A hit song with Wizkid is enough to signal a newcomer in Nigerian music, and while many have dreamed of one, L.A.X introduced himself with two. “Caro” came first in 2013, followed by “Ginger” the year after. The two fast-paced polyrhythms, released under Wizkid’s Starboy label, are indicative of the strictly defined form a Nigerian hit song could take at the time.
Not long after his music industry breakout, L.A.X found himself at a crossroads; to either continue with the current wave of music or to create his own. He chose the latter, experimenting with a few singles a year and a debut album RASAKING in 2018, continuously iterating in search of his sound.
“I always think that everything is a process,” L.A.X tells Audiomack. “There was a time when I wasn’t really dropping music as much because I was recording more. I was trying to figure out what kind of style I wanted people to identify me with, after my transition from Starboy.”
L.A.X’s sound came to fruition in November 2020 with the release of his sophomore album ZaZa Vibes. “Sempe” is a distinctly sweet standout with melodic guitar riffs able to please a wide range of palettes. It’s a song in which he goes against the grain, and emerges with evergreen music. It’s this sort of creative liberty that L.A.X has craved for so long.
“Now I’m not chasing hit songs. I’m comfortable with putting out songs that are for the soul, or songs that people will listen to in 10 years and be like, ‘This is sick,’” L.A.X says. “Songs that people will sample in 20-30 years. This is the sound I want people to know about.”
From the compulsive pursuit of hit songs to making the kind of music that comes naturally to him, L.A.X is now more concerned about the beauty of the process, and creating a legacy that will stand the test of time: “I just want people to know I was all about the music.”
Looking back at your grand entrance into the Nigerian scene with “Ginger,” you seem to be a much different artist now. Is this a result of experimentation?
I always think that everything is a process. There was a time when I wasn’t really dropping music as much because I was recording more. I was trying to figure out what kind of style I wanted people to identify me with, after my transition from Starboy. Nigerians are quite hard to please, so I spent time restrategizing and understanding what I want to stand for.
I thank God people are listening now, and it’s not even just in Nigeria—it’s worldwide. People are listening from France, from the Netherlands, from everywhere in the world, so I’m happy I sat down to restrategize, and came back and started dropping again.
You had a period personified by the name “Rasaki,” which has evolved into “Zaza.” Can you speak a bit about these personas and the evolution that drives them?
I often say that I have alter egos, like three personalities. So Rasaki for me was when I’d say I was angry; I just wanted to do my thing, put out music.
Then that transitioned to Zaza, who is now comfortable, found his sound, he’s a loverboy, he’s cool, and he just wants to drop sweet music.
That’s what I’ve always wanted to do from the beginning. I’m just all about the music.
So Zaza is that sweet boy, that genuine music guy, and that’s what I’m following through on because that’s what I want to stand for.
You’ve been on a run since you dropped ZaZa Vibes late last year. How do you feel about the reception to the music you’re putting out?
I feel like I’m not even comfortable yet. I still feel like I need to do more. I need to put in more work. I need to get more fans worldwide. I need to get more people listening to my music. ’Cause Afrobeats is in the place where we’re supposed to be tapping into the ginger, seeing what the likes of Wizkid & Burna [Boy] are doing, and even newer artists like Joeboy, Fireboy [DML], and Rema, they’re already doing it big.
So for me, I feel like I need to do more so that I can be part of that situation. I’m excited people are listening to my songs in more places, but I still need to do more.
Do you think there’s anything to it that the popular sound has changed or that people are more open to diverse types of music now?
Yeah, that’s something I had a conversation with my brother about some days ago, about how Nigerian artists can now put out what they want to put out and listeners will love it for what it is. Nobody even knows what a hit song is anymore, as long as it’s sweet to the ears. And that’s a nod to corona, ‘cause before COVID, we were living a fast life—your song had to be like 120 BPM, even higher.
Because of lockdown, everyone was calm at home, and that helped the likes of Omah Lay when they came with sweet music. So to be honest, that really helped me be able to be intentional about my sound.
How would you describe your creative process?
I don’t like re-recording. The first thing I record, that’s what I leave it as, because that came from my soul. I feel like energy is very important. There are some songs that when you listen to, you just feel like you were in the studio with this person because of the energy in the vocals, the way the vocals sound so genuine, so true.
First of all, I listen to the beat. I’m very picky with the beat, so the beat is the first thing I make sure sounds great. My vocals come next. I’m just about the vibe; it doesn’t have to be crazy lyrics or something very deep, but it just has to be something that’s happy. If you check my Instagram I’m always happy, dancing, smiling… so I just want people to feel that vibe of happiness.
Even my songs that talk about heartbreak, or that would ordinarily make one sad, I still make sure the instrumental gives you a vibe. Like “Lose My Mind” is a song that’s talking about how a girl left me but I still made sure the instrumental is sweet enough for people to dance to. So even as you’re singing the heartbreak song you’re still dancing to it.
When you think of your artistic legacy, how would you want people to remember the name L.A.X?
I just want people to know I was all about the music. I feel like that’s how it is now; you’d never hear an L.A.X scandal, I’m just trying to be about the music.
And if it’s not the music, maybe the philanthropy side of myself, helping people. I’m trying to sort out the Zaza Foundation. So music and helping people, ‘cause I feel like that’s life. Once you can help people you always feel better with yourself knowing what you did and that they’re in a better place because of it. That’s where I get fulfillment from.
By Nasir Ahmed Achile for Audiomack.