Music

Interview: Nigerian Genre-Bender, Ayüü Discusses Naija’s Music Scene, The #EndSARS Movement, And Mixtape, “Ayüüniverse”

Ayüü is a Nigerian singer and songwriter based in Abuja, Nigeria. With sounds from R&B, Pop, Funk, Hip-Hop, and Afrobeats as well as musical influences like Burna Boy, Michael Jackson, and SZA, one can't help but appreciate his artistic range and genre fusing genius. Read more as Ayüü takes a no filter approach in discussing his artistry, the music industry, Nigeria's social and political climate, and his 2019 mixtape that was revealed to him in a dream titled, "Ayüüniverse."

“I don’t think anyone who truly believes in themselves and is still on the come up ever fully feels appreciated or completely supported, but I will say I genuinely don’t put energy into that,” Ayüü explains. “There was a point where I couldn’t get ten plays in a month on a record, so I’m not going to focus on people who aren’t supporting me when there are people who are.” The Abuja, Nigeria-based artist doesn’t take the support he has gained nor his journey lightly.

Prior to connecting with Ayüü for this interview, I joined his Instagram live where he sat in his colorful LED-lit space engaging with supporters and playing music—even took a few requests. I cannot pinpoint how I arrived in his world, but the music and his authenticity kept me there. I was already familiar with Ayüü’s music but had never interacted with him until I shared my thoughts on his ability to fuse a variety of sounds, hence creating a fulfilling listening experience—a genuine connection sparked in the comments. With sounds from R&B, Pop, Funk, Hip-Hop, and Afrobeats as well as musical influences like Burna Boy, Michael Jackson, and SZA, one can’t help but appreciate his artistic range and genre-fusing genius.

In conversation, I was able to piece together an intricate puzzle of an individual, and the things that remained the same were Ayüü’s positivity, openness, and deep love for his craft. He describes his music-making process as spiritual, stating that he doesn’t believe he is to credit for the creation of his songs. “I genuinely don’t believe I write my songs. I need to pray before I make music or it won’t work. I always pray right before I record and the topmost thing I pray for is to be connected to the source.”

Not only is Ayüü in tune with his spirituality, his music, and his creative expression, but he is also vocal about his views on Nigeria’s social and political climate, which he has touched on in his music with songs like “Humble”. In sharing insight on the #EndSars movement and his views on the country’s government, Ayüü shares, “I always used to say and think this country had no hope but this time people came together like I never seen before. The things that we’ve complained about our government not being able to do—a bunch of women came together—the feminist coalition came together and showed us what it’s like to run a country.”

Read more as Ayüü takes a no-filter approach in discussing his artistry, the music industry, Nigeria’s social and political climate, and his 2019 mixtape that was revealed to him in a dream titled, Ayüüniverse.

Photo submitted by Ayüü.

I’m eager to know everything—whatever you’re willing to share, but starting off share a little bit about your background.

It’s been a lot of moving around. I was born in Nigeria—born in Jos. Then I moved around with my mom for a while. We moved to this other place called Benin—we were in London for a bit. I came back to Nigeria and moved to Abuja and I went to primary school all over the place then I went to secondary school in Abuja and some other place called Osun in Nigeria. Because of the way that my mom is set up, she’s always trying to jet, so I was always out of the country. Always in England, Germany, or something.

Obviously, you have secondary school people, but I didn’t really ever have a base or foundation in terms of a friendship group. I started making friends in England—Uni. That’s when I started meeting people. I moved back to Abuja in 2017 and I was in London last year. But yeah, that’s basically it.

Okay, that makes sense because I just—you’re just ambiguous. That’s why I have so many questions. I don’t know why, but I assumed that you were from Ghana or something. I was like I don’t know—from the sound of his music—

[laughing] Nah, shoutout to my Ghanaian brothers. I love Ghana!

I’m like has he spent time in the states? I couldn’t pinpoint where you were from, which makes sense though because you said you moved around a lot and you spent time in other countries and I can hear the UK accent in your voice a little bit.

A little bit. I still be Naija boy!

Born in Nigeria. That’s where you’re currently located, but you spent time—okay, got it! Thank you for clarifying that because I was just like, what is going on? So, now that we got that cleared out of the way and I feel like I’m getting to know you a little better [laughing]. When did you realize that music was something you were good at and that you wanted to pursue it as a career?

Ah, crazy! That wasn’t until late. So, basically, I always tell people how music is my last chance of being happy because I genuinely thought I was going to play sports. I thought I was going to play basketball and make it to the NBA or play football or something. I thought I was going to be in sports because I was always super active and I’m not trying to toot my own horn, but pretty good at playing sports. Obviously, the African parenting system and all of that led me to Uni in England where I studied Business Admin, so the sports thing fizzled out because it’s not as—I’m pretty sure if I were in Canada or the States or something I would have been a sports person today, but it’s not as intense or taken as seriously, except maybe football.

I didn’t decide to start making music until 2016. The thing about me is I’m extremely competitive, and jealousy for me works in a good way because if I see something that I like and it makes me feel jealous, I want to learn it. It’s nothing negative, I just want to learn. Seeing a couple of friends of mine, my brothers, my sister making music, rapping, things like that—I just always wanted to be able to do it just in case. I kind of had practice before 2016.

Okay, so you had siblings that were making music, so you were around it already.

Yeah, 2017 is actually when I put out my first project, but I did have one little SoundCloud single in 2016 that did quite alright.

One thing that stood out to me about your music is your ability to fuse different sounds. You switch the vibe up so well, but it’s not abrupt. It’s smooth and it’s done effortlessly. Whenever I’m listening to your music, I feel like it’s an experience. It’s like a really worthwhile experience at that, so kudos to you. Is this fusion of sounds something that came easy to you or is that something that you’ve had to craft as you’ve grown as an artist?

Honestly, that’s one part that I’m extremely grateful for as well because it’s pretty natural. Essentially, my first musical experience was singing in the choir, singing to my aunt, singing my sister’s songs, things like that. I would like to think I had a pretty special voice. I had an incredible range and all of that but, obviously puberty happened. No one told me I could train my voice and use the voice I have. Not being able to hit the same Michael Jackson notes really messed with me and I just stopped singing completely. I’m like you know what, I’m not going to embarrass myself. This is not working.

I still liked music so I started learning how to rap and balance the equation and fast-forward to the SoundCloud era and trying to make different types of music, meeting people who told me you’re stressing for no reason you have a very nice voice, you just need to develop your confidence and learn how to use it. Stop trying to sing like freaking MJ and sing like Ayüü.

Also, the type of music I listen to, I listen to everything—Country, like everything! All of that comes together to form this package. Even when I listen to other people’s music I enjoy the diversity and different pockets. I hear so many pockets and instrumentals. The most difficult thing for me in making music is picking what I want to do. If you’ve listened to Ayüüniverse, there’s a record called “S.L.S.” and it basically has two choruses mashed up in one because I couldn’t figure out which one I wanted to use. That’s one part that I’m grateful for because it’s pretty natural.

You mentioned Michael Jackson. Is he one of your influences or was that just an example?

Whew, okay so I’m inspired and honestly influenced by everything I like. If I had to pick—a friend of mine, shoutout Dopeman Tizzy—he asked me a very interesting question. If I had to pick my top three sonics, just what’s perfect for me sonically in terms of musicians, who would they be? It’s Burna Boy, Michael Jackson, and SZA. So yes, Michael is a big influence.

Wow! Okay, that’s a really interesting top three. The reason I asked about Michael is because you were saying early on with your voice I couldn’t sing like him I’m getting frustrated and you had to learn like you know what, I have to learn how to use my voice in my way and not try to sing like somebody else. If you’re trying to sing like Michael Jackson [laughing]—

Being a child it’s easier because your voice is already squeaky and you think you can, but Michael was one of one.

I think it represents the diversity in your sound, too because those are three artists that are very different. I wouldn’t have even thought to put all three of them in the same conversation, but that’s dope. Not only are you a well-versed artist sonically, but you’re also a great songwriter. Who or what inspires your lyrical content?

Thank you! So… I don’t believe I write my songs. I genuinely don’t believe I write my songs. I need to pray before I make music or it won’t work. I always pray right before I record and the topmost thing I pray for is to be connected to the source. I remember with the first record I made, I literally ran around in my living room after I made that record because I couldn’t believe it was me. I couldn’t believe I just made that. You should check it out, it’s still on SoundCloud. It’s called “In That Order”. Still amazing. Timeless. But, I didn’t think about it. I just let myself feel and words came out of my mouth that represented exactly what I was going through in that moment or at that time.

I stuck with that because I hadn’t experienced anything like that and I wanted to keep it going so I stuck with that process. I just feel and say whatever I feel and it works. That’s one part about the brand that I’m not completely intentional about. I just talk. I appreciate that.

Such an artistic response! I can tell you’re a creative. But it makes sense though. You were saying that you weren’t the one that is doing it because you channeled the source and it’s speaking through you.

I wouldn’t say everything because there’s little rap verses here and there talking about VVS’s you don’t even own—but ninety-five to ninety-eight percent of what I talk about is facts. It just happened or it’s a real-life relationship. These are real-life words that were said to me like ‘Naija go humble you’—that’s like a conversation.

Even things as bouncy as “Teyana”, which is off Mango Juice and Bad Decisions featuring PsychoYP, sounds like such a nice groove and it’s bouncy and everything—but can I literally explain every single word and why I said it, how I said it, when it happened. I find it very special because like I said, I don’t know that it’s happening. I literally have to take a break and listen to the record again to figure out what I just done.

I would love to just be a fly on the wall in your sessions and just experience you in action. You’re surprising yourself? I want to be shocked too! But I feel like I’m leaving off a talent, a gift, or something—what else are you skilled in?

I’m trying to not sound cocky, but I do a lot. I played sports—virtually every sport. I engineer, so I mix and master. I can’t lie, I confidently mix and master for anyone, but I wouldn’t do it for myself because my ears are my worst critic. What else? I kind of dance. I style myself. During this quarantine, I started learning how to edit videos. I can give you a nice chop up if you’re desperate. [laughing] I just do whatever I can to help push my brand because I don’t really have a team or management.

Wait? You don’t have a team?

Obviously, I have producers, but no I don’t have a team. I have some friends that help out, but not a team at all.

People think I have this huge budget or this huge backing behind me. No, I just go in. I develop my relationships with creatives and people who can help. I make sure I treat people with respect and plus, I know what’s nice so I don’t settle.

That means you’re doing a great job because me as an outsider looking in, I’m like okay, he has the whole package. But now I know you’re styling yourself, you have supportive friends that are pushing projects, and your artwork is always great. It seems like you’ve established a name and a brand for yourself, so I would have thought that you had people backing you.

You know something interesting about that, right? I can’t lie, it kind of hurts me—the fact that from the outside looking in it seems like I have everything figured out. I feel like people just have this—almost like an abrasive energy towards me, and I’m just like bro, I’m trying to figure it out. Trust me, I’m trying to figure it out just as much as you are. The thing is, it’s just the way I was raised. If you’re going to do anything you have to do it as properly as you can. People think I have this huge budget or this huge backing behind me. No, I just go in. I develop my relationships with creatives and people who can help. I make sure I treat people with respect and plus, I know what’s nice so I don’t settle. I just take my time so I can get the closest possible outcome to what I need. It’s just a lot of planning and sacrifice. Another thing is I don’t go out. I don’t turn up. I don’t be shopping. My sister makes my garments. My mom copped me this shirt, know what I’m saying? I literally reinvest everything I make into the music and pay for as much as I need to pay for in terms of engineering, making sure my music sounds right. Artwork—making sure it looks right. Pictures—make sure whatever photographer is working is willing and happy to work. Just little things like that. I sacrificed the lifestyle.

That’s real. You just offered so much perspective and insight because other artists, creatives, whoever—it’s like no, I’m trying to figure this shit out, too. I just know that I want this and this is my life, and I’ve sacrificed things so I’m going to put in the effort. That’s a good segue into my next question because I’m really curious. You’re in Abuja, Nigeria—what is the creative community like there? Do you feel supported? Aside from your friends, but just connecting with other creatives.

I don’t think anyone who truly believes in themselves and is still on the come up ever fully feels appreciated or completely supported, but I will say I genuinely don’t put energy into that. I can’t even respond to all the love I get on social media, people that walk up to me randomly—it’s just impossible for me to ignore where I came from. There was a point where I couldn’t get ten plays in a month on a record, so I’m not going to focus on people who aren’t supporting me when there are people who are. I’m not the biggest artist in the world yet, so of course, people could support me more, but I’m grateful. Plus, music is very spiritual. I’ve realized no matter how much you dislike or love a person, you can’t support what you don’t genuinely love. Even if they’re not saying anything, they’re either listening to it or not. If not then they don’t like it which is fair enough.

I think that’s why I gravitate towards your music because it’s so much more than let me listen to this song, I want to turn up—granted, you have songs that I can turn up to, but it’s an experience. As you said, it’s very spiritual.

I’m not even going to lie. I’m saying this with my chest. I make music for beautiful women and every woman is beautiful. It’s like I succeed a little more every time I hear things like this, especially coming from a woman, so thank you.

I’m glad that I could experience it, though. I’m not a musician. I don’t have those gifts, but one thing I can do is listen to music, connect with the artist, and share my opinion on it—I can do that! I’m just grateful for people like you because music is healing.

One record of mine that comes to mind right now is, “Accra” off Ayüüniverse. That record, you should go listen to that. That was one of my very shocking moments and it’s crazy because a lot of people tell me how that song has helped them through this and that, and it does the same thing for me because like I said, sometimes I don’t even feel like I be creating this shit. It’s an almost happy instrumental. The first time I heard it I thought hits—people are going to turn up to this and yeah people vibe to it, but when you listen to what I’m talking about it’s like wow. It’s one of those sad happy songs. Of course I like to make turn-up music, and it’s pretty special, but I’m grateful that I can also prevent a person from killing themself. That’s big.

That’s major! It’s healing. That speaks to your diverse sound and your ability to fuse different—not only sounds but experiences into your music. From something so dark like that to having a good time. You have range. What do I want to give the people now? [laughing] Whenever I speak with artists abroad I love to get their take on their respective music industry. So you being in Nigeria, what’s your take on the Nigerian music industry, and do you see yourself being in that or would you like to be on that independent grind?

[laughing] I don’t think there’s an industry on earth that isn’t problematic, but the Nigerian music industry is… very interesting to say the least. It’s very complicated—well, not very complicated to be honest, but also very complicated at the same time. Let’s just say I take the approach I take and I make the kind of music I make to not be a prisoner of the Nigerian music industry. I would like to have more control. I would like to not have to do certain things. I’m chasing a more international audience—fan base.

I think I’m one of one. I genuinely believe that and even my approach to branding, rollouts, just everything—there’s authenticity to my brand and my music and just me, or at least that’s what I believe.

That’s going to work for you. I see that because whenever I was on your live, I knew that you’re not from the States, but I was like I don’t know—he might be. Maybe he came and stayed a couple of months. But, your sound is international. I feel like no matter where you are in the world, somebody can resonate with your music. It’s not a regional sound. It’s very international, so it’s definitely going to work for you. Since we are talking about the Nigerian music industry and you’ve already established that you want to do what you want to do. I feel like the Nigerian music industry—or the market—is very oversaturated, but not necessarily in a negative way. I feel like there is so much talent in Nigeria that it’s like yo, you make music too? You too? Y’all are just waking up with the gift of music and everybody is out here doing their shit. It’s a lot of artists that aren’t “famous”, big names, or known in the States, but it’s so many people out there that are creating good music. How are you going to set yourself apart in that aspect though? I feel like it could be a challenge. How do you as an individual set yourself apart from all this?

That’s why I love Burna. It’s like giant energy. I’ll be completely one thousand percent honest with you, I don’t think if I never made music you’d hear any of the type of records I put out. I think I’m one of one. I genuinely believe that and even my approach to branding, rollouts, just everything—there’s authenticity to my brand and my music and just me, or at least that’s what I believe. There are no two humans—even twins are not the same person. I believe if everyone stays true to themselves then that’s not even a problem. That’s why I have no issue supporting people I like or posting stuff because you’re not going to take away my fans because you’re good as well. They need my music and they might need yours as well. There’s genuinely enough space for everyone. It’s not enough music, even with the oversaturated-ness right now. I believe I’m good as long as I stay true to myself and I keep working.

I also noted that you don’t hold back when it comes to sharing your thoughts—look, I will say before this interview I had to do my research and I was on your Twitter. I was scrolling through like what does he be talking about? What does he do? I had to prepare. [laughing] But I did notice that you shared your thoughts on the unjust acts that have been going on in Nigeria—#EndSars and all the other things that you can think of that your country is dealing with. To any extent, is what’s happening socially impacting your music, or do you generally keep that separate?

I can’t. My approach wouldn’t let me. I have made like five records about the whole thing. That’s all I could record in that period. I pushed back my releases and so did everyone else. It’s so messed up. [sigh] I love the idea of people. I would love to have a ton of friends, but human beings just don’t make any sense—the way we live. Capitalism, why does that even exist? It’s so weird.

There’s a section of the police—Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS)—and they basically just turned into a criminal gang. Robbing people, killing people under the guise of trying to keep the country safe. It just became nuances and I think they must have killed someone and everyone had enough. Actually, this wasn’t even the first time to be honest, but this time everyone was just like enough is enough. Stop killing us. Literally, stop killing us! At least you understand in the States it’s because of racism. There’s motives. SARS are just killing people for no reason. Literally a stupid power trip. You have the same armed robbers you’re supposed to be fighting, joining your squad and robbing people in broad daylight under government protection.

For the first time, I always used to say and think this country had no hope but this time people came together like I never seen before. The things that we’ve complained about our government not being able to do—a bunch of women came together—the feminist coalition came together and showed us what it’s like to run a country. Funds that weren’t even up to half of a quarter of what the government has access to were distributed and touched everyone. People’s lives were being changed. People that came to the protest that had one leg were getting prosthetics and people who couldn’t afford education were getting sent to school. It was mad and they just kept exposing a lot that kept happening and eventually I guess the government had enough of being exposed and decided to kill everyone instead. They unleashed the soldiers on a bunch of innocent protesters and literally killed a couple hundred people. It was ridiculous and all the government has done is try to cover it up. It’s been a very trying time, but at the same time, there’s been a lot of hope generated from this point. Recently—they just unbanned it, but they banned Cryptocurrency. We used Bitcoin to donate to protests and that’s how everyone kept everything going because they blocked accounts of all the people they thought were the head—there’s no leader of the protest. They’re just very anti-progress.

I said something: ‘love thy neighbor as thyself and if you can’t do that, the least you can do is leave thy neighbor the fuck alone’. Literally, if you can’t like or love or at least be cordial with a person then just leave that person alone. It just doesn’t make sense to me to see things like that happen and know I have a platform that—even if it’s ten or fifteen people—can make a difference and educate people. I try my best to say and do what I can because I was also out there protesting.

Photo submitted by Ayüü.

I like to hear from individuals who are in other countries fighting the fight—advocating for their people. Similarly, I’m sure you see a lot of what’s going on in the States. You brought up racism and whatnot. It was like a mind fuck with what was going on over there because I’m like okay it’s the police, but this police look like them. It’s a lot and y’all are dealing with very similar things. I won’t say it’s the same thing—it’s mirroring a lot of the things that we have going on here. We’re all crying out for help. We’re all trying to exist in this bullshit. It’s daunting. We’re going to shift this conversation into something lighter. I’m sorry that got a little heavy, but we’re about to lift the spirits! [laughing] Let’s talk about your 2019 mixtape, Ayüüniverse—a beautiful work of art. It’s a great showcase of your musical talents—one of the first projects that I listened to. I don’t even remember how I came across you, but the project was on my phone since 2019, so you’ve been on my phone for a minute. Let’s dive into that.

We’ve been gang for a minute! Just now connecting properly.

Let’s start with the concept and the creative process. What headspace were you in at the time of creating this project?

I made a couple of records in 2018—“Get Back” for example, was one of those records that made me feel like it’s time for a full-length project. Along the line, this other EP happened, Mango Juice and Bad Decisions in three days. It was a very quick thing and it was so right and so perfect. That did really well and shot me up to another level musically. Obviously, there’s always this artistic pressure to top—if you have any sense whatsoever, you know the only competition is yourself. It’s like how am I going to top this? And like I said, I pray about everything and prayed about it, went to bed, and had a dream about the whole thing. I woke up so happy. The name, everything—it was there in 3D.

Shoutout Bidemi and Michael who helped me bring the idea to life and all the producers who sent me records. In terms of the actual music, that wasn’t intentional. The direction and the rollout behind it was, but the music wasn’t. I made “Cocaine” and I said yeah that’s my intro. We had to pick between forty-three records.

What? How? The project has fifteen songs and you had to choose between that many?

Yeah. Right now my next project is going to be—I don’t even want to start picking out records for it because it’s already over a hundred.

It turned out really well. They stepped in their bags with that artwork. From your dream to what you envisioned to how they brought that together—Ayüüniverse. Perfect! That’s what I was talking about earlier when I brought up the branding is on point, but now I know you’re like, I just invest in this and I’m still trying to figure it out.

Exactly. It’s like, you can’t have a dream like that and not go through with it. You can’t settle.

So, in terms of the tracks, you’re saying the music was just the music. It wasn’t really any intention other than you saying “Cocaine” is going to be the intro. It’s like let me just put together some music as I’m feeling—

Yeah, I think musically the most interesting thing that happened from Ayüüniverse was I created a new genre that I feel is mine and called it Mango-Pop and that’s basically what “Cocaine” is. I have a couple other Mango-Pop records and it’s supposed to be an EP called Mango-Pop, but it takes a while to get things ready because I can’t settle.

I’m putting out this joint EP with Don Ozi. He produced the last record on Ayüüniverse. Trust, this concept is going to blow people away and I can’t wait to put it out. It’s sick!

You’re such a conceptual individual. Look, you were saying you don’t want to be cocky, but look… you’re a musician, you’re a songwriter, you do mixing and mastering, you do some styling, some video editing, conceptual—creative direction! Come on.

Thank you! I should own that more, thank you.

Yeah because the creative direction for Ayüüniverse was just so on point. Everything made sense so I could only imagine how these next projects are going to be conceptualized. Look, I’m just sitting back. Just let me know when it drops because I’m going to be here. I’m going to be ready.

Let’s go! Love that energy.

Let’s talk about the features. I did notice on this mixtape you have quite a few features. How is it collaborating with others whenever you’re creating music?

I don’t force anything so it’s pretty easy and straightforward. I either have a really fucking good relationship or pretty decent relationship with everyone on the project. I have family who are like my guys on my project, so it’s never really anything forced and I don’t really—funny thing is that has a lot of features, but I don’t feature people a lot on my records. I don’t do that because like I said, I don’t force it. It’s only when I feel like I need to hear someone. It just needs to make sense. Features for me have to be organic.

I was wondering though because I was like okay, he has a lot of features. Alright, not that that’s good or bad, I was just curious. In terms of the production—well you already coined the sound or the genre was Mango-Pop.

Before you ask this next question I don’t want it to sound like I’m against features or anything because I think collaborations are very important. It’s just like—the people I work with are very accessible and I don’t like to force it. I would love a Burna Boy feature. The only other features I would love are pretty up there right now, so every other thing is calm and organic. I do believe that people should work more together and I’d like to work with more people.

I feel like that was understood, but I’m glad you clarified that because some people might be like he don’t do features, he don’t want to work with nobody? But I get what you’re saying. You want it to be organic, not just let me hop on your song. This is more than just music. It’s a spiritual thing, so you want to make sure the people that you’re working with are in alignment. That’s how I see it.

Precisely. That’s it.

In terms of the production though—you said you don’t really mix and master your own music, so who is to credit? Or did you mix and master this?

I co-mixed and mastered it, so I did what I could and then Tay Iwar—I don’t know if you’ve heard of Tay.

Oh, definitely!

It’s so crazy. That’s my bro. That’s my gang and the fact that that connection happened so organically is another blessing—and another reason everyone needs to pray because you need shit like that. The things Tay helped me do on that project engineering-wise, mix and master wise with my music—God bless him.

Novo started helping me recently, but production in terms of instrumentals I worked with a ton of producers. Shoutout producers like Don Ozi, Trill, The Hypractive Kid—he produced “Cocaine”. He and I actually sat down and started coining Mango-Pop together and explained the whole thing. Even though I can’t do stuff, I’m very descriptive. I’m pretty good at explaining what I want and some people are just excellent at getting it. Like Tay for example, I can tell Tay can you make my vocals sound a little [makes sounds] and he will get it. He’ll know exactly what I mean. [laughing] Same thing with Hypractive Kid. I just sat here and told him I’m trying to make this and that fruity music. I need it to jump and he was like I got you. Hypractive Kid and Jaylon produced “Cocaine” so shoutout Jaylon as well. Jaylon produced “Hypnotized” off the joint take with Marzi. I also had a dope rollout. I had a video game theme and Dragon Ball Z theme to it.

I think it’s dope that you can work with producers and engineers who you can come to with your descriptive idea like look, this is what I want and they’re able to execute it effortlessly. I think it’s really great because it allows y’all to—you know, now you have some genuine working relationships and they already know how you work. It’s just beautiful and organic like you were saying with the features and collaborations you want it to be organic.

I also have to give credit to them as well because it’s not always me bringing the ideas to them. “Accra” for example, a record I love so much—Trill literally sent me a beat and as like ‘yeah, this is for you. Take it, go make a hit to this.’ The same thing with “Gawu”—Don Ozi as well, they just send me what they know will bring out music from me, so I really appreciate the producers that work with me.

Shoutout to the producers that work with Ayüü, ya’ll are doing an amazing job. Shoutout to everybody. [snapping fingers] I did note that you had an outstanding year in streams. How does it feel having over two million streams across platforms?

[dancing] That’s crazy you know. That’s even just like Apple Music and Spotify, there’s still other platforms with my music. It’s crazy because I remember seeing like Tay and some other people hit a million for the first time. I was like what does that even mean? What you mean a million times? Like a couple people listened? What? It flipped me out so bad, but I never celebrated numbers, except maybe “Gawu” and it did 200K. I felt like that was dope—one record doing 200K.

But I never really celebrated when I touched 500K, when I touched like 600K—all those things just didn’t really mean anything to me because I’ve been chasing that M. Around when I hit like 950 or so I’m like damn I’m really about to hit a M. Shoutout Andre Wolff—he’s on all my projects as well. He’s like ‘yo, what are your Spotify numbers saying?’ I’m like that’s true let’s check on my Spotify numbers and I’m like bro, I’ve hit an M here as well! I was pretty excited. I was chasing one and I got two. I’m not even going to lie, that’s one thing I was pretty excited about.

[clapping] Yes! That’s definitely celebratory. I found that out because I was on your Twitter. I was like he hit two mill? Hold up, I have to ask him about that! Now, just reflecting on your career, what has been your biggest takeaway so far?

There’s such a thing as being too honest. You can be too honest. You can be too real. That’s my big takeaway. I’m grateful for where I’m at and wouldn’t really change much, but if I had to for example, I’d probably not wear my heart on my sleeve as much as I do and did because it’s led to a lot of setbacks. So yeah, that’s my biggest takeaway—everything else I’ve said: work hard, grind, study the industry, know your business, yada yada ya—collaborate, but honestly bro, keep some of you for you because you’re going to need it, man.

Keep some of you for you. That’s a quote. That’s an Ayüü quote!

With the dotted U’s as well.

Yes! Keep some of Ü for Ü. I like that. That’s a good message!

See! That’s how music happens for me. I didn’t even realize that’s something that would resonate with you and when you said it back it resonated with me as well, but when I said it, it was just like another random thing. That’s literally how I make music.

That’s beautiful. How do you measure success?

How do I measure success? Well, I guess it’s personal. Everyone has their own yardstick for success, but are you asking me my personal—

That’s just for you to answer, however you take that.

So, I think there are levels and I’ve attained a level of success, but there’s still a lot more to chase. Like I said, the things I could tell you like connecting with Burna Boy that’s like my Grammy. Musically, that’s when I’ve achieved, right? But, in terms of everything else, success for me is genuinely being able to change the world. And by change the world I mean change change my immediate surroundings. I love LeBron so much. Burna might be my favorite artist, but I think LeBron is probably my favorite human being. [Laughing] I don’t understand how you can be so flawless. Obviously, he’s flawed he’s a human being, but so close to perfection. Just being able to uplift my community and my immediate surroundings and everyone who comes in contact with me. I don’t understand the world. I don’t get why certain things have to happen—why people have to suffer. There are just certain things to me that don’t make sense. The point in my life where I can see the things that don’t make sense and actually do something about it—that’s when I’ve gained success.

[places hands on heart] My final question is just how can we stay connected with you?

We? I don’t know who we is, but you already are.

We—anybody who is tuned in. Anybody who is going to read the interview. [laughing]

Oh! See what I’m saying. I’m so comfortable I kind of like forgot this was an interview. [laughing] Follow my socials. I only have Instagram and Twitter right now. Listen to my music, man. That’s where all the information is at. The deepest peep into my soul that you can get. Just listen to my music and share it. Tell me how you feel. I respond to messages as long as you’re not being weird or rude or something—we good.

LISTEN: Album, “AYÜÜNIVERSE”

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