On a balmy Thursday evening in October, ODUMODUBLVCK is performing to a full house at Pickle Social House in Abuja, the capital city of Nigeria. It’s one day before the release of his Eziokwu mixtape but his hometown audience is already familiar with every song on the project, singing back lyrics to the rapper at intervals and taking in behind-the-scene details about songs on the project with rapt attention.
The popularity of ODUMODUBLVCK in Nigeria’s capital city is indicative of a country-wide rise in fame that kicked off with the release of his single, ‘PICANTO’, in November 2022. Since that time, he has helmed a revival for Nigerian hip-hop thanks to his self-described “Okporoko music” and a slew of buzzing singles that have won praise for their biting lyricism and infectious melodic underpinning.
One particular single, ‘Declan Rice,’ references the English midfielder and has surpassed 15 million streams on Spotify. All of these highlights paved the way for the Eziokwu mixtape where ODUMODUBLVCK wholeheartedly leans into his role as Abuja’s foremost ambassador and Nigeria’s rap messiah. “I’m fortunate to be the one carrying the torch right now,” he tells Rolling Stone UK. “It might be another person tomorrow but right now I’m the one doing this and I’m doing it to the best of my capabilities.”
You can read our full interview with ODUMODUBLVCK below.
You’ve been underground for a while, how does it feel to achieve mainstream success?
It’s a blessing, you know. It’s a true blessing. That’s just what it is. A serious thing that I always prepared myself for. and it’s great to see it come to reality after all this while.
You’ve described your sound as Okporoko music. What does that mean?
I’ll say it’s healthy music that comes from a not-so-fun place. I like to say it’s like using herbs to cure your sickness. It’s bitter but it’s going to help you in the long run. Sonically, it’s about the keys. You just need to have nice instruments that work even without the vocals. With my sound, the instruments are already hitting your soul directly. You can feel it. It’s not even about the lyrics now, it’s about that specific feeling I’m trying to pass along.
Hip-hop doesn’t always get the shine it deserves in Nigeria but you’ve stuck to your sound, what are you doing differently?
I just try to make it interesting and melodic. In the past, people were saying that for you to be a mad hip-hop artiste, you have to sound depressing or you have to sound so hard. I’ve taken a whole different approach. Just like 50 Cent, me and my team have come to change that. You can make nice songs that girls will like, that old people will like, that kids will like and get it jumping. At the end of the day, we want to make music that makes people happy still.
There are a lot of football references in your music, how much football do you watch, and what’s your fascination with football?
Funny enough, I’ve not had time to watch football as much as I’d like recently because I’m always moving from place to place but if I get the chance to watch football, there’s no way I’m not watching it. And being the type of person and artist that I am, the things I am interested in always appear in my music so that’s why there are many references to football in my music.
Who’s your biggest inspiration in life?
Jesus. Everything about his life is inspiring. When you are stuck as a human being, just think, “What would Jesus do here?” More often than not, the answer to that will put you on the right path. Let me give you an example: People always ask me why I carry my guys along and stuff like that. We are in a world where God put us together so we’d live with one another. I’m a Christian and I also believe Jesus is God.
Still, when Jesus came to our world, despite having the power of God, he went to look for 12 other people to help him. If he had 12 people with him, who am I not to have people around me? Music is basically like preaching the gospel. You want many people to listen and feel what every other person is feeling. So, why not recruit people who would preach your gospel and you would preach theirs too? It’s a symbiotic relationship and that’s how I see it.
The music that brought you to the limelight first was drill. How did you first tap into the sound?
I really just loved the sound when I first heard it and I like listening to people like Skepta and other grime artists.
You have a well-known documented affinity for Skepta. What drew you to him?
Everything about him is great. The swag, the group mentality, the open-mindedness, and the love, basically. Skep is love o. Whether you are a waiter or a driver, whoever you are, Skep is the same guy. That’s the most important thing. You might be making good music but you’d be a fucked-up person, and when all chips are down, there’s nothing that’s going to help you.
Your home city, Abuja, is a big part of your music, your sound and lifestyle. What does it mean to you?
That’s my life because it’s where I identify with and feel at ease the most in the world. It’s the same way Chief Keet and dem guys give props to Chicago, you have to rep your city because it’s those people from that city that’ll push your shit around the world and be with you through the good and bad times.
You released your mixtape, Eziokwu, in October. What does it represent for you? What has it done for you since it has come into the world?
Eziokwu has changed everything. I warned everyone. I told them before it dropped that this was going to happen but mandem didn’t believe, and I’m happy God has made it so that things are even happening faster than it’s meant to. I’m not a baby. It’s not like I’m a 21-year-old artiste who’s just taking my first steps in the real world. I know what I’m doing. For me, it’s more than the music. Things are falling into place because it’s divine, it’s destiny. I’m the same guy that I was when I had 100,000 naira as I am now. I’ll always keep it real and people will get more of that on the deluxe.
How do you stay grounded, like you said being the same person, regardless of what’s happening?
I don’t try. That’s who I am.
Do you have any dream collaborations?
I’d like to do one song with Omah Lay. Omah Lay, Kendrick Lamar and Rick Ross.
I don’t know, man, but I need to do songs with three of them.
Stormzy recently referred to you as “the coldest brudda in the world,” what does that mean and how did that make you feel?
It just means that whatever this guy is doing, he’s doing it right. He’s rapping heavy, singing heavy, highest level. The swag, everything, we’re going crazy and the work ethic is insane. It’s always nice for niggas to recognise stuff like that. It’s good that it’s people that are on top that are recognising the p, so nobody can come and chat shit. Even if they chat shit, it doesn’t hold water. The whole world will be looking at you like, “Why are you just being stupid like this? Didn’t you hear what Stormzy said? Didn’t you hear what Wizkid said?” Wizkid is coming out to shout man. Stormzy is shouting man. Skep too. These are heavy hitters. It doesn’t get better than that.