Track-By-Track: YKB Breaks Down His New EP, ‘YUSFUL MUSIC’
an introspective, visceral collection of songs
an introspective, visceral collection of songs
In the past few years, the Afropop scene witnessed the entry of a new vanguard of musicians. Without knowing it, the many young artists who began creating seriously during this period embodied a sonic and linguistic shift within the movement’s nucleus in Nigeria, and would come to capture the solitary zeitgeist of the following year in such stirring ways. One of such musicians was yusufkanbai who, until some couple of years ago, became simply known as YKB.
Born Yusuf Oluwo, the artist possesses a strong sense of self. Prior to music he worked as a photographer, a profession that continues to influence the vivid snapshots encapsulated in his songwriting. Among other places, he resided in the Ketu neighbourhood of Lagos, gathering the experiences he would relate with crisp emotiveness across his oeuvre. YKB started creating music in 2019, getting on the much-vaunted Ejoya ‘Class of ‘20’ the following year, alongside other promising genre torchbearers such as Buju (now BNXN), Jinmi Abduls, DJ Yin and Emo Grae.
In the years since, YKB has maintained a passion for output. He’s often releasing music to his ever-growing fanbase, advancing his sound with each project while centering biographical details within that amorphous range which, over the times, have included Afropop, R&B and Trap. As he told the NATIVE Mag, “My messaging is always going to remain the same, just that the music is going to get better”.
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Evidence of that growth is all over ‘YUSFUL MUSIC’, the new project from YKB. Spurred from a nickname he flipped in secondary school, ‘Yusful’ extends the narrative palette of the March 2023-released ‘Never Lazy’ mixtape. The five-track EP continues to burnish his personal ideations, cutting through the heart’s pleasures and uncertainties to offer poignant perspectives. Like many of his projects, the uNder alum put together distinct but interrelated records.
In this track-by-track breakdown with the artist, we dissect the origins and meanings behind each song, at the end placing it in the sprawling conversation of YKB’s unique creative process.
This na real life story oh. The day before the day I made “pressure”, something happened where my mom called me to come to her place, and then my elder sister called her phone that she wanted to talk to me. When they gave me the phone, she was talking about me looking for another option if music is not making sense, maybe music is not making money. That I’m only getting older and I need to start playing my role as a son, say my mama no dey collect pension. It’s all in music; like, I just narrated that whole p. The first verse of the song I just narrated what happened. Spax produced the song, and that’s like the second version of the song, but Spax is really the one that brought all the instruments together and made it sound like exactly what I wanted it to sound. I had written it down to an emptier beat, but Spax was the one that elevated it.
“bo card” was basically me just flexing my vocals. I was singing my whole lungs out and I just wanted to create something where I could like, flex my vocal power, something sensual in that sense. We had parts of the beat before, and then we just came together and Spax was like, “This one, let’s make it together”. And that’s like Spax’s favourite song sef. I don’t know if I create [sensual records] often because I don’t really keep track of the topics, as long as it’s genuine and it’s real, that’s what I just go on. That’s my whole thing approaching music.
I made this in my room oh. I wrote “San Siro” to impress a girl. The girl likes when a song has witty lyrics and good songwriting. So I was like, let me make a song that this girl’s going to like. And we thank the Lord, she loved it; she still loves it. About the title, there’s this place where we used to play football when I was in secondary school; they used to call that place San Siro – it was in Mile 12. I didn’t even know it was the name of a real stadium. After I made the song, my creative director Niyi Okeowo was like, “Ah, how do you know about San Siro? That’s my team’s stadium”. I was like, ‘that’s mad’. So, everything is ordained. That’s how I knew “San Siro” was meant to be cos everything really came together. From the song to the video, it was a real story that came from the heart.
So me and Steph, who’s the producer, were hanging out one day – cos we used to just hangout that period. He liked my music and I liked his music, so we’d just get together and make tracks. So we’re making a song – I can’t remember the song we were making, and we’re trying to complete a song, then his guitarist sent in a loop and I was like “Bro, load this thing immediately, put it on your laptop immediately”. Then I just came up with the hook and I sang it to him and he was like, “Guy, gone. Let’s finish it; it’s gone”. And Steph and them like Buju, they were the first set of people that used to say “It’s going, it’s gone”. When you record a take, and they say, “Is it going? Yeah, it’s gone”. So when I did “komplete riddim” it was like, don’t worry, it’s going; it’s gone. That’s how the song really came about; we actually made that song just to have fun cos that was the mood we were in. And if you listen to the song, you can tell that “Oh, this guy is having fun”. The way we even recorded it, he played the guitar on the computer, and I recorded the hook, and he played drums on it—we were just layering it, we were complementing each other with the creation of the song. So that’s like the most fun song on that project.
I made “traffic” and “pressure” the same week. I think at the time I was really feeling myself, cos “pressure” was kind of like a release for me, it made me feel better. Imagine your sister calling you and saying, “How far this your music p?” Cos when you’re outside, people will always say, “Bro, you’re bad, your music is so good. But then your family member is now telling you that ‘Bro, this music, I don’t understand what you’re doing with it oh’”. So it really weighed heavy on my chest. But when I made “pressure” I just started feeling myself, so that was the energy I used to record “traffic”. And the hook of the song says, “I’m on my way, I’m just caught up in the sunkere fakere”. Sunkere fakere means ‘Traffic’ in Yoruba, so that was just me telling myself, “I’m going to get there, I’m just caught up in the traffic of the music industry”. Obviously, that’s how it works. You just have to wait for your spot to get there.
Featured image credits/YKB