We’ve been checking for Tunde Olaniran, Detroit-based Nigerian-American purveyor of art&b, for a few minutes now, mostly via coverage on our Okayafrica channel partner. But with his new EP Yung Archetype Tunde has definitively served notice to the great panoptic eye of pop culture that he is ready for his close-up now. In the accompanying video for the EP’s first single “The Highway” (watch below) electronic bird chirps and detuned 808 bass provide the bed for a seductive r&b hook and raps that live up to the Young-Money-meets-Carl-Jung chimera that is evoked by the title Yung Archetype–right from the very first bar, in fact:
They oglin’, googlin’ ruins / brewin’, ensuin’ illusions / tree farms, new cars / Whole Foods and sports bars / But nobody’s pants’ll be saggin’ / don’t let nobody with hats in / don’t drink the water we frackin’ / they paid–why not be happy?
To enter into the Tunde Olaniran experience, scroll down to hear some key tracks and read our exclusive interview, wherein the Young archetypist reveals his favorite food spots and post-structuralist philosophers. If you’re in DC, catch him live tomorrow April 5th at the Allied Media Conference fundraiser at Comet Ping Pong, alongside Okayafrica-representer DJ Underdog.
OKP: Are you really from the Detroit part of Detroit? If so, please answer this question: American Coney Island or Lafayette?
Tunde Olaniran: Although I love Detroit, I always have and always will claim Flint, MI; the birthplace of the black middle class, the first sit down strike, the first community school system. So, being from Flint and being a vegetarian, I have to go with The Torch. It’s one of the best burger places in Michigan, and they do a mean veggie burger.
OKP: Okay here’s the test: When you are about to do something do you say you’re finna? or you’re fittin?
TO: I usually say “I’m about to do something.”
OKP: We’ve heard you shared the stage with R. Kelly and Kanye West on Chicago Idol—what was that experience like?
TO: It was weird because I wasn’t even sure I wanted to be a performer at that time, and they liked my voice and made me open the show. So I did a super karaoke version of “Let’s Stay Together.” I think I wore a pinstripe fedora and a weird denim jacket I cut up and frayed. Kanye said he liked it, and I thought he was smiling…? He was probably just being polite.
OKP: Do you make your own outfits?
TO: If I don’t make them myself, I design and sketch them and then have a tailor or costumer make it. Christina Tomlinson and Karen Blackwell-Vickers are two people I’ve worked with a lot. I also design all the necklaces and accessories and style my dancers. I’m definitely a frustrated art director playing dress-up.
OKP: Your music has a certain theatrical aspect to it with elaborate choreography, costumes and narrative scenarios—if life was college would you be a musical theater major (and are you a fan of Glee?)
TO: If life was a college I’d be the person forming a feminist campus group. One thing people assume about me is that I’m a theater diva or something. Ironically, I was never a theater kid, nor do I like musical theater in general. Although I think everyone on that show is talented, I don’t personally enjoy stuff like Glee. They take songs and kind of disinfect them and then paste another…weird layer…of faux TV ‘edginess’ on it..? It’s hard to explain, but it leaves me cold.
I’m a really visual person and I love the movement and framing choreography allows. I try to use it all as mental prompts to guide people along with me during a song. I just secretly think I’m a witch and am trying to cast spells on my audience. It doesn’t work though! They just end up dancing like mad instead, it’s frustrating.
OKP: Who do you count among your contemporaries in MI? Wider musical influences on the pop scene?
TO: Jon Connor is a friend of mine from Flint who just signed to Aftermath. In Flint, there’s a really dope scene emerging with all genres, from garage punk (Cheerleader) to indie electronic (Phosphor Elephants) to hip-hop (Mama Sol) to r&b (LaTanya Givens on that new Jay Electronica).
In Michigan overall I’d tell people to get into Passalacqua, James Linck, Little Animal, Alexis, Flint Eastwood. There are some quality acts here. Come to some of the music festivals like MetroTimes Blowout or Dally in the Alley, and you’ll find folks on par or better than any national acts. Wider influences for me are Ebony Bones and M.I.A., always. I just checked my most played tracks, and Peaches is in the top 5. I’m really into women who are doing gritty, quirky, dirty experimental rock, punk and hip-hop.
OKP: What do you think of Lorde?