Two years ago, Nigeria witnessed one of its most bohemian civil protests. A crop of young, daring voices dared to stand against the country’s Federal Government, in a war that is currently controversial as an uprising against police brutality, economic stagnancy and venal law enforcement.
It remains a bittersweet memory in the minds of the myriads of young Nigerians who wore their motivations on their chest while they chanted, trekked and roared against the systemic anomalies in the country’s governance.
At the heart of that expedition was one of Nigeria’s finest Hip-Hop/Pop mavericks, Folarin Falana, professionally known as Falz, who was among the pioneers of this democratic process.
Born to lawyer parents, Falz, who has become infamous as one of Nigeria’s entertainers slash activists, has always chaperoned any pro-humanitarian movements since his early days as a singer, when he was barely 19. A decade later, the musician is one of the most vocal prodigies of his generation using his voice for socio-economic good.
However, at the heart of Falz’, aka FalztheBahdGuy’s artistry, is an undying resolve to be radical. And this has now morphed into his latest musical adventure, his fifth studio album dubbed, Bahd, which sees the layer turned musician tread unusual waters in the realm of loverboys, sonics and storytelling. Now, the young musician turns inwards, leaning towards his romantic persona, churning a subtler, mellow groove across the 12-track album.
Sitting across a Zoom call, the 31-year-old peels his layers of activism, stripping bare the loverboy and life enthusiast that underscores the persona of Falz within Bahd. In this Guardian Music Special, he opens up on the stories behind Bahd, the influences bootstrapping his activism, as well as why he remains the Chairman of Nigeria’s Single Men Association, among others.
You have an exciting new project out. How do you feel about it?
I am excited about it. Like you said, it’s refreshing. I wanted to do something that reflected that; something that was different from the norm. That’s why I worked on this project.
Let’s dive into the project. What exactly was the concept of Bahd when you were creating this project?
Basically, Bahd is an album that captures me in completely different lives; it captures me being emotional. It captures me being vulnerable and at the same time, me being very sexy. So, it’s a very different kind of project, in that it is more solemn in the feel. It’s very psychedelic in the way that it makes you feel. It was meant to be that sort of beautiful dreamy project, but at the same time, it breaks away from the norm.
On this project for example, you hear me singing on a majority of the tracks, you know. I’m not doing that much rap and that shows how much I wanted to tear away from my regular style. I think I have been able to achieve that, and I am happy with the end product.
So, when did you first have the idea for Bahd?
I have actually been working on it for some time. Basically, the recording process started during the entire lockdown, spilling into 2021; between 2020 and 2021.
Let’s go into the creative process of this record. What influenced you to work with the people you did on this record?
Yeah, I wanted people that would fit in nicely to the sort of sounds that I was creating on this project. I wanted people that I am naturally a fan of; people I have always wanted to work with. So, it was beautiful to be able to put them together.
I also wanted people from as diverse a range of sound as possible, you know. So, that’s why I had Tiwa Savage on the track, and in another track, I had Cavemen. On another track, I had L.A.X, you know and there’s BNXN. It’s a big mix of different folks from a diverse range of sounds. That was what I wanted.
Speaking of sounds, you are rather mellow on the record. Was that all you or mostly influenced by your producers?
It’s a mix actually. I conveyed, of course, what I wanted to achieve in the project and they said, ‘say no more, we got you.’ And we created this idea, then they helped me to achieve that mellowness and sweetness I was looking for.
If you were to pick two of your favorite records on this album, which would you pick?
Wow, that’s a very tough one; my favorites kind of vary. This week, I might be feeling something, tomorrow, I might start feeling something else, but every track is special. Every track on the project is special for its own cause or what it stands for. But right now, my favorite probably is Kneel Down, the one with Chike.
That’s the one stressing people up on social media?
Yeah, that’s the one making people do some exercise.
There is a record called Beautiful Sunflower featuring Tiwa Savage on this album, what’s the backstory?
I wanted to make a love song – a love song that is very different. I wanted to make a love song that is from a completely different angle and unfamiliar. It is almost like Afro-funk, you know. I wanted to have it be very psychedelic and I also needed a very sweet touch.
I knew it had to be female vocals and I couldn’t think of anyone else but Tiwa Savage. We had been planning to work together for some time and this just happened to be the perfect record. The synergy, I think, was also A1.
What was the most stressful record to produce on this album?
There was no stressful record, if I am going to be honest with you. All the tracks were as easy to make, as they sound. It was sweet; it was all nice and neat. So, I wouldn’t say there was any stressful record to make.
Leading up to the album, you were releasing a lot of Amapiano and Rap tracks; we didn’t really see you coming out like this. Was there any fear that people might not receive this?
Literally, there is always that you know, ‘you don’t know how it’s going to be received, you are not sure how you’re going to do this.’ But at the end of the day, I have always been that one to break away from the norm. I have always been the one to sort of do things that are unexpected and for me, it was another adventure. So, I am happy I did it.
Leading up to the album, what were you listening to?
Well, leading up to this project, I was listening to a lot of Drake and a lot of The Weekend. Yeah, I will say these guys do these things a lot too, in terms of sound, mood and the mellow vibe. You know, how they convey on their records, there were definitely some similarities on how I wanted to convey.
Also, I am always listening to Afrobeats. There are tons of talented guys out there that are killing it. So, it was I finding that nice, little balance between what I was listening to and what I wanted to create.
Now that we have seen the lover boy Falz, are we still going to see the serious Falz again?
Yeah, of course, the serious Falz is always there; it can never go away. The serious Falz is always going to be there, today, tomorrow and the day after.
Probably, my next project, I can’t say for now, because I am still focused on this project. But in my next project, yeah. So, stay tuned.
Speaking of serious Falz, tell us about how your childhood influenced your activism?
I mean, definitely. I grew up in that type of setting, you know. My dad and my mum are activists in their own rights. They, being both lawyers and I grew up in that too. So, naturally and inevitably, it was always going to show up in my life, character and that is something that has always pushed me since the very beginning of my career.
I have always used music to reflect this and it just came out a lot more in recent times but definitely, my upbringing was a big part of it.
What do you really hope to get out of this activism?
It has never been about what is in it for me. For me, it has been about what is in it for everyone. You know, at the end of the day, it is compassion. Music is expression. It is a medium for which you could voice out your thoughts. So, if I am saying this a lot, then it shows you that I am thinking this a lot.
You know, these are matters on my mind; these are matters that genuinely disturb me. These are matters that I genuinely want to see something change about. You know, music is just reflective; what is around me is what I am always going to talk about. There is absolutely no ulterior motive. It is just compassion and I will continue to do that.
There is a song on the album that I don’t understand. Can you please explain what the Parampe song is about?
Parampe is like a ginger song; it is like a sort of motivation. It makes you feel like a super villain.
Oh, So, is that a word you formed?
No, it is that song that is going to give you utmost ginger. So, when I say ‘them dey blow me Parampe.” You know, Parampe is like mimicking the sound of a trumpet. That is why there are lots of horns on the record. It leans toward Afrobeat, the original; that is, the Fela Afrobeat. You can hear that.
Yeah, it is just meant to be that ginger song. So, ‘dem dey blow me Parampe,’ is basically you know, they are welcoming me; they are blowing me that trumpet, like the Bahd guy has arrived.
Let’s go a bit more personal. You have gone into the lover boy Falz, from the look of things are we looking at a relationship?
Maybe in the near future, stay tuned.
How about now?
I am still a single man. I am the chairman of the Single Men Association.
Where did you get the inspiration for these songs, if you are still single?
Well, while I was making them, maybe things were different, but now I am single.
If I was to present you with any amount of money you desire and tell you to quit music and go back to law, would you do it?
No, no, no I will not. Law is not something that I did not enjoy; don’t get it wrong. I did enjoy it. While I was practicing, it was something I enjoyed. But at the end of the day, you want to do something, especially something that you are doing everyday of your life. Something that you absolutely adore, like this is my passion, and a lot of this is what gives me utmost pleasure, you know. So, I would not want to drop that even for money.
Do your parents tease you about going back to law?
Yeah, definitely; he is still super proud of me. Him and my mum are my biggest fans, but there are days they still talk about how much of a great lawyer I would have been. For them obviously, that is their perspective. So, yeah, it is always going to be like that.
Going forward, what is the vision for Falz?
At the end of the day, I just want to keep on making beautiful music. I want to continue to inspire; I want to continue to educate as much as I entertain with my music. I want to continue to make my music an avenue for an awakening and at the end of the day, it is still a tool for entertainment. You know, music is an art form. When I am 99 years old, I will still make music and I will always make music.
Tell us three things that most people will be shocked to know about Falz?
Errm, let me see what I can come up with. Funnily, I am actually a shy guy. A lot of people find it hard to believe when I say that, but I am actually a shy guy.
Also, I cannot swim and I think those are two fun facts I can think of. Also, my favorite meal has to be pounded Yam and Egusi.
I was hoping you were not going to say Amala…
Amala too is mad o, with Gbegiri and Ewedu.
We are going to have issues, Falz…
You don’t like Amala? Who doesn’t like Amala? Anybody that doesn’t like Amala should be arrested.