Few names have garnered as much attention in the Nigerian music scene over the past decade, as Afropop icon Skales. With a constant flux of top-notch releases that include the continent-spanning hit single “Shake Body”, “Mukulu”, “Keresimesi”, “Komole”, “My Baby”, “Take Care of Me”, and “Denge Pose”, he’s sure to make head turns with whatever he drops.
Born Raul John Njeng-Njeng, Skales embarked on his musical ascent after meeting Banky W — founder of Empire Mates Entertainment (previously home to Wizkid). In 2014, he parted ways with the label, and that same year, Skales established his record label OHK Music. The new venture enabled Skales to make his formal introduction to the Nigerian music scene with his debut studio album Man of The Year, which housed his viral hit single “Shake Body”.
Since then, the multi-award-winning artist has gone on to put out two projects, a string of singles, and has collaborated with major industry players worldwide. His latest project, Sweet Distractions, has shown he’s more than flash in a pan. As he embarks on his Europe Tour, GRM Daily caught up with Skales to discuss everything music and more.
How does it feel like being on the road and touring? Feel free to approach this question however you want, perhaps there’s a specific memory so far?
“Being on the road and touring gives me a feeling of freedom like I’m not in the studio anymore. I get to see my fans or my audience face to face, and see how my music makes them feel and how my work is appreciated; and also I get to perform live what they’ve been streaming all along. There’s No better feeling.”
You broke into the entertainment industry in 2009 as a rapper first, then a singer, and now you’re one of Nigeria’s biggest artists. What goals have you developed for yourself over this period?
“The goals I’ve developed for myself gotta be building myself, brand and sound, and to be more established in a way that when my music is played, it is easily identifiable. And I also believe over the years, I have been able to prove that as an artist, I am limitless and I can make any kind of music.”
Did you always dream of music as a career?
“I never dreamed of music as a career until I was 12 years of age. It was when myself and a couple of childhood friends of mine that attended the same church, and decided to form a group because of our strong interest in music. We started writing our own music and performing in different churches, and from there I got inspired, and knew this is what I wanted to pursue in life. Music always makes me happy.”
Who were some of your vocal influences at the time you started putting out songs?
“I had a lot of gospel influences honestly, and also for the fact that my mum was running a cassette gospel store back then, I was exposed to a lot of genres of music. I was influenced by the music of Aaliyah, Kenny Rogers, Mary Mary, Kirk Franklin, and whoever was hot at that time but right now it is Chris Brown and Kanye West for me”
What was it like when you began to embrace your unique voice?
“It was comforting for me, but at the same time I was scared I wouldn’t be accepted. But as time went by and my skill got sharpened, I felt like I used it to create undeniable hits.”
There’s a distinct jump in sound from your Mr Love album to your recent album Sweet Distractions, especially in the aspects of the beats and groove. What is your approach to these elements of your music?
“Sweet Distractions for me is a more intentional album and it’s just a way of presenting that my sound has come of age and also, I’m able to evolve with the sounds in vogue by finding a way to still tweak it to fit my sound.”
You have collaborated with so many artists in the past and even now. How do you choose your collaborators?
“It’s mostly about the vibe, and I’m an open minded individual who is ready to collaborate with anyone that’s got something new or something fresh.”
Your latest collaboration was with rising dancehall artist, 1da Banton, and it was for the remix of “Say You Bad.” Why 1da Banton?
“I’ve known 1da Banton for sometime now; from when he used to bring beats to my home studio and now that his sound is excelling. It just felt like the right time to collaborate and he came through and smashed it.”
Can you share with me your recording process?
“My recording process is quite simple. I just pull up to the studio, listen to beats or sometimes I bring my idea of the kind of beats I want produced, and then I start recording from things I hear in my head and try to make sense with the lyrics.”
Talk to me about your love for Afrobeats. What is it to you right now?
“Afrobeats gotta mean my whole world right now. I remember struggling to perform in small clubs and all, but now, I’m performing at big venues, arenas, and the most important festivals around the world and also made an Afrobeat remix of a song with one of the biggest artists in the world, Nicki Minaj. Afrobeats is a dream come true for myself and a lot of young artists from Africa.”
What is your personal vision of success and how do you define success in music?
“Success in music for me gotta be being accepted by a whole different world that doesn’t understand your dialect but sings your music wholeheartedly like they do. That is expansion and that is success to me.”