First, it was David Adeleke, aka Davido, son of popular Osun billionaire,Deji Adeleke. Then, Folarin Falana, aka Falz, son of legal luminary, Femi Falana and now Damilola Afolabi, popularly known as L.A.X, son of billionaire oil and gas magnate, Taiwo Afolabi of SIFAX Group of Companies. He too has embraced music. The Stanford University and Manchester United Master’s holder in Human Resource Management, Innovation Management and Entrepreneurship is the new kid on the block. The 19-year-old ‘Caro’ crooner dissects how it all started and why he rejected his father’s offer to manage his company for music in this interview with YES INTERNATIONAL! Magazine…
Let us meet you.
My name is Damilola Afolabi. I went to Ave Maria Primary School, Nigerian Turkish International School, Stanford University for my undergraduate degree and studied Human Resource Management. I finished my Master’s at the Manchester University, in Innovation Management and Entrepreneurship.
How do you see these courses improving your music career?
That’s why I did my Master’s in Innovation Management and Entrepreneurship. Being an entrepreneur is being able to have lot of business skills and using your innovation skills to try to make changes in the industry. It is not even about my music now; it’s about what I want to do for the industry based on the structure.
Why are you into music despite being a billionaire’s son?
I love music, it is my passion and that is why I am doing it. But at the end of the day, I want to make money out of it. So I am doing music for the passion and for me to be able to stand on my own. Forget my father or anything; to be able to do things for myself. There is nothing like doing what you love and making money out of it. So, it’s something I love doing, that’s why I am doing it.
At what point did you know music is what you were going to do?
I have been doing music for a while and since I was in London. I had a studio in my house. I used to do music, so it has been part of me for a while. I didn’t start music as a kid or from the choir. I started music like a fluke. My friend called me up and asked me to come to the studio with him, that his car broke down and he wanted me to take him to the studio. So, I got to the studio and there was this vibe, then the producer asked me what I can do and I told him that I just brought my guy to the studio. So, he said do something on the mic for me and I did it, like play like play. This was like in 2007. So, jokingly, I did freestyle and after the session, the producer called me and told me that I have a distinct voice and that I should learn this craft. So, I decided to be going to the studio everyday. This producer now happens to be D’Banj’s producer, Dvee. So, I worked with him for like 2 years and that was how I started.
Was it professional?
I won’t say it wasn’t professional because I used to go to the Bez Studios in London; I worked with a producer that was working with Beyonce and Jay Z then. He was my producer for like 2 years. He used to mix and master my songs. So, I will say what I was doing was semi-professional.
Why the name L . A . X?
It came from my secondary school. People used to call me L . A because I had a shoe called Lacrox and in my school, at that time, we were only allowed to wear leather shoes. So, I used to wear trainers and I spoke to the school administration to let students wear any shoe they liked and they agreed. So, my friends started calling me L A. So, when I started music, I colonized it and my friends and I just sat down one day and were just trying other alphabets to it. X sounded cool, so I just used it.
At the point you were going to take music professionally, who did you pitch you tent with?
I started coaching myself even without my dad and my mum. I was just using my own savings to push myself. I shot a couple of videos when I was in school in London. So, when I got back to Nigeria, I had a show. Like a summer jam, Hennessey Artistry or something and I met a woman who told me she is a stylist and would like to style me. We spoke for a while and we became close. I used to call her from London. Then, she was a close friend of Wizkid. She also styled him at the time. One day she said I should send her some of my stuff that she wanted to play it for Wizkid and see if he likes it. So, Wizkid listened to some of my stuff, liked it and called me up. I went to his house and from there we started.
Who wrote ‘Caro’, you or Wizkid?
We did the studio session together. He did his part and I wrote mine.
When you met Wizkid, how long did it take you to officially sign a contract with him?
It took like 2 months, because after the meeting, when he heard my stuff and liked it, l went back to London where I schooled and he followed me. We did a couple of tracks together. That was when we recorded ‘Caro’ as well.
What is the detail of the contract you have with Wizkid?
It’s a record label deal and it is just for 2 albums.
For how many years?
Are saying you can produce two albums in two years?
That is what the contract states. But, we can extend it.
For almost two years now, you have been with Wizkid, how will you describe him?
He is a cool cat, he’s focused, he motivates me, he works a lot, he’s a hard worker. He goes to the studio like everyday, working.
What project are you working on now?
I’m working on my singles. I have close to 30, 40 singles recorded and I am working on my album as well.
When is your first album going to be out?
It’s supposed to be out last year, but we will definitely push it this year.
What genre of music do you do?
I do everything. I can go on any beat, on reggae, pop, afro beat, fuji sound and so I’m just trying to form my own sound and create my own kind of music.
Where lies your strength?
I am very good at speaking Yoruba because of my grandma. So, I like to put Yoruba in my music to get the fans on the street as well.
Do you get any inspiration from Wizkid?
Yeah, I have been Wizkid’s fan for a very long time, because he was a young kid doing his thing, so I look up to him. Even working with him has inspired me a lot.
Which other Nigerian artiste do you look up to?
I look up to Wande Coal. I listened to him a lot when I was younger and I look up to a lot of Nigerian artistes because everyone is trying to survive.
Why didn’t you stay over there, why did you come back to Nigeria?
I was just building my craft in London at that time so that when I finish schooling, I will be able to start fully.
What were the challenges in this for you?
In Nigeria, we don’t make as much money as we are supposed to make. If you look at the American industry, they are making so much money. An average songwriter in America makes more money than an average artiste in Nigeria, but in Nigeria only the artistes make money.
If not music, what else would you have been doing?
I think I would have been a businessman, diversifying into different ventures. Not just one thing, because I don’t see myself wearing suit and tie.
What was your dad’s reaction when you told him about doing music?
My dad is a very cool guy. We are very close because we talk. He wasn’t exactly happy with music. He wanted me to head one of his companies, but after a while when he heard my songs and his friends were always calling him up, telling him ‘I saw your child on TV’, he started supporting me. But he had been supportive from the beginning.
How prepared are you for scandals?
I am prepared for scandal 100%. When I was in secondary school, I was like the kid that everybody wanted to be like because I was a cool kid. So, at the end of the day, I have been receiving that kind of attention right from when I was a kid and I have been dealing with it because I have a great mum that keeps me on check and a great manager that keeps me on check. My manager is like family to me.
Are you in any relationship?
Because I am trying to stay focused, I’m trying to make this money.
How would you describe your dream woman?
To be honest, I have related with a lot of girls in terms of friendship. I’m just looking for somebody that can understand me because this music thing is crazy. The fans, the pleasure and everything. So, I am looking for somebody that would understand me and love me for who I am.
Which female artiste do you have a crush on?
I don’t think I have a crush on anybody, but I’m feeling Cynthia Morgan. I like her sound and her type of music and I think she’s bold.
What has life been like as a music artiste?
There have been ups and downs. Sometimes you go to the studio and sometimes you don’t.
Do you see music as a lifelong career for you?
No, not really. At the end of the day, I am doing music because of my passion for it, but I am still planning to put a lot of artistes on. As big as I want to be. I can now start doing other things.
Who are the international acts that you will love to do collaboration with?
My team is presently talking to Kendrick Lamar to work with him. I love a lot of international artistes and we are planning to work with them in the future.
You said you started as a rapper, have you left rap completely?
I haven’t. If I need to rap in a song, I will. It’s just that I find my strength in singing.
Finally, what will change about you when you reach the top?
Nothing will change about me, I will still remain that humble guy.
NB: First published February 2015