Myths always have the power to work their way into reality. From Greek mythology to lesser-explored origin stories, everything that is written today is a reworking of our founding narratives. Cue Midas The Jagaban – the self-proclaimed Joker Herself – who emerged via the Internet in 2020, like royalty from a long forgotten myth, with a unique fusion of Afrobeat, pop and dancehall inspired sounds. A legend in the making with no face, Midas conquered bodies and ears worldwide with Come We Bill Ehh and Party With a Jagaban, tracks that took TikTok and Spotify by storm, with over 100M streams combined. Hailing from South London, from down Lewisham and Greenwich ways, Midas The Jagaban fuses London sounds with her Nigerian heritage, walking in the footsteps of masters of the singer-songwriters of Nigeria, from Fela Kuti, to stars Wande Coal and Olamide as well as Afrobeats newgen such as Wizkid and Burna Boy. She raps and sings in English, her native Yoruba and Nigerian Pidgin, exploring her family’s roots, as well as bringing her own generation’s stories to the mix.
Always appearing masked, Midas The Jagaban brings infectious dance beats to life, mixed with her newly discovered more intense references, like techno beats that she discovered while working more recently in Amsterdam. All of this is summarised and brought to life in her newly released EP, Midas Touch EP Vol 2: Return Of The Mask, out on Because Music. Schön! caught up with Midas in Paris just after fashion week for the down low on her new EP.
What would you describe Midas’ style as?
I don’t think you can really put Midas in a box – only Pandora’s box, maybe. Midas is a bit crazy like that. I would say experimental. Midas doesn’t necessarily have a gender, and comes in whatever shape.
Is this changeability what allows people to project?
Yeah, it’s more collaborative, because it’s a blank canvas, it taps into people’s imagination, so we can do really crazy shit, kinda vibe. It’s fun.
You grew up between two cultures – you were born in London into a Nigerian family. How did it define you?
South London is where I grew up – although we would often go visit family in Nigeria. I feel lucky to have been born in a place like London, we’ve been able to keep a line and a connection to our culture. Our parents instilled our culture, even though we were being brought up in London, we were being brought up according to how my parents had been. It’s definitely a wider perspective: it looks at the culture in London and using those teachings, as well as letting us see more and want to do more.
In terms of music, what did you listen to growing up?
There was a lot of ‘90s Hip Hop. My cousins, then, introduced me to tunes like TLC, Notorious B.I.G. – just the kind of jingles you can dance to. I remember when I went to secondary school, I was surrounded by a lot of girls, and I was with girls that looked more like me in terms of my skin tone, and they introduced me to the Afrobeats. That’s when I started listening to guys like Don Jazzy, Olamide, Wizkid, Meddy, there was a bunch of artists from Nigeria, and it made us feel connected.
Then pop obviously, like Lady Gaga, the pop sounds that stick with you. All those sounds came together to influence me. I would say Wande Coal, Burna Boy, Olamide are my main refs.
When did you make your move into music?
I don’t think there was ever a moment when I clearly decided to move into it – I think, like with everyone, there was a time after school when I was still a teenager that I thought, “OK, what am I doing with my life?” I wasn’t the education kinda type, I was more creative. When all my friends went to uni, I started to discover things I liked. One of them was music and producing, sounds and freestyling on them. When you’re working alone, you might feel it’s good but you want feedback on it. So I can remember just wearing a mask and then putting freestyles on Instagram. A guy from East London, from the year below me, took me into the studio and then it went from there.
What does the mask give you?
It almost allows me to separate myself from the work. It’s an outlet, it’s like a multiverse when I put it on. Different people, different places, different faces. I immerse myself in it, almost like an anime.
From the beginning of Midas The Jagaban, did you know you wanted to be masked?
It wasn’t necessarily a thing I knew would go anywhere, I almost wanted to keep it to myself at the beginning. Almost subconsciously, I wore the mask, not knowing I was going to blow. After the music blew, people were, like, “You might as well show your face”. I think it was always more than that. It allowed me to explore exactly what the music was.
Is there a link to the significance of masks in Yoruba culture?
When I was younger, there was an artist in Nigeria called Lagbaja and he used to hide his face. To this day I don’t know what he looks like.
He used to hide his face with material, you could only see his eyes and lips. He’d scare children, almost like a masquerade. Seeing that as a child was scary but I was intrigued. I still wanted to listen, and still danced to him. It makes sense to me now, as I’m slightly older, why he wore the mask. People have asked me if I’m related to him. It’s very rare, especially in Nigeria, unless it’s in a traditional context, to come out wearing a mask.
Afrobeats has evolved over the past few years – what have you noticed?
When COVID happened, everything changed for everyone. Everyone was in the same boat. It opened the door to something new. Everyone was eager and open for something new – that energy, that vibe, because it was kind of like we’d lost everything at the time. I just feel like we’re in an age where people are more open to it.
You blew up with Party Like a Jagaban via the internet – what is your relation to the internet, social media?
It’s crazy, because when the songs would go viral, I wouldn’t know. I remember, when we finished Come We Bill Ehh, it was the guy who we recorded it in the studio with, he showed it to his friends and they danced to it. It went viral, and I didn’t realise until the week after.
With Party With a Jagaban, I would go on socials and would do lives from the studio. A song would be known before it came out – so Party With a Jag, they got it off the live and it grew organically.
Does it feel weird, sometimes?
I was walking past people in a train once, and there were people listening to Party With a Jagaban, and wouldn’t know it was me because of the mask. I could just sit there and watch, kinda vibe, and take it in.
Your new EP – Midas Touch EP Vol 2: Return Of The Mask – is coming out today. Who did you work with on this EP?
There’s definitely some new producers on there – guys like Ebenezer and Cadenza, and new guys that I’ve worked with. The main producer on the EP is someone you’ll have heard before on other tracks, ThisizPeace, working on the tunes.
There’s also new visuals coming out, before the year is out. With videos, it’s very much collaborative. You have the song, you have the idea, and I enjoy working with directors who have a creative vision to collaborate with. Working in Nigeria is the most fun, because it’s so free.
The current single is called MA JO LO, I think it’s unexpected, I’m excited to see what people take it in. The whole idea is Midas Touch – different kinds of beats that have turned to gold. So yeah, man. It’s a vibe.
Midas Touch EP Vol 2: Return Of The Mask is out now on Because Music.
Special Thanks to Lola Braux @ Because Music, Apollonia Forlani @ Pascale Venot