On The Fringe: Mukhy Feels No Pressure.
The self-assured financial analyst turned rapper firmly believes he can be one of the greatest in the world.
Mukhy’s approach to pursuing music is informed by his background. Working a 9-5 in finance provided certain perspectives, primarily financially and creatively. Understanding the key role all forms of capital play in product development could be a notion that sets him apart from the current crop of artists attempting to break out right now.
Doing music without being embedded in a like-minded community requires a certain level of discipline and learning. Taking the pain to grow your own community is a step most artists overlook either due to the sacrifices necessary to achieve this or wanting to connect with existing communities. “Have you ever heard the saying ''crazy follows crazy?'' There are a few people who reached out to me when I decided to quit my job and do this. When they realized I was serious about it they said we may not have the bravery to be as committed as you but we’re with you on this journey. Glitch was the first person, we’d lived together and recorded a bunch already, it was the same with Babbz who I recorded like 50 songs with over the last year.” he tells me over Zoom one afternoon in the middle of March.
His most recent single, Posh Life, is the clearest definition of Mukhy’s brand of rap; the self-assuredness, the DIY pseudo-luxury, the bottom-to-top worldbuilding approach, these are the elements the artist taps into and to a certain extent, define his persona. Proof of how deeply rooted Mukhy is in the subject matter is the title of his debut project, Posh Nation, a mixtape largely built around some of the aforementioned elements. Released in 2021 to quiet acclaim, Mukhy credits his borderline delusion for seeing it through. “You know how for most creative people, their success is considered a delusion until it works out. Well, my delusion was high.” he laughs. The project provided validation at a key moment in his development, something a lot of artists have to wait longer than their debut for. The interest the mixtape generated has evolved into a full-blown career.
The realization you might not be doing what makes you happy is a gruelling one that every adult in the world experiences at least once. His finance career started in the UK with a boutique outfit before he made his move back to Lagos, Nigeria to handle M&A tasks for Accenture. The level three CFA analyst shares “let's talk about the hours, you’re giving 40-80 every week, combined with studying for CFA, you’re barely sleeping and have no time for anything else. I thought to myself, thankfully I’m not in a position where I have to be doing this, with the work rate I’ve given to finance put into something i actually like, I’ll surely do something. So I put it into music. In four or five years at the level I was, I’ll be one of the greatest in the world.” Similar to many other people, the pandemic’s onset spurred his decision to live, no longer satisfied with sitting on the sidelines, Mukhy embraced the Great Resignation and set on his path full time. “There was never really a transition. The minute I dwelled on the thought for too long I knew it was the right one and took it.” he adds.
Growing up in mid 90s Nigeria, parental pressures often derailed creative endeavours. The space for self-expression was more limited than it is today with every pastime or hobby labelled a distraction. The child’s prowess or development at any of these crafts were rarely ever considered, leading to a prevalent rebelliousness in this generation specifically. For Mukhy, his first love was football. “I was really a football kid, I got good really young but nobody cared. I was good at school and that was all that mattered. The irony is that school mattered the least to me, I liked football more. I’ve always had a knack for being passionate.”
Mukhy’s audience being primarily Nigerians in the diaspora could appear a little on the nose, his time in the UK shaped the origins of his music career and he remains a native till this day. Conquering a new, more familiar market might seem like the move but he remains adamant about the diaspora’s influence. “My music is relatable to all black people, but I know Africans will probably appreciate it more. Maybe I relate to this particular demographic more because that’s where I am and that’s what I see.”
Two key moments in his development were his earliest studio sessions. After recording a song on his first-ever mic take and receiving a few head bops in a room full of music heads and execs, he realized his prowess might not be so supercilious. In line with his attempts at developing a music community, Mukhy organized music camps to draw in potential collaborators and get expert opinions on the quality of his work. “I remember one-time Telz came through in London and we did three or four sessions together, Young Willis too. We’ve got a couple of songs together at this point and the general experience just made me feel like I'm a part of the industry.”
Performing at Rhythm Unplugged this past December furthered that notion, sharing the stage with industry stalwarts with one video and a mixtape your only credentials is a feat in itself. Getting the crowd to rock with you when they do not have mass familiarity with your work is another. Both were duly ticked off Mukhy’s checklist by the end of Lagos’ December frenzy. Another show on the coveted Palmwine Festival stage solidified his profile further. “I think maybe Rhythm was the best one, the crowd received it so well and we got a standing ovation at the end of our set, Babbz got on stage and did his stuff, we performed Posh Life and it was brilliant.”
The importance of the UK’s diversity in his development has been irreplaceable. According to Mukhy, the variety of one of his biggest influences, Kanye West, informed his decision to tap into the UK’s diverse creative backdrop. “When you come from multiple cultures, you are able to cross and understand how different sounds can combine and people don’t know what they like until you show them. So I feel like it's my job to decide what that is. Creating a new sound is very hard, but also very rewarding. When Yeezus came out no one knew what it was, now its the template for everything.” Mukhy also draws comparisons between Nigeria’s premier Youtube production sensation, Ransom Beatz, and his own trajectory. The producer’s knack for pushing boundaries and sonic melding speaks to Mukhy’s need for invention. Creating work that already exists does not provide the same excitement as developing something nascent. Mukhy’s approach is very much bottom to top. For whatever elements are perceived as generic about his music, he speaks about improvements on his next body of work with the same assuredness that he sells Posh Life with. His determination to grow is enviable. “My next shit is going to shake things up, especially in terms of acceptance,” Mukhy explains.
Whatever the outcome of his next project is, his aspirations remain indomitable. Considering the rate at which he developed in his financial career, it adds up that he expects the work rate and dedication to carry over into his new craft. The equivalent of making VP at a bank in 10 years would be existing as an established act in the music industry in the same space of time. Such a status would imply sold-out headline shows and impactful projects, a weight Mukhy appears ready for. “I think I can handle the pressure, I’ve never really been someone to feel pressure, music is no different.”
Listen to Posh Nation below.