Fireboy DML’s top 5 tips for making an Afrobeat hit
One of Nigeria's most exciting stars shares his expertise
Fireboy DML is tearing up Nigeria’s afrobeat scene with his self-described "Afro-Life" take on the sound. Co-signed by Olamide, a giant in the genre, the 25-year-old has staked his claim as one of the most exciting and dynamic afrobeat artists working today.
Growing up in a small town in Ogun state, Fireboy DML, born Adedamola Adefolahan, was quite the introvert, choosing to stay inside and write poems from a young age. This has contributed to his songwriting prowess, and with hits like ‘Jealous’, ‘Vibration’ and ‘Sere’ under his belt so early, it’s no surprise to hear the confidence in the singer-songwriter’s voice when we caught up over Zoom.
“One very important part of my music making process is the songwriting,” he tells me. “I'm very particular about that. So, when I'm making music, I try to make my music as relatable as possible, you know, no matter what kind of music I'm making.”
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The artist is incredibly dedicated to songwriting as a craft, and carefully tailors his process in order to yield rich, rhythmic afrobeat.
He's also conscious of the wider culture around the music and its fashion, and recent launched a line with boohooMAN celebrating its vibrant style. "I'm very fashion inclined person, and that's why the deal was very organic," he says. "Afrobeats in general is very powerful. It goes deeper than music, it's the culture, it's our heritage. It's just like how hip hop is more than the music; hip hop is celebrated as a culture."
After picking his brain about making music, here are five tips to guarantee an Afrobeat hit, from Fireboy himself.
Don’t think too much.
If there’s one thing Fireboy DML was certain about in our conversation, it was that not overthinking your music and musical process is key.
“The truth is that when you're making music, you can't think too much because really fucks with the whole process, you know? Because music is freedom, music is not is not tied to one thing or one one way of thinking.
“So, I try not to think too much, at the same time you're trying to just go with the flow and just let the music or the melodies or the lyrics just take you wherever it wants to take you.”
Create the right energy in the studio
The energy you put into your music also needs to feed into the sounds you’re trying to create, most of all, you want to remain as relaxed as possible.
“I'm trying to create the kind of energy that shapes, the idea of giving it all to the music, you know, just letting it all be about the music and the music only. Because music is very selfish, a very selfish entity, it doesn't like to share energy with anything else.
“I'm trying to create the kind of vibe that: you know what, don't say anything, just enjoy the process. Enjoy the vibe, don't do too much.
"Sometimes the presence of other people is very important too, in the studio, but most of the time... even when other people are in the studio, they always know "just shut the fuck up and enjoy the music!" like that's the vibe, that's the vibe it's all about.”
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Use your surroundings as inspiration
The busy streets of Lagos has influenced DML’s sound heavily, and has contributed to how he understands his own musical process.
“Living in Lagos will influence you, in every single thing you do, whether you're an artisan, or you're a banker... being in traffic for two hours will show how angry you can be, test your patience and stuff like that.
“You wake up every morning to the sound of a generator, little stuff like that will influence your decisions every day. There's so much energy in Lagos, you always want to hustle, you always want to live out your dreams, everybody you meet is chasing dreams - It's a very crazy city. When you live in a city like that, it really influences your music, it makes you want to make music that bursts with energy.”
Get familiar with writing
From writing poems to writing hits - DML notes that deliberate and focused songwriting is key!
“My latest release was more of a freestyle. I was just writing as I was going, I tried to make sense of what was coming to my head, and tried to brush up the lyrics a bit. So, it's not something I force. I think that's why it's called talent, because it's just there!
“But, yeah it's a very important part of my brand. I try as much as possible to bring that out, no matter how weird or mundane, make sure that when you listen to the song that you think: 'Okay, this guy puts effort into writing this stuff.'
Don’t be afraid to push boundaries and break new ground for yourself, and have confidence in what your unique perspective can bring to music.
“Afrobeats is mostly known for its vibes and the energy and the instrumentation and the rhythm. But I bring a different spice to my own version of Afrobeats, and that's intention. Afrobeats that, more often than not, focuses a lot more on lyricism and songwriting and stuff.
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“So, it represents my identity, my brand, you know? My own kind of music that more often I call Afro-life: it's not a genre, it's just an identity, because I believe my music is very different, and it deserves its own identity. So that's why I call my music Afro-life.”
Tope Olufemi is Mixmag’s Digital Intern, follow them on Twitter