Apple Music’s Up Next Local series is dedicated to identifying and showcasing rising talent across Australia and New Zealand, hand-picked by Apple Music editors from around the world.
Nigerian-born, Melbourne-based rapper IJALE has been making waves for his unique blend of Afrocentric sounds and western influences that showcase his Nigerian heritage, his Australian upbringing, and the multifaceted taste of an open-minded listener of the internet age.
Following a radical twelve months of quarantine, inner turmoil & self-exploration, IJALE has returned with his second body of work, a surprise mixtape aptly titled OTTN (On To The Next).
We spoke to IJALE to get the talented muso’s thoughts on everything from coping amid the pandemic to his latest single and much more.
What is one thing that has helped keep you going during this global pandemic?
Music for sure. Making it, finding new music and relistening to stuff that I used to listen to way back when. Also, I just tried a bunch of things that I had either gave up too quickly before or had always thought would be interesting.
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Yoga and meditation are definitely things I started during lockdown that I can’t see myself giving up now.
Take us through how you developed your music style?
Well basically when I started making music I was only producing music rather than writing lyrics, so I think that helped me find something that was unique to me later on.
I basically loved experimental electronic music from London and LA, and wanted to be able to produce as good as flying lotus, so I spent a lot of time trying to make things in that style, which was a really good learning exercise.
After that, I kind of started peeling layers back and experimenting with things that were more personal to me, like the African influences and my actual words.
What do you see as your secret weapon when it comes to your music?
My secret weapon is that I can make a song from top to bottom by myself I think. I can produce, write the lyrics and arrangement, mix and master.
It came about from being really self-conscious about my art at the beginning. I would try and learn everything about the process of making it sound good before I had to show anyone else because I was afraid of people not liking what they heard.
Other than that I think my strength lies in being the only version of me on earth.
Tell us about your latest single; how it started, what it’s about, and anything else you’d like to share about it.
The last single ‘GHOULS’ came about when I was listening back to some music that I loved from when I was younger. This Sydney band Ghoul used to be around in the early 2000s and I loved their style and the lead singers lyrics so much.
The song reinterprets the lyrics from one of their songs ‘Swimming Pool’. The lyrics were so beautiful but at the time I didn’t understand what drew me to them.
Then I started to mess around with them and I really felt this sense of unrequited longing that the song brings about.
I tried to use the same feelings to express how sometimes I wished to live a life that was free from the issues that seemed to be never-ending for me and people like me. Issues that black and brown people all over the world didn’t create but have to live with the effects of.
What are five attributes you think an artist needs to have in order to have career longevity in this music industry?
Determination, curiosity, honesty, personality, and vision. There are a lot of things that an artist needs to survive in the music industry, like thick skin and an inner compass, but for longevity, I’d say those 5 for sure.
Why do you make music? What’s your great big ‘why’?
Even though I put a lot of thought and effort into my music, it also feels like the easiest thing in the world for me to do, and I’ve never felt that way about anything else.
What’s something that you’re really excited about right now?
So right now I’m excited for the unknown. What the future holds that the pandemic makes hard to envision.
If we gained access to a few songs you have on repeat at the moment, what would we find?
Right now? Distance by Yebba, Point and Kill by Little Simz and Obongjayar, 1995 by IDK, Sparky by Cruel Santino, Poison by Lancey Foux & Bakar and Shine by Cleo Sol.
What’s something your fans don’t know about you, but you want to share with them?
I have 2 brothers and 2 sisters, I’m an introvert and a Cancer.
What does Apple Music’s support through Up Next mean to you?
I’m really grateful that Apple Music hears something of value in my music because I put so much of myself into it. The recognition is great.
The opportunity to connect to more people through my music is even greater. So it means a whole lot to me. I’m very Thankful!