Victony sits with Bside for an exclusive chat, opening up about his accident, his childhood, new music and much more.
Pablo Picasso once said, there are no accidents in life, only encounters. Whether or not you agree is irrelevant, there is little to no control any of us can exert over most events. To consider every misfortune or unpleasant experience an accident is reductive, broadening one’s scope to accept that each event might have a greater meaning in the context of a lifetime. Instantly seeking out a silver lining might seem stoic or disingenuous and dwelling on the event could be regressive. Moving on with a better awareness of oneself comes with a brand new learning process, another daunting task in itself, leading up to a recovery that will shape the rest of your life.
For Victor Anthony, popularly referred to as Victony, the trajectory of his personal life and professional career came to a head in 2021. A near fatal car accident that claimed the life of his friend and left him in the hospital paralysed occurred in April of last year. Nigerian healthcare does not operate on a broad insurance scheme and most individuals are forced to pay upfront for treatment, a scenario that often proves deadly when time is a key factor for success. Still, in the hospital and under supervision, a social media rally led to a GoFundMe account being created in his name began to pick up steam – the figure in question was 50,000 USD. A week later, the crowdfunding account had broken barely 30% of its target until the intervention of another artist and his network. Fans and general onlookers heaved a collective sigh of relief, Nigeria had lost this time. However, there can be a sense of survivor’s guilt in situations such as this, how come you are here and all of these people are working to keep you here when your friend just lost his life in the same event. In the words of Nayvadius Wilburn, “I will not let the stuff I cannot change destroy me.”
Roughly a year later and Victony has his legs back, undergoing physiotherapy to regain full use of them. “I’m learning to walk again, like a baby. It’s almost like my body has no idea how it moved for 20 years and now I have to teach it again. It’s been a bit of a trip.” Maintaining the momentum of recovery is tough for even the toughest of us, depression and guilt linger in the same crevices where hope and strength are found and to find either, you will most likely have to face both off. While gratitude might appear a simple cop out, it grants an unlikely perspective, especially in terms of personal value. Without harking to machinations of grandeur, Victony knows the only reason he’s here today has nothing to do with him and everything to do with God.
An interesting pocket of his songwriting is the presence of spiritual nomenclature in his lyrics. Strewn about like holy water at communion, Victony's penchant for weaving vaguely religious subtexts into the fabric of his records clearly sets his pen apart from the multitude of songwriters in the industry today. His sophisticated but natural interpretation of these terms is surprisingly subliminal for Victony especially as he is not religious. "If you asked, I probably would never call myself religious, but coming up with those lines seems very natural to me, I suppose it's just a part of my writing. Like whether it's about a woman or my mum, I always just show my level of belief with those kinds of lyrics. You can see/hear it off the first track on Outlaw, I just made a song yesterday about a girl and you can hear spiritual references all over it. I really don't know how it happens.”
Subconsciously creating is nothing new for Victony too, his time as a rapper required him to maintain a mental clipboard of bars that could fit into varying BPMs. Carrying that into his songwriting is one of the reasons why he is one of the most sought after vocalists in the Nigerian music industry right now, however, classing him a hook-man could not be further from the truth. His collaborations are often songwriting and production exercises for him, once furnished with a collaborators skeletal record, he goes in and provides the organs and muscles for its mobility. This is how his most popular feature on Mayorkun’s “Holy Father” came to fruition.
His rap origin story started early but would not truly take off until the early 2010s. Like many kids growing up in the 2000s, Victony's childhood was largely influenced by the stars of the period and the art they made and like us, he started making music by imitation until he attained artistic consciousness. "I wouldn't even call it a transition really, I suppose I've always just been drawn into sound ever since I was a kid. I was always around it and I would always write little poems so I guess it happened naturally. As far as making music, I can say I started professionally in 2016 when I hit the studio and started writing music for real."
I’m learning to walk again, like a baby. It’s almost like my body has no idea how it moved for 20 years and now I have to teach it again. It’s been a bit of a trip
The lukewarm reception for his first real project spurred the career-defining choice to switch from being a full-time rapper who sometimes sang to a singer who could do it all. "When I dropped the Saturn EP, it didn't do so well, but it did earn me a fanbase. It put me in a position where I started to believe I had some sort of influence over a group of people. I started getting booked for shows and people wanted to see me, that's when I realised things had started to change. That's also when I saw the possibility of progressing this into a career." Saturn was released two years ago and Victony’s work has evolved sonically, personally and generally since. "I was a rapper then and on Saturn were the first few records of me singing but the feedback the EP got sort of pointed me in this direction like there's something here. It just gingered me to master this craft and learn what it's about, learn this style of writing, and learn how to write catchy melodies and hooks. It was also figuring out how to put my own spin on a sound that a lot of artists are trying out." Victony expands.
The success of his pivot is evident, more of his work began to make its way around and as a result, more collaborators reached out to him and his camp. Nigerian rapper Savage lent, his talents for the opener to his debut album, Utopia and the aforementioned Mayorkun smash hit did the same. When his success as a singer and as a rapper are examined, he says “yes, definitely. When I'm making music now I know exactly what it should feel like and sound like. My goal is just to maintain that consistency and that familiarity, make sure that fans know who this is before the record even drops."
Victony's penchant for cryptic symbology in his lyrics and cover art are worth noting, even if simply for the reason that most of his contemporaries barely pay similar attention to these details. Moreso, that level of intricacy demands certain attention, something that Victony is certain exists as a key descriptor for most of his listeners.
Victony’s canon since Saturn is largely composed of an alien in an alternate Earth. Bringing in other characters is a task he has left to the audience – if you are a fan of his, then you might belong in Outlawville. Bringing together the aforementioned symbology and his recovery period, he set out to develop his own universe further. "It helped me the most with my creativity, I came up with this idea and started working on it when I was in the wheelchair. The character, the cover art, the continuity process as far as the next two projects. I was looking to visually solidify my brand, even as far as my fashion since the accident, most of this came when I was only eating at home.” His art has not been the only benefactor of his hiatus, some of his personal choices also received more attention. “I was also really bad at communication but when there are a hundred people looking out for you after something like this, you tend to take stuff like that more seriously." He adds
A lot of that concern nudged him to serve his audience a few offerings in 2021; the single “Broken” in April and the Dark Times twin pack in July. All three records extended this refreshed aesthetic visually and sonically, serving as the introduction to Victony’s alter ego, Tredax. "The reason I put out the Dark Times capsule, sort of to help everyone who was trying to see where my head was at. So the Outlaw tape is me essentially moving on and getting back at it, it just feels like I spent a lot of time in this phase,” he explains.
In many ways, worldbuilding can be a coping mechanism post a traumatic event. The randomness of having your life turned on its head at any point stays with you. The element of control is key for this to be effective, understanding just how much of an impact your choices and decisions in your universe could have on everyone else’s. "I feel like it just lets me know the possibility of anything happening at any given time. When the accident happened, I was asleep in the back and after it all I could think about was that if I had died, I wouldn't have been aware that I died. Prior to the event, I had a sort of confidence that none of this could be me, post the accident, I have a different respect for God. I was in the backseat and that was where the impact was, the person next to me died. You start to ask yourself stuff like what was God's lesson in this? Obviously, I appreciate his presence but you just have to ask.” Victony shares.
I’ll tell you this for free, most of my songs are recycled versions of records we all know. When you hear my music, it tends to have a very familiar energy and that's because I always look for stuff to sort of remake.
Having to adjust the pace of one's life can be taxing, be it physically or otherwise. In a country that barely acknowledges itself, that lack of attention is exponential when minorities are in question. 29 million Nigerians live with disabilities and 32% of that number possess mobility issues. This represents a fairly large number of individuals yet there is little to no fundamental inclusion. "It's really bad, I go to buildings and 90% of them don't have ramps. Sometimes you have to be carried, it's embarrassing but I'm lucky enough to even have the use of my legs back. There are a lot of people with permanent mobility issues and in the craft I am, it's far from ideal. I had to be carried on to the stage the last time I performed.” Referring to his performative resurgence alongside DMW leader, Davido and Mayorkun at their concert in December 2021, Victony’s takeaway from interacting with Nigeria off his feet is a need to highlight the issue. "Naturally, I'm speaking based on experience but that experience has influenced me to want to do more for people in this position once I'm in a better position to do so. Whether I’m on stage or just a regular person, there should be more dignity for everyone. We have to make better provisions for people."
Drawing inspiration from unlikely acts highlights just how much of a music nerd Victor really is, with influences ranging from Frank Ocean to Mac Miller, sometimes the line between inspired and copied is very blurred, yet it is a line Victony expertly treads. "I’ll tell you this for free, most of my songs are recycled versions of records we all know. When you hear my music, it tends to have very familiar energy and that's because I always look for stuff to sort of remake. I listen to a lot of records to find elements that could work in mine. Then I break it down and take those elements into my own work, could be a melody, a harmony, some humming, anything.”
Victony’s creative flow is not new, some of the greatest acts in the business deconstruct and refresh music to maintain its timelessness. This rarely takes away from their ability to try new things and push boundaries. One of the aforementioned musical acts bears multiple similarities with Victony, including the unenviable task of attempting to reinvent the wheel. Reportedly inspired by Mac Miller’s Wings, Unfamiliar Realms features an alter ego – something else both artists have in common.
The religious undertones of his music add to the building notion that Victony’s fanbase could potentially rival those of the big three simply by how he discusses them. Adding the somewhat shared traumatic experience, they feel like there is a story here, one they have seen persevere and emerge with renewed fervour. Stories are important because they contextualise and humanize but more importantly the latter, there are few cross-sections of general Nigerian music fandom that can boast the same about whoever they listen to. Stories these personal and compelling are usually followed longer than the average Joe’s career, yet Victor Anthony’s ordinariness is what propels his tale. This is the reason Kanye West is still relevant in multiple spheres, another artist Victony often looks to for artistic direction.
Competing with the top tier of Nigeria’s music industry is not a direct goal for Victony however, just establishing himself as one of the best will do for now. “Some of the best advice I ever got about doing music was from Alhaji Popping in like 2018. He said just do exactly what it is you want to do, fuck everyone else.” he laughs. Not worrying about anyone else’s camps or cliques is a large part of Victony’s success, surrounded by a skeletal crew of industry pros and vets, his core team such as his manager Dafe and friend, David, are always within earshot. Still an independent artist, he is signed to music imprint The Plug Entertainment via Mainland Block Party/Jungle Records and has released two projects under them. When discussing the possibilities of joining forces with a major label any time soon, Victony’s stance is self-assured. “I don’t think I would. A major label would likely have dropped me after the accident, my friends are still here. I don’t think this music stuff is ever worth trading that and if this is the impact we have without any help, then I think we’ll be okay.”
Victony was trading raps with Ladipoe during the Mavin rapper’s Revival Sunday series, letting loose an avalanche of unsparing punchlines about his invincibility as a rapper on the record “Revival Mode”. Three years later, he is gracing records with the most coveted hooks and verses as a singer. Harking to versatility seems easy and somewhat played out. Victony’s aim, however, seems more significant than the term expresses too, not switching paths because it is what is easy or expected requires more than a nudge. This is the equivalent of leaving a degree three years in to start another. Mastering another craft without coasting on natural giftedness or a penchant for it requires patience, discipline and creativity. Asides the third, Victor Anthony will never claim to carry any of these traits, yet that does not seem to be slowing him down.