Words by: Matthew Griffiths
S.O. might have been best known as a rapper but he’s proved his artist transcends genre on his afrobeats fuelled project Larry Ginni Crescent.
Something that I see happening in hip-hop more and more often, is that as rappers grow in their artistry, they sing. It’s become so common that even YouTuber/music reviewer Anthony Fantano described rappers’ singing to be “almost like a requirement these days, to be that versatile.”
International rap artist S.O. has recently found greater heights of success following his last album Augustine’s Legacy, which accumulated over 16 million streams on Spotify alone. Having provided some mellow, Drake-esque sung vocals on tracks such as ‘Headwrap Diaries’ and ‘London Nights’, it comes as no surprise that S.O. has continued to diversify his sound. This time going back to his African roots on his joyful new afrobeats EP Larry Ginni Crescent, which arrived on August 20.
I decided to connect with S.O. to ask him some questions about his new project.
1) Hey man – liking the new sound. So what inspired the shift to this African style?
Thank you – I appreciate that. The idea to make an afrobeats project started in 2017. I had been toying with songs with afrobeats vibes at that time, but they did not fit the broader project I was attempting to complete. Fast Forward to the pandemic and I started thinking through what my next project would be – then I made ‘Prosper’, and that was the beginning of this. Also, within that period I had a child and I wanted to create something that would let her know about her heritage, and give her something she can look back on to know about where she came from and an aspect of her culture.
2) I’m interested in the lyrics on the track, ‘Corner’ – Considering that “O Ti De” is Yoruba for “he has arrived”, can you tell us who has arrived? What’s an OT wave?
“I was outside on a hopeless day/
Trying to bump rides on a OT wave/
White boy screaming out O Ti De”
I have arrived. I have come to throw my hat in the afrobeats ring, to show what I can offer to my people, both in the continent and in the diaspora. I’ve also arrived to bring a message of faith and truth. God is in my corner, He is fighting for me & working things out for my good. When I was writing this I was really thinking about imagery and how I could make the wildest thing sound cool. ‘OT’ is outta town or out trapping. So to explain this would be like this: before I took my faith seriously, I was outside doing all sorts & either people would say he has arrived as a positive or negative.
3) How have fans reacted to the single? Have you had much of a reaction from them about you making afrobeats?
My fans love it. I have intentionally dropped afrobeats singles over the years so a whole project is not something that is taking them by surprise. Fans of mine really appreciate how eclectic & diverse my music is. I mean, I have an indie band that I release music with called Our Future Glory, I rap & I sing. I also feel no reason to box myself in. I create what I love and those who want to gravitate towards it will.
4) What were your studio sessions like? Were you working with producers mainly over the internet, or were you able to get together?
Zoom and thousands of WhatsApp messages. I record at home so I was able to create freely without having to go to a studio and the producers would send me production or we would hop on a FaceTime or Zoom as I’ve laid something down etc. The best way to create (in my opinion) is in the same room as the producer but it is still a whole pandemic outside and everyone is scattered around the world.
5) I love the guitar sound and overall production on ‘That One’ – can you explain the lyric about collecting your rice? Am I hearing it wrong? [Haha].
Nah, you are hearing it correctly. ‘That One’ really came from a place of betrayal [especially that second verse]. I had someone that I was very close to do something that really hurt me. All is forgiven now but when I was writing this all I could hear were my aunts in my head saying “oya, come and collect your rice and go!” It is meant to be me saying “do what you need to do and leave me alone.”
6) There’s some beautiful outfits and colours in the video for ‘Kinda Love’. Who styled the two of you?
A. Thank you. I really love how the outfits came together. That would be my little sister, Danette Powell. She also has a company – be sure to follow her and hire her for all your styling needs. Very patient and understanding of your needs.
7) That’s your wife in the video with you, right? What was it like working with her on set?
That was indeed my wife. Working with her is always good. She has strengths that I don’t and sees things that I don’t see. Also, making a love song that is dedicated to your wife should mean that she would be in it. Joshua [the director] and I knew that we wanted to showcase black love and even highlight an iconic black film [Love And Basketball] so it made sense to have Sophia in the video. Plus she is BEAUTIFUL – so why hire someone else to play a role when it is more believable when it is real?
8) I personally think the final track, ‘Wonder’, is the best one on the EP. Gotta love that saxophone. Tell us about the creation of that song.
Two things: 1. Thank you for listening to the project. I really appreciate you taking time to check it out & the questions show up that you have. 2. Shout out to my friend G Wood from Team Salut who mixed the project and was pretty hands on with helping on it. TBabz who made the song had a sax he played on his midi keyboard, G Wood heard that and said “nah bro you need a real sax!” He made the connect for me and the rest is history.
‘Wonder’ is a song about temptation and not falling in it. Before I wrote the song, news broke out about a prominent Christian leader who misused his platform and took advantage of women. What probably started as one thing, led to a deep, deep rabbit hole that destroyed his legacy. So ‘Wonder’ is a warning, both to myself and the listener – keep the main thing the main thing and don’t fall for any traps because you don’t know where they will lead to.
9) Finally, what’s your favourite track on the EP and why?
‘Good To Me’ is my favourite song. I look back at the year we have all had, from job loss, to death, to a whole pandemic outside! Even in the midst of all of that, I can say that God is still good to me. Plus I love the vibe of that song. I’ve had that song for over a year just waiting to put it on the right project, and Larry Ginni Crescent is the right one.