It was three days after he released his second body of work in two year. '4 No Reason' was a more experimental body of work to test the waters of sub-mainstream/mainstream Nigeria, but Hotyce was still keen to retain what makes him a person, a creative and a rapper.
For the South-West-born Abuja-bred rapper who hails from the South-South with ties to the South-East, it's a matter of necessity to have some authenticity. These days, he shuttles between Lagos and Abuja to balance perspectives and creativity.
For example, 'Stop N Search,' the socio-political critique of the Nigerian Police was created in two days between Abuja and Kaduna.The topics on that song are also personal, yet fictionalized tales of his derisory experience with members of the Nigerian Police Force.
Nonetheless, the Headies-nominated Hotyce still grapples with balancing being a better person with being an impactful rapper that he can be proud of in 10 years and solving key puzzles in life because, "Nobody knows it all. Not even the critic or the artist - we're all just trying to get by and impact the world."
This Economics graduate from the University of Abuja grew up on diverse music. One of his sisters played Gospel, the other liked R&B and Hip-Hop, his brother loved Quiet Storm, Hip-Hop and Soul and he kept on subconsciously ingesting these sounds without realizing the influence they were having on his life, taste, creativity and palette till he was in his teens.
In Junior Secondary School, he started writing but he lacked the confidence to share his raps till he started engaging in battle raps. By Senior Secondary School, his group of battle rappers developed the tendency to commend each other’s skill and delivery. That gave Hotyce - then known as Drae - the needed confidence to go at it.
Around 2009, Drae was waiting to get into University when he started taking music seriously.. By this time, he knew he wanted to make music - all he needed was the freedom that being away in University could guarantee. One day, his friend came to pick him up from home with a drive and promises of recording.
When they got to that friend’s house, Drae was surprised to see one laptop and two earphones. He jokes that, “I was shocked - I thought it was a real studio. He then handed me one earphone and kept another for himself. Then he told me, ‘Right now, you will step into my wardrobe, that’s your booth.’ (laughs).”
The song that was recorded that day came aboard the single version of Lil Wayne’s ‘Best Rapper Alive.’
One day in 2009, Drae was reading a book titled ‘Cold Fire’ by Dean Koontz and it struck something in him. The synonym to ‘Cold Fire’ would be ‘Hot ice.’ In Hip-Hop, ‘you are cold’ is a compliment to amazing ability or delivery. Hotyce felt the juxtaposition of ‘Hot Ice’ suits his artistry.
He stylized the ‘I’ as ‘Y’ and the name born Emeka Echechi changed his name from Drae to Hotyce.
Meeting VC Perez and going to school
After that point, the progression accelerated. He achieved what most people don’t get to do when his first official recording happened with the help of legendary Hip-Hop producer, VC Perez and Classiq at E.T Quakes studios. He also got the chance to move with TY Mix and GospelOnDBeatz.
Shortly after this, Hotyce got into University to study Economics, but got bi-focal. His heart was with the music, but he also had classes.
“Sometimes, I’m on my way to the studio and a friend is saying, ‘Dude man! You just missed a test’ and I get distraught. I think about it for a while at the studio, but move on quickly. It wasn’t easy balancing it, but I saw it through,” Hotyce says.
While his parents might have been skeptical at the very beginning, they became supportive because Hotyce was the last child of the family and because they believe in letting their children follow their dreams. They supported Hotyce’s dreams, but Dray’s dad died in 2017.
In 2015, Hotyce got a demo deal with UK-based K20 Entertainment, just as he was rounding up with school. By 2017, it became an official record deal. To understand the artist, the label and the artist engaged in some random act. Then, a song like ‘Kilofoshi’ was recorded.
According to Hotyce, “It was only along the lines that we started to understand each other - me as an artist and a rapper and the label as a business. We’re still figuring things out, but I’m a fearless rapper who can make different sounds and still make it substantial all the way. That’s where we’re at right now - selling the brand.”
Moving to Lagos
“Lagos is the centre of everything in Nigeria and Africa. You literally can’t do much without Lagos - streaming companies are here, so are promotional platforms like MTVBase, Trace and so forth. Once I figured it out, I moved to Lagos but first, I came to visit in 2015,” Hotyce says.
In 2018, Hotyce moved to Lagos and got an apartment after overcoming his initial fears of Lagos.
Redhotycecold Vol. 1
Before Redhotycecold Vol. 1 was released in the third quarter 2018, Hotyce had released five singles and two of those singles made the album. The album feels like a blend of music, life, culture, vanity and personality.
“On Redhotycecold Vol. 1, I just wanted to stay away from the whole fuckery that was going on at the time. The sound was becoming monotonous as we were all trying to find success. I was looking for excellence, quality, distinct confidence and so forth. I’m glad I achieved that.
“I went back and forth with Gray Jones and we knocked out about eight tracks, but only ‘We Don’t Do That Over Here’ made the album. Those sessions were productive and they kind of set the tone for the album.” Hotyce says.
The album was so well-received that Hotyce performed some gigs and got some buzz. While Redhotycecold Vol. 1 didn’t get a Headies nod as an album, it got a nod for ‘We Don’t Do That Over Here’ in the Best Rap Song category.
“I was scrolling through Twitter when I saw that GoodGirl LA got two nods and I was happy for her. I decided to see the rap categories when I saw my name and I commended the committee for being inclusive. I was excited, but that drifted out at some point,” Hotyce says of the story.
Falz won that category for his polarizing single, ‘Talk.’ Hotyce says, “‘We Don’t Do That Over Here’ deserves more, but I understand that commercial success does things in music. I feel I should have won the award, but congrats to Falz. I was not thinking about an award when I recorded the song, so all the nominees are winners - I’m grateful for the platform.”
4 No Reason EP and experimenting with sound
A lot of people expected Hotyce to drop an album, but he dropped an EP instead because, "The budget to make an album has not been approved yet and because I had to experiment."
Hotyce has always made those kinds of songs. In fact, he says he's seen a demand for songs like that since he released ‘Alhaji’ with Ceeza Milli in 2015, after he first sampled Lagos.
ALSO READ: Hotyce - 4 No Reason [EP Review]
Hotyce sees himself as, "An artist who speaks primarily through rap music.." He continues, "The brand must be versatile and flexible enough to include different forms of expression. At the end of the day, it's about getting different things that feel like 'me' into the music without making them seem forced and maintaining a certain class - it's music at the end of the day."
For the culture...
The K20 Entertainment artist is moving beyond ahead of a staunch criticism that has been directed against Nigerian Hip-Hop artists for a long time. He feels a necessity to experiment with what suits albums and singles that could resonate. While it's about money, it's not all about money - it's also about getting the music out.
"We need rappers to break through with No. 1 records in Nigeria and across Africa," Hotyce says.
Hotyce understands that criticism might come from moves like this, but he feels like as much as criticism might be fickle and short-lived, "If you live for the praises, you should also live for the criticism - as long as it's your truth. There's a background to 4 No Reason and it can't be empty when it's us (laughs).
"Criticism can be necessary for artists, but at the same time nobody knows it all. Normally, it's very hard to listen, digest and criticize music in one sitting. You might like what you criticized in 10 years and vice versa. You don't really have to pay attention to criticism, just make it from an honest place."
But at the end of the day, Hotyce feels like he’s underrated because he possesses more than he’s being credited for. However he says, “I feel time will clarify it to people. At this point, it’s not even about proving anybody wrong or right, it’s just about working right.”
Hotyce records every other day and his label funds the music. Unlike other artists who only wait for the label to do everything, Hotyce takes the initiative to record sometimes by bearing costs. “You have to do what you can do - it’s still your life and your career. No matter how little, support the label,” Hotyce says.
These myriad of recordings come in different styles, topics and moods. Instantly, Hotyce knows which projects certain songs will suit. He likes to conceptualize while making projects and currently, he knows what his next three projects will sound like.
He says, "There will be more creative experimentation on upcoming projects like The Blackhand EP and the Friday Night Massacre mixtape series - my first mixtape ever. Hopefully, we get an album, but I'm making that [album] in 2021."
In 10 years, Hotyce hopes he would look back and see that he’s inspired lives and made everyone around him successful. While he doesn’t know which project comes next, this rapper says The Blackhand EP is about having melanin in your pigmentation and it will have between seven to 10 songs.
Friday Night Massacre will have like 10 to 14 songs.