In the ever-evolving world of music, lies the ether to transport us to new realms, evoking emotions and transcending boundaries, there are those rare individuals who transcend the boundaries of genres, defy conventional norms, and imprint their unique sonic fingerprint on the industry. One such luminary is Afrobeats hit-maker, record producer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, bandleader and executive, Gospel Chinemeremu Obi professionally known as GospelOnDeBeatz. With a name that reflects his spiritual roots and a career that epitomizes the power of intentionality, consistency, and transcendence, the 36-year-old Gospel continues to be a driving force in the African music scene.
Gospel’s journey into the world of music commenced at the tender age of 7 when he first picked up the drums, followed by his foray into the world of keyboards. Growing up as a pastor’s child, he was deeply rooted in gospel music, which served as an early inspiration. However, as his production career unfolded, he recognized the need to expand his musical horizons beyond gospel and delve into the intricacies of various genres, allowing him to work with artists from diverse backgrounds and musical styles. The intentional pursuit of diverse musical influences would become a hallmark of his signature sound.
In the early stages of his career, GospelOnDeBeatz immersed himself in Nigeria’s vibrant music scene. He collaborated with emerging artists, honing his skills and building a reputation for his ability to craft infectious beats. His understanding of the local music landscape, combined with his innovative production techniques, set him apart and caught the attention of industry insiders. His track records of solid hits like Davido’s “All of You” of his “Omo Baba Olowo” album; Patoranking’s club banger, “No Kissing Baby”, and Praiz’s & Wizkid’s infectious jam, “Sisi” amongst many others top records earned him great reputation. Even after over a decade he is still much respected and sought after because of his in-depth understanding of music across borders, genres and demography as seen with the trust big brands like Budweiser have in him, making him their record producer & music director for their hugely successful music show ‘Budweiser Smooth King Remix’ Show.
In this exclusive interview with Rayo Kasali, he spoke about his ability to weave sonic tapestries that captivate listeners’ hearts and minds, exploring the influences that shaped his odyssey, his creative process, and his unwavering commitment to pushing the boundaries of sound and his new works which include a new book which serves as a lighthouse to up and coming hit-makers.
What music influenced your journey?
Being a pastor’s child, I grew up being inspired by gospel music, lots of them, until I delved into music production and realized that as a producer I would be working with different artists from different walks of life, different genres, different music types and patterns, and I had to put up the time and study other genres beyond gospel music.
Why did you decide to use ‘GospelOnDeBeatz’?
Gospel is my real name; my parents being pastors influenced that. When I started my career as music producer I realized that in this industry you have to have a stage name, a name that stands out, plus my name was not common in the music world, and it had more purpose, and meaning to my work and I decided to stick with the name.
What city did you grow up in?
I grew up in a place called Yanya in Abuja. Big shout out to all my friends in Yanya, I went to school there and did all my life as a teenager there until I moved.
Where are you from?
I am from Imo State, I’m of Igbo origins but I grew up in the North.
Who are the producers who influenced your decision to produce music?
TY Mix highly influenced me when I got into music production. Big shout out to TY Mix, he allowed me to learn under him as a mentee. As I grew in my music production career I became so much inspired by Don Jazzy. I can remember back in the day when I picked up Wande Coal’s Mushin 2 Mo hits produced by Don Jazzy and I remade all the beats from track 1 to the last track. Cobhams is another person that highly influenced me; these are people that inspired me in my music production career. Beyond Nigeria; the likes of Timbaland, Quincy Jones, Dr Dre, greatly influenced my sound and my music production career.
Being spontaneous or regimental which works best for you?
Being spontaneous works a great deal for me because I do not second-guess the first idea that comes to me, most times, as a very spiritual person. The first idea that comes in is from the spirit realm and I do not second-guess it, once I feel it I go straight into it. I like to take it up from that first feeling.
What is your creative process like?
I love to have a sit-down with the artiste in person and get his idea for the project, and understand his music background, thinking, their life in general because I believe music is an expression of who we are as a person. I like to get into the world of the artiste, understand where the artiste is coming from, both in life and also the musical journey of the artiste, understand where the artiste is at the moment and understand where the artiste wants to take their sound or message. By the time we are having this conversation, it just drops like magic and at that moment I begin to find a sound that represents what the artiste stands for, the personality of the artiste, vocal strength, range, etc.
What song was your first major break in the industry?
The production of Davido’s ‘All of You’, for me that song was such a blessing at the time when I was opportune to meet Davido in Abuja. I met him, introduced myself and asked for an opportunity to work with him and he obliged, the rest is history. The song launched me internationally.
What is the key to reinventing your ears and keeping your soul for music fresh?
It is God that has helped me this far. Also as humans, we need to do our part, do our best and leave the rest for God, part of doing my part is living every day intending to be the best version of myself, no matter how good you are there is always another level called ‘better’. I am always in the studio working, looking for new sounds, and I’m not just jumping on trends, I am looking for foresight, researching, and finding mentors that can help me grow. It takes conscious daily work of developing yourself to become a better version of one’s self. The key things that have helped me stay relevant in the game are my love for it and my determination to get better every day and grow.
What is the most difficult part of your work?
Personally, it is getting my work out there. There are lots of songs that I have worked on that are still on the system because it’s the artiste who decides when to release the songs. Every day I am in the studio working with new artists, and established artists, at the end of the day the artist or label decides on the songs to be released, it doesn’t stop me from working in any way but it is the most challenging thing to me. I just wish that everything we created as music producers get the opportunity to be heard out there.
How did you come up with Alternate Sound?
I started alternate sound in 2015; I’ve always had a love for the live stage because I became a musician and instrumentalist before I became a music producer. As a music producer, I’ve always had that same love for live music and performance. I felt like there is a big vacuum between how best an artist’s performance can be on stage, it was more of identifying a problem and creating a solution. The problem, for an artiste to replicate great performance and production on stage they will need 8-10 band members on stage, and I felt most of these artists don’t get paid enough to fly all of these people around the world, it was a challenge for event promoters too, the solution was to cut down the number of band members to 4, we utilized technology to make up for the other members being cut off by prerecording those instruments get on-stage and activate, thereby giving the audience the heavy sound they are used to.
Do you think the idea of alternate sound was vital in keeping you fresh?
As a music producer, there are different fields of investment within the entertainment industry, I feel like there is a whole lot in the industry in which I am greatly gifted with the skills and potential, and being in the studio was just one of it, transitioning to taking production from the studio to a live stage was something else I was greatly gifted in and I was also excited about it.
Your thoughts on the Budweiser remix project?
It was a huge blessing to be part of the project as a producer and music director. It was exciting to work with new artists, I learnt a lot of stuff from these new artists, and it was such a great privilege to be remixing songs that I grew up listening to and even started my music career with. It was a great experience and learning process.
Of all the remixes which was your favourite?
As a producer I tend not to have favourites, I love to open myself to the possibilities and opportunities to get into every artiste’s world. Every artiste is unique; every music genre is unique in its way as well.
I also open myself up to the different possibilities of the different types of sounds that can come out of working with these different artists.
What is the business side of music production like?
I think it’s pretty much easy as a music producer because there are different positions in that position, a music producer could also be a music director in the session, a music engineer, or a co-writer/writer. As a music producer, it’s very important to understand the business of your craft to get the necessary compensation due to these positions. Everybody needs to do well and play his or her part rightly. I have heard situations where artists don’t want to give producers their royalties and I think it’s really unfair. It’s unfair for an artiste to deprive a music producer of their royalties when the producer makes sure they get the best out of that recording session. Also, you don’t expect the producer to want to remain in one spot forever.
Growth is only achievable when everyone gets what’s due to him or her, especially producers getting their royalties and publishing rights, giving them the percentage on the split that is due them.
What do you think the marker should be when measuring the greatness of an artiste?
Different factors need to be considered when it comes to stating who the greatest artiste is. There are different factors, different award bodies uses in their own way. I tend to not want to dabble in that. I believe in everybody focusing on himself or herself and being the best version of themselves.
What do you think makes Nigerians so versed in music?
I will say Nigerians are highly blessed, just having this diversity in languages and ethnic groups, which also comes with the music and sound. As a music producer when you dig deep into the Nigerian sound and culture you will find a lot of unique sounds, especially in drums and percussion. To me, it’s an inborn thing; once you are willing to tap into it as a producer you find it easily.
What are you working on at the moment?
I am currently promoting my first book, “THE PRODUCER – The Chronicles of an Afrobeats Hit Maker”. This book has been on my mind for the past 3 years. I have been working on it with my team and I am so excited that it’s finally ready. The book is not teaching anyone how to produce, but I have been so passionate about helping creatives understand the odyssey between their potential and skill and where they consider success. The book speaks about the principles you need to follow to get to where you want to be. I am very excited to share all of these principles and knowledge from my years of experience. I am just passionate about supporting new artists and I have been in the studio with a lot of great artists. Also, I have got the GospelOnDeBeatz album completed and soon to be released.
Tell us about the GospelOnDeBeatz album?
The album is one to look out for. The sound is more of a futuristic sound but it’s still blended with some of what everyone is used to.
On the album, I’ve only got new artists to show my passion for supporting new artists to allow them to express themselves in their unique sounds.
Do you think Afrobeats gives us the categorization and respect our sound deserves?
I believe greatly in the movement that Afrobeats has started, it is Afrobeats yes, but Amapiano has taken off as well, Afrobeats might have been the pioneer, but just like what Amapiano from South Africa is doing there are a lot of other sounds that will hit the globe from Africa, it’s such a great time to be alive to understand that we are only just getting started.
What impressed you the most with the growth of Afrobeats on a global stage in the last 3 years?
The acceptance of Afrobeats has been amazing. Of course, we can tell from the numbers thanks to technology that has given us the opportunity to be heard globally. Pre-Covid and post-Covid it has just been that acceleration of global recognition and acceptance of Afrobeats.
Let’s go back to growing up, what was it like?
Growing up was humbling and I’m thankful, lived in a low-end neighborhood, attended a primary school where the learning conditions were appalling, growing up in that type of neighborhood, seeing lots of poverty and suffering, yet in a family that believed so much in God, and also taught me to be contented with the things that they provided, I grew up in a very happy home even though you might have reservations about the background. My parents helped me to achieve some of these things that I never thought possible, especially as a teenager, introducing me to different books, and buying me motivational books on every birthday, she started it when I was 13 and by the time I was 19 I realized that had read a lot of motivational books and that kind of shaped my mind and life, it helped me a great deal with my music production career and my everyday life. I am grateful for that.
What inspires your style?
I am just that guy that loves corporate outfits because I started in church, and being a choir member we were always forced to wear suits and the like and I just continued like that.
What is your advice to new artists on the business side of music?
When it comes to building Nigeria from my standpoint, the entertainment industry is still a growing one. We are not where we should be but we are also not where we used to be, given the fact that Afrobeats is gaining great global recognition. It is high time we fixed the entertainment industry from a business perspective.
I will say: do what you think is right for you as a creative. We can be Nigerians and Africans but we don’t necessarily have to sell only to this continent. Music is global, and our music has cut across and is still cutting across globally. Do whatever you feel will put food on your table in a very legal way while we also solicit and build our base to make sure the next generation have a working system to rely on.
Watch full interview on YouTube here:
Interviewed: Rayo Kasali
Photography: Rayo Kasali
Camera: Ibrahim Olowolagba & Felix Babalola
Assist: Adetola Adebayo & Alex Edun
Creative Director: Rayo Kasali
Executive Producer Adedamola Edun