On The Fringe: Trill Xoe Is Locked In

The young producer is looking to introduce the world to something they’ve never heard before.

On the Fringe will attempt to tell stories of artistes emerging talents on the rise. Artistes covered in the series will be at differing stages in their journeys, but they will all be emerging acts somehow — either unto larger audiences or more niche ones.


2016 was the year when the popular music-centric alté movement started to take shape. While there had been avant-garde collectives like L.O.S and DRB Lasgidi who challenged the reins of the mainstream – pushing boundaries and setting trends – 2016 was effectively the year that the inaugural class of the alté movement emerged. Santi formerly introduced us to his unique strain of rap/r&b hybrid on cult classic Suzie’s Funeral. Odunsi The Engine’s debut project T.O.O.L (Time of Our Lives) and de-facto member Nonso Amadi’s magnum opus “Tonight” all dropped in that same year. By the next couple of years, not only had they fully announced themselves, but they had also stamped their presence, performing at various notable shows and collaborating with industry bigwigs.


As the inaugural class was well within their breakout moments, a rapid scene expansion began, with new faces popping up and adding a distinct flavor and diversity. In the country’s capital, a certain lanky, dread-headed rapper was turning heads with his sharp-witted bars and machine-gun flow – Psycho YP. This would be one of the very first artists the Surulere-hailing talented beatsmith Trill Xoe would collaborate with. Along with Higo, another talented producer, he produced “fleXx”, the standout track from the first installment of Psycho YP and Kuddi Is Dead’s This What You Wanted tapes. “When I started working with YP, he was getting some buzz around him and people were just getting used to his sound. When he dropped the stuff I had with him, people started noticing me; they were like ‘yeah this guy is fire’,” Trill tells me over a Google Meet conversation in his usual relaxed manner one Thursday afternoon in early August.


Before Trill Xoe, born Babalola Awe, became engrossed with varying drums packs, synths, hi-hats and music-making generally, all he was concerned about were comics and Mr Biggs. “Growing up [in Surulere] was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had,” he says fondly. “My neighbors [back then] were super cool, and they also had kids that I played around with. It was just fun. I also loved Mr Biggs, which was popping back then. We were like one and two. I also remember being into Spider-Man and comics generally. It was just a fun experience.” His love for music – drums in particular – would not come until he heard the drums playing in his childhood church: “I remember being in church and just hearing the drummers playing and I really loved that. I would go home and get two pens and just drum on anything I could find.” After his mum couldn’t stand him drumming on just about any surface he found, she suggested he joined the church choir. “Joining the church choir was my first introduction to music,” he tells me almost like an addict recounting the moment he got hooked on drugs.


After a couple of years in the church choir, Trill would have to leave because he enrolled in boarding school. When I asked him the name of the school, he was quick to cut me off: “ I don’t like to mention the name of the school. They didn’t do shit for me,” he says with a laugh. Despite the distressing and unpleasant conditions Trill found at his high school, ironically, it’s where he would also come across the popular production software Fruity Loops. “During my time in high school, there were some senior students who used to fiddle around with Fruity Loops; I was interested in it, so I decided to get the software from them,” he tells me. “Thankfully, laptops were allowed in my high school, so that made things a bit easier. I remember the first couple of beats I made, they were so garbage. My guys would big me up that they were fire even though I knew they weren’t that good. But I started improving as time went on,” he continues. Even though laptops weren’t prohibited in Trill’s school, they were solely permitted for use during Technical Drawing classes which required a computer to operate various design software. “You could only use your laptops during Technical drawing class,” he says. “I was in the Sciences so during T.D classes, I would just stay at the back producing beats. I would have Autocad open on one tab and Fruity Loops open on another, switching between both as the teachers passed by,” he recounts fondly.

After months of learning and sharpening his production skills at the back of T.D class, he would eventually earn production credits on Psycho YP’s work. Right after YP, he would go on to work with UK-based Afropop artist Kizz Ernie and L.O.S member Zamir. Then shortly after, his eclectic debut project Blood, Sweat, and Tears arrived. The expansive tape saddles an array of influences, quickly highlighting just how versatile he is. The dark, moody synths on the title track vary vastly from the bright and bubbly percussions on “Grind.” The aggressive basslines on “Dripping Like Snow” also stand in contrast to the soft keys on “Love Like This” showing just how artistically flexible he had become in such a short time. Just around the same time he released his EP, he would also start an “establishment”, as he calls it – 44DB, with fellow producers Tochi Bedford and Johnson IP. “It started with Tochi bringing up the idea to me and then Johnson. Then we realized we knew a couple of other guys that we could push the idea to. We were trying to be like Internet Money of Nigeria or Africa,” he says, explaining how the tight-knit collective came about. 44DB has gone on to be one of the most exciting music groups in the country, housing “producers, graphic guys, and admin”, while also constantly expanding and improving.


Years have flown by since Trill stealthily produced at the back of Technical Drawing classes. These days, he's evolved – morphing into a multi-talented artist, producer & DJ and more focused on recording his own music. Even though he’s responsible for some recent slappers: BOJ’s “Money & Laughter”, SGawD’s “Popshit” and Prettyboy D-O’s “Living In Bondage”, he’s taking time to work on his personal stuff. “I’ve actually reduced the rate at which I produce for other people. I’ve been more focused on recording my own music,” he tells me. When I ask him how he made the switch from being behind the board to recording his own music, he has a straightforward reply for me: “Honestly, I was just tired of waiting for artists to record.” Even though it took him some time to get comfortable hearing his own voice, he found his sweet spot and has not looked back since. His latest drop, Damage Control, features two emo-inspired tracks. With autotune-shrouded vocals, he delivers hypnotic hooks and poignant lyrics over gloomy trap beats. “I’ll say the major influence on my music is just what I be going through. I don’t really look at any artist; I just allow what I go through guide the music I make,” he says, speaking about the inspiration behind his music. “I really don’t try to sound like anybody else.”


While Trill has been working on his personal project for some time, he tells me it has ended on the cutting-room floor. He’s found a new muse, a new direction. “I have a new sound I’m trying to tap into,” he says, sounding excited. With fire beneath his feet, he’s locked in, looking to introduce the world to something they’ve probably never heard before.


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