Most people love Zlatan.
Since the inception of his professional music career and his first limelight record in 2017 with Olamide, Zlatan has only had love to give. In an industry like music in Nigeria, this is not so common to find, especially around the time of his breakout when acts rode off “beefing” for cheap relevance in the space.
Yet, Zlatan somehow managed to find the relevance hack – even with little or no beefs – and has remained a household name in street pop culture for six solid years and counting; a science that should be studied.
“From the beginning, it’s always been ‘let’s see if he’ll last more than one year’, or ‘let’s see if he will have more than one song’ because street artists don’t usually last more than a year in the game,” he recalls with the memories of those statements as fresh as ever in his head.
This is typical Zlatan. Every ear that listens to him speak or sing – or watches the energy with which he does both – can tell that he is as hungry for impact as he was when he started the game. This hunger when conglomerated with his graceful aura buys him the love that he gets, and aids the many more that he gives out.
“I don’t know why people love me oh! Different people like me for different reasons. I just can’t fathom it, but I’m grateful regardless,” confesses ZANKU.
In 2019, Zlatan had a wonderful music year. From ‘Gbeku’ and ‘Killin Dem’ with Burna Boy, to ‘Am I A Yahoo Boy’ with Naira Marley and a pack of other culture-shaping records, Omoniyi Temidayo (real names) solidified his place in Nigerian music. His latest work is his ‘Omo Ologo’ EP that features Young Jonn, Odumodublvck, Jeriq and Seyi Vibez on some of its hits.
Zlatan talks to Itty Okim on his music journey so far, the blessings that come with helping others and how much love he receives from eastern Nigeria.
This piece has been edited for length and clarity.
Why ‘Omo Ologo’?
For like 3 years, I didn’t start early. I signed on Jamopyper in 2020 and pushed his song with Mayorkun which later became the second biggest song in the country at the time. And later in the year, we had Cash App, Lagos Anthem and Hallelu. They kind of rolled over into 2021, so my first song in 2021 was Aleyi which led to my Resan album, released in November.
Then in 2022, I dropped only one track which had never happened before. I spoke to my team about it saying I didn’t want to drop songs late anymore because of how saturated the industry is. So dropping early is what motivated me to drop Jaboti in 2022 as a single. I decided to keep dropping singles and if they made sense, I would combine them into one body of work because it would be difficult to drop seven songs at a time and promote them all together. So I dropped Astalavista, Omo Ologo, and added a few other tracks to make it a body of work for the EP.
How does its success make you feel?
Whenever I put my mind to doing something, I get it done. God will not leave a hardworking person to answer someone that’s sleeping and that has been my orientation from day one. So I’m always working and I don’t hold back. I move to the next thing immediately – you know, recording and spending a lot of time in the studio.
Fun Fact: this is my sixth year doing this and after December, it’ll be 7 years since I dropped My Body with Olamide. From the beginning, it’s always been ‘let’s see if he’ll last more than one year’, or ‘let’s see if he will have more than one song’ because street artists don’t usually last more than a year in the game. It hasn’t really been an easy task, but I feel very happy and fulfilled with this EP. This year has been a lot, but God has been good.
How did ‘Oganigwe’ with two Igbo rappers, Odumodublvck and Jeriq happen?
Maybe it’s because of how much help I got from OGs while I was fast rising, but I always like to pay attention to who’s next on the street. Psycho YP made me start listening to Odumodu. I’m a big fan of YP and he was always posting Odumodu’s songs. They have a song together as well.
I listened to Odumodu’s style and it was different. His sound was unique to me, so I added him up myself. He told me he wanted to link up and that there’s a song, ‘Picanto’, and he wants to get someone on it. I told him that there was no problem and then he came to the studio with me.
If you’re coming to the studio with me, there’s no way we’re going to do just one song. It’s always two or three songs. Before he even came, I told my producer that I wanted an artist from the East on my EP.
My previous album had 2 of the biggest artists from the East, but because the songs on the album were about 15, I wasn’t able to push the songs as much as I could and I’m going for a certain narrative, you know. So I decided to do something like that again for this EP and I’m still getting booked in the east from time to time. I was even in the east on the 31st. From Benin, to Anambra, to all the states in the East, they show me a lot of love.
So when we finished Picanto, we hopped on to a beat and made Oganigwe. I was in Paris one night with my friend and I played the song with Odumodu and my friend said I needed Jeriq on the song as well. So I reached out to him and then he came to the studio and that’s how we made the record you hear today.
You have been instrumental to the success of many “underdogs” like BNXN, Odumodu and now, Shallipopi. Why do you do it?
It’s either you do it or you don’t. People can get tired of your own sound and I know the blessings that come with giving. It happened to me too so it would be stupid of me to not help and be observant. It doesn’t cost anything or take anything to help. I don’t really like talking about it, but I’ll say it’s one of the reasons why I’m still out here. When you give, you’re blessing yourself as well.
What would you describe as the most important element of your music? What do you think attracts people to Zlatan?
Well, I don’t know oh! Different people like different things. Some say it’s the energy I put in, some say it’s the hustle spirit, some say it’s the character, some say it’s the fact that they went to the same school with me. I just can’t fathom it, because there are so many reasons people would like my things, but what matters is that they’re still here. I mean, it’s been six years.
What would you say is the best part of being a famous person?
The girls of course, being accepted in different countries and getting gifts from fans as well. It only gets bitter when it gets into your head and you start focusing on the wrong things.
What’s the first thing you do in the morning?
I can’t lie, I go to apple music if I have a song that’s out to check if people are still listening to it.
Street pop in Nigeria has had different phases: from Olamide and Da Grin, to you and Naira Marley, to Asake Zinoleesky, Seyi Vibez and their likes. What would you say about the sub-culture?
It’s been awesome and I think it’s only gonna get better because there’s space for new people. There are so many people that have lost their hope but when they see us, they’ll feel like they can do it. So it’s definitely going to get better, you know. Afrobeats in general never used to be like this, but now it is where it is.
At the end of the day, what would make you the most fulfilled?
For me it’s to make heaven oh. That’s my biggest form of fulfillment. But I can’t lie, I can say I’m fulfilled right now because I never thought I’d be here at all. At the same time, I want things to get better. Yet right now, I am very fulfilled and grateful for the things I have.