YCEE is a young Nigerian rapper and songwriter. At first, that doesn’t seem like much- almost everyone is a rapper nowadays. But YCEE is a rare exception. Signed to the Tinny Entertainment record label as well as the prestigious Sony Music Records, he rose to limelight after the release of his song titled ‘Condo’ which features Patoranking. And then he swept the nation off it’s feet entirely with his hit song, Jagaban (we dare you to listen to that song and try not to dance). Condo earned him two 2015 entertainment awards and a “Best Artist in African Pop” nomination at the 2015 All Africa Music Awards. But Jagaban earned him tons more, including an MTV Mama nom, a Headie nom and a spot on this months edition of The Cover.
YCEE thank you for taking part in The Cover, what is your real name?
Alejo Martin Oludemilade
How old are you?
I’m 23 Years Old.
Where are you from?
I was born, brought up, raised and live in Lagos state.
What is your music about?
Well.. I can’t really put a finger down and pin point and say this is exactly what you know my song is about and this is exactly what I like to sing about. I will just say my music is about anything and everything. I could be on a record talking about child marriage and all that you know and on the next record I could be talking about daddy and who’s your daddy and that kind of thing. I just keep it…you know, and basically what inspires my kind of music and my sound is the day to day experience, past experiences just stuff I have been in contact with firsthand.
Tell us about your family
Well, um I grew up in an extended family with aunties, uncles, my grandparents. My dad was an Alhaji, he’s late. I am from a family of five children and I’m the fourth child of five children and that’s pretty much what there is to family cos I grew up in an extended family so I mean there was like different experiences. Everyone had one story to tell or another so it was basically a learning experience for me.
How has family impacted your music?
Well I say in a major way because me growing I had like two uncles one that listened to rap and the other that listened to R&B and pop music so the very first exposure I had to music was from them… at a very young age I found myself you know, rapping to songs from Fat Joe, Bone Thugs and Harmony, rough rider basically stuff that kids my age didn’t even know about. On another hand, I was listening to the Corrs, Backstreet boys, Westlife and all that stuff. I say my knowledge of music has been strongly influenced by my immediate back ground, growing up with my family member yeah, family played a very important role in my life.
If it wasn’t music, what would you have been doing
If it wasn’t music either I would be playing football professionally or I would probably be working on Radio or TV as an on air personality of some sort.
Fashion– what comes to your mind when you hear that?
The first thing that comes to my mind when I hear fashion aside clothing and all… I think fashion has evolved to go beyond just what you wear out or you know, how you wear what you wear. I think it is more of a lifestyle. Personality has everything to do with fashion. You know everything you do like you could be a footballer you know the way you play could be fashionable. It’s evolved for people to become like a way of life. So I mean you could see someone that is putting on stuff that is outdated, maybe like an old fabric and stuff but in present day he could rock that. It comes down the way you put yourself together. So fashion is everything it is basically a way of life. It is the way you carry yourself on a day to day basis.
So how has fashion influenced your way of life?
Well, I will say it’s been very very strong because some years back I was at a place where I didn’t care- I could wear anything but as long as I felt comfortable or as long as I looked good in it, I would just wear anything. But I think I have evolved to a point where I like to have a first-hand decision in what I am going to wear not just say ok come and work with the stylist you know am not going to leave everything to the stylist. It has to reflect myself, it has to reflect my music, it has to reflect a bit of my personality. Fashion is a really strong influence in my brand as a musician.
Fantastic. As a musician, who has had the greatest influence on you, music wise?
I will say the greatest I have had music-wise is Lil Wayne because I think at the point where I decided that I wanted to be a rapper professionally, I was listening to him. He was the rapper I was listening to the most at that period. But I also had strong influence from Drake, Kanye West, those are thefore runners I basically used to listen to. I would watch their videos, watch their performances and you know interviews and everything about these guys. So I would say these three guys are the people that actually made me look at rap and hip-hop and say okay, I want to do this and I want to good at this and maybe I can even surpass these guys. So, Lil Wayne, Drake and Kanye West.
So, has their style or fashion sense have any influence on you in any way?
I mean yeah, yeah, very much because you know Kanye West is, I think for me one of the most fashionable. he takes risk with whatever he wears. It just once he like something it’s obvious. Like with the new Yeezy outfits or so that came out with the holes and everyone was like this is rags but after sometime we started seeing people rocking that look so, I think Kanye is someone I really look to. I enjoy his fashion sense, it’s really amazing and the things he creates are really great so Kanye West does it for me.
Mention five brands that you will rock
Hmm five brands, Nike, Yeezy, Balmain, Phillip Lim, and maybe Gucci
I am going to go back to your family, your brother is your producer, how did that happen?
He started out musically professionally before I started rapping because he was already learning production on his laptop and I just used to hang around and see when he was creating beats and when he started learning how to record I guess I started as a lab rat. I was like the person that was like okay let’s try out, see how it sounds and from there I started working with him all the time. we will be in the room recording with basically just the laptop and virtual Dj. So, as he was growing as a producer, I was growing as an artist. It’s basically both of us working hand in hand. So when I got my record deal, he became part of the label and started producing some stuffs. As he started learning more and learning more, he became a better producer. And recently, some of the stuffs that’s going to come out on EP are going to be produced by him. So it’s just the chemistry that we have had since we were kids. So I mean its only why I have a brother and I have known him all my life, it only makes sense I keep as my producer.
Still on family, are family quite supportive of both of you being in the music business?
Yeah, very well. My mom is very supportive. She listens to all my music that I put out and she always one or two advice, saying next time do this or do that. Everyother family member is very supportive. They just have it that in as much that I am trying to make a career for myself as a musician, education is equally important. I am currently in my third year studying Micro Biology. Once I’m done with that I can take on music full time. For now, I am still balancing school and music
What do you think of music in Nigeria?
Well, I say I mean looking at five years before that how the industry was. I think within that period of five years; the industry has seen a lot of good. There has been a lot of emergence of young talent that are coming up to blow and they are like 20 years old. You see people like myself, people that are even younger than myself that are actually A-list or household names in the music industry. So, that just goes to say that a lot of people are very supportive of the young talent and also the talents in the music industry. I mean it’s a lot better than it used to be but there is still a lot of room for more improvement. I mean the structure and a lot of things are still not in place as it should be but looking at how much progress I have attained one year in the music industry I can only say that when things get better it is really going to reflect on everyone’s career. Once the structure is working properly and the right revenue is going in, that is artist are getting money from where they should get money and not just shows but also sales and airplay and all that stuff. I think for now what needs to happen is the general society, the country needs to go through some changes. Things need to get better before people will start to see changes that are expected to happen. I think we should just give it time. it is doing good so far because there is a lot of eyes from outside Africa looking into Africa, checking out the kind of music we are doing here. I think with that support from outside labels that are looking into African music there is Rock nation and all that. I think once those guys begin to support the industry and the country begins to get better then everything is going to be better than it is right now.
So, what’s the weirdest thing that has happened to you in the one year you have been in the music business?
The weirdest thing that has happened to me… hmm… I really can’t say I have had any weird experiences but I wouldn’t say that it’s been all rosy and stuff. I will say it’s not really weird but like when you go out to certain show and you get mobbed by your fans. Most times it’s not really an act of violence but it’s just the way they know how to show love because no one knows when next they are going to see you. Most times you go out and you see a lot of people and they start crowding your car before you leave. There was this one time as we were trying to leave, people kept coming to the car and be like hey Ycee..Ycee, so the person driving almost ran over somebody and that was really really crazy because things could have gone sideways from there. The guy was in front of the car and we were trying to speed up but he was still there and the guy driving didn’t even slow down, and I was like ‘Yo, I hope you didn’t hit that guy’. I don’t know if we actually hit the guy but we weren’t harassed for it after that. It wasn’t weird but it was pretty scary.
So, outside Nigeria and South Africa, which other country have you found that really appreciate your music?
Well, I think outside Nigeria, I was in the UK earlier this year for a little tour. Aside the Nigerians that live in the UK, I mean its only right Nigerians will listen to your music but I met some other Africans from other African countries that were like ‘Ycee we listen to your music’. I was in Spain, I mean until you begin to travel to other places, you won’t really know how far your music has gone. And it’s really heart-warming when you go to a place where you think nobody knows you here and you actually meet a fan that listens to your music and watches all your videos. Crazy as it is, I was in Malaysia and I was actually meeting people that were like ‘hey Ycee, Jagaban, I know that song’. It is really a big source of inspiration when you know your music is actually being accepted and it makes you put yourself out into the world.
Okay, how would you describe your personal style?
My personal style aside being comfortable, it’s urban, it’s fresh and stylish I guess. I am known to love stuff and I am known to be just like as long as it looks different, as long as it looks good, as long as I feel good in, I’m going to rock it. I think I actually style with the fashion trend. In Omo Alhaji video, there was one look I rocked in it and it seems people were trying to take the look away from me and I was like ‘you guys can have that look’. Yeah, I am definitely one that like to be very hands on with what I am wearing, maybe who knows, somewhere along the line of my career I will go into fashion, same way Kanye West has gone into fashion
Last question, who is the lucky lady in your life?
Lucky lady in my life, I guess that has to be my mom because she is the only lady that is really benefiting from my success so far. So the lucky lady in my life is my mom (laughs) I know that’s a flimsy answer but… yeah the lucky lady in my life has to be my mum!
Ycee… Thank you.