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Interview: A Conversation With Skales — Arguably Afrobeats’ Most Versatile Act

Skales

Skales is one of the unsung heroes of the Afrobeats genre, consistently contributing to the charge of pushing the sound to a global audience.

I for one first took notice of the multi-talented superstar in the 2010s when he broke out under the Empire Mates Entertainment (E.M.E) imprint. It would be hard to forget E.M.E’s golden era, highlighted by the iconic music video for “Baddest Boy” featuring WizKid and label boss Banky W.

Fast-forward, Skales today heads his own record label OHK Music with six albums to his credit.

Following the release of the remix to “Say Ya Bad” featuring 1da Banton, I caught up with the “Shake Body” hitmaker over Zoom. After a brief moment of struggle with network connectivity, I could finally hear his soft but crisp voice. He was clad in a black sweatshirt whilst fixed in the driver’s seat. Skales immediately told me he was en route to catch a flight. We had a quick conversation about his upcoming deluxe album “Sweet Distractions”, his European summer tour, and the global reception of the Afrobeats genre.

1. Let’s get started by touching on your latest body of work — “Sweet Distractions”. What inspired this project, and how is it significantly different from your previous projects?

It’s different because I feel like I have matured so much in terms of my sound, and I know what I’m doing. I can tell stories and still make people dance regardless. I know I’m blessed with being able to express myself in every way, as a rapper and a vocalist. I feel like this project put my abilities on display.

2. We understand your latest single “Say You Bad (Remix)” is a precursor to a “Sweet Distractions” Deluxe. When are you looking at releasing it and how many additional songs will it house?

I haven’t fully decided yet because every time I go out, I’m always vibing with one artiste friend or the other. Sometimes, my friends express interest in working on a song they heard from me. For now, I think it will have maybe five or six songs tops.

3. 1da Banton is one of the new kids killing the game… Tell us more about how the collab on  “Say You Bad (Remix)” came about…

I’ve always been a fan of 1da Banton’s music. I met him during his days as a producer and we made a couple of tracks that never saw the light of day. But with this one, I heard it and I felt like I should get him on it. Though it is different from his usual sound, I sent the song over to him. I got a verse back in no time. He told me he recorded his verse one night after he returned from the club.

4. Your European summer tour is set to kick off tomorrow (July 12)… how are you gearing up for that? And what should the fans expect from Young Skales?

Due to the pandemic, we haven’t been outside for some time now. So this is probably my first tour in three or four years, although I have travelled to perform in a few places. I’m really excited because in Europe my music is appreciated a lot and I can’t wait to go perform and make people discover my music.

Skales

5. Being a well-traveled artiste…. What are your general impressions on how well the Afrobeats genre has been embraced on the global level over the years? And what are your predictions for the genre in the near future?

The Internet has already unified the world so it’s much easier. You could be anywhere in the world and just release one song and it becomes bigger in some other location. That’s something that made Afrobeats global and catapulted us everywhere. On every continent, we’re known and every single genre is competing with us at the moment. That’s such amazing exposure. And the fact several artistes can be touring all around the same time. It’s a great time to be an African artiste right now.

6. You’re undoubtedly one of the most versatile acts on the Nigerian music scene… makes me wonder… who would you say are your biggest musical influences?

Top of my list, I listen to Kanye West, Fela, Ludacris, Jay-Z, and Beyonce. In Nigeria, the late music legend Sir Victor Uwaifo, (father of Mavins’ producer Andre Vibez) inspires me a lot as well.

7. What’s your philosophy in life that influences your creative work?

I believe that whatever is worth doing, is worth doing well. But also, if you’re not feeling the music then it won’t fly. As long as you’re feeling it, there are always going to be people who are searching for your music to inspire and keep them going.

Skales

8. What makes you the happiest: writing music, recording or performing on stage?

I would say recording.. then performing. I love recording music because sometimes when I’m depressed and on low energy, I just get into the studio. Whenever I’m not in a good mood, I record music and it charges me up.

9. What would you say is the biggest challenge you’ve faced in your music career?

My debut single that ushered me into the industry, “Heading for a Grammy” was a rap song. Even before the likes of Drake, I was singing my own hooks and all. Through that many folks labeled me a “rap artist” so when I gave them the other part of me, they thought I had sold out but I feel like I do both very well and as an artiste, you should be able to express yourself in more that one way instead of sitting in your comfort zone. Although it was a case of what the label wanted, over time, I proved to them that I could do it all.

Skales

10. 2020 was the year of the COVID outbreak, but that year you released the ‘Healing Process’  EP. What inspired that project because it does sound very personal

I would say it was the case because I was in a relationship at that time before the pandemic hit. We eventually went our separate ways. In addition, I fell ill and I had to pay for private medical services at home due to the lockdown restrictions. So the ‘Healing Process’ idea culminated in both experiences but I was still recording all the while. As a matter of fact, I carry my studio in my bags. During the COVID time, I believe we all went through some type of healing and I got my fair share.

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