How challenging has it been to become successful and to create your own brand in the Nigerian environment?
It has been tough, as there are many challenges in the industry. This is such a saturated market; we are blessed with an astonishing amount of talent, so it is tough for anyone to succeed. What made me stand out was my uniqueness. I have always been different. My music is typically hip-hop, but with a contemporary twist. I always infuse traditional Nigerian sounds and modernize them. There is always a story or message in my lyrics. The element of humor is also a constant in my music. There is a certain persona in Falz The Bahd Guy that I brought out: the funny guy and crazy guy. People started to relate to him and his music, and that was the breaking point.
How important is the fact that you include political issues in your music?
In the current social and political climate, it is extremely important because many things are not in place in Nigeria. We come in contact with these things every day, and as an artist, one is affected by the environment. It is impossible to live somewhere and not draw inspiration from the environment around us. Our voices, as entertainers, are perhaps the loudest right now. We are the most followed on social media. People almost worship entertainers, and we must leverage this. That is the reason why I make conscious music. People need to wake up, and Nigerians are resilient people. It is an amazing thing, though it can become a problem when we become complacent and not react to things that are happening. People need to be more awake. I am currently working on an album that is all about conscious music, tackling our issues and making people stop, listen, and think about what is going on and how they should react.
Were you concerned that 'This is Nigeria' would push a negative narrative about Nigeria?
I knew it would draw some controversy, though I did not expect it to be that much, and it was a pleasant surprise. The more talked about something is, the better. It was time to say what is going on, and it got people talking. Many people mentioned it might show the country in a negative light; however, if I had kept that in the back of my mind, then I would have sugarcoated our issues, which was not the point. Things are truly messed up, and we need to wake up. If someone's child is doing something wrong, they will not sugarcoat it; they would try to say it in a way that helps them realize what they are doing is not right.
What are the main challenges for Nigerian musicians?
The main challenge is that there is no structure; we do not have a proper system of tracking records. In the US and the UK, artists go gold if they sell 500,000 copies and platinum if they sell 1 million. Here, there is no way to know how much one is selling. People on the streets have been selling records without permission.
What are your expectations for the industry in 2019?
The industry is going somewhere promising. I see many artists starting to perform all around the world, and Afrobeat is penetrating other markets. I see growth and an emergence of a new crop of talent. 2019 will be an important year. There are multiple A-list artists now, more than ever. Everyone is pulling out big crowds and making large sums of money. The sky is big enough for everyone to fly.