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Patoranking: Music, Lights and Life [Pulse Interview]

Patoranking tells Pulse about 'Three,' 'Abule,' Wilmer, COVID-19, wins, love, happiness and more.

Patoranking: Music, Lights and Life. (Instagram/PatorankingFIre)

Tupac, Notorious B.I.G and other great rappers had their respective places. His emotional and spiritual connection to his music also meant that he wasn’t too happy about a review I had written for ‘Three’ some days earlier - but the show had to go on and a story had to be told.

Inside the studio, his band rehearsed as they flipped regular Afro-pop songs into Afrobeat and Congolese Soukous. His sizzling single, ‘Abule’ was flipped into a Fuji record. Later, his backup singers joined in as they harmonized everything the band conjured.

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Later that evening, Patoranking took his amazing stagecraft to the Amazon Music stage. You guessed that right… He killed it, yet again.

Moments later, he emerged from the inner compartment of his studio, looking classy and quite cynical. Pleasantries got exchanged and the close ties he shares with his band members were on full display. Cameras were set when he asked, “Won’t you be in the shot?” I replied, “No.” He smiled, bit his lower lips and said, “I was hoping to lecture you about music [laughs].

I replied, “Hmmm…” and we got underway.

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Conversation immediately shifted to how he works on his stagecraft, “I don’t work out for stage performances because I don’t feel a need to. But at Gidi Fest in 2019 [as headliner], I felt like I needed to say something about my improvement. Tiwa and I performed Gidi Fest in 2014. Four years on, I needed to show growth and I’m glad we did that.

He continues, “Whenever I’m making music, I think of its live performance because I’m a music man. For example, we were booked for three cities on the Ms. Lauryn Hill Tour and it was meant to be just me, my DJ and my manager. I looked at the venue and was like, ‘Na me go do ‘DJ Track 1’ for here?’ [laughs]. We had to go with a band.

“I was initially booked for three cities - it became eight after our first show. They also moved us from the early performers to right before Ms. Lauryn Hill. I want people to jump up and run to see me perform anytime they see my name on a poster.”

Since the start of Patoranking’s career, he’s always tried to mirror positive realities in his music and with his lifestyle. His debut single, ‘Alubarika’ spoke the socio-political truth of the average 90’s baby. Across South-Western Nigeria, ‘Alubarika’ was a recurrent theme for morning radio.

His next single, ‘Girlie O’ had a video that spoke about domestic violence. On his debut album, God Over Everything sat the anti-rape anthem, ‘No Kissing’ featuring Sarkodie. Over the past few years, he has used his stardom to totally confront some of the issues he’s passionate about; poverty, bad education, ethnic tensions, racism, police brutality and more.

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Recently, he launched the Patoranking Scholarship Scheme to cover the total university costs of 10 young Africans. Currently, his focus is on the chilling effects of COVID-19. He speaks, “If I say I’m happy, some people are sad out there. If I say I’m sad, the ones I give hope to will be downcast. I just try to make the best of my lot and privilege in life.”

While he feels he could do more, he understands that life is more complex than that.

I’m an independent artist and my money is 100% music money. I just try to put it back into the right things; my music, my people and my family,” he says. “I changed my mentality in the earlier days. I had just become ‘Patoranking’ and I was going to Europe. On the flight, I read this magazine where a billionaire discussed how he invests his money and I made it my principle.”

He also has a “10-year trick” where he assumes he’s older than he is by 10 years. He says, ”That trick helps me plan better and execute better. I had that mentality after I left the ghetto at 17 and went straight to Ghana.”

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Patoranking was born and bred in Ijegun-Egba, Lagos. In his words, he has lived in every local government in Lagos, aside from Badagry. His latest hit, ‘Abule’ reflects his pride in his ghetto roots and he wears it like an armour.

The reason is simple, “The rate of people who have made it versus those struggling is wide. The wealthy in any society are just 1%. Coming out of the ghetto, I always wanted to be a symbol of hope. You don’t tell an African man about success, you show them. I identify with my people because I want more people like me to come from the ghetto and have greater success.

“Seeing someone like me, who used to sell things on the streets grow up to speak with the Rwandan President, Paul Kagame will inspire people.”

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When he left Nigeria at 17, the aim was to attend the University of Cape Coast, but his parents couldn’t afford it - his siblings were also in school.

Thanks to the huge dancehall culture in Ghana, Patoranking found a greater inspiration to focus on music. He was also a dancer and fast-rising footballer who played in the Principal’s cup. Ghana made it easier to make a choice.

I have always found it easy to learn and unlearn things. That helped me on my Ghana sojourn and learning Dancehall culture. I still play football sha, don’t let me catch you one-on-one [laughs],” Patoranking says.

When he got back to Nigeria, the connections he had made with local artists in all the Lagos local governments he lived in made transitioning easy. He says, “When I was collaborating with those artists, I didn’t know what I was doing. I was just enjoying the process.”

In the late 2000s, he featured on albums by Slam and Durella.

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I made so many mistakes and it made me realize that when God is ready for you, nothing and nobody can be against you,” he says. “For example, ‘Early Momo’ with DJ Hazan was meant to be a remix of ‘Girlie O.’ When we recorded the original ‘Girlie O,’ BabyFresh of MAVIN made me send it to Tiwa Savage. I would have gone with ‘Early Momo.’”

Patoranking realizes that his success isn’t man-made - hence the title of his debut album, God Over Everything. He has gone from the 22-year-old who made ‘Alubarika’ with a heart filled with prayers into the one who spoke ‘Another Level’ into existence. But when he wanted to make another album, he made a collective decision to make the best of a dire global situation.

You would turn on CNN and all they will have to talk about is death tolls and terrorism. I had other songs like ‘Heal The World,’ but I wanted to leave that reflective space into letting people have fun,” he says. “We wanted ‘Three’ to represent love, happiness and life. ‘Three’ is also significant for perfection, me turning 30 and my third album.”

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Nonetheless, the album still discusses conscious topics on ‘Black Girl Magic,’ ‘Lion In The Jungle’ and ‘Love Is The Answer.’ To Patoranking, this just represents the balance he hopes his music achieves in sound and messaging. He says, “I’m a topical writer. I don’t just write about clubs and grinding. There has to be a ‘why?’”

He continues, “‘Heal The World’ was recorded three years before release. I pray the world heals, but it’s difficult to imagine a world where ‘Heal The World’ has no meaning. I‘m an Ebonyi indigene who grew up in Lagos ghettos. I speak Yoruba, so I don’t understand ethnic divides. This is my way of speaking up. I want a world filled with love.

“You shouldn’t be Yoruba before getting that job or Hausa before getting that contract or Igbo before he reduces the price for you. I think ignorance and stereotypes foster this wahala…

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Patoranking’s sophomore album was named after his daughter, Wilmer. He says, “I was new to fatherhood and I expressed through it. Most of those topics were about my state of mind and my dreams of an ideal world for my daughter. If I was careful and decent before, it got heightened. I wanted to be a role model.

“There are even certain types of videos that I stopped shooting. When my daughter’s name crops up in random conversations, my face lights up… It’s even happening now [laughs].

When we got around to the conversation surrounding the review I wrote for his album, he simply laughed it all off and said, “I was just joking. We all have to agree to disagree. I also think Tolani is a cool guy [laughs]. I think my album is an 11/10.” One of his friends and comrades didn’t stop though.

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We had a conversation about it. Patoranking is also an amazing guy - cool, calm, warm, collected and very civil. He embodies his truth, doesn’t pretend and loves winning. Over the past 10 years, Patoranking has left the troublesome lifestyle behind.

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