The new movement that
promises to change the face
of Nigerian music forever
“Temi Dollface is the Joan of Arc of Nigerian music.” So proclaims Ikon, who is sitting to my right in a Lagos hotel bar. Temi Dollface, sitting to my left, blushes sweetly. He’s not wrong. As the first lady of The Collectiv3, she and the rest of the eight-strong group of independent musicians and producers are leading the charge into new territory that goes beyond mainstream naijapop and battles for authentic sounds that speak to a global audience. This ambitious rallying cry rings true on their self-titled debut album, which is available as a free download and offers up cutting edge music in a scene often chastised for commercial mediocrity.
“Nigeria’s official country motto is ‘Unity and Diversity’ but there’s not much of that in the music industry right now,” says Temi. “The Collectiv3 is a movement of artists who share a creative telepathy and are coming together to stand up and make a difference. There’s a kinship you can hear in the music.”
Ikon first came up with the idea of an alternative supergroup over three years ago. “I wanted to unite likeminded artists who push the envelope and call it Free Spirits but it didn’t happen because of all the individual projects we had going on,” the Syndik8 Records founder recalls. “So fast forward to this year and we’re still collaborating. Then Chin (Okeke, executive producer and A&R for the project) got involved and successfully played the part of the suit. As musicians we’re always spending time tweaking songs and being perfectionists. So he came in and said ‘Look, let’s stop jamming and put this stuff out!’”
"We are artists who share a creative
telepathy and are coming together to stand
up and make a difference. There’s a kinship
you can hear in the music"
The album dropped on Nigeria’s Independence Day (1 October) and features nine tracks by the all-star line-up. While Temi brings her special blend of drama soul, Ikon serves as the lynchpin producer. “When we first met in the studio in 2011, something clicked because he stays true to his vision regardless of what’s going on around him,” says Temi of their longstanding working relationship. Now it’s time for Ikon to blush. “He is also an artist – he doesn’t think he can sing but he can, and he’s a great rapper as well.” The duo kick off the album confidently with Akintunde, which declares Ikon king over xylophone house beats.
Rap duo Show Dem Camp aka Tec and Ghost contribute Shey Bai, a stealthy slice of grown up hip hop that epitomises why they have gained critical acclaim since starting out in 2009. “Their music goes beyond borders. Hear it anywhere and you’ll be like, that’s dope,” says Ikon. Producer Kid Konnect comes with the grand yet irresistibly bouncy track Judgement featuring Nneka, M.Anifest and Loose Kanyon. “He’s not what you expect. An amazing beat maker and wonderfully nuts,” confides Temi. Vocalists Funbi and Poe unite for two cheeky songs, Sexy B%$ch and Adore Her. Ikon met Poe through SDC and describes his valued addition to the unit “a no brainer” and has been developing Funbi for a while now, these being his first official releases. “He’s a cross between Chris Brown and Michael Jackson but with this afro punk sound that’s fresh and different.” Accomplished guitarist and producer Nsikak ends the album with the suitably upbeat and hazy Happy Day.
The album reveals the story of contemporary life in a global city. Tales of clubbing and carousing, of love and lust, of the high life and the streets flow over traditional rhythms, soulful chords and acoustic rock flourishes reflecting the group’s shared influences and experiences. Think D’Angelo and Mos Def hitting the town alongside Fela Kuti and James Brown, with Amy Winehouse and Meshell Ndegeocello along for the ride. “We’re making timeless music that in a few years will still be relevant. This isn’t throwaway pop,” says Temi. “And we’re giving a voice to those coming after us who also don’t feel like they fit into any existing mould. It’s okay to be radical even if it’s not popular yet. This is our message of hope.”
So far roundly received, The Fader invited Ikon to do a mix while Naija blog Being Honest declared The Collectiv3 an “outburst of cultural pride”. The next chapter will be music videos and live shows starting this Christmas in Lagos. "This is about telling our stories our way and sharing that message with as many people as possible. That means getting on the road. Next year we’re touring Africa, Europe and the US,” says Chin.
While they also all continue to work on their own separate releases – Ikon has his new ThreeWiseMen project while Temi is finishing up an EP - The Collectiv3 looks set to take centre stage for all of them. In the same vein as Tyler, The Creator’s Odd Future or Janelle Monae’s Wondaland, there is strength in numbers so you will hear them roar.