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Major AJ Is Chocolate City’s Newest Secret Weapon

The 24-year-old Benue native sits with Bside to discuss his come-up story, his intended impact on the Afrobeats space and what it’s like to be him.

The evolution of Afrobeats reached an important stage during the mid-2000s to 2010s. Kennis Music, through the efforts of Keke Ogungbe and Dayo Adeneye, had ensured some semblance of structure and belief in our system returned to Nigeria’s music space. As change demands, new eras are formed, and naturally, the baton was passed to promising labels who were ready to take the genre to the next level.

Chocolate City was one of those labels. With rapper M.I. as their flagship act, Choc City went on to house and nurture some of Nigeria’s most unique and notable artists across different eras. Rappers like Ice Prince, Jesse Jagz, and now Blaqbonez have also created some distinct and innovative records behind their walls and left their prints on the country’s ever-growing Walk of Fame. The record label aims to continue this trend with Major AJ, one of their newest artists.

Our phone call on a cloudy Tuesday afternoon in July gave me a little glimpse into Major AJ’s current reality. He seems to always have somewhere to be, having to meet a scheduled call is something he’s had to do multiple times recently. But he’s full of life as his raspy voice eases through the speakers gently, but with conviction. It’s the conviction he holds close to him, it’s evident the moment you press play on his latest project, Retroverse.

He finds a balance between the old and new on the record. A blend of pop, disco, and electronic sounds that find root in the 80s and 90s only serve as additions to Retroverse’s original African flavor. Your ears might listen more closely when it recognizes the interpolations of Angélique Kidjo’s “Agolo” on “Mr. Lover”, or your feet might tap gently to the rhythm of “Taboo”. Major AJ makes music that’s true to everything that’s inspired him since his early years.

Born Vincent Boluwatife Ajogwu, he picked up his name from his father who was in the army but passed in his early years. He grew up in Kainji, Niger State, where he would mime to old Choc City records and freestyle with his friends in school. His taste for music is also formed by his interests in Ebenezer Obey, Michael Jackson and Fela Kuti, and is hugely impacted by hip-hop. Major AJ’s versatility is as a result of this wide musical spectrum.

I spoke to the 24-year-old Benue native about his come-up story, his intended impact on the Afrobeats space and what it’s like to be him.

This interview is lightly edited for clarity.