Fast-rising Afrobeats talent YKB is transforming the Afropop sound one song at a time [@YKBONLY]

Fast-rising Afrobeats talent YKB is transforming the Afropop sound one song at a time [@YKBONLY]

Lagos born YKB is one of Afrobeats’ fast-rising talents. The singer/songwriter is single-handedly transforming the sound of Afropop through his silky, layered vocals and alluring lyrics. Since the release of his 2022 single San Siro, he continued to capture the airwaves with his first single of 2023, Bo Card (Things I Need). With such a strong start to the year, YKB released his sophomore EP, Yusful Music. Ever since YKB caught our attention in 2019, he has continued to carve a lane for himself with his authentic artistic vision and signature style. Find out more about YKB’s refreshing sound and his latest offering, Yusful Music

Bambo: You are one of the artists on the rise at the moment, and your sound is really refreshing. Talk to me about your music, your background and where you were brought up. 

YKB: I was brought up in an economically average area in Lagos called Ketu. I come from an extended family, so my elder sister was like, old enough to be my mum. She raised me with my mom- she’s like a second mom to me. When I was at home, I listened to a lot of Fuji and Apala music, then whenever I went over to my sister’s place, I listened to a lot of American Hip Hop, music. I feel like I found myself in between those two worlds. Rap always has a message in the music while Fuji music also has a message but is very heavy on melodies. I feel like I found myself in between those two worlds, and that’s the line that I tread with my own music. 

Bambo: Okay, cool! So you kind of touched on it already, but what artists were you listening to in particular when you were growing up? 

YKB: Wasiu Ayinde, Lil Wayne, Pasuma and Chris Brown. A lot of mainstream music in America that just got here, I was in front of it because I’ll go to school and see Chris Brown just dropped a new song. You got cool points from knowing stuff like that.

Bambo: Nice! Like I said at the beginning, your sound is really fresh and really different. Who in particular inspired your sound? 

YKB: One person that inspired my sound is Wande Coal. He’s been in the game for over 15 years! He dropped one album called Mushin 2 Mo’Hits. The songs that he put in this album were very experimental and had some elements of Hip Hop. In some songs, he was singing like he was rapping- it honestly blew me away! So, it was Afrobeats, but it was still sweet like the Hip Hop and R&B that I always listened to. Listening to that album showed me that if he (Wande Coal) can do this, I should be able to do that as well. He’s definitely been a very big influence on the style of music that I chose to do. 

Bambo: I knew you as YusufKanbai and all of a sudden, I heard you were now going by YKB. So what inspired you to abbreviate your name? 

YKB: Okay, so it’s just acronyms now, and that’s because YusufKanbai was a mouthful for people- my name was being butchered! I decided to make it easier for you guys. Number two, when I correct them, they’re like, “Oh, what does it mean?” Then I have to start explaining to people. I’m just like, “Let’s make it easier for both of us and go with YKB.” So if you feel like you really want to know what it stands for, you can ask me. I don’t really get as many questions about my name anymore. 

Bambo: You’ve been making music since 2019. Talk to me about working with Zlatan on Dey Your Dey

YKB: Working with Zlatan is one of the best experiences of my career to date. You know, when somebody hits you up and says, “Look, whenever you need a verse, I’m ready!” Then when I have the song that you need a verse on, they respond to you on time! He will call me and say, “Where are you? Let’s go out.” He was trying to gauge my energy and make sure that the music we are making would connect. You get what I’m saying? So we became friends because he loved my music. He helped me with a bunch of stuff. 

Bambo: Amazing! You dropped an EP in 2021 called Before I Blow. What were you going through when you were making the project and what inspired you to make this EP in the first place? 

YKB: Downtimes! It’s a combination of the way I felt during that period. This first song is called Wake Up, which means I need to wake up. I need to ginger myself, I need to start doing my own thing. The last track called VN 2 Demola, is a voice note I sent to my friend when I finally made the decision that I was going to take music more seriously and put a pin on photography for a while because this is what I really want to do in my life. You know, in the early stages of music, things don’t always go to plan. When you’re an artist that doesn’t know how to produce, you have to look for beats, you have to beg people to come to their studio. I’m like, you know what? Let me just get my own equipment, try harder and start doing this by myself. Before I Blow is just a story of a boy who just recently made the decision to start doing music for real. 

Bambo: Nice. So we’re going to move on to talking about your newest EP, Yusful Music, which is amazing! Before the project dropped, you dropped the singles Bo Card and San Siro. For anyone who who hasn’t listened to this project, what is this project about? 

YKB: This project is the sweetest project  from any young Nigerian creative. This project is a really personal project. It’s basically me keeping a journal of what it’s like to be a young African creative. From track one to track five, there is a range of emotions that most- if not all of every- African can relate to. I feel like the response I’ve been getting are mostly from people that are able to relate. I really like when my music connects with people. 

Bambo: Talk to me about your song Pressure. I read on your Apple Music breakdown of Yusful Music that making this song was a release for you. Why did you think it was important to touch on personal family drama or issues and be so open about it as well? 

YKB: I have a friend called Finito and he’s a producer. He lives on the outskirts of Lagos. One time I spoke with him, we met somewhere and he told me he has a nine-to-five job now. He’s such a talented producer. I was like, “Bro, why do you have a nine-to-five?” Well, at the end of the day, I mentioned him in the song, but I actually took it out because that’s his story to tell. Shortly after that, my sister and my mom were telling me I needed to do something else so I can start making money and play my part as a son. You feel me? When I heard that, it weighed me down. The beat just spoke to me, and I just started freestyling. In fact, I did not intend for the song to drop. I just wanted to make a good song. When I played it for my manager, he loved it! At first, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to tell this story but, I realised that this is what music is for. That’s my job as an artist. 

Bambo: What has kept you so motivated to keep making music over the past couple of years? Especially when you were kind of dealing with what your family was saying about your career?

YKB: Music is sweet! Also, I’ve just always believed that being a musician is one of the most prestigious jobs to have in the world. God created the angels to sing and worship him – that goes to show how much God loves music. If God puts you as a human being on this earth in that same position that he blessed you with the skill to be able to do it, then he already won. I understand that I have to function in this economy, in this reality, but I also feel like I’m an employee for God, and I’d rather do his work selflessly you know? 

Bambo: Okay, that’s really cool, actually. So where would you like to see your career go over the next year or so? 

YKB: Man, that’s actually a difficult question for me to answer because I know this might sound cliche, but I’m the kind of person that just lives for right now. I’m more worried about what’s going on right now because it’s only when moments pass that we realise how special it was. 

I want to be one of the few people who cherishes the moment as it is passing and to be able to do that, thinking about what you want to see in the next year or next three years can be distracting. I’m just going to keep following my lights and see where it goes. 

Bambo: What has been your highlight of 2023 so far both musically and personally?

YKB: My highlight of 2023 musically has been meeting Spax. Spax was the executive producer of my project, Yusful Music. Meeting Spax really elevated my taste in music. Personally, one of my highlights has been my sister loving the song Pressure on my project. I mentioned my sister in the beginning of the song and I’m just happy she liked the record I made out of that situation. Personally, I feel like that has been a W (win) for me with my family. 

Bambo: What should we look forward to from you for the rest of the year? 

YKB: I’ll be doing shows! I’m going to be having my own show, performing my songs live. I’m also going to collaborate more because there was no collaboration on this project-  I just wanted to get out of the way. Now I want to mix my energy with other people’s energy. 

Photography Credit: Buchi Files (Featured Image) UNEARTH

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