Producers are the soul of music. Artists just give the music a body and an identity. This is not dissimilar to written code that's not found a program to run on.
In the world we live in, artists are credited with influencing the soundscape because they have the body of work and the identity. Meanwhile, beneath the shadows, producers are hacking the system with sounds, hoping to hit the next goldmine while getting inspired by history and elevating substances.
Some of them hack it and find mainstream success, but that's only a few people. Most producers end up being content with just doing what makes them happy. But even for the few who crack that mainstream success, they don't get the gratification they deserve and time affords them on a limited window.
Nonetheless, while they are here, some of them should be celebrated. For the subject of this piece, it's been a longtime coming. First, he was meant to visit Pulse Nigeria in 2018, but work on Zlatan's album prevented that. Then, for the first time, this writer met him at Burna Boy's listening party for African Giant. Numbers were exchanged, but nothing happened.
But on this day, after an improptu attempt to again reschedule the chat, he visited Pulse Nigeria with no Ruka or a Benz in tow. Looking taller and bulkier than the studio engineer had imagined, he spotted a mohawk with a cream-coloured tint, dressed in an all-black outfit and had visible bow legs. At the start of the chat, he also seemed like he wanted to be somewhere else.
"Bros, how far na? Why you come do us like that last year na?" asked this writer.
"I dey o, bros. Na work, make una nor vex. Before we land for here sef, we gats no knack am for one artist. Na why we late," he replied. "But abeg, make una reduce this AC (air conditioner) make I nor die (laughs)."
At that point, the ice was broken and this writer met Rexxie, the producer behind some huge hits for Naira Marley, Zlatan, DMW and so forth. He also met <real name> who is calm, articulate, engaging and confident.
On his exceptional run over the past two years, he says, "I feel good. I also feel everything is going according to plan. That might make me seem cocky, but that's how I feel. I feel like there's a reason we all find ourselves where we are. There's a reason why we're having this conversation. My story has reinforced that belief.
"In life, what everyone needs is that opportunity that aligns with what they were meant to do. Only then can the talent shine. There's an enormous amount of talent out there that just need the opportunity. My mind set has always been, 'Put me in the room with that person' and we'll come up with something.
"When you're doing what you love to do and it's working for you, and it starts feeling like a career, stick to it."
When you hear his story, you'd understand why he believes in providence. Visibly, he is also young and vivacious with a hunger to be the greatest ever. He also passively feels music is his destiny.
But even with all he's seen and enjoyed, he's methodical with his expectations and prefers hardwork. For someone who started producing 10 years ago because of a huge lie he told his friends, he's come quite far. You might ask, what is Shepeteri 2.0? Your answer is HERE.
Born Chisom Faith Eze, the second of three siblings in Lagos, he is an Anambra State Indigene. His parents are Pastors.In his pre-teens, he moved to Abuja to live with his aunt. There, he spent most of his life so far.
In 2010, he moved back to Lagos for his Tertiary Education at Yaba College of Technology - colloquially known as YabaTech - for his HND and then attended, Tai Solarin University of Education (TASUED).
In his teens he became a member of a choir and learned how to play the keyboard. He started playing the keyboard because his dad made sure he learned. When the church's keyboardist was transferred to another branch, he put his elementary skills to work and he started playing for the church.
Thinking back on it, Rexxie thinks he got the job due to nepotism. He also jokes that the experience also made him have a bloated opinion of his keyboard playing skills.
Later, he moved back to Lagos where the biggest culture shock for his young mind was the pace with which everything moves in Lagos. There was also the issue of the hustling spirit. His reality in Abuja was different - there, people are more laidback and calmer.
Like almost every musically-inclined person, Chisom had a group in secondary school. He jokes that, "I can't even remember what we were doing there. I think it was because of the girls, anyway (laughs). We were there and they were asking for our stage names. I didn't have any so something close to me (I think) bore 'Rex.' So, I said, 'Rexxie' and it stuck (laughs). I thought it was catchy."
In our society, people - especially men - usually make other people feel weak for craving human connection either actively or passively. The tenet of patriarchy is rooted in making men less emotive and tagging, 'fruity.' But for Rexxie, he found something unique in his quest to make friends amongst his peers - music production.
Before he became Rexxie, he was an Abuja boy who left his family and friends in Abuja to resume his admission into Yaba College of Technology - known colloquially as YabaTech to study Printing Technology. He lived amongst creatives and music makers.
Not wanting to feel ordinary and left-out, he lied to his friends that he could produce. In reality, he had never seen Fruity Loops (the software for digital music production) before. But to save face, he had a short window to learn music production.
He says, "I came to Lagos after a long time in Abuja, and I wanted to make friends in Lagos and all that. So,I lied to my friends that I could produce and I had to make good on that lie. You know those kinds of lies that require you to show up when required? (Laughs) It was that kind. I felt like I was different and I felt like I couldn't make friends.
"I was trying to find a place of comfort and friendship in a place where everyone had dreams of becoming the next Wizkid doing 'Ye, ye, ye' at every go. So, I told them that I could make beats The pace in Lagos is crazy as f***. That's why I had to lie na (Laughs).. Luckily for me, I found one old beat on my phone and I told them I made it (laughs)."
After saying, "Ah Rexxie" and laughing at the magnitude of his lie, he says he can't even remember the producer of the beat that saved him on that day and set him off on the path to who he is. His lie might have tailed off there, but instead, someone jumped on that beat and the song that birthed became popular in sections of YabaTech.
Thus, he had bigger billings to live up to. For someone who had no idea how to produce, he had to live up to the lie and start producing to avoid embarrassment. He says, "Even though I was nervous, I just had to do it (learn music production) and it came easy to me. I also believed that I could make music because of my church and keyboard backgrounds."
With the aid of internet tutorials, Rexxie cracked it. Looking back, Rexxie feels he could have done with a mentor to show him the ropes. For that reason, he's trying to create a platform that gives young people a chance.
He says, "I learned through the 'back door.' Now I know about equalizations, reverb, filters and the rest. But at the time, I didn't know their names. I just knew what I had to do to make a beat better - basically (I was) manipulating. Guy, I messed up o (laughs). That's why I feel young producers need a mentor to show them the ropes."
Yo, Rexxie! Pon this one!
In 2011, Chisom was coming into his own. While in school, he was also producing heavily because he grew to love the art of making music. At the time, after begging and begging people, some people finally started jumping on his beats. Six months after he started producing, he had produced about 10 songs for people - for free.
Approximately eight months into production, he also sold his first beat to a guy he no longer remembers and got paid N5,000. He says, "Like, the guy actually paid for my beat. He didn't even know me. He even told me N5,000 was what he had. I looked at him in surprise, but hid my surprise
from him. He paid and I said thank you - I was shocked. Bros, that money went a long way o. That was N5,000 in 2011."
Chisom then perfected the sound and started producing. At the time, he made Hip-Hop, R&B and even Reggae. Making Reggae gave Rexxie his now famous tag, "Yo Rexxie! Pon This One! Rexxie. Narrating the events that led to that, he said, "It was one of my friends named Soldier B. He was a Reggae artist who loved me for reasons I'd never know.
"Everytime he saw me, he'd yell, 'Yo Rexxie! Pon This One! I was also producing for him at the time. That was how I got the tag."
When Rexxie started making music, his parents kicked up a fuss. They felt he was too intelligent to waste his prospects on music - they felt that he would be a Doctor. For context, he graduated from Tai Solarin University with a Second Class Upper (2:1). But Rexxie felt, "I had no choice - I went from 'I love it (music production)' to 'I have no choice.'"
Choice here is not about compulsion, but more about finding a pathway. Nonetheless, his mom got him his first studio equipment - a Sound Card which cost N32,000 at the time - he uses till date. After he got a sound card, he learned production, recording, mixing and sound engineering faster.
"I don't joke with it (The Sound Card) because it helped me learn production and gave me an advantage as I learned. In fact, I only use it for special recordings (laughs), " he says.
Rexxie was growing, but by 2012, he still had no idea what a studio looked like. Then, he met the burgeoning sound engineer, Spyritmyx one evening at YabaTech. In that moment, he saw a studio mic for the first time in his life. At the time, Spiritmyx had just completed his programme at the school and he was looking to have his own studio and push the music.
"YabaTech has to gates. One night Spyritmyx was trying to use the back gate when I saw him with something in his hand. I approached him with hilarious and innocent curiosity, and asked him what he was holding. He told me it was a studio microphone. Being a good person, he told me to come see him at a studio later.
"I was so excited that I was scared to go see him so I wouldn't f*** up - I felt I was not good enough. It took me like six months to go see him. I was still sounding rough at the time, but he believed in me. That's why we're still giving them.
"Basically, he's behind my sound because I saw music as mechanical. But he told me to just be myself and not let the fear limit me. So if you hear my production now, my drums are always high and hard. He made me believe that could be possible. Shout-out to Spyritmyx," Rexxie narrates.
After this confidence boost, he used the sound card his mom bought him and some church equipment he got to start a mini studio in his room - circa 2013.
In 2013, Rexxie was rounding up his National Diploma (ND) from YabaTech when he went for his Industrial Training (IT) at a printing company. At this time, Rexxie wasn't sure about that ND. He jokes that his ND is only of use to him as regards creating an arts and covers for his music projects. During his IT, he kept making beats and then got a nudge from a friend.
"He (Rexxie's friend) told me that a record label needed a producer in Lekki - it was my first time in Lekki. My parents were living at Palmgrove then. I played them (the label) my stuff and they liked it. Then, I felt I had found what I loved doing. So, I went back to the printing company I was ITing with and told them that I would leave. So, I left and went back to Lekki," Rexxie said.
Although he signed no deal with that company, Rexxie appreciates the company for that opportunity. While there, he also discovered an important thing for his career - he hates working with more than three artists simultaneously.
"That's why I work with Naira Marley or Zlatan or whoever when I do. I want artists to know that when I'm with them, I'm truly there. I want to form a synergy with them and I want to share ideas with that artist - that's the only way the music can make any sense. That's why I leave my house and crash at Zlatan's or Naira's for weeks at a time whenever we're really working," Rexxie says.
With the label, he met Masterkraft who encouraged him and told him, "Keep doing what you're doing, I'll be watching you." Despite that inspiration, he claims he has no mentors, "I don't have a mentor o, I just know what I want to give them. When I'm done, even mentor sef will break (laughs). I feel like having a mentor can condition people."
Between 2015 and 2016, Rexxie worked with artists like Dynamite and Young Ace. But one artist change things for Rexxie was Young Ace. With him, Rexxie learned a lot, made different strides, attended shows and then, got an introduction to Chinko Ekun. That period, he also went back to school for a B.sc in Computer Science from Tai Solarin University.
In 2017, things were going well. Exposure started coming in and Rexxie started working with Chinko Ekun. Together, they made 'Shake It,' 'Eruku De' and other songs. While he was supposed to be in school, Rexxie was never in school. Instead, he would be in Lagos making beats - his parents didn't know he was that deep in the music.
Interestingly, Rexxie's sound at this time wasn't the lamba or shepeteri that we all know now. It was usually very Hip-Hop, R&B and even alternative.
While working with Chinko Ekun, Rexxie was also working with Young Ace. As usual, Rexxie's parents thought he was in school. But in March 2018, he traveled to Ilorin, Kwara State via public transport with Young Ace and Lushbeatz. On their way back, they were involved in a car crash.
The driver died instantly and Young Ace had issues with his neck. Lushbeats was fin, but Rexxie had a huge wound on his left arm. That gash has now left a huge scar that Rexxie usually covers with long-sleeved clothes. Sadly, he couldn't tell his parents about the accident because according to him, "My mom would have cried o..."
After the accident, he had a rethink and quit music production. On that, Rexxie says, "My parents didn't even see me anymore. Even when I had that accident, I couldn't go home till I was really okay. So, I started thinking of different things that I could do; left Lekki and came back to Palmgrove. I even thought I was going to do Yahoo Yahoo at some point (laughs)."
Rexxie had quit music, but in June 2018 and with a bandage still wrapped around his injured left arm, he got a call from a lady called, S.I (Seyi) - she now manages Lyta. She wanted Rexxie to work with one artist that she had. Not knowing how to repel S.I and reject the offer, Rexxie reluctantly agreed to the meet. Fun fact: He had also missed music production.
Rexxie got to Surulere and walked into a hotel room that was filled with producers. One of them was Killertunes - the hottest Nigerian music producer of 2018. "My hands were shaking. Bro, 'Fake Love' was popping at the time - I was sweaty (laughs). When Killertunes greeted me, I couldn't even greet him (laughs)," Rexxie commented.
He continues that, "(After I got over my anxiety) I made music with a different spirit that day because I resolved to not be scared of my own creation or the pressure. So, I just wanted to make music. More so, I didn't care who the artist was - he had no name - and there was no promise of money before I came. So I thought, 'Whatever I do, you people will take it like that.'
"For the first time, I made music without a care in the world. But somehow, it made sense. From behind, one man was working with me. When he heard the beat, he walked over and said that he would like to produce his artist. So, he booked the hotel room for me to stay over. The next morning, his artist came and we made music.
"The work with that artist was so good that I had to stay another night. I cared less any way. I even had to stay one more night and that led me to meet Lyta who was with YBNL at the time. I thought to myself that, 'if I nor dey here, I go dey my mumsy side' because I had left Lekki at the time. The delusions of grandeur that Lekki confers got too much for me too handle as well.
"But it was kind of funny because I had to come to leave Lekki to start working with known artists. While in Lekki, I used to deceive myself that I was in the right space to meet artists - I wasn't. Now, I just met Lyta and that night, we recorded 'Self Made.' From there, everything popped off.
"The next day after we recorded 'Self Made,' Olamide heard it, liked it and asked to meet me. Then, I had a session with Olamide and we recorded a lot of songs the next night. From there, my sleep patterns also had to significantly adjust to demands of the artists I work with."
With his sleep patterns now adjusted, his hunger was back and so was his love for music production. A little while later, his injured arm was healing and he could then move with greater freedom but he still had his bandage on. He was also firmly in the subconscious of known artists and Olamide.
On this day in late-March 2018, he was at home in Palmgrove, Lagos when the same Seyi (S.I, Lyta's manager) called him again. Her words, "Guy, one guy (Jessie) is featuring Zlatan on a song and they need you to come to that same hotel (where he met Lyta), press 'record' for them and make some money. Nobody here really knows how to."
For Rexxie, this run changed his sound from more 'refined' sounds to proper lamba. When one of his friends heard his sound at the time, he doubted it was Rexxie who produced such lamba.
But on the day he met Zlatan, he was not a fan of Zlatan's type of music. Looking back, he laughs at himself and says, "See, this life ehn... I used to make what people call, 'serious music' (laughs). My music was so serious that my senior brother took to consolation as a way to inspire me. My music was quite abstract."
He went there and met the producer - Zlatan was also there. When the produced played his beat, Rexxie insisted that the beat needed something. He says, "I felt I could add something to make him (Zlatan) finish off the record. They gave me a chance and I gave them the touch. However, it still didn't work. So they abandoned the song.
Jogor and Japa
When Zlatan asked Rexxie if he had any other beat. Rexxie then pulled out a beat and gave Zlatan - it was a beat that he'd saved and had dreamed of giving to rapper, CDQ. That song became 'Jogor' which featured Lil Kesh and Naira Marley.
On recording the Marley and Kesh parts, Rexxie says, "About a week after that, I was in school when Zlatan called me that we had to record Naira Marley's and Lil Kesh's verses. Baba, I left school one time o. Even Zlatan sef nor know say I nor dey Lagos - he doesn't even realize that I was in school at the time (laughs).
"We went to meet Kesh and Naira (Marley) in a rented apartment and I went with my stuf (equipment). Kesh was tired and went to sleep, but Naira was ready to record, so he recorded. That night, Zlatan and I couldn't go back, so we had to sleep on the floor. While were waiting for Kesh to wake up the next day, Naira was in form and needed a beat to jump on. The first beat I played became 'Japa.'"
The beat to 'Japa' is quite different to the 'lamba Rexxie.' On that Difference, Rexxie says, "It was a beat (that was just) there - that's why I said I used to make different things. Naira (Marley) just jumped on it. But from when we made 'Jogor,' I knew that I had to really change my sound to what it is now. I started understanding the soundscape to merge Hip-Hop with pop and all that."
Illuminati and Again O
Rexxie's story is one of how the stars could align to bless one person with astounding, concurrent blessings. When Lil Kesh woke up the next morning, he had to go somewhere real quick - he couldn't record his 'Jogor' verse yet. After apologizing, Zlatan and Rexxie waited for him in his house. However, Zlatan wanted to keep working. The song they recorded became 'Illuminati' - owned by Zlatan featured Naira Marley.
"As we waited, Zlatan was 'gingering' to record. The song we recorded became 'Illuminati.' We couldn't even wait for Kesh, so we had to go and I went back to school," Rexxie said.
But then, Lil Kesh wasn't done with Rexxie. After Rexxie had gone back to school in April 2018, Naira Marley called him that Lil Kesh likes 'Japa' a lot and would like to work with him. A week after that call, he came back to Lagos and he recorded 'Again O.' In the same breathe, Lil Kesh also recorded his verse on 'Jogor.'
After that run, Rexxie didn't know those songs would become hits. The first song to be released was 'Jogor' and it was a slow burn that really peaked after its video was released later in the year. The same happened for 'Japa' which was released on July 11, 2018, but only went mainstream after its video was released in November 2018.
Rexxie was back in school, looking to get lucky and complete schooling with a good grade. He later graduated with a 2:1, but it didn't really look like it at the time. One day, he was again in school when he called Chinko Ekun to do a song with Zlatan. Rexxie had met Chinko Ekun during his 'Lekki days.' The song that came out of that session became 'Able God.'
During his show in December 2019, Zlatan said that at the time, he didn't have a house of his own. He also said that his car was a Toyota Sienna that had a lot of faults.
Speaking on making 'Able God,' Reexie says, "I called Chinko (Ekun) to make a song with Zlatan, but he was reluctant at first. At the end of the day, we recorded the song and played it for Lil Kesh who liked it and jumped on it and that was the beginning of our journey."
Despite that, 'Able God' got objections from several people in Chinko Ekun's camp. They felt like even though it was a street song, it wasn't radical like 'Diet,' one of the biggest hits of 2019. For that reason, the song had to be forced through to get released and that cause was aided when 'Able God' went viral on Instagram even pre-release. The song became a hit.
Rexxie says that he felt 'Able God' was going to be a hit from that day. However, people who knew him in the early days of his production felt he had 'sold out.' He tried to explain, but those people didn't understand. Although he understood their grouse with his change, but he claims, "They couldn't see what I was seeing.
"The guys (Zlatan and Naira) that you see now, even though I wasn't totally sure, I felt they were going to be stars."
Around that time, 'Logo Benz' and 'Zanku (Legwork)' were also made. The experience introduced Rexxie to payment for the first time. For 'Able God,' he was paid after the song was released, but then he was also wise - his negotiation and fee management are handled by a management company.
He says, "That's why I advise producers to have a great management team. No matter how an artist makes you feel comfortable, it's not advisable to negotiate by yourself. (Sings the hook to 'Quilox'). However, it's a different ball game when the artist you're working with doesn't even have money."
At the end of 2019, Rexxie had left home and had an apartment of his own. Zlatan already had 'Jogor,' 'Able God,' 'Zanku' and was set to have 'Bum Bum' by Davido. Rexxie was eager to meet Davido and he always disturbed Zlatan to make the introduction and Zlatan would always say, "Calm down."
One day, Zlatan and Rexxie were at the barbers when Zlatan put a call through to Davido that Rexxie would like to meet him. At the time, Davido had a show at Adeleke University, Ede, Osun State so Zlatan was asked to come along.. Rexxie used the opportunity to hitch a ride with Zlatan and took his equipment with him. "Be prepared," he summarized that event while laughing.
"When we got to Adeleke University, I set up with Zlatan and Yonda hoping Davido would come up. Zlatan is a very stupid person (laughs). He wanted Davido to come record with us, but Davido was busy. He tries numerous things when he wants something to happen. When he noticed that Davido might not come, he kept posting our sessions on his Snapchat.
"The next morning, he posted one song on his Snapchat and Davido showed up - Davido is a very open person - and recorded. But the song didn't drop till Zlatan dropped his album - it's 'Power.' The next time Davido was in Lagos, we linked up and we recorded 'Bum Bum.'
Getting into 2019, Rexxie didn't know what to expect. Although he enjoys being scared because it keeps him on his toes, he was still apprehensive of 2019. But then, 'Bum Bum' dropped and he had some peace. Nonetheless, the tendency for his songs to get released almost as they get recorded means that he wasn't really anticipating anything.
"I didn't have a plan and it made me nervous. Then, 'Illuminati' drops but it wasn't really what I wanted. Things were slightly dry until Naira released 'Am I A Yahoo Boy?' but soon after, he got arrested with Zlatan. The funny part is that, when they got arrested, I was meant to be in Zlatan's house (where they got arrested), but I went to Kesh's house to finish 'Nkan Be' with Mayorkun.
"When I came back the next morning, I wanted to knock but I was living close to Zlatan, so I went to my house because I was tired. When I woke up, I heard they had got arrested. I was caught between feeling lucky and mostly, feeling guilty that I should have been there. One night, I was feeling really bad and Imade a beat off how I felt. It's titled 'Free Dem Boyz.'
"I put it online, but I got backlash from people who thought I wanted cheap fame off my friends' incarceration. So, I took the beat offline. But you know the funniest thing, that beat is the skeletal version of 'Soapy.'"
When Naira Marley came back from incarceration at EFCC, Zlatan was already out. For Rexxie, he didn't know how to act around Marley. Rexxie says Marley kept to himself when he came out and he was thinking about a lot of things. However, Rexxie knew that there was only one way to get to Marley - music.
When Marley was ready, he stepped into the studio. The first beat Rexxie played was a rougher version of 'Soapy.'
"I had reworked that 'Free Dem Boyz' beat and removed the percussion. While we were in the studio, I was nervous because I wanted to play something Naira (Marley) would like. So, I played the keys that became the start of 'Soapy' and Naira didn't complain (laughs). When the drums finally came off, Naira went into beast mode and that was it," he narrated.
These days, artists barely record songs in the studio anymore. An album as monumental as Watch The Throne was recorded in hotel rooms across the world. Beyonce's album, Beyonce was recorded in the Hamptons, New York with Timbaland, The Dream and Justin Timberlake in the same house.
Nigerian artists are also at that level now. They barely record in studios anymore - except needs be. On that, Rexxie says, "I don't know about that, but when I was recording in a studio with Spiritmyx for the first time, I felt it was too mechanical. I like to be inspired by a myriad of things. However, the studio is also nice because of quality sounds."
2020, Growth and Burna Boy
Rexxie has now changed from the artist at the start of 2019. He's not apprehensive anymore. He now has a plan and things feel more certain. Although he still gets nervous sometimes, things look calm and more certain. He says, "Now, I have a lot of recordings with a lot of artists across the world and they might drop anytime. So, I'm calmer and more optimistic - just not calm enough, that's risky."
This year, he's already won Producer of the Year at the Soundcity MVP Awards. Interestingly enough, he didn't want to go, but then, his manager insisted. He was reluctant because he felt awards have a way of disappointing people in Nigeria.
What really made him go was seeing Pheelz on the red carpet. Narrating it, Rexxie asked himself that, "If Pheelz went and had no idea if he would win, what am I doing here?" So, he went and he won. He says, "I didn't even expect to win. To me, it wasn't validation, but it was also validation."
This year, he plans to release a song with Burna Boy, he produced for Chris Brown - which he thanks Davido for and says is not built on the usual lamba sound, help young producers and produce for upcoming act.
On 'Pxta,' Naira Marley's 2019 single he rapped in Yoruba that, "Imagine la'le ana, Rexxie fi Benzo gbe Ruka lo..." In English, it means, "Imagine what happened yesterday night, Rexxie took Ruka home in a Benz."
When we asked Rexxie who Ruka is, he says there is no Ruka, but he has a girlfriend. He laughed and we ended the chat.