Olanrewanju Ogunmefun represents different things to different people. His alter ego, Vector Tha Viper represents even a wider range of things. To many, he’s the award-winning Def Jam Africa artist with a dedicated fan base that worships him.
To women, he’s the typical TDH with a great smile. To MI Abaga, he’s the colleague he beefed with in the third quarter of 2019. To some people, he’s a philosophy graduate with a sharp, analytical mind that can sway even the most hardened men with words. To himself, he’s just the best and most lucid version of himself who looks to build greatness in little forms of expression.
On this day, he felt “blessed” as an artist - one who had released two beautiful EPs within seven months. The latest of those projects is Crossroads, a collaborative EP with Masterkraft. But before those two EPs, there were…
State of Surprise, Lafiaji and Pre-Vibes Before T.E.S.L.I.M
For so long in his career, the biggest criticism for Vector was his bodies of work. Nonetheless, he doesn’t care much for that. To him, it’s more about perspective than quality.
During our conversation, he tells me that any project he has released represents his state of mind at the time of creation - in complexity and ideal. He says, “The projects might not be for you, but someone somewhere likes them. I don’t know what a ‘bad project’ is. The first time we heard trap, we laughed at it. Now, Travis $cott has changed everyone’s opinion of it. The gift of life is expression.
“At the time, my mind was on a lot of things and that is the value of the human state of mind. I can understand your reservations towards those projects, but there is a story behind them. I appreciate the fact that you found your rhythm with the movement because I can also admit that nobody is perfect.”
Vector then refutes my insinuation that label pressure to make commercially viable pop music on State of Suprise or the need to make money after his legal battle with YSG led to the pop direction of Lafiaji.
Introspect, empiricism and vulnerability
These days, Vector is about chilling introspect, socio-politics, empiricism and vulnerability. On ‘No Peace’ off Crossroads EP, Vector rapped about the concepts of societal and personal peace. On ‘OJA’ off Vibes Before T.E.S.L.I.M, Vector rapped about consumption of psychedelic and psychoactive substances. The list goes on.
He says, “I’ve always been introspective, but I grew up with different layers to me, so my introspect will automatically have different shades. I grew up in a barrack and I’ve always had a different mindset. It’s been my journey, but as you grow, you grow.
“This is just a now-representation of who I’ve always been. I was always misunderstood because my mentality wasn’t of the norm. I was always so liberal, modernist and self-conscious. Maybe I wasn’t a different mind because that would mean I’m special and nobody really is, but I just see things my own way.”
Our conversation started on a good note.
VIBES Before T.E.S.L.I.M
The project was an evaluation of the sensitive topics; sex, drugs, mental health, prayers, fear and much more. His perspective and different stages of his life are reflected on the project - both the savoury and unsavoury. It was a subtly stark departure from Lafiaji’s dance-focused template.
To Vector, it’s not significantly about stylistic switch, it’s about evolution. He feels we all need to evolve with our craft, finances and packaging.
He says, “Even though I was growing already, I had gotten to a point where I wanted my music to reflect what I believe in. Like the Yoruba say, ‘If you pour water for front, you go step on cold ground.’ “I didn’t just want to advise people anymore, I decided to take my own advice. That’s why Vibes Before T.E.S.L.I.M came before T.E.S.L.I.M.”
Certain songs from Vibes Before T.E.S.L.I.M were recorded a while back while some went ideation to creation. When they had all been gathered, Vector and his team picked the best and they made the album.
For example, ‘Never Scared’ had to be remade into an A Capella.
Potential reconciliation with M.I Abaga
The last time we spoke, the GRAP Musik boss was due to drop T.E.S.L.I.M, but he ended up dropping the very introspective and socio-political VIBES Before T.E.S.L.I.M and the beef-winner, ‘Judas The Rat.’
Some weeks ago, his conversation with LadiPoe was mostly about positivity, togetherness and growth. This also came after the highly publicized beef with MI Abaga. While we were talking, I asked if his new brand stemmed off regrets from that beef.
“I don’t regret standing for what I believe in. I don’t regret saying how I feel - you should never regret that as a human being. The day you regret how you feel, you’ve invalidated yourself. We like peace, but we don’t mind war. A lot of people won’t know what you stand for till they engage you. I don’t regret what happened last year,” Vector says.
A few weeks ago, Vector almost made an appearance on MI Abaga’s Instagram Live session but for a bad network. It looked like reconciliation was in the air, especially with how Larry Gaaga was playing mediator in the comment section. But then, Vector says he’s indifferent about reconciliation or continued beef.
Vector seems open to the possibility of reconciliation, but he equally doesn’t seem particularly keen on it. When I asked him why he made the appearance on the live session he says, “That might have been me trying to clear situations right there on air. I’m a hard guy, but ‘clearing somebody’ might not be for the negativity that everyone might have been thinking.”
He then jokes that, “Corona has even affected the concept of hand shakes these days… (laughs).”
Rapfrobeat and Crossroads EP
While Vector has now evolved, he still feels dance/pop music is a part of him. When he was young, he did a lot of dance drama and pop music will forever be a part of his fabric and he rejects any notion that he will dump pop music because he is now known as a rapper. He says, “There’s an African tale telling in dance.”
These days, he’s pushing a ‘rapfrobeats’ movement - a portmanteau of rap and afrobeats. The publicity of that movement comes with Crossroads EP. While the movement is about African sound, Vector doesn’t want to limit it to sound. The movement is also a culture of socio-political themes, self-awareness and realism - even the ugly side.
The Fela side lives just like the lamba/dance music lives. Vector says he also aims to retain the true state of Hip-Hop in the movement. To him, ‘No Peace’ is as much rapfrobeat as ‘Eyan Colgate.’ Sometimes, rapfrobeat is in the message, sometimes it’s in the language of delivery and sometimes it’s in the sound. Other times, it’s in all the above.
Vector says, “It’s just our way of defining African rappers. The soul of African music will always be the sound though. I might listen to Mozart, but my reality is still [Sings Kwam 1] and it will always reflect in my music via sound, message and language.”
Creating Crossroads EP with Masterkraft
Vector is wary of certain types of friendship, but he’s big on relationships. At Jam Rock Fest in December 2019, he was with a horde of people - mostly his friends from different parts of life. While this friend was not there on the night, he has been with Vector for a long time and his name is Masterkraft, the co-creator of Crossroads EP as Mastaa.
Nigerian producers have been working on their own legacies by having their own bodies of work. So this comes perfectly timed for the legendary producer. Nonetheless, this writer felt compelled to query Vector on why the producer got credited as a producer despite producing just two tracks on the EP.
Vector says that the conversation which led to this EP happened in pidgin, and it was about creating rapfrobeat as a value chain for African music. Since they discussed the idea together and the creation of the EP was about that idea, Vector says it was only right that Masterkraft is a co-creator of Crossroads.
Does Vector still consider himself a rapper?
Vector laughs and says that he’s always been more than a rapper, but rap was just one thing he could always do very well.
Our conversation then led to why I think he should have sang all through on ‘No Peace.’ He replies, “I get that, but sometimes some things are better said in rap and my rap on ‘No Peace’ is one of those situations because the metaphors and symbolisms would be better delivered as rap. If I can do all these things, I believe I shouldn’t limit myself.”
It’s also noteworthy that Vector has also been producing music these days.
What does Vector want his music to represent these days?
Vector’s story is a pale representation of what Kendrick Lamar rapped on ‘Black Boy Fly,’ when he said, “N**gas like me never prosper, prognosis…” After a brief pause that was presumably to help Vector gather his thoughts, he validated this writer’s suspicions about the change in his creative approach.
Growing up in barracks in Lafiaji means Vector has seen a different side to life. Some of his friends are still in the streets, yet he relates with them. To him, he sees his music as a condensed representation of these different shades to his life.
Even though Vector simply wants to be himself in his music, he also hopes his listeners see and recognize themselves via his music because greatness happens in little forms. He says, “I once told Olamide that even though he grew up in Bariga, he found a way to adopt a different life to what his background promised.”
Inspiration and anxiety
The answer is, “nothing.” While Vector accepts that things that give you anxiety can also lead to professional advancement, he says detaching himself from getting inspired by anything is how he avoids anxiety.
Def Jam Africa
Two hours after this conversation, I heard that Vector had been signed to Def Jam Africa alongside Cassper Nyovest, Nasty C, Larry Gaaga, Tshego and more. However, his management says he doesn’t want to talk about this deal at this time.