Interview: Not3s is connecting Nigeria and the UK with his music

“Son of the soil refers to my son, me being a son, and the sun within the sky.”

Written by Uzoma Ihejirika.

In 2017, at age 19, Not3s emerged on the UK music scene with “Naughty,” his collaboration with fellow UK act 23 Unofficial. “Naughty” placed Not3s in the bubbling genre of Afrowsing, a melodies-full affair of Afrobeats and Dancehall, with incorporations of Hip-Hop, R&B and Grime. That same year, he scored a viral hit with the smooth love number “Addison Lee.” Both “Naughty” and “Addison Lee” showed off Not3s’ infectious East London drawl and tipped him as an ascendant star. Six years later, with four projects under his belt and fatherhood being his biggest personal milestone, Not3s is a man with renewed insight into his music and his Nigerian roots.


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“I feel like I learnt how to deal with situations and people much easier and earlier as opposed to learning that much later,” Not3s, born Lukman Olanrewaju Odunaike, shares with the NATIVE about the impact of the years. “I also feel like dealing with people earlier also allowed me to take any of the losses and lessons at a younger age as opposed to taking it while I’m older. So, it kind of allowed me to get all of my mistakes out of the way. I feel like I’m always learning, I feel like I’m always growing and I feel like I’m better than myself every day.”

Not3s’ latest project ‘Son of the Soil’ is his first as an independent artist. His 2017 and 2018 mixtapes ‘Take Not3s’ and ‘Take Not3s II’ as well as his 2021 debut album ‘3 Th3 Album’ were released under the supervision of Sony Music Entertainment. After the agreement between Not3s and the label ended, they chose to part ways. On his part, Not3s felt the breakup was necessary as he was unsure if the label had the right tools to handle the potential of his career. “And on top of that, I didn’t feel like I was ready because I didn’t feel like I had the right team,” he says. Not3s’ newfound independence is an opportunity to rebuild his confidence and believe in his blueprint for his career.

The seven-track ‘Son of the Soil’ pays homage to Not3s’ heritage as a Nigerian and African, even though he was born and raised in London. The EP features Nigerian talents in ODUMODUBLVCK, Hamzaa and Mayorkun, with production efforts from P.Priime, Ucee, KC, ATG and Saszy Afroshii. The inspiration behind the project stemmed from Not3s’ visit to Lagos when he and music executive Bankulli stopped by where Afrobeat legend Fela Kuti was buried. While they were there, Bankulli (with whom Not3s made the 2021 single “Foreign”) kept referring to Not3s as a son of the soil. The term stirred a host of emotions within Not3s, birthing different meanings.

“Son of the soil refers to my son, me being a son, and the sun within the sky,” Not3s shares. Born in Hackney, London, Not3s expressed the glitz and glam of London as well as the unpleasantries of his environment. “Being able to be the son of the soil and come out of the mud and sprout and blossom in every way that I possibly have without being affected by everything that goes in my area on a day-to-day basis till now is a big thing for me,” he says. “It’s a very important milestone for myself and for everybody else involved. And then also, the sun allows whatever is in the ground, whatever the seed is in the ground to grow out of the soil. It’s A lot of meanings around that one ‘son of the soil’ term.”

The music on ‘Son of the Soil’ blends the trappings of both the Nigerian and UK music scenes. Not3s’ mellow vocals coat the songs, which boast elements from Afrobeats, R&B, Hip-Hop and Amapiano. “Offering” and “Start Me Up” is Not3s sweeping up a romantic appeal with his charm; “High Fashion” with ODUMODUBLVCK and “So Far Gone” with Mayorkun carry the celebratory energy of a man steeped in success; “Who Dey 4 U?,” “Take Me Away” with Hamzaa and “Unexplainable” are the products of years of obstacles, failures and wins. ‘Son of the Soil’ is also a full-circle moment for Not3s whose earliest memory of Nigeria was his mum threatening to ship him back to the African nation whenever he misbehaved.

“At first, the light that I had Nigeria in wasn’t the greatest of lights because that was being used as a threat,” says Not3s, “so it added the fear factor of what is my home country actually like?” It also didn’t help a young Not3s that he faced racist comments wherein people called him a FOB or told him that he smelled like an ass. Those comments disconcerted Not3s as he realised that although he was British, he didn’t fully belong there and that his home country was mocked as a place of archaic practices and dangerous people. Now, Not3s is fully aware of the beauty of Nigeria (despite the obvious political and societal issues), from the food to the people to the music, which is all that ‘Son of the Soil’ celebrates in resplendent glory.

Not3s shared his time between Nigeria and the UK to make ‘Son Of The Soil.’ The plans for the project sped up after he signed a distribution deal with MOVES Recordings. According to Not3s, ‘Son of the Soil’ is representative of the connection fostered by communities of artists in Nigeria, Africa and in the diaspora. The Afroswing genre, which experienced a boom in the mid-2010s was one of the ways different communities around the world interacted with one another, the UK as a meeting point. The exchange of cultures, via music, is a big deal for Not3s and it is this phenomenon that ‘Son Of The Soil’ embodies.

Although shouldering the weight of his career on his term is a dream for Not3s, he admits that it has its drawbacks. “Sometimes there’s the ying but in order for your life to feel like it is in some sort of motion there has to be yang,” he says. He has chosen not to dwell on the negative aspects of life and instead focus on pouring love and joy into the world. He funds an NGO that fixes boreholes in areas in dire need of clean water and he plans to release a documentary that addresses the #EndSARS protests and shooting at the Lekki Toll Gate. ‘Son Of The Soil,’ with its bright-eyed optimism and happy vibes, is another way Not3s heeds his calling.

“I hope that [people] think about the beauty within it, the fun within it and energy within it and also I hope they are always reminded that we blossom through the roughness of places wherever we come from or wherever our parents or ancestors might come from,” says Not3s. “[I also want people to know] they shouldn’t shy away from being vulnerable and aid others to know that they’re not the only ones going through such similar [tough situations].”

Stream ‘Son Of The Soil’ below.

Featured image credits/NATIVE