MAG

Interview: Godflow

 

Photo by @eastsidesh00ter

 

A conversation with @flowknows at OUTTALINE Studio 11/05/2018. Interview by @conordunner.

Your parents did they listen to a lot of music? What has the influence been from your parents?

I come from and African background. So on the Afro side, what’s really funny is that I first wanted to get into production to make Afrobeats. I have a very good friend of mine, Just Ice, shoutout Just Ice. When I first met him he was an Afrobeats artist. The first time I seen his computer and his MIDI keyboard, I was like ‘what are you doing’ and he was like ‘I’m making a song, I produce.’ He played me this beat and I was like ‘woah, this is amazing.’

Then he showed me his song and I was like, ‘you did this’ and he was like ‘yeah.’ That’s when I fell in love with it, and I was like ‘okay let me try this,’ because I love music too. Bro I could not produce Afrobeats for shit, I stunk at it. I gave up, I was like ‘screw this.’ 

Another day he saw me, and he asked why I wasn’t practicing. He gave me a tip, he asked what I listen to. I said I listened to Hip-Hop and R&B. So he was like ‘try and produce that, if that’s what you know, produce that.’ So I produced that, and perfected that. Now trying to learn Afrobeats became easier. 

So then with the influence from my parents, listening to those cultural songs with the type of drums I’m making for that type of song, I basically took my African side and the Hip-Hop side and I’ve been making Afro-Swing. They’re not really African sounds. It’s like the African melody with hard hitting drums, giving it that swing. 

Where in Africa are you from?

I’m Nigerian. 

At your house is it very Nigerian culturally? What’s your household like? Growing up especially. 

My family is a very unique type of African house. We’re African, and although we understand customs and stuff, our parents never really forced that upon us. What I’m trying to say is, we have very open minded parents. Thinking about it, I am an aspiring producer, and my parents know what I do. Natural African parents would never accept it. ‘What do you mean you’re producing? Go to school,’ you know? A very strict type of household. My household wasn’t like that at all. Absolutely not like that. So to them I’m very grateful. Growing up in school, me and my siblings grew up like any other kid in North America. 

How many siblings do you have? 

I have two siblings, a younger brother and a younger sister. 

You’re the eldest. How much younger are they?

Sister is two and a half years younger and my brother is 5 years, he’s a 2000. 

Whole new millennium. 

Bro you have no idea. 

Are they into art and music?

Definitely, definitely. Especially my sister, she’s a big influence to how my sounds have evolved. 

Naturally we’re an athletic house. I was an athlete, I played basketball and soccer. My little brother is a real prodigy, he just came back from Cleveland, they were at the Nike showcase for soccer. They came first too. 

What team?

He plays for Etobicoke, Etobicoke Energy. They played Barcelona B, and other European teams. So he’s really killing it in that. 

Do they also do anything artistically?

Nah not really. My brother is really into sports, and my sister is like a genius. She’s studying Medicine at Guelph right now. We’re a very dynamic household in that sense. 

So you’re killing it with production, your brother is a prodigy in soccer, and your sister is going to be a doctor studying medicine. Clearly the formula is pretty effective, describe to me the formula to how you were raised. 

We were raised to harness our talents, our parents always told us. It’s that same thing I was saying about. In my household, if you have a talent, if you’re good at something, you have to perfect it. Do it, because that’s a talent given by God, you don’t just waste it. Every single person is unique and talented in their own way. Some people aren’t trying to tap into their talent, and when you figure it out it’s like ‘nah it’s too much hard work,’ you know? You settle. You want to harness that talent and be great. You can still make a great living from doing what you want to do. 

In my family I’ve always been artistic growing up. Every part of art, so I can sketch, I can draw. So when I was younger I was in an arts program, a scholarship program. So I’m really talented in art, and with time I started dipping and dabbing in photoshop, video editing… People who know me are not surprised that I’m producing. I’ve always been artistic. My boys, when I told them I’m producing they were like ‘aight’, there was no ‘what the fuck?’

Were they supportive then?

Definitely, my boys are definitely supportive. I have some really dope friends around me who I really appreciate. Those are the blessings that people don’t see, you know? The people you have around you.

Underrated. Some people don’t take in how important your friends are to you. They influence you, you have to allow that influence very carefully. 

Trust me.

Meeno's  single ' Iceland ' produced by Godflow

Meeno's single 'Iceland' produced by Godflow

Describe your evolution as an artist. Starting with what you’re doing in school, drawing and painting, was that your first exposure to being artistic or were you doing it at home?

My mother was a dress designer, back in Nigeria, back home. My mother used to sketch clothes, that was her thing. So I guess that artistic gene came from my mother. 

Apparently from when I was a kid, I was great with a pen. I started drawing at the age of three. I started school at like two, really early. Our culture is that, as soon as a baby can walk, the baby is smart enough to start school. That’s our little tribal thing, like rights of passage. So I started walking really early, and my dad didn't waste time. Straight into school, starting to develop my fingers. I’ve always been great at drawing, thanks to my mother, she’s really artistic. I remember seeing her old sketches and bro it’s dope. After my sister was born she gave it up to take care of her kids. So I get it from my mother, definitely. 

Describe producing as an artistry.

To me producing as an artistry, it’s the full package. Realistically speaking a producer can rap on their own if they wanted to, they can sing on their own if they wanted to. The fact that we don’t do that, it plays such a big role into how the music is made. Your producer creates that sound, that vibe, that memory, that feel, that emotion. That’s such a special type of art to me. 

And that influence for you comes from Timbaland mostly?

Yeah definitely. Timbaland and Swizz Beatz. Especially those two, the way they produce… I don’t use the term ‘genius,’ but it’s amazing. The way their game works, at their time, that sound in music was so special to me. 

What are your thoughts on the producer as an artist in 2018?
 
Not every producer is a producer, in a sense. Being a beat-maker and a producer are different.
 
Very different.
 
Anyone can make a beat, a beat’s simple. But to be a producer and to produce a record, it’s more than just making a beat. It’s can you drive a record? Can you be a part of the songwriting? 
 
That’s what separates all the other individuals. [People] that can do that definitely can get to that level. Timbaland was always with his artists making the record. He didn’t just make a beat, send it and left. No he’s in the studio, he’s guiding the hook, he’s guiding recording, he’s working on the bridge with the artists. That’s how the relationship has always been, but it seems with the whole new age of technology, and guys just sending guys beats, that link is now broken. That’s why you have all the producer-artist beef.
 
It’s decentralized. You used to be working with people who you knew.
 

And you worked together. Producers, engineers, everyone used to work in collaboration. Nowadays with technology, you don’t have to always be in the same space.
 
But I definitely think that striving to be my own artist in a sense, where I feature individuals on my records. That’s definitely where I’m going.
 
Would you want to be in videos the way Timbaland was? 
 
Definitely, but that all comes with relationships. When I first started producing, a lot of people started asking ‘why don’t you have a YouTube page or a website where you could sell [beats] online?’ 

That just devalues my talent, what’s the point of, you know, putting so much work and soul into something, and then having someone buy it for twenty bucks online. It’s like, I’d rather sacrifice making money at such a small rate, to perfect my craft so it’s worth something. You know, to work with an artist. Let’s sit in the studio, let’s bounce our ideas, mind to mind. Let’s see what we can create, and in turn, that has more value.
 
With that being said, that’s how you build relationships so then guys will be like ‘yo bro come be in the video, you’re a part of this.’ To be in those videos you need to be a part of the records.
 
With choosing your path as a producer and not going the ‘type beat’ way or selling your beats online, what made you choose to work with artists in person? Is that just who you are? Like, is it something you picked up on early, ‘I’m a people person, I like real life relationships, I can’t do this online shit,’ so that’s why you chose it?  
 
It’s a bit of both, that’s just who I am. It’s good to know who you work with. And also, being strategic, to be honest with you, I’m not afraid or ashamed to say it. This industry is very tricky, and you have to be able to out-smart and out-wit yourself, because those are the people who survive. You’ve got the biggest artists we’ve ever had and their teams are a bunch of brilliant individuals who are able to really use the game to their advantage. 

So I realized that if I just perfected my craft, worked with artists who had a strong base. In turn, I can see more success in the long run than if I just had a beat page online. So now that beat page online is only pushed by whoever wants to come in and buy a beat. Understand that if you’re working with strong up-and-coming artists... What I mean by strong is people who have a platform. They have managers, they have deals with record labels. Yeah, you haven’t made it yet but you’re on the way.
 
You have the infrastructure.
 
Exactly, so after perfecting your craft, because you can’t just hop there when you’re not ready to make music at that level. So after you get there and you build solid relationships with individuals, you can only go up. Now imagine you making a record, or that song you created with this up-and-coming guy, and that’s the song that breaks that up-and-coming guy. He now has fealty to you because you guys did this together.
 
And his whole team.
 
There you go. That’s definitely why I took this approach. More success in the long run, I’m always about ‘not today,’ but the next ten years, twenty years. How can you plan to do things? They say goals with no actions are just dreams, if you want to achieve a goal, you gotta do certain things to achieve the goal. You can’t just sit there and say ‘I want to be a producer, I want to be great.’ You’ve gotta go meet people, get in contact, try to get meetings. I see a lot of producers all they do is sit behind their laptops, at their home studio, staying online. No, you’ve got to go to studios, go places. That’s my approach to it.
 
Would you say in that choice, you made the choice to have a career?
 
Definitely, if I’m gonna do this let me do this. I don’t really believe in hobbies, you have a purpose. God gives everyone a gift, right? You have to find your gift and you have to harness it. I grew up in a family that strongly believes in that.
 
That’s a good thing to believe in.
 
Yeah, if you have a gift. Use that gift to the best of your abilities.

Video for Meeno’s ‘No Sleep’ produced by Godflow.

You were talking before about how you consciously want to make certain sounds. I’m curious to know, when you’re trying to develop a sound like an Afro-RnB, are you doing research into those genres to get your ear in tune to what you would want to pick from each to fuse them together? Is there a conscious research process? If there is can you elaborate on it?

I wouldn’t say that it’s indepth research, but you have to understand both parts of the genres. What separates music from different genres is honestly tempo, it’s not always sound. Hip-Hop in this generation has a tempo, from the 120s to the 160s and that’s it probably. RnB ranges from about 90 to 110, Afrobeats can go from 70 to 103. Once you understand how tempos work, you can take everything and mesh it together. 

You’re still right though you have to study because naturally each genre comes from a set of chords. RnB chords are much much different than Afrobeats type of chords. Understanding music theory of all genres, it helps with the whole creative process. Makes it more cohesive. 

Where do you get your background in music? Is it all self-taught?

The majority is self-taught but there are influences too. Growing up I used to live in the States in California.

Oh really? Where?

In Oakland. 

Okay so take me through when you were born in Lagos to where you are now.

So I moved when I was 4 to Atlanta. I lived in Atlanta for about a year and then we moved to Oakland. I was there for like 6 years growing up. That was my adolescence.

My influences were definitely heavy from my cousins. They were into really urban Hip-Hop, so Lil Wayne, Juelz Santana, Dipset, 50 Cent. That was my first exposure to Hip-Hop. And the Dirty South, like old TI, Big Things Poppin’ TI. That’s when I fell in love with Hip-Hop. Lil Wayne is my favorite rapper of all time.

What’s the best Lil Wayne project?

Oh the Carter II! Two and Three.

We’ll go with era, that’s a good era. Especially the mixtapes in between. 

Best rapper alive bro! Lil Wayne is my guy. 

So you were in Oakland for six years, you came here when you were how old?

Eleven. 

Regarding the hip-hop influence from your cousins, do you still keep in contact with music now? Are you still exchanging music?

I haven’t seen them since we moved here. But those cousins who influenced me, we talk online here and there. Not as much as it [was]. Growing up they were trying to mould me. 
 
How much do you feel the network that you’ve built has come by chance? Has a lot happened by chance or have people specifically said ‘I want you to meet this person’ and now you’re being connected? Or is it random?
 
Where I am right now, it wasn’t by chance. I got introduced to the Friyie and Don Meeno camp through one of their friends K.dot, who I knew from high school. When I first started producing I was just playing my beats on Instagram and Snapchat. He would always watch it. I go live on Instagram so people can see me make beats live, see my creative process. 

One day he hit me up like ‘yo bro send me a couple of your beats, I think they’re sick. I might link you with people.’ So I send him beats, and right after he hit me up. That’s Kevin Cole, now we’re working on breaking him as an artist. He hit me back like ‘bro you gotta come to the studio’, and I used to be sort of reluctant, I thought I wasn't ready to start working at an actual studio. The only studios I knew were in people’s basements and stuff. I didn’t think I was ready to go to actual studios. 

So the one time I actually go is when I met Friye’s camp. The whole entire thing [was] that he just wanted me to meet Friye, but that day was the day Friye flew to Las Vegas to go meet Floyd Mayweather. So by chance I didn’t even meet Friye that night, but I met other guys in his camp. I missed Friye but it was still a blessing because I linked up with one of the artists named Paper, he goes by Kwame Pay.

He made a song, and the song he made, he featured Friye. He told me when Friye heard the beat he was like ‘this shit is crazy.’ I have the song here too I can definitely show you. So he thought the beat was crazy, and the song came out absolutely dope. So guys in their camp were like ‘yo who made this beat,’ I guess they had never heard a song like that before. I kept getting calls back to the studio. 

What’s funny you could say about chance is that, the whole intention was for me to meet Friye, and work with Friye, but every time I’d go to the studio I’d miss him, we never linked up at the studio. The first time I met Friye was at a hotel downtown. He’d just flew back from the States, and Paper was like ‘he’s here, come to the hotel now.’ Something in the back of my head was like ‘bro just go.’ So I just went. Me and Two Tone made beats until ten o’clock in the morning, I got there at like 2am. Now I get referred from them to other people. 

So it all comes down to one friend from high school. 

Yeah that one guy Kevin Cole. I shoutout to him all the time, he’s the one. If he didn’t put me on like ‘bro come here’ I wouldn’t even be here. Shoutout to Kevin.

As you evolve as an artist, how much do you want to be involved with the evolution of the genre?

To me, how I view it is: If the era chooses me, then that’s going to happen. If it doesn’t, it’s okay. That’s something that I cannot control. If this era chooses me to be one of the individuals that helps to shape it one day, then so be it. That’s all I’m going to say for that.

It’s a fate thing.

Absolutely, if the era wants me. If I’m chosen, and that’s destiny or fate, then so be it. I’m definitely up for the challenge. 

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We made a playlist of some of our favorite tracks produced by Godflow. You can follow him on Instagram and Twitter