With a growing catalogue including work with Wizkid, Tiwa Savage, Rema and, more recently, Ayra Starr, the young producer is only getting started.
London’s is a story of grace. You most likely chant his name while singing the first few seconds of many of your favourite Afrobeats songs from the last two years. With a host of smash hit production credits – including Rema’s “Soundgasm”, Tiwa Savage’s “Koroba” and Wizkid’s “Electric” – under his belt, London has steadily become a household name. Although he only came into the industry in 2018, his impact on it continues to grow as the Kaduna-raised music producer is always on the go.
“I want to make a mark, not just in Afrobeats, but globally too. I put a lot of work into what I do and the results are proof of this fact. They are real and out there for everyone to see. I'm very hardworking when it comes to creating music. I am one of the producers from Nigeria working towards global impact,” London, real name Micheal Ovie Hunter, says to me with full enthusiasm as we beat poor reception to have this conversation over Zoom.
London’s journey into music production began in 2016 while he worked at a cyber cafe in Kaduna as a graphics designer. His boss had shown him how to use Fruity Loops to make sounds for animations, but ambitious Michael kept on working on the software and decided to make music with them. Today, he is celebrated as one of the biggest music producers in Nigeria and even Africa. The latest of his works are three songs off Ayra Starr’s debut album, 19 & Dangerous, with “Bloody Samaritan”, “Fashion Killa” and “Snitch” embodying his production expertise.
However, things weren't always this way for the cognoscente. It was only after being an assist-boy at a sachet water factory, a cobbler somewhere in Kaduna, a church drummer boy and a frustrated university aspirant that he began to focus more on his music.
“Everyone thinks that I just pulled out from only God knows where – maybe London. But it was actually a real hustle for me while growing up. I had to play drums in church and work at a water factory to earn extra cash.”
We talk to him about his music, early life and global impact. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
What was growing up like?
It's a crazy story. One of our church members had a pure water factory and just for me to make extra money, I would always go there. Have you ever wondered how pure water is packed into a nylon and everything? I was the guy who would pack it for people to buy it and then sell it in bags at the market. All this was happening because I was done with secondary school but was finding it difficult to get into the university. You know how the whole Nigerian educational system is. At some point, I was a cobbler. I have been so many things, honestly. All I really wanted to do was study Mass Communication at the university. That was my dream.
So when and how did music come into the picture?
It was from being a drummer in church. I always wanted to make music. After the whole cobbler thing, I was able to get a laptop. Yet, I didn't go into music production immediately. I started off as a graphic designer in a firm somewhere in Kaduna. I remember we had this desktop that only our boss used. One time, he told me to help him get something from the desktop, and then I found Fruity Loops [FL Studio]. It's the software used to make beats and record vocals. After then, anytime I got home from the office, I would try some features of the software out. That was how music production started for me. I began making beats for myself, and a couple of months later, BabyFresh – a producer with Mavin records – saw some of my content on Instagram. I sent him a DM and he gave me his number and told me he would put me through with any questions I had. I remember I always sent him beats I made, and he would tell me a few things to correct and all that. With time, I got better with the whole thing.
When was the big break?
So I sent BabyFresh the very first Afrobeats beat I made amongst the hundreds of trap beats I used to make, and he thought it was awesome. He sent it to Reekado Banks, who also loved the beat, so he and Reekado recorded a song, ‘Turn Up’, on it. I was in Benin, seeking admission into the University of Benin and waiting for Reeky to drop the song when Fresh called me to say that they wouldn't be dropping the song anymore because Wizkid would be on it. I went crazy. I couldn't wrap my head around the fact that the almighty Wizkid was going to sing on a beat I made. It was so crazy. BabyFresh told me DJ Tunez would feature Reekado Banks and Wizkid on it, and after that whole thing, I went to Lagos. I was supposed to be there for a week because I lied to my family that Wizkid was calling me. I met with Fresh and he started introducing me to artists and other industry people. And since 2018 when this happened, I haven't stepped foot in Benin again.
Who is London?
I just want to tell my story through the music I make. I want to make a mark, not just in Afrobeats, but globally too. I put a lot of work into what I do, and the results prove this fact. The results of my work are real and out there for everyone to see. I am one of the producers from Nigeria working towards global impact. I want to get to a point where one wouldn't even need to hear my tag on a record to know that London made it. Gradually, I think I've started getting all that recognition. Some of my works have been put out without my tag on them and some people are able to recognize that London touched such projects. As time goes by, I look forward to producing for the likes of Drake, Ariana Grande, Jorja Smith and those guys up there.
How did Michael Ovie Hunter become “London”?
You know Bolaji Abikoye, my A&R? He started this whole “London” thing. I remember when I used to go by the name “Honter” and then I told Bolaji one time that my dad was from London. Since then, he started calling me “London Boy”, and after a while, everybody else started calling me the name. Bolaji had to force it into all of us.
What would you say is your drive?
Hunger, first of all. When you are hungry, you do more work for money. But primarily, I want to prove to my family that passion is profitable. I want to prove that one doesn't necessarily have to go through the blueprint of going to school, getting a job, having a nice family and dying. Where's the fun? They didn't include fun in that blueprint. Also, looking back from where I started and where I am now, I am motivated. There has been a huge difference in my life since I started this whole journey. I have been able to achieve so much in such a short period. Because I know many people who have been producing for, say, a decade and have not still had their breakthrough. Just seeing the things I have achieved serves as motivation for me to keep going – because I'm not satisfied with where I am. I always want to be in a better place; it's what makes me different.
Do you ever feel the pressure that comes with being in the spotlight? The pressure to always make your next work bigger than your last?
I won't lie to you, but from the first time I was out there with [Crayon’s] “So Fine'', “Bad Commando” and the rest, I think there was pressure from so many sides about what I would do next. But I always tend to find a balance. I don't want to overthink certain things because, bro, depression is real. The moment one is in that spirit, working becomes almost impossible. There was a time I felt down and it was that period that ‘Soundgasm’ came out. I was in a not-so-great state mentally at that period in my life. I had no music out throughout the year. I was scared people would forget me, but look at the reception ‘Soundgasm’ is getting now. That's life. There are ups and downs. God knew I was going to be at that point, so he put those obstacles there for me to learn lessons.
Tell me about the process of making ‘Soundgasm’.
So basically, Rema and I were supposed to change [our] environment to work on the track; most likely go outside the country. But I was having some personal issues, so we decided to stay back in Lagos because he [thought] it's important that I was in the right mental state to work. We then got an apartment with everything new just to be in a new environment. Work started and I played the ‘Soundgasm’ beat. Funny enough, the main melody of the song was the first vibe we had before we even started recording. It was supposed to be added to the beat, but Rema just started singing it and it fit perfectly. Also, because of the state of mind I was in, I wasn't really feeling the whole vibe. Not until the record came out and I started seeing what it was doing internationally and all over the country.
So you have works in ‘Raves & Roses’?
Yes. I'm not in the place to give out information and all, but yes. I have been working closely with Rema for a long time and most especially on the album. You guys will hear more of London very soon. I can't wait!
You recently signed a co-publishing deal with Sony Publishing France and Bluesky Publishing. What does this mean for your music?
More bangers! It's an opportunity for us to go global. It opens me up to working with producers and artists from all over the world. It's a chance for Afrobeats to get even bigger and I'm humbled each time I remember that I am one of the instruments that God is using to make this happen. It's a big deal.
At the end of everything, what would make you feel fulfilled?
You see, in this life, men can never be satisfied. Even if I say I would be satisfied when I have a Drake record, I wouldn't. I would want the next popping guy as well. We just keep going round and round until we make our mark. The only thing that would get me relaxed is when every single person has London in their minds. They will sing along to London in concerts, on radio and everywhere else. I look forward to getting international recognition and big label signings. The recognition is it for me, basically.
Words: Itty Okim
Photography: Richie Osagie Igunma @scrdofme