The young afropop singer's spellbinding sound is specially crafted to heal you.
When I ask Jujuboy Star for one word that perfectly encapsulates his music, he pauses for a minute, deliberates and then decides on ‘healing’. “What I really want my music to do is to heal people,'' he tells me halfway into our Google Meet conversation.
For those that might not be acquainted with Jujuboy or his music, his answer might come off as slightly pretentious; perplexing, in fact. The genre of music he makes, afrobeats is generally tailor-made for hip-shaking and head-bopping. The complex rhythms, heavy percussion and repeated vocals that characterise the genre would have you shaking a leg at the very least. It is these exact qualities mixed with his own unique elements that he’s banking on to make you feel better.
“I'm really big on mental health awareness and I've done a little bit of research and I discovered there’s a way you can use music to affect your mood and how you feel whether for a short or long period. I try to create music that you would hear and instantly make you feel better subconsciously,” he tells me with a slightly more serious demeanor.
Born Osaretin Akhibi and raised in Edo State, the nation’s heartbeat, Jujuboy’s musical journey follows the platitudes of come-up stories: he sang in his church choir at a tender age, got introduced to the digital audio workstation FL Studio by a friend and so on. He, however, didn't start turning heads until much later when he did a cover of French Montana’s monster hit, ‘Unforgettable’. “I did an Unforgettable cover by French Montana and Swae Lee a couple of years ago. I put it up on Youtube and Soundcloud and it just started getting attention. People thought it was Wizkid because I sounded a lot like him so that caught people's attention as well” he recalls. He went on to release slinky, love-struck records, ‘Gimmie Love’ and ‘Dear Girlfriend’, two tracks that perfectly highlight his clever songwriting and his brand of Afropop; ‘Juju vibe’ as he constantly puts it.
His efforts eventually earned him a record deal with Aristokrat Recordsーthe label responsible for discovering and developing the African giant, Burna Boy ー who had just struck a strategic partnership deal with Universal Music Group. “It was crazy when it all came through,” he says, his tone beholden with hindsight. “Aristokrat understands how the music market works in Africa while Universal music is obviously international and they understand the international market well. The two labels working together on my project is a huge blessing for me.”
However, before the big record deal came in, the 26-year-old singer was already slowly making an impression, landing credits on big names like Adekunle Gold and Simi’s works. “With Adekunle Gold, I remember he was doing a challenge for one of his songs and I did a cover and put it up on Instagram. The next morning I woke up to a message from him saying he liked my video. I didn’t believe it at first. I had to confirm it was the real Adekunle Gold,” he says, recalling how their collaboration came about. “The rest just started rolling in organically.” His unique input on AG and Simi’s songs caught other artist’s attention and he has gone on to work with other big names like Jidenna, Moonchild Sanelly and Seyi Shay.
“Working with these artists has been fun and it has also been a great learning experience for me. I’m obviously still coming up as an artist and working with them has opened my eyes to a lot of things”
It is this experience coupled with his undeniable talent that he has taken to forge his own singles ー ‘I Dey There’ and the recently released ‘Enjoyment’.
The feel-good anthem, ‘Enjoyment’ further underlines his deft, panoramic songwriting and soothing brand of Afropop. “Enjoyment was inspired by getting diagnosed with appendicitis by a doctor,” he tells me. “At the time I had just gotten signed and I got this huge bag. I’m living wild, I always have a bunch of girls coming into the house and I was just going crazy. After a few weeks, I was diagnosed with appendicitis. The doctor said I had to do surgery or I was going to die or something along the line if I didn’t do the surgery. I remember that I was so scared out of my mind. So I felt like if something happened to me everyone was going to remember me by the last record I had out, ‘I Dey There’ which was a sad song about a girl. So I decided to record a song that reflected where I was currently in life.”
Jujuboy’s ingenuity and motivation are currently at an all-time high. He credits it to Burna Boy’s recent Grammy win. Since the African Giant bagged the much-coveted gramophone, Jujuboy has been holed up in the studio cranking out records he hopes will one day earn him the same recognition.
That’s however not the only thing he’s working on. While he believes his music can help bring some form of healing ー and make people feel better ー he’s also putting in the effort to do the same outside his music. “I’m currently working with a bunch of NGOs. There’s also this foundation called 'Helpless meet Help' that I’m working with. They offer free counseling, they offer assistance to orphanage homes as well. They're just really good people. I’m also trying to start something similar, something that’s targeted at helping other people. I feel like it’s a blessing that I can afford to help people.”
Featured Image Credits: Niyi Okeowo