Identify: Asa returned home and turned in her brightest-sounding album yet

Largely produced by P.Priime, and featuring Wizkid, Amaarae & the Cavemen.

The sound of music playing on a loop was Asa’s favourite thing about her childhood. She’d fit her body between the wall and furniture, listening to her father, a cinematographer, pair the visual with the sonic. When her first album was released in 2007, the images were striking: deserted lovers, nations on fire, a thirst for life, for art. She was in her early 20s but already possessed a sharpened sense for detail and emotion.

“Since I was a child, if any adult asked me then ‘what would you want to become when you grow up?’ I never wavered from saying I wanted to become a musician.”

Born in Paris, her family’s relocation to Lagos came at a time when one remembered little of their day-to-day experiences. Her earliest perceptions of human life came in Nigeria’s premier metropolitan city. In Lagos, she was immersed into the bubble of a state regaining its cultural practices after years of being the headquarters of a military regime. There she made her dream work, little by little, pushing for artistic excellence where many others prized instant gratification.

Asa’s appeal cuts across a swathe of demographies. To the young, she is a beacon of originality and nerdy swag. To the middle-aged, she’s  soundtracking the motions of their beleaguered storylines. To the aged, she’s an old soul, a lady they’d gladly sit and share stories with. To the international listener, Asa is a superstar in the mould of Fela Kuti, not quite possessed by his incandescent fury but wielding every bit of musical stamina, versed in several traditions and well positioned as a confluence for them.

Life being the source of Asa’s art, her albums are spaced out to encourage her immersion again into everyday life. “In between the spaces I’m writing, touring and I’m living normally,” she says. “But honestly most of the time I’m writing and I promised myself not to bring any album that I wasn’t happy with. I once recorded an entire album and put it in the bin.”

It was 2020, during Asa’s European tour when the pandemic broke out. She was somewhere in France and had thought she would stay there for its entirety but sensing the imminent coldness of a city on lockdown, she returned to Lagos. “When I came to Lagos what I did was throw my door open,” she says. She was working on her fifth album, two years after ‘Lucid’, an album suffused with some of her most heart-wrenching stories on love and loss. This time the energy was markedly different. Collaborators thronged into her house, creating songs in her living room with a view of the lake and blooming vegetable patches.

 “Home is different,” she says of the atmosphere that inspired the album. “Being unstressed and being familiar with the people I was working with, as opposed to going to a studio elsewhere, like in LA or in Paris. It was just really relaxed, nothing that tells of time and schedule.” Titled ‘V’, it was preceded by the singles “Mayana” and “Ocean,” both produced by 20-year-old P.Priime, who handled ninety percent of the LP’s entire production. This immersive style of collaboration affects a feeling of closeness all through the record, setting the template for the musical features which, interestingly, portends the first time an Asa album will feature artists.  

On “Ocean” WurlD’s lucent vocals float in the background, bringing a textured feel to Asa’s stirring meditation on self-love. Good Times” was recorded with scintillating brother duo The Cavemen, whose trademark infusions of Highlife casts a beachside ambience over the record. “The Cavemen are special to me,” says Asa. “They inspire me. And you know, with me and Benjamin—I’m sure you’ve seen us on social media—we’re never up to no good, we’re always goofing around. “Good Times” is about friendship, it’s just about saying what you sometimes forget to say, just acknowledging friendship we see everyday and it’s become a background to our lives. Sometimes, stop and tell this person ‘thank you, you’re a good friend’.”

Among Asa’s favourite songs on ‘V’ is “All I Ever Wanted,” a poignant song about falling out of love and what it constitutes for the memory, left to pick up the shards of losing someone you’d rather have by your side. Featuring the iconoclast Amaarae, both voices meld in buttery perfection, layered distinctly over the stripped production. Asa had written the record for the Ghanaian star who she wished to feature on it. “That’s how my voice got to stay on ‘All I Ever Wanted’,” says Asa. “It’s a sarcastic song; Asa is always sarcastic. You can hear it in ‘Awe’ and ‘Bimpe’, you know. It’s just telling the person, ‘Have you forgotten how we were?’”

All through the album, you hear Asa angling towards the light. Her messages are clear and her desire for softness obvious. No other song encapsulates this feeling better than “IDG”, the mammoth collaboration with Wizkid. Some days before the album’s release, the Made In Lagos’ star had shared a tweet announcing the song, which many noticed was exactly seven years since he’d tweeted that we wanted to work with Asa “so bad.” They had connected in Ghana sometime ago and after Asa wrote the song, Wiz came to mind. “I’ve always loved Wizkid’s melodies and always loved him as a very creative person,” Asa says. “With Wizkid, as with other people that I worked with on this record, one thing shines through—the album is just about vibes, good feeling, good times, friendship and love.”

It’s no coincidence that Asa’s brightest-sounding album is coming now. Shelving previous expressions of complicated loves for simpler gestures, she reinvents herself. The pop flourishes of the tape also owe its presence to Asa’s recent showcases of her playful side.

Asa has been really been vibing throughout her stay in Lagos and, more interestingly, getting caught on camera. “I’ve always been like this but you have to also understand that I’m very private and so the worst that you’ll see are scenes that someone caught,” she says, laughing. “Someone was very smart with holding the camera. It’s actually interesting that people are getting to know a little bit more about me and I’m getting comfortable with sharing that part. I mean, it wouldn’t hurt. Being able to do that now is because I’m okay with it.”


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This shifting perspective is responsible not only for the wholesome videos of Asa we’ve been getting but also influenced her creative process. A known perfectionist, she tells me she once returned to a song five years after she began writing it. “On ‘V’ it was a combination of being vulnerable and allowing myself not to think too much, not to be perfect, not to be precious,” she says. 

Ultimately ‘V’ is coming from a place of authenticity and acceptance. If the Meji Alabi videos for the singles were anything to go by, this is a multidimensional universe made possible by black excellence as well as black vulnerability, the willingness to lean into the mundane aspects of one’s life and embrace the glory in it. “I’m just playing a lot on these songs, having a lot of fun,” she says. “It was fun to connect with creatives that I met on this project and on this  journey and that really spilled into the recording.”

Listen to ‘V’ here.