MOELOGO: Championing African music in the face of police brutality
Updated: Dec 22, 2020
When the list of artists you've worked with over the years includes the likes of Davido, Giggs and Wretch 32, you're doing something right. Rather than allowing his many successes to make him arrogant, Moelogo continues to be one of the most humble artists in the game and his recent 5-track-EP has proven once more that he's more than capable of releasing top quality hits all on his own.
Born in Nigeria before moving to the UK back in 2001, Moelogo found his love of music whilst attending church with his Grandma, whilst his passion for singing blossomed as a youngster in his Peckham primary school. But from singing at school to performing in front of 20,000 people at London's iconic O2, life in music has been quite a journey for the South London resident and he doesn't plan on stopping any time soon.
Moelogo released his synth-led debut single 'Pangolo' in 2013 and has continued to evolve as an artist ever since, pouring his smooth vocals over the sounds of UK Rap, Dance, Afrobeats and many other genres across the years, with his recent EP titled ME, which he shared in June 2020, heavily embracing his African heritage.
ME is packed with five fresh-sounding, vibrant songs that capture the listener’s attention from the very first play. From the warm, inviting opener ‘For You’ all the way through to the EP’s poignant closing song ‘Ugly Parts Of Love’, this record showcases Moelogo’s vocal dexterity perfectly and highlights the many talents of an artist whose fans ride out for him with genuine love every time he drops something new.
One of the project's standout songs 'Sàngó and Oyá' recently received an animated music video to accompany it, something Moelogo reveals was a consequence of the global pandemic with social distancing rules limiting his ability to create a video in person. Instead a clever video game-style visual tells the story of Sàngó the God of Thunder and Lightning from Yoruba mythology. As Moelogo explains, "It's from an African myth. There's a God called Sàngó and he's got different wives. He's got a wife called Oyá that he loves the most, so I just played around with the story."
Artists including Burna Boy, Wizkid and Davido have been helped to spread the sounds of African music across the world in recent years and with the Afrobeats sound gliding across the entirety of his recent release, Moelogo is quick to praise the African scene in 2020. "It has been amazing just seeing everyone flourishing and breaking down barriers," he explains, beaming with pride as he pauses to appreciate his fellow African artists’ global success. "It motivates you because everyone's playing their part and they're growing and reaching new heights so those things only motivate you to be better and play your part as well."
But whilst African music has been flying high lately, there have also been troubling scenes and mass protests in many countries across the continent as part of the fight against police brutality, as there have been across the world. Some of the most harrowing images shared across social media have come as part of the #EndSARS movement in Moelogo's hometown of Nigeria’s capital Lagos and from our brief conversation on the topic it's evident that the fight against police brutality is something close to the singer's heart.
"It's been crazy. It happens every day; people die, there's police brutality and it was a wake up call for everyone to say 'You know what, enough is enough, we're not having it no more, we're gonna use our voices'. Obviously we can't go out there and start beating up police officers or government officials, but we can use our voices and protest peacefully and let people know we need changes and that's what they did. Big shout out to Falz, Runtown and all the amazing influencers online that took it on themselves to go out there. They weren't scared at all and they used their voices and did their thing."
From Skepta to Not3s, the UK is home to many well known British-Nigerian artists and despite the restrictions placed on travel during the global pandemic, Moelogo feels like those with a large online platform are making the most of it. "We can't be on the ground so all we can do is just amplify the voices and let the world know that this is happening," he states passionately, "It's not just in Nigeria, but in Cameroon, in Congo, Angola, even in the UK and the US, there's police brutality everywhere. It's just a wake up call to say 'If we see something that's wrong we're gonna speak about it and we're not scared of anybody'."
In the UK specifically, the discussion around police brutality has been accompanied by a generation-defining push for racial equality amidst the Black Lives Matter movement. With brand new music which he recorded in lockdown set to be released soon, Moelogo admits that his own personal experiences of these issues living in Peckham have filtered through to his music: "It has been part of it because you're hoping for better things, to come out of the hood, avoid police brutality and seeing those things happen so recently only motivates you to write about stuff that's happening more. I've always been writing about my reality but now I'm giving even more insight."
In a sobering moment, Moelogo discloses that he's had to deal with issues of racism in his daily life. "Countless times - racism is everywhere.," he states disappointingly, "The best way to defeat those things is to just walk away because if you end up doing things yourself and fighting back it gets long man, so the best thing is to just keep moving and keep teaching people. It's crazy that the power's not with you but we have to keep talking about it and telling people 'we're not gonna stand for this. No discrimination is allowed; no racism is allowed' and use our voices."
"Things are changing because people are more aware of what's going on. People are talking about things and people aren't being quiet any more, so things are changing. There are panels, there's people talking about things with the government and telling them we need changes now."
One of the things that spurs Moelogo on to continue to be a voice of change and to achieve all he can in his music career is his young son. Balancing life as a music star and father is not an easy job but in recent years it has provided the spark for the singer to strive for success even more than he already was and fatherhood is something Moelogo reflects on with genuine joy.
"I just try to do what I do best, try to be there for him and be a good father. I don't know it all - I'm not the best and I'm still trying to figure out how to be a dad and it's a beautiful thing. He keeps me on my toes and he's the reason why I'm working so hard because I don't wanna let myself down, but I also don't wanna let him down. I'm still young and it's new to me but I'm trying my best."
Breathing a sigh of relief as he confirms his young son is a fan of his music, Moelogo addresses the opportunities available to young people in music in 2020, compared to when he made his first mark on the industry almost a decade ago. "I feel like there's more now," he asserts as we ponder whether his son will follow in his musical footsteps. "Nowadays social media is big and you can connect with different people; you can find out what you wanna do and navigate yourself around the world online. You can literally be in your house and connect with people, have meetings, do deals and everything, so I feel like the young generation growing up now are gonna have loads more opportunities and it's a beautiful thing."
"There are young kids at home playing video games and earning loads of money and enjoying what they're doing. You've got people reviewing food, music and different things, so there's so much opportunity right now and there will be more."
Making the most of the internet himself during the coronavirus lockdowns placed on the UK across 2020, Moelogo has been able to connect with fellow creatives and it's allowed him to put together a new body of work for release in early 2021. "It's been amazing because you can still do things via Zoom. You can record and make songs via Zoom, so I've been working on there, via FaceTime or just writing ideas down and sending them back and forth in Whatsapp. I've been grateful to be able to work and try something during the lockdown, so I wasn't really bored. I was at home but I made it work."
One of the most fruitful connections Moelogo has made as an artist so far came in the shape of Jonas Blue. The superstar producer featured Moelogo on his song 'We Could Go Back' and the track has amassed more than 50 million streams on Spotify alone since it was released in 2017. At the time of the song's release, Moelogo and I caught up ahead of a career-highlight performance on stage at The O2 in London and reflecting on that moment now in 2020 still leaves the singer with goosebumps.
"I didn't know Jonas Blue from nowhere," he jokes, smiling as his mind wanders back to that pivotal moment in his career. "My job was just to put down the reference and go. A couple of days after I got a phone call saying 'We wanna keep you on the song' and that literally changed a lot of things. Big shout to Jin Jin [songwriter Janée Bennett], bringing me on that song was a beautiful moment for me. Showcasing my culture in front of 20,000 people that don't really look like me at all, but they accepted it and loved it - that was amazing for me. It was a big statement for me at that time. I was starstruck. I was next to guys from One Direction, I'm seeing Rita Ora, Rag'n'Bone Man as well. To be able to be on the same stage as those people and just shell it was beautiful man."
"It showed a lot of people that yes I'm from Peckham, I'm from the hood, but being from the hood didn't stop me from wanting to achieve something. I don't have to be a gangster; I was from the hood but I was focussed."
Now, with the hindsight of how his brilliant career is playing out as 2020 comes to a close, I'm curious to find out what advice Moelogo would give, if any, to his younger self. He's quick to respond, knowing just the right words that he feels would've assisted him on his rise to becoming one of the country’s most exciting vocal stars. "I would've told myself to understand my power more," Moelogo claims. "I didn't understand how powerful I was with my voice and my music and I used to think I wasn't doing enough, but I was doing a lot, I just wasn't seeing it. I was looking for validation from other people and that was not the right way to go. So I would tell my younger self 'Believe in yourself from the start'.
Before 2020 has come to a close, Moelogo has treated fans to another exciting new project and alongside ME, his new EP Myself comes as the second chapter in an exciting trilogy of releases, with the final piece of the puzzle dropping early next year. 6-track offering Myself is yet another window into the wonderful world of Moelogo and this time he's brought two friends along in the shape of M.anifest and Incisive, so make sure you get your ears around this record too.
Teasing "more music and more visuals" as well as collabs with big hitters Tiwa Savage, Adekunle Gold and S1mba as 2021 peeks over the horizon, it's clear that the monumental year most people want to forget has sparked new life into Moelogo, so for fans of the hugely talented singer the time to start getting excited is right about now.