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    Sunday, June 23, 2024

    Puffy Tee Explains Reason Nigerian Artistes Are Moving Away From Afrobeats

    Afrobeat arose from the mind and spirit of Nigeria's Fela Kuti who, like Beyoncé, is identified on a first-name basis. Throughout the 1970s he fused James Brown's funk, traditional West African dance rhythms with jazz and his own take on chamber music for lengthy compositions.

    Afrobeats, not to be confused with Afrobeat or Afroswing, is an umbrella term to describe popular music from West Africa and the diaspora that initially developed in Nigeria, Ghana, and the UK in the 2000s and 2010s.

    However, the distinction between Afrobeats and Afrofusion has remained a bone of contention.

    Temidayo Babatope Joseph, known as Puffy Tee, a veteran singer-songwriter and record producer, who rose to fame in 2007, is known for producing hit songs like Yahooze, Eleko, and Lorile.

    Nigeria’s top three Afrobeats stars, Damini Ogulu ‘Burna Boy,’ Ayo Balogun ‘Wizkid,’ and David Adeleke ‘Davido’, stirred concerns from music lovers in the country after they had, on different occasions, attempted to distance themselves from the popular music genre.

    Burna Boy and Davido had come to describe their kind of music as Afro-fusion, while Wizkid stated he didn’t want to be described as an Afrobeats singer.

    In this interview, Puffy Tee reveals the difference between Afrobeats and Afrofusion and why Nigerian A-list musicians denounce Afrobeats.

    Excerpts:

    It appears you have been relatively quiet on the music scene.

    Puffy Tee: I have been swamped. I judge The Ultima project, Next Afrobeats Star, alongside Sarz on da beat, P.prime, and André vibez.

    I judge that show, which was used to replace Project Fame. I have been doing movie soundtracks. I did the original score for the movie. I worked on ‘Omo Ghetto, the Saga’ and ‘She Must Be Obeyed’ for Funke Akindele.

    I have also been producing with other artistes underground. Everybody knows their time, and sometimes, you must keep working to take care of yourself and wait for another opportunity. One of the artistes you’re working for will come up again because we can’t blow ourselves. Sometimes, you need another artiste, another mechanism to help you grow.

    I’ve been busy. You don’t see me pop up because I’m doing songs, working here, consulting, doing one or two. So it’s been all work. I have not gone home.

    I’m also working on my own EP. I still need to find the title, but I am working on my EP.

    Why do music producers come out with Eps?

    Puffy Tee: I think it has always been in them. Some are shy, and some producers don’t like listening to their voices when they sing. It’s others who tell them their voices are good.

    I’ve recorded a couple of songs, including gospel. I have two gospel albums, but I did not drop them. Since 2012/2013, I’ve been creating albums, but I won’t release them. One of the things I crave in my life is to release all the songs I’ve recorded for myself, whether they’re gospel or not, but the thing is that they’ll tag you as a Gospel artiste when you drop a sound. I tried it once, and artists stopped giving me jobs, thinking I’m now a Gospel artiste. That scare is there, but at the same time, producers contribute 60 per cent or 40 per cent to most of these artists’ songs because they are also artists.

    Again, producers sometimes need more capacity to put themselves out there because by the time they think of what they’ll use to care for their studio, what they are getting from the artist is a little. Sometimes, they come out because they are tired of certain things, like this guy is not paying me much. You know what? Why not if you can do this and I can do better than you?

    Some of these producers are way better than these artists. Just imagine Pheelz, who knew? Since he produced Adekunle Gold, nobody knew he had all of this, but he kept it. When it got to his time, he could do it, and he’s still doing it. He will go a long way because he is a raw talent. That guy has a lot in him, as do all of us. We have it; it’s just that the songs they write are not for artists. They wish you sing it yourself because they’ll probably not push it well and probably not give you the credit you deserve, so that’s it.

    As you mentioned, you’ve worked with a couple of old cats. Please mention a few.

    Puffy Tee: So, my first job—I won’t call it significant, but it got into it because it was just a few. There was no cable TV.

    So I started from there, came down and did ‘seem easy’. It’s a freestyle featuring 2-face, and I did others, which I wonder if they released and in-between for soft people. Everyone knows that the one that broke out that made me Puffy Tee was Yahooze by Olu Maintain. After that, I did ‘Lori Le’ and produced Idris’ album, not ‘Jagajaga’. Jagajaga was done by somebody else, but I completed the whole album and then moved to Ghana. I was in Ghana for about five years.

    Did you work with any artistes in Ghana?

    Puffy Tee: Yes, VIP. They were the ones who did ‘If your girlfriend no dey do me well’. Listening carefully, you’ll hear a Nigerian guy shouting under the song ‘Away’. And then, coming back, I also did one for Becca in Ghana. There’s a song she featured MI, but it’s no away. I wrote the song. It was a response to Away for VIP.

    I came back, and after that, I went quiet for a while because I went to the UK for a very long time. I came back again because I was tired. I was like I was not producing again, but as I came back, that was when I did Oritse Femi’s ‘body and soul’. Then I did Redi Dance and the Money Stop Nonsense (MSN) album. I did about 15 tracks on the album, and then I did Aleko for Mayorkun.

    So, I also produce for Michael Don. I had a verse on ‘Jesu mi ga’; the new one is called ‘Oma Loud’. Also Monique hit song that goes by ‘kabiyesi oba gbogbo aye’.

    Which of these songs redefined your career?

    Puffy Tee: For me, yahooze was a hit. It was the major one. It was a monster among all this heat, and then came ‘Lori le’. The others were supporting hit, and VIP was away, supporting hit. Then, after that, I went quiet. I was doing other jobs and doing people’s production.

    After yahoozee, a lot of producers came up because it was OJB. After OJB, after me, and after ‘yahooze,’ Gongo also came out almost simultaneously as ‘Lori ile. ‘So it was my second hit, and ‘Gongo Aso’ came out. So that introduced Converse. I think Converse had something before, but it was smaller than ‘Gongo aso’, so that was his biggest hit, and he was profiting. Around that time, we had 5/6 of us, but now everybody is a producer.

    How would you compare the beats in the mid-2000s to now?

    Puffy Tee: It’s still Afrobeats because Yahooze was a turnaround. Firstly, Yahooze was a turnaround for Afrobeats. Although he didn’t name it Afrobeats then, we didn’t have a name for it, but that was a turnaround for him. It turned everything around for good and evil because Yahooze brought out many things.

    What are your plans to stay relevant, as there are a lot of producers in the music industry now?

    Puffy Tee: To keep working because we just did now. I want to find new young artists to work with who have talent because these old guys have been there. They still have OGs that have been there. They have more responsibilities now.

    The talent is still there, but they have to do a lot of work to awaken that talent in them because they’ve gone through many things. Some had marriage crashes; some had businesses here and there. There is too much stress, but these young cats don’t have many things. They just want to blow it because they have never seen money before and want to see it. Everybody uses each other.

    In the music industry, you have to use somebody like a scapegoat. For example, these guys have my beat. I’m going to put them on my beat and test them out. The one with the best voice will use the beat. So you keep working and looking for raw talent, and I’m starting my own Street Got Talent soon. I am going to the ghetto to look for more artists.

    It’s my legitimate office. I’m a producer; we search for talent and bring them out.

    Have you started Street Got Talent, or is it included in your plan?

    Puffy Tee: The paperwork is ready. It’s just a matter of finding the take-off point, which could take a year.

    What is your opinion on the Afrobeats debate?

    Puffy Tee: The Afrobeats. What is Afro? Afro is Africa. The beat is music. So, Afrobeat is the African beat. It’s generally what we play. We have our drums, etc. Although we don’t have talking drums, many people have talking drums, but the thing is that as long as you sing a song and put your mother tongue in it, that vibe becomes African and a recognised jam.

    Now, another thing about this whole debate is whether I’m Afrobeats or not. I don’t know why; everybody suddenly says I’m not an Afrobeats musician. It’s pressure from where they are going. They did the same to Michael Jackson because he was black. He was doing well, but particular doors could not be opened because he was black. He had to go white for those doors to be opened. So, the fight has been fought to a point where a category has been created for the first time in Grammy. And the guys that are saying this are out of Nigeria. Some of them are out of Nigeria.

    They are confusing this young generation. We are just trying to build this up. Anyone can play anything, but Afrobeats will come and stay as a genre of music because there are places that they want to enter, and they’ll tell them that you can’t be playing Afrobeats and get here. The industry is a deep black hole. It’s funny out there. They’ll give you conditions.

    Imagine they say what brought you out or what you promoted, and then you have to deny that you are not an Afrobeats artiste. You are Afrofusion now.

    We understand you can play anything, but keep Afrobeats down. For now, I can do other genres of music, but I also do Afrobeats. Don’t say you are not an Afrobeat”artiste. By the time you are removing yourself, who is left to fight? The young ones are confuse” already. So these guys are knocking on doors, and they say that as long as you are an Afrobeat artiste, you can’t come in. So, the best thing for them to do is to denounce it.

    Just like when you want to get new citizenship, you denounce your country and pledge your allegiance to another country, and they let you in. That’s why it’s about priorities. Places to go, what to do, you want to win a Grammy, you want to do this, you want to open this, etc. So that’s what they use to deceive all these guys.


    Is this debate in any way affecting the music industry?

    Puffy Tee: It might be because these guys help them generally. When Reggae came out, it was so strong that it burst into Reggae tunes, dances, etc. It broke into so many parts. It started when people said I’m not Bob Marley, and I don’t play Reggae because Reggae is the root of it.

    They broke Reggae into pieces, and today, Reggae is down. That is what they want to do.

    They want to break Afrobeat, so we won’t stand and won’t have that unified body because it was entering.

    If you want to kill a snake, you cut the head. Those guys at the top are the head of Afrobeats. If they cut their heads, then everyone will be divided.

    I’ve noticed Asia trying to do Afrobeat, and I’ve noticed Americans trying to do Afrobeat.

    After they break it down, they will break it. They will take the part, open it, and make it their own. You will start hearing Afrobeats in their Jam.

    Why is every American trying to feature in Afrobeat? Why is Tems there? Nobody noticed her until she got on Afrobeat. Is it not for Afrobeats that brought them out?

    What they are saying is that just because I came from Africa or Nigeria doesn’t mean I am an Afrobeats singer. But they are nominated in that category. So they will tell them you did not win because it’s Afrobeat. Your music is more significant than Afrobeats. You can make more money if you are not an Afrobeats artist. Afrobeat is just coming up. They will sell that to them, and they will make sure they denounce it. When the tops are down, we will start trying to create a new one to hold it on top again. We will build it.

    Inside themselves, they know they are Afrobeat artistes. Someone asked if they had ever heard of European Beat. Yes, there is a European beat; Dance and Dance is Europe. That one they are doing for Amapiano is a beat. If you hear the House beat well, it can play for three minutes without a song or voice.

    Through this interview, we should understand that Afrobeats is not only for Nigerians. Every African nation owns it. I think there’s hate for Nigerians because they feel Nigerians own Afrobeats. Every African owns it.

    Fela is the Afrobeat pioneer, and they couldn’t find another name besides adding the ‘S’ to make it Afrobeats. Fela’s Afrobeat is different from Afrobeats. What we are playing now is Afrobeats because there are so many beats that form Afrobeats. If I play R and B today and put something in it, it will become Afrobeats.

     

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