The rising alté star talks to Nataal about his new mixtape, Dnt'dlt
Certain that the mood of his recent release Paris! would best be conveyed by an abstract urbanscape, and not having been to Paris himself, Aylo (stylised as AYLØ) presented himself with an interesting challenge for the accompanying video. This exciting genre-fluid Lagosian artist felt that going to Paris would have been conceptually lazy. So tapping into the same creative source from which his rich and complex music has emerged, Aylo partnered with Candles Film to recreate a gritty black-and-white au Parisienne aesthetic in Lagos.
In one of the opening scenes, he walks in the darkness towards what appears to be a bus stop, and joins a young woman waiting in the dim light. The placelessness of the backdrop most certainly could be a two-tone, intimate version of the French capital. But at this stage of the video, ones senses are already firmly attuned to the ambient and hazy beat infrastructure - created with Le Mav and Odunsi The Engine - that lead on to Aylo’s unmistakable vocals. His crooning is as effortless as we have come to expect but more refined, rising for the highs and dropping for the lows like a gentle wave. The notes are underlined by a groovy relaxed mood throughout, making it a track one wants to spend time with.
Born in 1994 in Benin City, Nigeria, Aylo grew up listening to his mother's gospel and his father's jazz collections, as well as rap and soul music from his uncles. His influences range from afrobeat legend Fela Kuti via DMX and Andre 3000 to Whitney Houston, Sade, Herbie Hancock and Soulection. However, It was J. Cole’s music that ultimately led Aylo into making his own music. Key releases such as Island Girl and Gardens highlight his sustained exposure to such a rich and diverse musical archive.
Today Aylo’s music is attributed to the alté scene, a new movement that has been consistently raising the bar and casually shattering the standards many had come to expect for artists from Lagos, and from Nigeria more generally. Aylo, whose music straddles alternative R&B, neo soul and hip hop, believes that “everyone has their journey with music - things that drive them to approach music the way they do or create the way they do.”
“DNT DLT cuts across whatever energy falls within the spectrum of the purpose of human existence””
While genres are useful in terms of highlighting fresh directions in music, especially disruptive ones such as alté, their shelf-life can be short, and they soon become prescriptive, obscuring the individual journeys that artists often have to take with their work, a sentiment that Aylo shares. “I think alté is a general word that people use to describe the wave of sound coming from Nigeria right now, [but] the overall scene doesn’t shape me in that sense,” he says. Instead Aylo is committed to bypassing labels by focussing on what really matters, his craft.
Dnt'dlt, his newest mixtape dropping now, stays true to the organic leanings of his repertoire as a rapper, singer, songwriter and beatsmith. The one constant of this offering is self-confidence. “Every song on the project was born out of something I’ve experienced,” he says. “Dnt'dlt cuts across love, life, death, joy, sadness and whatever energy falls within the spectrum of the purpose of human existence.”
Aylo is in top form in the ten-track tape, featuring Psycho YP and Fassina on the previously released single Sassy as well as MOJO, Sugarbana, and Cheso throughout the release. He tries out new directions with tracks such as I Listen To You featuring smooth piano while on Xozhu and Imwtwotf, we experience Aylo the producer more intensively. Nevertheless, fans will instantly recognise him in City of Lights and Nintendo, which feel like an organic extension to some of his previous work.
As audiences immerse themselves in this long anticipated follow up to his critically acclaimed 2017 album Insert Project Name and his 2016 Honest Conversations EP, he is looking forward to seeing how the reaction will be, and probably even hit the road for a tour. Though fans continue to be a motivating factor for Aylo, his sights are firmly set on making more music, reflecting the constant nature of his musical journey: “Music for me is my expression – it’s personal”.
Dnt'dlt is out 2 August 2019