YCee Talks Connecting Cultural Dots, Drops New 'Say Bye Bye' Video ft. Eugy [Premiere]
YCee‘s subtle glissade to international stardom has deemed him one of the most lauded Nigerian artists of right now.
Born and raised in Lagos, Nigeria, YCee— née Oludemilade Martin Alejo— emerged on the scene in 2015 with his hit single, “Condo,” which earned him two Nigeria Entertainment Awards nominations, a “Best Artist in African Pop” nomination at the All Africa Music Awards, and a Headies Award for Rookie of The Year. He then caught international attention, leading to a stint at Sony Music in 2016 before signing to his current label, Tinny Entertainment.
In 2017, YCee burst onto the UK scene with his massive hit, “Juice” featuring fellow international Nigerian artist Maleek Berry, garnering millions of views worldwide and infiltrating the now booming landscape of modern African music. The Adey-produced tune off YCee’s First Wave EP, an eight-track collection of afrobeats/afropop and hip-hop, quickly became one of Nigeria’s biggest songs of the year, topping the charts for weeks and suffusing across the diaspora.
Now, YCee has teamed up with another new international heavyweight for his latest single, “Say Bye Bye”ft. Ghanian artist Eugy produced by Team Salut. The video, directed by Visionnaire Pictures, depicts the unfolding of a lurid love triangle set to YCee’s smooth signature sound. A fresh fusion of afrobeats, hip-hop, and trap, YCee thrives at the nascency of this merge, with a sound that draws parallels to American and UK contemporaries, as he strays away from traditional African sounds and taps into a new wave that proves palatable to overseas appetites as well as ones homebase.
YCee gave Okayplayer an exclusive look at his latest music video for “Say Bye Bye,” and sat down for a quick conversation on breaking musical grounds and connecting cultural dots.
Many people in the US are still reckoning with African genres and getting accustomed to the variant sounds. To those who may be unfamiliar to the history and context of new wave African/UK genres, how would you describe your sound?
I would describe my sound as a mixture of different genres influenced by different experiences in my own personal life, birthing together the perfect musical blend of versatility and skill from my Nigerian roots. I don’t make a particular type of music, as it’s all about what I feel when I am in the booth at that time.
You’ve been actively making music since 2012, correct? “Condo” in 2015 was successful, of course, but to many, your burst onto the scene was with last year’s “Juice.” How do you feel about this new international recognition, and how has the visibility helped/hurt your artistry?
I feel this has helped me a lot in promoting not just myself but to also showcase the power in Nigerian music and culture. Nigeria has so much to offer musically, and my past and present work was picked up as a result of this. So, yeah, I don’t think anything has hurt my artistry that I have done yet musically. I feel like “Juice” got me new ears in new places which was my intended goal for that project to widen my international audience of fans.
Was an international presence (US) something you aspired to gain, or were you just welcoming it either way?
I grew up on a lot of foreign music and influences from a bunch of US artists. So global domination has always been the goal for the sound— all the success from ‘Juice’ is a stepping stone on my journey to greater things. I’ve always embraced my supporters from whatever part of the world they are. Just makes it so special to have US fans I can perform for and tour to see.
“Juice” is inarguably one of the best afrobeats/afropop songs of 2017. It’s played at every function- The UK, Nigeria, the US- Was it ever an intention of yours to make music that could connect the Black diaspora like this?
To answer this I would have to touch on the process of making the song. I had previously recorded different takes on the beat, produced by Adey. My manager Tinny, listened and gave me A&R direction on how the song should go— so as to give it a catchy chorus like “Too much sauce, Too much juice.” It was more so, so people could relate to the record easily anywhere around the world. The main objective was to create something not just for the Nigerian community / African market, but something that people all over the world would relate to and embrace. Makes me truly happy to know it’s played at every African function. That makes me proud. It was definitely a team effort. Big up my team!
What do you make of the rising popularity and mainstream-adjacent acceptance of African sounds and general Africaness of the last two years? Do you think this new space has been instrumental to your success and to other African artists’ success?
The spotlight has different times and in the past it has moved to different regions of the world. Last year “house” was the new ‘wave’ and the year before that something else, etc. Now, it’s finally our time. Seeing as the African continent has so much diversity, beauty, rich culture, and ultimately… rich music behind it. I think definitely the mainstream acceptance isn’t temporary. I also do believe this new space has allowed me to develop and grow with my fanbase. So it has been a great space for the rest of the world to watch and see what next hot export is coming up out of Africa.
Check out YCee and Eugy’s “Say Bye Bye” below: