When the Afrobeats superstar Wizkid dropped the deluxe edition of his 2020 critically acclaimed album Made in Lagos, it was an addition to what had already been a standout album. And on the additional tracks there was a standout song which stood apart from the additional songs on the album, and that was Mood.
The track featured up-and-comer BNXN (pronounced Benson), formally known as Buju. The Nigerian-born artist, who stepped onto the scene in 2018, has steadily risen over the past five years of his career.
Having already collaborated with some of Afrobeats finest, including Wizkid, Burna Boy, and Zlatan, to name a few. He released his debut EP, Sorry I’m Late last year and its follow-up Bad Since ’97, this summer. As a perfect transition to the change of season, the EP saw him collaborating again with Wizkid and giving us some flavours of BNXN that tied the project together as a blend of Afrobeats-infused sounds with a hint of international influences.
Catching up with BNXN, we spoke about everything from collaborating with Wizkid, making the album, his upcoming UK headline show and more.
Going back to 2019, this was your breakout year. However, what was your musical journey before that moment?
I started putting out music professionally in 2018. However, even in 2017, I was working on my songwriting and getting everything together musically. So 2018 was when I started putting out that music professionally, but I only became a name people knew about in 2019. So in 2019, I had a song with Zlatan, an artist in Nigeria, he heard a snippet of a song that I put out on Twitter, and I asked him to jump on it, which he did, and at the time Zlatan was one of the most prominent artists in Nigeria. So Zlatan jumped on the record, and it was a massive deal for me. And after that moment, I dropped two singles, L’enu and Ohema. One of the singles, L’enu, found its way to Burna Boy who then signed me throughout 2020. We dropped the L’enu remix together, and I would say that was the start of something new for my career at the time.
We have to talk about Mood because that was also a moment for you being a part of Wizkid’s Made in Lagos. How did that collaboration come about?
Going into 2020, after I signed my deal with Bruna, I took a little pause for a year, mainly because it was a pandemic year, and there weren’t a lot of shows going on, and I wanted to take that time out to work on my songwriting and, you know, more music and other stuff. So in 2021, after literally having a year of not putting out anything, I decided to think about my strategy for the future going forward, and for me, that was collaborations. And so it started with Black Bones, I had a song with Black Bones and Amarae, and it went number one in Nigeria. Then I had another one with Ladipoe called Feeling and Feeling. That took it to another level because Feeling was so big in Lagos and started opening people up to me and my sound. So then I dropped another song, Outside, and that was when people could suddenly say, “Oh, shit, yeah, this guy knows what he’s doing”, and that was when I got the call from Wiz. He messaged me on Instagram and said, ” Oh, let’s do studio tomorrow. So we got into the studio the next day and recorded Mood. I was excited when we did Mood on Made In Lagos‘s deluxe. So that was how that came about.
Most recently, you released your EP Bad Since ’97. Where did the idea and concept of this album start for you?
The idea or the concept of the album came after I dropped my last project. Sorry, I’m Late. It was necessary to drop another EP because I felt like, on a personal basis, I didn’t do justice to the first project. I was under a lot of pressure to put out the body of work, so I needed to be more intentional about the project. I wanted to satisfy that need to drop a project. So on this project, Bad Since 97, I wanted to be more intentional about the music, the message and the delivery. Even down to the mixing, the mastering, the engineering, the production and everything. Bad Since 97 is a statement project so that people understand that I have been this talented and gifted from birth for a very long time. I feel like my gifts or music is something that has, you know, that has always been around me from a young age because my dad was really into music; he used to listen to a lot of Reggae, dancehall, even like Afropop and Afrobeats at times. So it was essential to let people know that I’ve always been surrounded by and immersed myself in music so well that I know how to sing, write, and create music. People have this misconception that I’m just this guy who came out last year, but I want people to know it’s a talent or a gift that I’ve been nurturing for a long time, and now is the time to showcase it. It’s a project about, you know, self-reflection. It’s a project about confidence and being confident in my art and my sound; it’s about truths. I touched on many stories or topics in this project that I don’t think I’ve ever felt anywhere else, in terms of toxic relationships, gratitude, and all a whole bunch of things. I wanted people to know that my music has a lot of dynamics.
You touched on the fact that you spoke about several topics on the project. How did the EP come together lyrically?
When I decided I was going to make another EP. I went back to listen to the last project I had just dropped, and then I decided to take notes on certain things that I thought weren’t right, and I wanted to make it right on the new one. Certain things happened to me throughout that time. It’s why I decided to talk about it in the music. I was compelled to talk about it because I wanted this product to be authentic. I wanted it to be about self-reflection. I tried to look at myself and talk about what pertained to me. So people do not have my story twisted or do not have me as a person confused. I wanted people to see that I still go through struggles and that there are times I’m super confident and there’s nothing you can do to shake my confidence, and there are also times that I do not have a clue what to do. I wanted people to understand that that is possible. So when I look at the project, it is about self-reflection. I mean that to the fullest extent, you know. Whenever I listen to Bad Since ’97, I feel like I’m just talking about myself. I’m talking about what bothers me. So everything on that project, everything that I talk about, the stories were all things that happened to me. And people needed to know and connect to that side of me.
You made this EP in Lagos, the UK, and other places. So how much has travelling impacted and influenced the sounds on the album?
I recorded this project in over five cities. Throughout the project, there are the songs I recorded in Paris, L.A., Lagos, Abuja, London and Amsterdam. Lagos is where I draw my energy in inspiration; whenever I’m in Lagos, if I step outside, I know what to talk about; there’s always something to talk about in Lagos. In London, I recorded Bad Man Wicked, the first song I recorded when I got to London. That song is about the insecurity of going to a new place, where you feel like you are coming from a country or a city where you’re almost like a king or somebody, and moving into a new space where you are nobody. However, you still have the mentality that you know where you come from and wherever you come from, you are royalty, and your royalty doesn’t leave even if you go to another country. So anytime. Anywhere. However, I feel about the environment and the setting I sing or write. Every city inspires me. It’s like I’m in Paris when I’m singing the best love songs for me. Inspiration can come anywhere, starting in Lagos, but I could create anywhere.
What do you want people to know about you from this project?
I want people to know I’m this confident guy trying to get it. I represent the overlooked. I represent the people who, just by looking at them, think you can’t do this thing you say you’re doing. Starting in university, when I would tell some of my roommates I wanted to be an artist, I wanted to be a musician. They would look at my body type because I’m big and chubby and say things to me like how are you going to be an artist? Can you sing like that? Can you move like that? Can you do everything an artist is supposed to do? And my life is an example of the fact that I went from just dreaming to living. And I want people to see that it’s possible for me, of my story. In my music, I like to give people a lot of confidence. I like to make them feel like there’s nothing they can’t do. Because the same way I felt is the same, I feel like other people think that way too. And they need to get out of that headspace of feeling like they are not enough, can’t do it, or can’t perform to the extent they know they can. So whenever you listen to my music, I need you to feel I always needed to feel confident. So even when you’re singing the lyrics, you feel like you sang it. You feel like it’s you that talking. You feel like this is your life. So that is what I want people to take away whenever they listen to me. I like to make many inspirational songs that talk to people that make people feel the best way. When I recorded Mood, I can’t say I was the feeling my best, you know, I just knew that it was a feeling that people might want to connect to anytime they feel that something is making them happy. I’m in a big mood. So that it almost feels like it’s you that’s singing, and it’s your story. That also goes for songs like Feeling, Finesse, and Outside, where I’m inspiring you.
I want to talk about In My Mind, which I know was one of the singles on the album, and you just dropped the visuals. What can you tell us about the video and what the inspiration behind it was?
For the In My Mind video we wanted to convey two contrasting worlds, two perspectives. One toxic and dark and one picturesque and beautiful.
It was directed by Troy Roscoe and he really made the vision come to life in terms of bringing the idea I had from the song and putting that across in the video. I wanted people to get the feeling from the song and see that in the visual and I thought it was executed very well.
Now you have the shows coming up next week in London, how do you feel about that and what can we expect?
I’m super excited, mainly because of all the work we have put into it. You know, the last time I was in London, Wizkid brought me out at the O2 twice, and I had a show at Lafayette, which sold out. And now I’m about to do the Indigo O2. I can’t lie; there is a part of me that is so scared cause that’s 5000 people. I know the amount of work we’ve put in and everything, and every day I hop on stage for a show is still surprising as I’ve never performed anywhere. I’m still very much in preparation mode because I’m trying to deliver and give people a show of their lives. I want to provide them with a show to talk about and be like yeah, that was a show. I did something in Lagos last year where I had the most prominent artists in Africa come up with me, and I’m trying to replicate that for London this year, so I’m excited about the show; there’s a lot of work going into it. The band is going to be so crazy, the visuals everything, the surprise guests, the flow of the show I want to make sure is 1000%
What can we next expect from you?
I want to start working on the album, but I still need to start, and I want to take time. I want to experience new things, many more places, and many cities. If anything, expect a lot more music. I want to give people something different from how I’ve done before. So I am very much excited about what is coming.
Bad Since ’97 is out now, follow BNXN via @toyourears
BNXN will be performing at The Indigo O2 on the 26th November, for more info click here
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