Interview: Afrikan Boy – 'The album covers topics such as immigration, heritage and the UK government'
London MC fusing grime beats with African rhythms
It takes real skill to fuse two distinctly different genres together without losing the essence of either. Olushola Ajose, aka MC Afrikan Boy, mixes the bassy heavy sounds of the London grime scene with his Nigerian roots; blending hard hitting vocals with UK garage, dancehall and African rhythms. 'Afro-grime is the term I’d use to describe the blend of African and British vibes,' says Ajose. 'Like MIA's music, it's culturally rich and progressive in sound.'
The name check of MIA is no throwaway remark. Afrikan Boy supported the rapper on two world tours, guested on her second album and a remix of her biggest hit 'Paper Planes'. 'She hit me up on Myspace shortly after I had released "One Day I Went To Lidl" [Ajose's upbeat ode to budget shoplifting]. She messaged me asking about getting on her album Kala and that I only had seven days to meet the deadline. Of course I met the deadline with style.' The result 'Hussel' is a vibrant stew of broken beats, chanting vocals and alternative hip hop.
Afrikan Boy's next high profile collaboration was with producer DJ Shadow on comeback track 'I'm Excited'. 'He was looking for a dope MC to jump on his new single after a long hiatus,' explains Ajose. 'I recorded my verse about seven times before it was approved. I'm glad I made the commitment because DJ Shadow is a legend.'
Debut album The ABCD mashes together rap, Kuduro, Afrobeat, drum & bass, grime and reggae with guest slots from Lady Leshurr, Shingai Shoniwa, Nneka and Spoek Mathambo. 'There are strong messages within the album covering topics such as immigration, heritage and the UK government.' Emphasised by tracks like 'MIA' [Made in Africa], 'Border Business' and 'Who Stole Your Visa.'
This isn't just rhetoric last year Afrikan Boy headed to The Jungle refugee camp in Calais to perform a free concert. 'It was like being in Africa, but with European air. The rawness of how these people are living, it's very basic. It was definitely surreal and I don’t feel like I saw all of it. The show itself was the best show of my entire 2015. The vibe and energy was raw!'
Afrikan Boy starts his UK tour at Electric Circus, Edinburgh, Wed 20 Apr.