Getting a feature as an up-and-coming Afrobeat femcee on Fox Sports Boxing, HBO Ballers Tv and NXT Style Mag is a wild dream come true for anyone. This dream is the reality for dancehall queen, Taiwo Lawanson, better known as Taiyel, a pointer that she is doing something right. The Lagos-born dancehall queen, in a recent chat with ROTIMI IGE, let us into her world. Excerpts:
How did you come about your stage name?
I was born in Lagos and attended Air Force Primary School 1 Ikeja and Air Force Comprehensive school, Ibadan for three years for secondary school. After that, my parents relocated ME and my siblings to New York, United States. I came about my stage name years ago while looking for a stage name. I decided to use my first name, Taiye and my surname Lawanson, the first letter L. I felt it was right and unique the moment I put it together. I knew the name stood for greatness already, so I embraced it since then. I love my name and I get a lot of complIments on it.
Tell us how you got into the music industry.
Apart from music, I am also a graphic and web designer. I studied Computer Science in school, I was initially doing music as a hobby and using my computer skills as a business to make money. While on a contract job, a client happened to want to start an entertainment company. He needed a logo and website and I was contacted for the job. On getting to the location, I decided to be courageous and introduced my music to the owner, Demgully Entertainment. I worked a studio recording deal and would usually record there for about a year. Later, I requested for a meeting with Demgully, played all my new recordings and told him I would love to be signed by him. He gave me a chance and we made it happen officially in 2018. We have been a team ever since. Demgully has also been a blessing as management to my brand.
You wrote your first song at the of 14 and produced your first beat at 15. For a young lady to achieve such feat at such tender age, did u get support from parents?
No, not at all, I had to learn everything on my own. I am self-taught in all skills I acquired but now I get a lot of support from everyone.
Tell us the notable music competitions you have participated in.
I participated in Def Jam Open Mic, I then paused music when it was time for college. I resumed in 2018 and this time, it became official.
How would you describe your sound and what sets you apart from your contemporaries in the Afrobeats music scene.
I would describe my sound as a fusion of my Nigerian roots, which is Afrobeats and my diaspora life coupled with experience in New York city, Taking from the influence of the music over here in America and mixing it with Afrobeats to birth what I call ‘the new era Afrobeats (Afro Fusion, or you can say Afro wave), because my sound is really different from the Nigerian sound many may hear. It’s also heavily influenced by my culture and my language. I always make sure my music finds a way to connect with every race, be it Nigerian or foreign.
What is it like being a Nigerian girl doing Afrobeats/Dancehall in the United States?
Its a little tough because it’s hard getting your music to the right listeners because of the Afrobeats genre not having an official genre in the United States. On digital streaming platforms. My management and I created a marketing strategy that has been working well for us and getting the music across to the channels and the audience we need. The response has been great, and currently every song is doing very well in Nigeria, U.S and many other countries.
Can you tell us about your musical influences?
My music influences are great musicians that have shaped my sound, artistes like Brenda Fassie, Sizla, Missy Eliot, Eve, Akon.
Taking a deeper look into your materials, you also produce and do a bit of sound engineering. How were you able to juggle all these skills alongside being a femcee?
I started producing in the earlier stages of my music discovery. Ever since I was signed, I began self-teaching myself sound engineering. I had a lot of time on my hands and a full standard studio at the label office. I began to learn and I recorded 100 songs. Mixing became the next step to get the sound right so I moved on to acquiring the skill. I mixed some of my official songs, like ‘Enemi say’ and ‘Matter’. I managed to juggle all these skills through being persistent. I knew I had to get things done without having to wait on anyone. I also felt I was the right person to define my own sound. I am almost always in the studio when I am not touring or doing interviews. I like to be in the studio or interact with my fans.
Your lyrics are majorly a fusion of your mother tongue and English language. How is the acceptance like in the Nigerian community?
The acceptance has been great. I believe people are open to explore and discover the next sound and future of Afrobeats.
Let’s digress a little bit. African cuisine or foreign; Which is your preferred choice?
African cuisine, especially the ones I get to cook myself.
Your promotional material at the moment is titled ‘Matter’. What is the inspiration behind the song.
The inspiration behind that song is to change the perception some may have of Taiyel. I was inspired to actually say something about myself that many may not know. I felt like I had to tell them they might not be able to handle it if I got all sexy on them. Some say I act like a guy because I am a go-getter, but I believe through ‘Matter’ I was able to express another side of me that many have been curious about. I love every bit of making the song all the way to its outcome.
You are signed to Demgully Entertainment. How has the journey beensince you put pen to paper with working with the outfit?
The journey with Demgully has been a blessing. Together, we have managed to attain as many heights as we want to, with a great contract and brand promotion plan. Demgully is not just a management; they are also family, I believe the future together will be full of many celebrations.
How would you describe your style of fashion?
My fashion style has been evolving since I signed. I am adventurous and love comfortable wears. I like to wear the type of clothes Aaliyah the artiste would wear. I also, sometimes, like to be seen in beautiful dresses. It really just depends on my energy. I don’t really like heels, so I’m always in sneakers, be it tall or short. It just has to be comfortable.
Would you say the kind of music you do influenced your bohemian style and look?
You can say it has some similar elements. Mine is influenced by my Nigerian and American culture so it’s really birthing a new sound, just with many elements.
You were featured on major highly-rated publications like NXT Style Mag, Fame Mag and a feature on HBO Ballers TV, to mention a few. How did you find your way unto these platforms?
My management was contacted by the platforms and television show. They explained their love for my sound and how they felt it was the right choice for their individual platforms. It was really great getting those news. I thank God and my team for putting in the work in getting my songs across all over the world.
Which foreign and Nigerian musicians do you intend to collaborate with in the near future.
Akon, Yemi Alade
Is there a body of work in the pipeline?
Yes, my EP is ready and will be released this year. we are currently re-scheduling due to the Corona outbreak.
You command a respectable number of followers across all the social media platforms. How does it feel to be so loved by fans as an emerging act on the music radar?
It feels like a blessing. I thank every single one of my fans. I love them so much. Thank you for supporting your girl. I’m ready to take my sound to the world.
Tell us one crazy moment on stage that is hard to forget.
I once had an incident in a New York city club, where the sound to my perfectly mixed song came out so badly I had to tell the DJ to pause it, I sang the song accapella and the crowd loved it regardless. Many of them told me they had a new found respect for my artistry.
Apart from music, what other things are you involved in that give you a sense of fulfillment?
I am someone that really cares about my fellow humans and how I can help empower those I can. I and my management do monthly giveaways to the homeless , children and nursing mothers in the United States. We also do it in Nigeria and are currently planning to do it bigger this year in Nigeria and slowly spread across Africa.
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