Olanrewaju Ogunmefun: Vector Talks Music, Rap Industry and ‘Teslim’
By Linda Orajekwe
After a long hiatus, Nigerian rapper and singer, Vector is back with an album, Teslim. According to the rapper, this album is symbolic and artistic as it represents the presence of his late father and serves as a means of telling his fans that he’s still here. Beside his album, the artiste talks about influences on his music, stating that while he is not setting out to be a fighter, the misfortunes of the country affects him too.
What kept you busy in 2017?
I’ve been on movie sets. I was also re-strategising because the kind of music you make when you’re eighteen differs from the kind of music you’ll make when you’re 25. I’ve also seen how a lot of us as artistes have failed to carry our fans along, forgetting that they also grow. So, sometimes you hear songs like Adurah because, of course, we still make rap music but you also remember that people who were teenagers then are adults now and they want to make money.
I bear in mind that my fans are growing in number and age. So there are new people coming and there are people who are pre-existent but they have worries now, they have concerns and most of the artistes seem to forget that we must grow as our fans are growing. Most of them don’t want to understand that. So for me, it is ad continuum; it’s not time bound. Come February 2nd, ‘June’ the movie drops then, I think, by Easter, ‘Lara and the Beat’… To be truthful, I am very excited about both of them. So technically, I’ve been in the background doing some extra work.
How passionate do you think artistes are for the music or is it just for the money?
If I want to be real here, I’ll say we should stop praising the people in the past like they didn’t do it for the money. Hunger is universal; everybody is feeding off it and we all have responsibilities. Everybody that makes music is to first relate to people but you have to be rewarded for your craft. Even Fela went to play shows and they paid him; he made quite a lot of money from music. But while trying to make money to survive, you should have something you stand for so you don’t just do anything all in the name of trying to survive.
What do you stand for?
I stand for some level of intelligence. I stand for proof that we can be very rational as Africans; they think we don’t think before we do things whereas some people in every country don’t think before they do things. So let’s not make it look like an African problem.
So, let’s talk about this new love for Fela and his style of music?
Well, I’ve always been the guy that has a view of life and in every album I’ve dropped, I’ve addressed one social issue or the other. People think it’s funny but I feel the arms we fold is the reason we are suffering the way we’re suffering.
To be honest, I wasn’t a fan of Fela when I was growing up because, as a child, I was mostly exposed to the things the news said about him which were mostly negative; in my head, Fela was the guy that was killing people and the government portrayed him successfully in that light.
The good thing was that my father was a strong fan of Fela so I grew up listening to his songs. A lot of people in the barracks played Fela and that got me confused. Why would they be playing his songs if he was as bad as he was portrayed? His songs made sense and they are songs you can connect with. If something is happening and I’m aware of it, I’ll talk about it. I’m not a freedom fighter; I’m just yarning my mind. Fighting for the people is hard. So this is me, as one man, fighting for myself because I know issues in this country like that of SARS can also happen to me.
You prefer to talk about your music than rallies?
Well, one thing is for sure, I am not a fan of rallies. Our parents have been carrying placards and rallying for years and what has it yielded? If the placards worked, we wouldn’t be here now. So, this is what I am saying; you have videos of police brutality, gather them and get a good lawyer and go to court.
What are your thoughts on MI’s advise that you, rappers, should fix up your lives?
That’s what we’re doing right now – fixing up our lives. (laughs)
Do you think rappers are true to their genre or they’ve deviated from where and how they started?
If you can’t sing, why are you singing? And that’s not about rappers; that’s about fraud and in time, they’ll be exposed. There’s a reason why it takes twenty years to be twenty years old. The truth is, the only thing that will last is great content that has great quality. For me, I think the rap industry in Nigeria is growing. We must blend to move with the times and not stay in a corner and criticise because you know what? Whether you criticise it or not, it’s still moving. So, whoever can rap and sing, why not do both?
What’s the inspiration behind your new single “Gunshot”?
While people are talking about the problem, I prefer to talk about the Kunta Kinte of the problem, the roots! My curiosity inspired ‘Gunshot’ on why Nigerians are fleeing from Nigeria. I realise that if Nigeria is in good shape and working well, nobody would want to leave it the way they’re doing. It brought so many questions to my lips; questions like: “Why is it okay for people to walk over Nigerians?” “Why is it okay for foreign leaders to make a negative statements about Nigerians on the subject of corruption when the whole world is corrupt?” Which was why I made those lines in my song: “You wouldn’t seek food if you have it”. “It wouldn’t be cool if your life is our life.” If they are going through what we are going through, most of the things we are facing won’t even come up as an issue; they’ll be fixed.
What do you have to say about artistes departing from their management before the end of their contract?
It’s all about realisation. At least, that’s what I think. Artistes realise that whatever they signed, they’re in it longer than they can stay. We understand that contract is contract but we should also note that this person was desperate to get his career started and he doesn’t understand the implication of the contract.
Also, we shouldn’t forget it’s business and if you’re old enough to sign a contract, nobody should preach to you to ensure you follow through with it. It’s not something I think I can do to another person’s child and I’m speaking as an artiste because I feel for other artistes. Maybe, I’m not in the best position to answer this question.
So, what are we looking at in 2018?
This year, 2018, is all about Teslim. Teslim is my new album. Teslim is my father’s name and being artistic, it also means the energy is still in me. This is me saying: “Dad, you’re gone but you’re not gone.” It’s also telling my fans that I am still the Vector they’ve always loved but I’m even grown and better. Teslim is all about who I was and who I’ve become at a newer level of depth. It’s not just going to be about rap even though it’s a rap album; it’s going to be me doing my thing and not caring about what the world thinks – especially, if their thoughts are negative because, in the end, I won’t be here so it doesn’t matter… That’s all Teslim is about in 2018.