Multidisciplinary artist Azekel is re-defining the concept of Black masculinity. His smooth jazz-like sound and beautiful, often brilliant, lyrics come together harmoniously to take back the narrative of what it means to be Black and in love. “We’re in a time now where to speak about love is synonymous with being vulnerable. It irks me. To talk about love as a man comes from a place of strength,” he tells Schön!
The Nigerian-British singer-songwriter was raised surrounded by Afrobeats but ventured to create his own sweet blend of the music he grew up listening to. “There was a lot of Afrobeat, a lot of Fela Kuti, Lauryn Hill and Marvin Gaye,” he shares. When Azekel moved to London from Abuja, he got introduced to rock music. “I liked listening to David Bowie and also Jimi Hendrix,” he says. Today his music is largely an extension of his African-British heritage with elements of soul, smooth jazz, and R&B.
His fifteen-track mixtape Analyze Love was recorded in London and Ghana during the COVID-19 lockdown. Through both fate and destiny, it was released under Nigerian star Mr Eazi’s label EmPawa Africa. “The tape ended up with Mr Eazi through a connection. Mr Eazi loved it and the partnership happened from there.” Empawa Africa was the perfect platform for Analyze Love says Azekel. “It felt good to work with a partner from Africa. A lot of the collaborators on the tape are from the African diaspora. I actually finished the tape in Ghana and it enabled me to work with more creatives from West Africa whilst I was out there.”
The British-Nigerian artist recalls the impact COVID-19 lockdowns had on the conception of the tape. “It was around the time when a lot of relationships were pulled apart. We couldn’t really be so close with each other, there was a lot of introspection that happened [during] that time. There were different vibes that got me analysing the relationships around me, whether it be romantic love, sexual love, comradery or parental love,” he says.
Analyze Love was just as heavily informed by the topic of Black masculinity. “Being a Black British artist, it’s always in one gaze: hyper masculine and hyper aggressive” he shares. The focus on hyper-masculinity in music has existed for generations but shifting the narrative is one of the biggest influences on Azekel’s latest music. “Masculinity is being redefined now. I feel like there’s strength in expressing one’s emotions. There is definitely a time to be stoic but I recognise there’s also a time to be expressive and to be passionate. It’s a really good thing.”
Azekel’s latest mixtape ‘Analyze Love‘ is out now.
photography + fashion. AZAZEL
makeup. Kylee Hanes
words. Shivani Somaiya
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