Almost every year in the African music scene, there’s a breakout artiste. Usually, the breakout is a result of years (or even decades) of hard work, perseverance and character building. In 2013, that person was Sean Tizzle.
Originally Morihanfen Oluwaseun Oluwabamidele, Sean Tizzle’s rise to stardom was typical. He had to go through the ropes, learn to hustle Nigeria’s rather under-structured music industry and cook up that one hit that would later change his life forever.
“Sho Lee changed everything, man,” he recalls. “First, it took me out of the ghetto.”
You might find it cliché for an artiste’s pre-limelight story to have tales of him coming from a humble background and growing up in a suburban neighborhood, but it is reality for Sean. Although born in Ikeja – Lagos, capital town, Sean Tizzle grew up in Ikorodu; a part of the city that was at the time, nothing close to a hotspot area. This meant that of all his battles through the music scene, his first and most important one was to find a fitting community for his art.
“I grew up in Ikorodu and from a middle class family with a lot of extended family involved. It was a fun experience, but 2013 surely came out as an historic change for me with the release of that song,” he narrates during his conversation with Itty and Temmy.
Still, even after a decade and a couple of hit songs later, Sean Tizzle has the same drive. His enthusiasm towards music as an art form can not be missed. It is this drive that has seen him through the years and all the hurdles that came with them.
His latest album, Dues, embodies his journey so far as an artiste in Nigeria, even after an hiatus that seemed like forever to his ardent followers. It presents Sean as a man who has matured in the game over the years, evolving with the times, but retaining the core of his sonic style.
On how he was able to achieve this preservation on the no-features LP, he says:
“Evolution sometimes comes with realization, aim or even reflection. When I see how people vibrate to my previous songs, I am reminded that I have to work on my evolving vocals, lyrics and sounds.”
We go further to talk about the inspirations behind the album, what the hiatus was like for him and how he would assess Nigerian music so far, since he got into the game.
This piece has been edited for length and clarity.
When people drop hit songs like ‘Sho Lee’, the fear of being a one-hit wonder creeps in. Did you ever feel that?
It wasn’t just me, but with the whole team. There was no rest, I was always getting back to the studio to figure out the next steps. I recorded a couple of songs before picking the single. Everyone definitely has those thoughts when they drop their first single, but as an artist, you should not be really scared. You have to just keep on doing your thing. There is always someone out there who is going to listen to you. Your next one might not be as big as the first one, but you never know what the next one might look like. It could even be bigger.
You have since then released music every single year. What has that journey felt like?
Life has basically been ups and downs. Sometimes it’s fun, but there are also down times. Every year since 2013, I have dropped at least a single. I was trying to understand what the industry demanded from me per time. I started seeing it as my 9-5.
I’m sure you must have heard statements from people about you “falling off”. How did you handle those?
It was everywhere. I had to remind myself that I couldn’t go down like that. But at the same time, I was happy with the growth and development I got from doing my own thing and waiting for the right time. I was supposed to drop this album a while ago, but I had a conversation with a painter that made me slow down. He made me realize how much of art his work was, and how it needed time to craft. In his words, ‘once it’s out, it’s out’. I got the message and I had to take my time. Everything was intentional.
“Just making sure I am able to reach as many people as I can – that is what is important to me
Your new album, Dues, is the product of your evolution through the years. How have you managed to preserve your core sound, even regardless of the evolution?
Evolution sometimes comes with realization, aim or even reflection. When I see how people vibrate to my previous songs, I am reminded that I have to work on my evolving vocals, lyrics and sounds. Still I had to make sure that I didn’t try to disconnect from myself and what my people are familiar with. This took some reflection. I always went back to listen to my old albums and look at what has changed. When your mindset gets better, it reflects on everything.
There is no feature on the album. Was that intentional, and why?
Yes, that is why it’s called “Dues”. It is self-acclaimed; kind of my tithe to the industry. It is an obligatory payment due to me. Like you said, it’s been a while so I needed to flex a bit. There might be a deluxe later this year which would have Ice Prince on it. So stay tuned, we will see how it goes.
I think ‘Paid My Dues’ is a perfect project-closer. Where were you mentally when you wrote the song?
I wanted to show everyone that I had paid my dues and I will continue to pay it. It’s inspired by the consistent support from my fans and the fact that they chose to stay with me, always.
Between 2013 and 2023, what changes in the music industry make you happy?
It’s the growth in general. Afrobeats is at the global stage and the new artists are holding it down while we have our old artists who are still keeping it going. That’s the beautiful thing about all of it. It’s nice to be alive in these times.
If you could change one thing about your life right now, what would it be?
I wish I could stop or rewind time. Since I don’t have that power, we have to keep it going. With that, more tunes are coming soon.
What would make you feel most fulfilled?
That’s a very deep question! I will align with the old saying to say “the key to immortality is living a life worth remembering.” Just making sure I am able to reach as many people as I can – that is what is important to me.