In the past year I don’t think you’ll find any other artist that has risen to prominence as fast as this man right here, X.O Senavoe. I compare his sharp rising career to a lambogini going from 0 to 100 mph in 6 seconds. Freestyle after freestyle, single after single he has continued to impress the fans massively and given the haters enough stiff arms to cause permanent jaw dislocation. If you never heard of X.O Senavoe, you are REALLY now rocking with X.O Senavoe….whether you like or you no like. LOL.
I was able to catch this cat, (and I mean had to catch him cos he’s a tough one to grab these days) and have a one on one phone session with him.
He discusses his music, his influences, his mindset in the game, and of course we had to ask some personal questions.
His EP X-point-0 is probably one of the most anticipated of 2011, and with the hits he’s dropped so far the high expectation is definitely worth it. Let’s take a journey into Senavoe’s world.
Aribaba: For the people that don’t know who you are (I’m sure not many), tell us a bit about yourself… A little introduction if you will.
X.O Senavoe: Well my name is X.O Senavoe. The Extra-Ordinary, Mr. Extra-Ordinary. (laughs) I’ve been blessed with life and God’s goodness. I happen to be doing music, even though I have many interests and likes, and want to share with the world a little bit of what God has given me.
Aribaba: Where did the name X.O come from? How did you come up with that?
X.O Senavoe: Well I had all these names. I thought about using Senavoe, but I scratched that at first cos I felt like I didn’t want to put that out in music. So after years and years of thinking (laughs) – nah, after a few weeks, so that people wouldn’t mistake me with anyone else, and after Uduak Oduok from Ladybrille used in it in an article, it became ‘the’ name.
My hope was that what I would do with music would and will be extra-ordinary, which is why I chose it. The funny thing is that, since “XOXO” is used by a lot of ladies when they write letters, etc., X.O is easy to remember – which is an added bonus. (laughs) That’s pretty much it.
Aribaba: The general gist pretty much, is that you’ve been in music officially for less than a year. You’ve been a music lover for a while, but what made you just get up and say “ You know what? I’m gonna get into music. I’m gonna try this”
X.O Senavoe: You know people have different stories of how, they grew up singing or rapping and stuff, and evolved and all that. I’ll say that I’ve always loved music. I love rap, but really I’ve just loved and love music. I discovered rap when I was younger, and people would always ask what I thought about this rapper, musician, verse, etc, cos they knew how much I was a fiend.
About a year ago, I decided to make a list. The idea was quite simple: in 5 years if I were to look back at my life, what things would I regret not having done, and music was first on the list. The goal is to maximize God’s talents – and not bury them in the proverbial earth. It’s funny cos nobody… I’ll say about 99% of people that knew me didn’t even know I liked music to that point or that I would start doing music seriously.
So pretty much I decided that I’ll go into it, but more importantly that I’ll be good, great at it. I didn’t want to treat it like something by the way side. If I was gonna do it, I was gonna do it well and be one of the best, if not the best.
Aribaba: I would attest to one of those that knew you way before the rapping. Way back when you were Law School president at Howard. Looking back now, I would never have guessed that you’d be doing what you’re doing now. (laughs)
X.O Senavoe: *laughs* Yea the theory, and often the reality, is that one thing garners more respect. But I’ve always believed it’s not about what you do really but how you do it, and why you do it. It’s all about dignity really.
For example, there was a point where cowries were legal tender – money, right? And whoever had the most cowries was the most revered person in the society. Now that we’ve switched out and we’re no longer using cowries anymore, are you telling me that more that guy is no longer important? Our self-worth should never be tied in to what we (humans) say is important. But, if anything, to how we make the most of the little God gave us. So I don’t think it’s really what you do or what you have, it’s how you do it.
Aribaba: So your first official record, Taxi Music freestyle. (not sure if you had other before that which you wont tell us about laughs). The reception for that was crazy. A lot of people (including myself) were like, whoa!!! I’m sure as an artist, releasing your first recorded material, you dont know what to expect and all. Tell how you felt knowing the reception was great and how that encouraged you to continue.
X.O Senavoe: You know, I’ve never had self-doubt. I mean you know me a bit, and know that I internalize a lot. So I decide in my mind whether I think it’s a good thing or not, all before I even speak about it. I’m a harsh critic on myself. No one harder on me than I am myself, so before I dropped Taxi Music, I hoped that it would not be judged as my first recording, but as good music.
I think one time someone asked M.I at an interview who his favorite rapper was, and he mentioned my name, and at the time I hadn’t even started rapping, and I think it’s cos we shared musical ideas and all that. So based on that, the guys at NotJustOk contacted me, and told me they had heard about me and all that and I should give them a track. At the time I hadn’t even recorded or released anything, but I decided on the way to the studio that I wanted to do something over the “Maybach Music 2” instrumental. That’s why it starts off the way it did “I dropped this in a taxi on my way to Waxi’s …”
I hope I didn’t stray away too much. My point being, it doesn’t matter if it’s the first thing I ever recorded, I still wanted and want it to be great even 5 years from now.
Aribaba: You have a pretty good relationship with Jude Abaga (MI). How did that come about?
X.O Senavoe: I’ve known Jude for a while – and he is simply a brother. He and others belong to a group of friends that I’ve known for a while, all of them very talented. They are all doing great in their fields. So for me it has always been a huge sense of pride to see that he was and is succeeding doing something he loves. It has always been support, initially from afar cos I wasn’t in Lagos (or Jos before that) with him, but it was a lot of support. Told friends about and shared the music, album, and so on. So when it came time for me to get into music, I was thankful that it in a way it wasn’t totally foreign to me.
Aribaba: What Are Your Biggest Influences in music?
X.O Senavoe: I remember, when I was a kid, my father used to have a wide range of music in records. From Simon and Garfunkel to Miriam Makeba. We used to go listen to what we now call “Traditional African Music” which I remain heavily influenced by. You’ll hear a lot of that in my debut album which comes after “XpointO”, my intro tape.
Other Influences include The Ramblers, Stevie Wonder, Big Daddy Kane (I remember that song 411 with Mary J. Blige and Grand Puba), BoyzIIMen, Aerosmith, Erykah Badu, Sam Cooke, Helen Baylor, Biggie, Jay, Nas, Reggie Rockstone, Fela, Yvonne Chaka Chaka and many others. But honestly, I have no one person I pattern myself after.
And I still think Michael Jackson is the greatest musician ever.
Aribaba: Taxi music dropped and it was crazy. Victory came next, The Power, Messy/Messi (Black & Yellow Freestyle), Killing Me & then C4… So what’s next for you?
X.O.Senavoe: Yeah what’s next is “Xpoint0”, the Intro EP/tape. I can’t call it a mixtape cos it’s more than that, but it’s definitely not my debut album. Pretty much it’s like me giving a compilation of music, as an introduction of myself. It’ll have a few unoriginal beats… maybe 3 or so. Besides that everything else will be original, and will be out in a few weeks.
I really just want people to enjoy it. I’m not really trying to prove a point with this – I just want people to enjoy the music, spread it, share it, and so on.
Aribaba: So how do you balance what goes into the EP and what goes into the Album?
X.O Senavoe: I mean, honestly I don’t separate my music like this is A class material and this is B class.
I see it as everything has to be “A” class stuff. The people, the fans, everybody listening deserves the best. I mean if someone were to listen to Xpoint0, I don’t want them to feel like “oh this is just the Intro Tape so he really didn’t go in like he would on an album.” I mean I want it where the EP/Tape could be nominated for Rap Album of the Year and be considered a classic. Just as I want the debut album which will follow to be – Music that anyone can enjoy, whether you’re from the streets of Manilla, Brighton, cruising through New York, Kumasi or in an air-conditioned office in Calabar.
It puts pressure on me though, cos I want both to be great. Not just about being a rapper, but about getting across to people. The major difference is that the debut album will have my core market – West Africa – in mind. I want folks on the street to ask, “Oboy, you get dat XO for der?”
Aribaba: So your next single which should be coming out on Mother’s day (I think) is dedicated to your mother. Can you talk about the song, and what that song means to you?
X.O Senavoe: My Mother was phenomenal. After my father passed when I was about 10, she singlehandedly looked after me and several others who lived with her, and did it all with stoic resilience and a smile. Through multiple cancer bouts and several other setbacks, she remained a source of strength and an example of pure dedication to God. I miss her. “Mama Can You Hear Me” (tentatively titled) is an ode to her and all mothers and women around the world.
Aribaba: Lyrically, you’re being compared to the best. How does that make you feel? It’s like a rookie, being compared to Michael Jordan already. How does that make you feel?
X.O Senavoe: Well … I feel like I’m Michael Jordan. I say that very humbly, but I do. You know, I feel like I’m Michael Jordan but I just started playing in the league. So there’s still a lot to learn. And I’m dedicated to ‘going there’.
Just like I said in Sauce Kid’s track (“Getting To The Money” off the Da Ripoff mixtape) – “Just started rapping so they’ve benefited/ Like Magic Johnson in 1980, a rookie with a ring, and already the stuff of legend”. Magic Johnson came into NBA in 1980, and he won a ring his first year. In his final game, he had 40 points, I believe, as center cos James Worthy ( I think) was injured so Magic had to play center and ended up being the Finals MVP that year.
So it doesn’t really matter how long I’ve been rapping for real. Trust me, I’ve paid dues, and will pay continue to pay dues. What I will do though is always approach it like I’m trying to be the best. In C4, I said “I never claim to be the best …”. But all in all I’m humbled by the fact and appreciate any minute that anyone takes out of their time out to share my music, have blogged discussions, comment one way or the other, about if I’m as good as another, or I’m the best, and so on. I feel like I’m a mustard seed, but with faith to grow.
Aribaba: Where do you think the hip-hop industry will be in the next 5-10 years?
X.O Senavoe: I think it’s the next big thing. Hip-hop has a whole different flavour in Africa and it’s definitely appealing with the success of many hip-hop musicians. But as long as we’re not copying, or trying to be someone else. I’m not trying to be the next anybody, just trying to be me.
The contacts internationally have been great. A lot of people doing stuff abroad are of African decent, and the industry is getting bigger from Naija, Ghana, South Africa etc. I definitely feel like it’s about to be on a whole new level so I’m excited to be a part of it.
Aribaba: So the ladies want to know; Are you single?
X.O Senavoe: (Laugh) Umm, yeah, I’m single man. I appreciate my female fans for real. They show me a lot of love and rep X.O Nation hard! I love them all.
Aribaba: What would you say is you most attractive feature in a woman?
X.O Senavoe: I would say it’s the effortless ability to care. You know some people when they do something for you, they let you know. Like “I did this for you” or “See all the things I’ve done for you,” and all that. But it’s the effortless kind that is attractive. The one that’ll tip the waiter well when you’re looking away, the without-fanfare type. Those that really help somebody when they know they won’t get anything in return, or any cred for it. Obviously being physically attracted to her is important too. I won’t act like I will date someone with my eyes closed. *laughs*. But it really matters to me, for anything long-term, if the person is a genuinely caring person.
Aribaba: So If you weren’t into music, what would you be doing?
X.O Senavoe: *laughs* If I wasn’t into music, I think law would be a nice thing to do. (laughs) I like sports too, so professional sports too dey inside. I play some small b’ball and soccer, so that wouldn’t be bad. I mean I love music a lot so I don’t know if I want to do anything else… *laughs*
Aribaba: Give me your Top 5 songs right now.
X.O Senavoe: Hmm. Currently working on music for Xpoint0 so it’s been tough but some joints I’ve listened to recently:
All I Want Is You – Miguel feat. J Cole,
Never Change – Jay-Z,
Raindrops remix (unreleased) – Tu Face (feat X.O Senavoe),
Say What’s Real – Drake,
Tema Motor Highway Freestyle – Paedae feat. Efya
Aribaba: What would you say you goal is in music? What would you like to be remembered for?
X.O Senavoe: Hmmm (pause) I would like to be … a blessing. Once I’ve achieved all that I wanted to do in music, I’d like for people to have felt blessed, and feel blessed when they listen to my music.
Last Words: I’ve come to notice that when one is an African or linked to the continent, we (mostly Africans) tend to assume that he or she simply cannot be ‘the best’ in the world at something, academic or per other achievements. We assume that there has to be someone somewhere not from or on the continent doing it better, and we confer respect to folks and achievement locally almost always only when they are ‘okay’ed by folks abroad. I think it’s very unfortunate. We can produce the best at anything – where we’re from should only inspire and inform the course, not curtail it. And should show the same love and respect to our own as we would others. Sorry, was just thinking about that. Also, I want to say thank to you, and to everyone who continues to support the way they do. God richly bless you!
Check out some of the best from X.O Senavoe
*** Taxi Music Free Style ***[audio:_Taxi_20Music_NJ.mp3]
*** Power ***[audio:XOthepower_mix.mp3]
Check out X.O Senavoe’s Blog http://senavoe.blogspot.com/