everybody is a battle rap fan. Some people want to just hear the message clearly…” As his music reached new heights and new ears, Blaqbonez had to find a way to deliver his message in more orthodox and conventional ways. “It took a lot of evolution to make music that normal listeners can love too.” 

And the hit-maker continued to expand outside the realms of his battle rap upbringing, toying with vocals and alternative genres. “Years ago, I didn’t even know that I could sing, I never attempted to. Everything has been baby steps and slowly realising my skills.” When asked who inspired him to explore singing, he answers, “Oxlade. We were in the studio a lot and I would sing behind the scenes, we were just vibing. He’d tell me ‘bro, your voice is good, you should try more’. He kept pushing me until I finally started attempting to sing a few notes.” And the rest was history. 

In contrast to other artists who visualised a career in the creative industry from a young age, Blaqbonez used to have his sights set on becoming a computer engineer. “I was a very geeky type of student. I had the academic interest before music… The idea of making music was beyond my imagination. I never imagined I would be doing this.” Blaqbonez attended Obafemi Awolowo University to study engineering, and although he has no regrets about his further studies, his heart wasn’t in it. “I didn’t take university seriously. I was doing it because my parents said I had to. I was doing music as much as I could on the side, so that as soon as I was done with school, I could go straight into music. I kept a good balance.” Despite this, Blaqbonez strongly believes in the benefits of university. “It creates a different set of opportunities… I feel like going to school is important. It’s important to be exposed to different things and different people… If you’re surrounded by the right people, the opportunities are endless. It helps you become open-minded. It will help you in whatever you’re doing next.”

But Blaqbonez takes time to emphasise the importance of never allowing your creative light to be dimmed. “I would definitely recommend going to university, but whatever you have on the side, don’t let it die. If you feel like you are good at something else, do not let it die. Make sure you are cultivating it whilst you are learning.” 

These words of wisdom come from an artist who has experienced both worlds firsthand; an who has explored realms of battle rap, academia and rising global success; an artist who is keen to showcase his uniqueness in the most outlandish ways, and have fun whilst doing it. His words and his ever-expanding career are a testament to the importance of knowing that nobody can box you in. Blaqbonez is dedicated to resisting boundaries, creating his own lane, and inspiring others to do the same. 

“In a world where people are bragging about buying the most expensive stuff, I’m singing about fake nikes. I want to stand out as me in everything I do. In every song, in every roll-out, in every video I try to make sure that I am unapologetically myself. I think if you want to have that longevity and impact in your space, that’s what it’s all about: being yourself, unapologetically.”