Around 9:50 pm on March 1, 2020, I had just posted the latest installment of 'Who Get Ear' by Pulse when I got a message from a friend. His name is Ade and he works for Audiomack.
Probably because 'Who Get Ear' is tagged, 'Songs you need to play this week,' Ade felt a need to plug me into good music that I hadn't heard. The first message he sent reads, "Have you seen this?" In the following message was a new video titled, 'Oju Mi Bloody.' Its maker was named, Oyibo Rebel. What made me consider the song was the prospect of Chinko Ekun and Mz Kiss on a song.
I replied Ade that, "Should I have?" Ade then replied that, "I just want your thoughts... This might start a conversation." Less that 10 minutes gang, I replied Ade saying, "Yo, who TF is this? LMAO. He's an interesting character."
"Bro, I'm not going to lie. I like the song. It's not the greatest, but it's okay," Ade replied.
"I want to meet him though," I replied after a round of messages.
As I was chatting with Ade, I messaged two of my OGs in Osagie Alonge and Ayomide Tayo to listen to the song. They took a few minutes, but the song got their thumbs up. While I was waiting for both these men to reply, I had found his Instagram page and shot him a message. Within minutes, he responded.
I offered the prospects of an interview and he was elated by it. The interview was meant to happen the next day, but it didn't not. On a beautiful Tuesday morning, I got a call from his manager and videographer, Guy - who directed the 'Ojumi Bloody' video. "Tolani, we dey outside o," Guy said on the phone.
I went out to meet them and met Oyibo Rebel for the first time. After exchanging pleasantries, we proceeded to the studio for our chat. One thing you would notice in his tone was his obvious Nigerian intonation. Either it was intentional or natural, he sold it with an Italian-American spin. However, one thing one couldn't miss was his ability to communicate fluently in pidgin.
When I asked where he was born he says, "I was born in Yankee." He joked that, "You already have an 'African Giant,' how about an Oyibo African Giant to come in the building and make names, you know? (laughs)"
Who is Oyibo Rebel?
Born Faris Boulos in Houston, Texas, US to a business-oriented Lebanese-French family, he moved to Nigeria at the age of five. Coincidentally, he's also Faris is a fourth generation African - his grandmother was born in Ivory Coast and his mom (a Lebanese) was born in Burkina Faso.
While he left Nigeria to go school in the US and to briefly work as an actor in London, he's been Nigerian for over 26 years.
However, he calls moving to Nigeria that early a "culture shock." He jokes, "In America, you have McDonald's and all that. But you come to Nigeria and it's just a ruffian place (laughs). Lagos... Just hectic, you know. But I love... Nigeria is home. For me, it's where I spent most of my childhood and most of my life. So, definitely this is my 'base' (laughs."
The major reason his family moved here was due to "family business." Faris's dad founded, SCOA Motors, a car dealership in Lagos. His mom has also grown to have an organization called SPAN in Lagos. In his family, everyone else is a "full blown Nigeria" maybe even more than he is.
On making friends in Nigeria after he moved to Lagos as a five-year-old, "It was not that hard. I was very friendly child. The only things that were different with Lagos at the time - for kids at least - was Cinemas or things like that.
"Even TV, we were very limited to what we had. We had NTA and stuff like that. We didn't have Cartoon Network at the time (laughs hard while shaking his head)."
During the chat, Faris pledged allegiance to Nigerian Jollof while laughing hard, but claims his favourite meal is Eba and Egusi. But for breakfast, he likes fried yam and egg. Faris also likes Agege bread and sardines. While describing Agege bread and egg, he went, "Ohhhh..."
To Faris, the ways he learned how to be Nigerian were; negotiating to buy things or through curses. In the days of buying CDs, he had to show his Nigerian side by speaking pidgin so he would not get cheated. He says, "The best thing is that everyone laughs about it at the end when they realize we're one. We all say 'aaaahh' (laughs) You nor fit do me like that na..."
When asked if he ever felt like an outside in Nigeria, he says, "No, I don't think so. I sabi bone my face o. Me? high tension wire? Oyibo agbero? ah no. Guy! I must walk and stand talk anywhere I go. I don pay my dues here o, forget."
Faris, the creative
At the age of 16, Faris moved out of Nigeria to study Liberal Arts (Theatre) in Los Angeles, US. But three years prior, he had started dabbling into music after listening Fela Anikulapo-Kuti. In fact, his aim was to make afrobeat because of Fela. Faris would go to the shrine all the time just to catch the vibe and see Femi Kuti (Fela's son) perform.
But around this time also, Silverbird had just opened and Faris would go to the Galleria regularly. His nickname was, 'Eminem Boy.'
While on holidays, he would be with his family. That period, he had a reputation for performing Fela's songs in a drunken haze. He says, "After we don shayo tire, I had a reputation in Lagos clubs for performing Fela's songs. Sometimes, with my friends, we'd sing Fela's songs in the streets on our way back from club - when nobody was sane enough to drive (laughs)."
After graduating University, he moved to London, UK for his Masters to become an actor. But while in Los Angeles, Faris had a focus on Theatre. Then, he wrote a fictional play titled, Abami Eda and The Curse of The Black Gold. Despite objections, he insisted on playing numerous characters including Fela.
On that he says, "I was obsessed with the concept of Fela. I was intrigued... Even his name 'Anikulapo,' which means 'I have death in my pouch' took me by storm. During the show, I got to show my Nigerian side to people. A lot of people were shocked because I was white. In the show, I play the Mama, Papa, Fela, the President and more. To them, it was an anomaly.
"But in Lagos, there are many of us. Guy, my manager is even more Nigerian than I am - he's also Lebanese."
In London, he also started a career as an actor and got featured in Fantastic Beasts II.
Faris becomes Farastafarian
While in London, Faris started making music, but they were not popping. He had started rapping while attending University in Los Angeles. At the time, despite born in Houston, Texas, he felt more Nigerian than American. Thus, one of his first songs was titled, 'Oyibo Rebel.'
At the time, his stage name was Farastafarian. It's a portmanteau of his name, 'Faris' and 'Rastafarian.' He got the name from going to 'enjoying his life at Tarkwa Bay.
He says, "I used to go to Tarkwa a lot - Aaaah! I get man for that place o - they know me very well. Guys, if you're seeing this (points to camera), you know it's your boy, Faris. We'd sit there with the rastas, singing and all that. One day, they just said, 'From now your name would be Farastafarian.' Oh boy, we were in the spirit (laughs hard). When you don done like beans, man (laughs)."
While Faris was in London, a Nigerian friend told him that, "Guy, your Jesus is in Nigeria - go back home (laughs). Just go back, my friend (laughs)..."
In 2012, Faris came back to Nigeria from London a while. After being inspired by D'Banj, Wande Coal and Timaya, Farastafarian came to released a single called, 'One Day.' It was performed in pidgin and it gained some traction, but not at a level the artiste or his team craved.
However, the team took solace in how Farastafarian shot his video in Ebute-Metta. At the time, Farastafarian also worked with Cobhams Asuquo who produced five songs for the rapper then.
Faris becomes Oyibo Rebel
After that stint, Faris decided to do something with shock value that could capture the hearts. Thus, he became Oyibo Rebel.
'Oyibo' is a Nigerian descriptive for lightskinned people. Sometimes, it is derogatory, but to Faris, he chose the name having lived in Nigeria and become Nigerian. To him, merging 'Oyibo' with 'Rebel' is his way of taking the derogative connotation out of the word, 'Oyibo.'
To Faris, he chose name because he was trying to, "Debunk all the negative connotation associated with 'Oyibo' while putting a positive spin on it. We're rebelling against those common stereotypes and actually showing that there are white people out here who are fully indulged and deep into the culture."
Oju Mi Bloody
After Faris returned to Lagos permanently in 2019, he met his producer, T-Weezy, they both felt like their sound and style need to evolve. That appetite to make something with shock value that could capture the hearts led to 'Oju Mi Bloody.' After that song, Oyibo Rebel will release a full-length 16-track album.
So on making music in 2019, Oyibo Rebel says, "When we wanted to make 'Oju Mi Bloody' in final quarter 2019, we wanted something raw and 'street.' I wanted to incorporate my acting with my music. I also wanted something that would remind of DaGrin, you know. That's why the beat is so reminiscent of 'Pon Pon.'"
He says that he has tried all other brands of music, but he has never enjoyed making any as much as he enjoyed making 'Oju Mi Bloody' and the Nigeria-centric songs he has been making.
T-Weezy helped Oyibo Rebel get Chinko Ekun and Mz Kizz on the song. Asides that, T-Weezy also helped Oyibo Rebel create the best Yoruba verses on 'Oju Mi Bloody' alongside the Yoruba Faris knows. The rapper was obsessed with "doing something about jazz," so his verse on 'Oju Mi Bloody' was two verses he had on the song merged together.
That also helped Chinko Ekun and Mz Kiss have their verses.
Now on that spirit, Oyibo Rebel has about 16 songs that are ready. Half of those songs Boom Bap and R&B while the other half is very Nigerian afrobeats/afro-Hip-Hop. The Nigerian half is produced by T-Weezy and Killertunes. Oyibo Rebel claims we can expect a feature with Skales.
Finally, Faris also known as Oyibo Rebel says he would love to make more songs in Yoruba. He also says that we can expect more, now that we have gotten one.