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Always one to represent mental issues in his music, Paybac released his latest project The Biggest Tree earlier this year and it was a deep dive into the mind of the depressed and the steps taken to swim back ashore to wanting to live.

Before The Biggest Tree which was released sometime in February, Paybac has proven to be one of the more consistent Hip Hop artistes in Nigeria. In 2014, he released The Broken Speaker Symphony and in two years, he put out The Other Side of the Radio (2015) and Faceoff (2016) – collaborative projects with producer Charlie X and Boogey respectively.

In 2014, he put out a body of work titled 'The iBoro Tape'. Although The Biggest Tree is his first solo album, it is no head scratcher as most MCs usually play around shorter and less complex ideas to master the art of the album.

Here, he speaks to Emmanuel Esomnofu about many things, usually centered around The Biggest Tree and the mental and philosophical inquiries in his music.

Emmanuel Esomnofu: Paybac, you recently released a live version of The Biggest Tree. How important is this to the artistic direction of the album?

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Paybac: It helps expound on the idea; elaborate.

Emmanuel Esomnofu: On that video of you performing the songs off the album, there was that eerie looking mask again.

As a person familiar to your work, I've come to see this mask as representation. If it is, what does it signify?

Paybac: It used to represent a shell I could always hide behind but now it feels more like a touch stone. To remind me to keep making magic.

Emmanuel Esomnofu: Let's talk about the title, I have a theory about this tree being a metaphor but tell me, what is this tree?

Paybac: The biggest tree is the decision upon oneself that one doesn't have to be great to do great things. There's a whole story that's an extended metaphor that's on the album.

Emmanuel Esomnofu: On Tales by Moonlight, off the Faceoff album, your verse takes on a folklore structure that also plays on the strength of subconsciously conceived – as you put it: one doesn't have to be great to do great things.

He was the biggest tree in the jungle, your verse starts off with and I feel down to the last bars of your verse, you were detailing the resistance that you're met with.

However, as you tell a story about a Mama Ebuka who used the leaves to make soup and her son becomes successful, there's no such luck to the next woman as Mama Osanobua used the tree's branches for firewood and she had a cancer.

I felt that was you declaring your music as help but misconstrued, could be dangerous too. And I believe this is what The Biggest Tree as an album tries to achieve: no sugarcoating the suffering of depression but usually at the end, there comes a shining light.

Let me put it bluntly to you though, why do you rap?

Paybac: It's like my tool but it's also like my coping mechanism. And also because I love it.

Emmanuel Esomnofu: You're not the rapper people listen to display a faux level of wokeness. You're not rapping to impress, you're just saying your truth. How important is this to you, and have you ever tried to alter your music to appeal to a broader audience?

Paybac: It's just a personal thing. When it serves as therapy it has to be my truth.

I don't know, I'm always experimenting so I guess I get exposed to different spectrums of people. I feel you could sell anything in this market. It's all about how you sell it.

Emmanuel Esomnofu: Throughout your discography, you've rapped about depression and being depressed. On Finding iBoro, you termed it a hole. When did you fall into this hole for the first time?

Paybac: (laughs) I think I've been like that since I was a kid but that sounds dramatic even to me. But I remember hating my life when I was just six and having these blacked out rages and wanting to blink myself out of existence but isn't that every six year old?

Emmanuel Esomnofu: That particular track is an opener in a four track EP titled Frank Ocean Type Beats. How did you come about those beats?

Paybac: Straight up searched "Frank Ocean type beats" on YouTube.

Emmanuel Esomnofu: What are your favorite Frank Ocean songs and do you have any stories attached to them?

Paybac: I don't think I have one but if you push me it would have to be his Strawberry Swing cover. That was the first one I heard.

Emmanuel Esomnofu: I'm not a big fan of Frank Ocean but I have his Blonde album, and I think my personal favorites off his discography are Siegfried and Slide (ft. Young Thug).

Also crucial in his ingenuity as an artiste is his sexuality (bi sexual). There's a trope of being queer and a part of the minority pushing the creative mind to its maximum (or very close to this). I mean, I can name many queer creatives whose work transcend words to define their haunting beauties.

With that being said, are you or have you ever been thoughtful about being less creative when you cease to be in the psychological and financial state that has influenced your musical projects till date?

Paybac: I think you're talking about mental strain and I think mental strain unfortunately creates great art sometimes. And yeah, I've thought about that and have made plans for those situations but we'll see how it plays out.

Emmanuel Esomnofu: That's great, that you've thought about it. I don't think your fans will want to see you become a 'sell out' when the big money comes.

Recently, Loose Kaynon and A-Q released a collaboration album and among critics, a line was drawn to your effort with Boogey.

Have you listened to Crown, and what do you think about it?

Paybac: I love Crown. A-Q keeps pushing his art and as a fan that's always fun to watch.

Emmanuel Esomnofu: Walk us through, how does a collaboration album work? How did Face off work?

Paybac: It's like a lab with 5 - 6 children building a car. Face off was largely the efforts of the producers and the engineers. And then the music of it and the sonic ideas and the song concepts were stuff we all came up with together. Seeing what sticks. Throwing what doesn't away. It felt kinda like we were writers in a 2000s action cop movie.

Emmanuel Esomnofu: On The Biggest Tree, there is a song titled House 22; quite the personal one, in which you rap about your family and it's impressive how in two verses you get us to feel your hurt, it must have been hell, going through what you went through in the verse one of that song.

What did you feel when your father called your toy soldiers ‘rubbish’? Have you in any time throughout your life felt an anger at your creativity being rejected? Doubted yourself?

Paybac: I maybe shouldn't have taken that shit so seriously but he always wanted us to read books and never bought toys for us and this was before all the money went away so denying me that little world I wanted which he wouldn't give and I created for myself (like literally spent from four to eight picking Tom Tom and Butter Mint wrappers) creating shit for my entertainment and then you start dissing it, I think made me chase my creative endeavors wholeheartedly. I'm used to fighting to get what I want.

And no, I never get mad when people don't appreciate me. Gotta play the game and do your time.

Emmanuel Esomnofu: One topic you've revisited in your music is the death of your sister. When and how did that happen and how has it changed you, as an artiste and a person?

Paybac: That's very personal so I'll just say it took me a while to get over it. It happened eight years ago today (14th September).

Emmanuel Esomnofu: Apologies, man. Keep doing what you're doing. If for nothing, as a continued ode to her in your most original voice.

Also, while we're here for recurring themes, there's also The Beast. On Finding iBoro, you open by rapping ‘I've been going through some shit/I've been swimming through the belly of the beast’ and on Fuck Dino Melaye and Fuck Kach Too, there's a line where you rapped ‘time don't stand still in the belly of the beast.’ Enlighten us, what is this beast?

How does it connect to what you suggest as a cycle of resistance to change? How is the beast the perfect metaphor for this generational malaise?

Paybac: The beast on Finding iBoro is depression obviously and the beast on Fuck Dino is the power of the masses let loose. This one was inspired by the 2pac interview on Kendrick Lamar's Mortal Man off the To Pimp A Butterfly album. I think the beast represents the dark side that has to make the tough choices.

I think everything happens in cycles. First you're up then down then up then down. So Nigeria can't be terrible forever right? But the old men aren't gonna leave right? So something has to give.

Emmanuel Esomnofu: Recently, you've been letting it all out on these public constructs that represent the stagnancy that cripples the birth of positive change. 2019 is around the corner and many artistes are willing to sing their preferred candidates to victory. Quite a few like you however, have songs like I Might Need Security, where you rapped that a certain rapper who is supposed to be ‘the voice of the streets’ now singing for politicians.

How often do you think artistes should involve themselves in partisan politics? Does the artiste upon assumption of a moral figure head forfeit his human tendencies for preference? Because we've seen prospective US presidents rely on public support from these largely influential people.


Paybac: I think artists, especially big ones have a voice and you gotta be careful who you give your voice. And if I ever do anything you think is out of line I hope you can be honest with me too.

Emmanuel Esomnofu: Sure, that's what I do.

On to my next question, they've been a rallying call for the ‘revival‘ of Hip Hop in Nigeria. Even the MI executive produced LAMB August Projects were built upon this premise.

Is anything wrong with Nigerian Hip Hop?

Paybac: Nah. Niggas just need to keep putting out projects and promoting it the right way. The music is there. The fans are there.

Emmanuel Esomnofu: What are you listening to right now?

Paybac: My new shit.

Emmanuel Esomnofu: Can’t wait to hear that. Your sound is refreshingly unpredictable and vast. Which producers over time, have you found yourself returning to and how immense do you think they could be in shaping the Hip Hop sound in Nigeria?

Who are they for you? There's certainly Charlie X. Who else?

Paybac: Everybody who worked on The Biggest Tree: Black Intelligence, Tibi tom, Synx, 3rty, Tizzy, EINSTEINMADSCIENTIST and Carthasis.

You are only as small as you dream.

Emmanuel Esomnofu: If you had to produce the most thought provoking album ever, which artistes would feature on this?

Paybac: (laughs) Lil Uzi Vert and Frank Ocean.

Emmanuel Esomnofu: Are you happy?

Paybac: It's a merry-go-round kinda life.

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