He may not act like it, but with songs like 'Eyan Giga' and 'Mirror', Magixx is building a loyal fanbase within his alma mater.
I had heard first of Magixx as a crowd-pleaser. “When he comes on stage, the nerds in the hall start dancing, they know all the words to his song”, was how a newly converted fan had described him to me; evoking the image of a multi-versed artiste who had developed that uncanny ability to command the crowd’s emotions like all great performers have.
Yet the guy who walked across the road to meet me at UNILAG’s Access bank branch, dressed in an over-sized denim jacket with denim slacks and a pair of classic shell-toe Adidas sneakers, appeared as unbothered and unassuming as I’ve ever seen, a little too calm for the energy that usually holds an audience spellbound.
Barely a couple of minutes later, after we had exchanged greetings and I began to explain what I wanted from my day with him, a group of 5 colleagues walked past and butted head-first into our convo.
“E be like say Magixx wan go perform.”, one said, drawing the others’ attention. “Magixx, where you wan go perform, make we follow you”. A short greeting later and some empty promises later, they were gone.
Over the course of that wet Thursday afternoon, students would stare and point at him from across the road, some whispered his songs as they walked past, the more courageous of them would greet him.
Hours later, exhausted from all the stopping and greeting, I ask him, “Do you ever get tired?”, “Is it always like this?”.
“Not every day. Sometimes, it‘s more than this.’ But this is even small. The prayer is that it happens more. That (you get to that place) where more fans can show you love”, he says.
He may not look or act like it, but Magixx is arguably the hottest musician in UNILAG right now.
The University of Lagos, located in the busy suburb of Yaba, has a reputation for producing young talented musicians that develop into genuine pop-stars.
From the Trybesmen to Ycee and Lil’ Kesh, liberalism and a culture that takes advantage of its location in the entertainment capital have proved fertile ground for young creatives as they chart new waters and discover the extent of their abilities.
The typical UNILAG artist is a rapper or afro-pop singer betrayed by a funky hairstyle and black ray-ban sunglasses that announce a genuine aloofness, partly natural when you live, eat and breathe among your biggest, and sometimes only fans.
What Magixx has is an aura of detachment; the silent confidence that says he doesn’t need to tell you who he is or what he is going to be.
“This music thing is my life. It’s the only thing I know how to do. When people meet me, I don’t need to tell them I’m an artiste. The way I even vibe with people, you will just ask “You be artiste abi?”
Born Adelabu Alexander, Magixx spent most of his formative years in Ogba, on both sides of a long stint where he lived with his grandmother from age 7 to 13. While at school, he became involved with music; first at Bethel Junior in Ogba, where he tried his hands at the drums.
Like most artists though, he traces his foundation in music to his family, particularly his father.
“There is no kind of song that he does not play. He plays 2pac, Juju, Fela, he plays anything.”, he says of his father. “That’s why I don’t have a particular type of music that I like.”
Despite the diverse music that defined his childhood, it was not Ayefele and Baba Ara crooned through the speakers in his grandmother’s home that Magixx became interested in the creative side of singing and the process of making songs.
“As at 10, I was already writing stuff. Stupid stuff. Stuff that cannot help anybody”, he laughs. “The first song I ever wrote was “Come Back” in 2007. The funny thing is that those things that I did back then actually laid my foundation”
Magixx would then graduate to EMKOY, a music school where he learned to play the recorder, the trumpet, and the harmonica, a choice inspired by the success of D’banj and songs like “Tongolo” and “Why Me?”.
After EMKOY came Omole Grammar School. It was here that the long nights of solitary writing gave way to open arenas where students would try, often woefully, to show their rap skills. Naturally, Magixx joined them.
“The funny thing is when I picked these things up and I joined them together, that was what made me a different artist, because I do almost everything, put together. That’s why its different. A lot of people can sing well, a lot can rap well, but not everybody knows how to put it together to make songs”.
It will be hard for new fans to ignore the influence of Drake on Magixx’s music but, like he tells me at many points during our conversations, his sound is always in a state of flux.
On songs like “Mirror”, he shows a preference for a gradually-ascending, half-sung flow that adds some menace to his storytelling, right before he makes that unexpected switch to a crooned hook that will draw comparisons to Chance the Rapper. But this is only one slice of a very large pie.
On “Eyan Giga”, a percussion-driven prayer for elevation and success sung in his native Yoruba, he sounds more ‘local’, calling on a command of melodies that is present through all his music.
The song that best captures his sound, for now at least, is “Hold Me Down”, a genre-bending exercise that sees him flex his abilities over the beat for “Love Yourz”, off J.Cole's third solo album "2014 Forest Hills Drive".
He starts by crooning to a lady who he wants to show more faithfulness before switching to pure a mid-tempo interpretation of Afro-pop that reeks of Mr Eazi and Wizkid.
In some ways, “Hold Me Down” is the best evidence of Magixx’s ability to cross genres; in others, it is a perfect summation of his influences.
“I have too many influences. In Nigeria, I would say M.I and Banky W. Wande Coal. That’s the foundation.”, he tells me, atop UNILAG’s now abandoned Amphitheater. “Drake, Meek Mill. My biggest influence now is Tory Lanez because he can do anything. That’s the most mind-blowing person in the world now to me”.
In truth, he’s some way from becoming Tory Lanez. Some of Magixx’s music has that raw, unfinished feel that is usual with artists in development; sometimes, an ad-lib drawn too long or vocal inconsistencies that could be cleared with better sound engineering.
But there is one thing that runs through all his music; you cannot deny his ability to create full-bodied songs.
Within UNILAG, the music has created a rapidly growing fan base that is growing to other parts of Lagos. In the past few months, he has become a mainstay on shows across the campus, even as he gets more invitations to perform at clubs and hangouts in Lagos.
Despite the attention that has come his way, Magixx struggles with the same problems as any emerging artist.
Getting funding for studio time was his biggest problem until recently when his music began to reach new ears and sponsors began to appear out of the cracks.
“I don’t pay for my sessions. People just come and when they hear the song they say “Ok. Take, go and record”, they book a session and I record the music”, he says.
Getting the songs recorded is one thing; getting them played is another. Naturally, good music will turn heads but in Nigerian media, money does a better job at putting the music in the conversation, on blogs, radio, and television than quality.
“Outside Unilag, they don’t know me yet so they don’t really play my songs”, Magixx says, “Recently, they started playing my song on UNILAG FM”
I ask him if artists have to pay to get their songs played on the University’s radio station.
“Most times, yes”, he answers. “If you’re a new artist and they don’t know you, you have to pay, maybe the management or OAPs, but they fuck with my music so they play it now”
There is a reason why record labels are a big part of the Nigerian music industry. Funding an artist's career is extremely expensive, from trivial matters like a wardrobe allowance to the more substantial, paying for booking sessions and “pushing” new songs on mainstream media.
Most new artists cannot afford these so they find wealthy sponsors who fund their careers under hastily-created boutique labels.
For all the challenges that he faces, you would expect that Magixx would look for sponsors that will take him along this route.
“Right now, I don’t even put all that into consideration. If you’re interested in promoting me, promote me. Whether you’re a label or a manager. If I can get financial backing from a label or someone who wants to help, I’m cool. It has to be a deal. We have to know what we’re getting into”
As we continue our conversation, it becomes clear that this silent aura of confidence that Magixx carries drives everything about him, from his appearance to his plan for his career.
By any means, he is still an up and coming artist in every sense of the word, one that will have to navigate the murky waters of the Nigerian music industry; yet you can not help the feeling that he knows what will be required of him.
From among friends, acquaintances, and fans, he has built a team that consists of two managers, a road manager, PR assistants and his ever-present friend and colleague at UNILAG, Femi.
“I also work with Steveanne. He does PR. He’s actually the one who gives me insight”, he tells me.
Magixx’s approach may seem too calculated for a scene that is as unconventional as it is unstructured, but barely months after his first song dropped, it is already bearing fruit.
A major Nigerian label is already hovering with promises of a deal once he is done with artist development. Other sponsors have also planned meetings to talk about his career, one or two have discussed building an entirely new outfit to fund and ‘push’ his music.
With all the attention and buzz that has come in the last few months, Magixx carries heavy expectations on his skinny shoulders.
The road from “upcoming artiste” to genuine success and prominence is long and punctuated with disappointment, betrayal, and challenges. Patience is an important virtue.
The future is undoubtedly bright, but in the coming months, he will need to blot out the mistakes, refine his act and demand more of himself to become the artist that he wants to be.
“I have over 200 songs that I’ve written. I’m ready now”, he says. “I’m ready”.
He may not be, but Magixx feels he is, and as the next few months and years bring new ground and hopefully, hits, this constant self-belief, coupled with an undeniable talent, will be all that matters.