Bassey Kenneth, popularly known as Beekay, became famous on the internet for making people have faith in themselves, and letting them realize how much good they have inside. But very much unlike he would have envisaged, music was not the tool with which he used to do this. In 2021 right after the COVID 19 pandemic lockdown and Lagos’ #EndSARS protest, Beekay took to social media to pronounce witty confessions that caught the internet like wildfire.
“I just took my pen and paper, wrote ‘I am beauty, I’m a spec…’ and started editing it. I sent it to my friend Precious Emmanuel and told him we could do it together. We made a video and posted it on the internet. The next week, we got our other friends at Loud to join us and the rest is history,” said Beekay.
Loud is an urban performing and recording voice choir in Lagos. They became even more popular after they made a remix of Ayra Starr’s ‘Bloody Samaritan’ hit song. Beekay happened to have joined them as one of the voices when he relocated to Lagos after a while in Abuja. And unsurprisingly, they form a solid part of the community that pushed his music from where it was before the pandemic to where it is now.
“People always say that you attract who you are. You attract the kind of people that you are,” he confessed while emphasizing the important role that community had to play in his growth process.
In this interview, Beekay has a chat with Itty on the core message of his music, his plans for 2023 and the importance of relationships in the growth and sustenance of an independent artiste’s career.
How did the limelight happen for you?
In 2019, I dropped my first official EP in Lagos “Afrosoul Therapy”. I had released one in 2013, but I don’t know if we even uploaded it online. It was released while I was still in Port Harcourt, where I grew up. I was born there, but my parents are from Akwa Ibom state. I also moved to Abuja briefly before coming to Lagos, so I’m a true Nigerian. I have been on the road (laughs). So the 2019 project got me some attention, but I was still trying to draw my Port Harcourt and Abuja audiences to my music because my listeners here in Lagos were not so many.
And then the lockdown happened.
Oh yes! The pandemic told most of us to start counting from one again. So I did a lot of self-evaluation and had a lot of time to use TikTok in order to stay relevant as an artiste while I was away from my producer. But as a shy person, it was kind of difficult putting myself out on social media. I would put posts up and then want to delete them. I remember posting some videos back then alongside my music, and people would laugh, love and share them. Then at a point I just stopped and decided to go back to my “serious personality” and push my music.
Was that when you started the affirmations?
Oh no. That started in 2021. I started doing the affirmations thing. I had thought about it and just as always, I had spent a lot of time thinking about doing it alone. I used to spend more time thinking than actually doing stuff and the affirmations was one of such cases.
Has that been a blessing or a curse for you?
Well, now I do so it’s a blessing. Before, I used to just think about things and leave them there, but now I go out of my head to begin to make them happen. So I took my pen and paper, wrote “I am beauty, I’m a spec…” and started editing it. I sent it to my friend Precious Emmanuel and told him we could do it together. We made a video and posted it on the internet. The video got about 30 comments of people calling me a funny guy and a goofy person and that was all. The next day, I deleted it. That was not how I thought I could take over the world.
The next week, at choir rehearsals, I told my friends to do the video with me again, so I posted it in April 2021 and deleted it after two days again. And then on May 27, I posted it as a slide, somewhere in between my 7th Crush EP cover, and my friend reposted. Then one day he called me and said over 3000 people had used my audio. I was speechless. I went ahead to post it again on my Instagram, so people started coming to my page and thankfully, I had made three different ones already and it started getting even more attention.
What did you do with all the attention at the time?
While all that was happening, I started to put out covers, including a remix of “I’m Catching Cold” by Tunde Ednut and he reposted it and noted my face. Then he started reposting the affirmations and then followed me and the traction was huge. People started streaming my music and thankfully, I was already planning a show before all of this. So by the time I decided to start pushing the show, I already had the attention of the whole Nigerian internet. It was preparedness, met with a sprinkle of luck and a lot of experimenting. Those affirmations became evident in my own life.
Community seemed to have played a huge role in the confessions thing and eventually your music. How were you able to build yourself such an audience?
People always say that you attract who you are. You attract the kind of people that you are. If you are familiar with Port Harcourt, you would know that there is togetherness. You know the saying of your child doing something wrong and neighbors scolding the child for you? That’s typical PH city. Everyone looks out for each other. You don’t need to know who is celebrating, you just go and dance.
So Lagos was quite strange to me initially because people like to mind their business here, but where I grew up, we always had a community of people looking out for us. So I came with that mentality to Lagos and I sort of attracted people with the same ideology too. Uncle Timi Dakolo, Precious Emmanuel and everyone else; same Port Harcourt-togetherness spirit.
“I believe so much in African culture because if we get back to culture and family, we can change the world.”
Even beyond music?
Of course! Not just in music, but in banking, comedy, governance and the corporate world too. If you check the likes of Wizkid and the people around him, although there are a few young people around him now, you would see that most of his people knew him from way back when he was just another random guy. And they have grown with him. The reason Ali Baba can do a show and have support from big brands is because the brand managers of those brands were probably his coursemates in school or something. That’s how powerful relationships are and we realize this.
So far, what would you say has been the most challenging thing about being an artist in Lagos?
I wouldn’t say the sound, because every sound now has an audience in Lagos, but you know, the challenge before now used to be capital for artistes to break the mainstream market. I won’t sit and say the challenge has been recording songs because I write almost everyday and even though I do not produce the songs myself, I always have producers that are willing to help. And thankfully, I have been able to grow my songwriting to the point where it can make money for me and I can be able to sort out basic bills.
But the way Afrobeats is structured at the moment, it’s either you wait for the day you go viral, or you pump a lot of money into the art. So sometimes you have good songs lying around, but only very little you can do to get it to as much ears as you would wish as an emerging act.
How did the Cavemen and Praiz feautures happen on the 7th Crush Deluxe?
Praiz is someone I have always looked up to. I write a lot of RnB songs too. I wrote “Under The Sky” that won a Headies for one of his albums earlier but one day I recorded a song and sent it to Praiz and told him I would love to have him on his song and immediately, he went to his Instagram story to say “mehn, this is fire”. He’s a big brother and he has been very supportive.
For Cavemen, we recorded the song in early 2021 alongside some others. We used to always be in the studio together. They are like brothers. We have songs from 2020 that will be on my upcoming album. All our records together are seamless. I don’t think I can do a song with a person I do not have chemistry with.
You seemed to have used crowd vocals before it became a thing. How do you feel seeing that it’s very common in the music space now?
Now you have drawn my attention to this. Mehn, I never really paid attention. You know sometimes, we contribute to culture, but we don’t know because we are not so big, so when people take it, we feel like we are the copy. I remember some time ago, I was with some popular producers and they used to resume every morning on NotJustOk, scroll through new music and listen to what the young, not-so-popular guys were doing to check out the new sounds. But when they dropped records, the young artistes would feel as though they were the ones copying them. Because they didn’t know who was listening to them.
So since then, I’ve been confident to say that I contribute to culture in my own little way through the things that I do. I remember that even after Loud did a cover of ‘Bloody Samaritan’ by Ayra Starr, we got a lot of invites from Olamide and the likes to help with background vocals, but we didn’t know what or whose they were for. We never did that because we were so busy at the time, but seeing it being a thing now, I am confident and glad to say I was part of it.
What should fans look out for from you in this new year?
I have started with my single, “Eva”. The video should be out in March after the election. Then, my album “Tales of Mr. Bassey” will be coming in June. I might also have a joint project with a producer later on. Also look forward to a lot of shows ooo.
What would be the benchmark of fulfillment for you?
I remember when Burna said he had done everything on his bucket list and he had to start dreaming again. So maybe when I do all that’s on my mind, I would have even new dreams, but for now, I have a company called Blue Dreams and I believe so much in African culture because if we get back to culture and family, we can change the world. I want to use my music to effect that change by erecting a music school that will educate the African child on what our sounds represent – even beyond Afrobeats. That would be the benchmark for me. At least for now.
Itty can be caught studying African pop culture, writing about it or hosting a relationship podcast. When he's not doing any of these, then he's definitely at a bar, getting mocktail.