In 2019, Alpha P made a serendipitous journey from the ancient city of Benin to Lagos, the busiest city in Nigeria. The exodus would later introduce the “new wave” Afrobeats creator to himself and, ultimately, the world.
Born Princewill Emmanuel, Alpha P started out making trap music back in Benin City. While his peers had dreams of becoming successful in neurosurgery and rocket science, Alpha P survived on a high dosage of Eminem, Drake, and Jaden Smith lines with nothing but faith, ideas, an experimental sound, and the unflinching desire to make the whole world hear his music.
“I’ve been doing music since I was 12, so I’ve been on this for a very long time,” Alpha P says. “When people are like, ‘Oh, this kid is just starting,’ the truth is I’ve been doing a lot of underground work before now. I’ve been through a lot. I’ve gone under the rain and under the sun. I’ve been working on myself and evolving.”
Following his EP King of the Wolves, released November 2019, 2020, was supposed to be filled with tours and live shows. “Paloma” had won him the hearts of many music-loving Nigerians. While COVID-19 put a stop to shows, it did not put a damper on Alpha P’s success.
“It gave me a lot of time to work on myself,” Alpha P explains. “I released the Wolves and Mustangs EP, and I’m just grateful for the year 2020, amidst everything that happened.”
2020 was a hard year for so many people. How was it for you?
It was a great year. A blessing in disguise. It was sad at first, for me, because I had dropped my EP at the ending of 2019, and 2020 was supposed to be a year of touring and shows. I had already started attending shows and getting bookings across the country.
March came with the pandemic, and everything had to halt. I did a couple of virtual events, which were cool but weren’t as fun as real ones would have been. It increased streaming, though, I won’t even lie. But in terms of shows, I was affected.
Let’s talk about your relocation from Benin to Lagos. Why and how did that happen?
I had so many ideas in Benin, and they were almost driving me crazy. I had just gotten into the University of Benin. I was in my first year, and I didn’t have money. Then, to record a song in Benin used to cost about 7,000 naira. My weekly allowance was 10,000, and I was always taking out seven to record songs. There were so many ideas, and I felt I had to go somewhere else. The only place that came to mind was Lagos because I had been here several times before to perform at some shows. This was the first week in January 2019.
So you just hit the road?
Yes. The DNA Twins, who are like brothers to me, had told me to come over to Lagos to assist with songwriting and for us to work together. There, I met my manager, who made Bizzle Osikoya listen to my music. Bizzle then sent one of the tracks to Universal Music. I was in the studio when I got a call from them the following day. At the time, I didn’t even know Universal was in Nigeria. I wasn’t expecting it at all.
This was, say, two weeks before I was supposed to go back to Benin. My mom was skeptical about me leaving for Lagos in the first place. She supported my music and all, but you know how Nigerian mothers can be. So Universal loved my music, and the journey kicked off from there.
How did you see the busy life in Lagos, contrasting it with that of Benin?
Benin wasn’t easy. It was hard. The hustle was still there. It wasn’t as busy as Lagos, but it was busy. We still had to work really hard to get food. That’s where I learned to hustle. If you’re strong in Benin, you’re strong everywhere. I had a good time in Benin because my experiences there helped to shape me into who Alpha P is today.
Who is Alpha P?
Alpha P is a young kid just having fun, making music, and trying to use his music to change the perspective of Africa. My music is not just Afrobeats, and it’s not just trap music. It’s not boxed into one genre. It’s just me making the type of music I know. It’s me giving a message out that, “Yo, Africa is bigger than what you think we are.” I’m trying to tell the world we are more than the regular.
There are different ways to deliver Afrobeats. I’m just playing my part in pushing my Afrobeats to the next level. There’s so many people at the war-front right now. We have Burna [Boy], there’s [Davido], there’s Wizkid. So Alpha is one of these generals pushing Afrobeats to the next level in his own way.
How did you come up with the name Alpha P?
I was in church, and I used to do hardcore rap, like Eminem, Drake kind of rap. I was in a group of other rappers who had cool names, but my name, “Princewill,” didn’t sound like a strong rapper name. Then one day, the pastor preached about God being the Alpha and Omega. After service, my friends asked me if I had gotten a name yet, and I told them “Alpha P.” Some loved it on first hearing. Others had to think twice. I wasn’t too sure either, but as time went on, I owned it. Now, I’m the Alpha, King of the Wolves. The wolves are my fans and supporters.
How do you feel being a part of the “new wave” of Afrobeats artists changing the narrative about African music?
I feel honored. I feel like I represent Africa. I represent the continent through music. The government already messed up, so the greatest export at the moment from Nigeria is her entertainment—music particularly. Once there’s the music, everyone is happy.
Being a part of these new wave acts means I provide this music for the people. When I go on Instagram every day, and I get tagged by a lot of people who are dancing and vibing to my music, it’s great and fulfilling. It makes me feel like I’m on the right path and I’m doing the right thing.
By Itty Okim for Audiomack.