In the recent sweep of events surrounding the upward trend of sounds out of Africa, UK-based Afrobeats artist Curtis J released his latest single, an interesting addition to the genre-bending discography that defines the talented singer. Following the success of his previous release ‘The Man’, Curtis J taps into the world of love and marriage in his incredible new single titled ‘Sweeter Love’ accompanied by crisp visuals directed by MRMTMMG.
With this new single, Curtis J takes a much-appreciated pivot into the softer side of the Afrobeats genre, as he displays his versatility, musical prowess, and unwavering talent that graces the smooth record with silky vocals that glide over the OluwaJBeats (‘Owner’, ‘The Remix’) produced track with ease, giving him a soft landing in the ears of Afrobeats lovers.
Curtis’ effortless ability to merge his style of music into UK culture, as well as maintain an emphasis on his greatly embraced Nigerian heritage is vividly displayed in ‘Sweeter Love’, and with his renewed output he has been able to reel in listeners and key taste makers in the UK music scene.
RADRAfrica chats with the singer about his new release and journey so far.
Hello Curtis J, briefly tell us about yourself and your music background.
Curtis: Hi, I’m Curtis J and my Nigerian name is Eniola Oluwatoyin Oyemade, “it’s pretty long” (he laughs). I was born in Lagos Nigeria (Bode Thomas hospital), and I grew up in Nigeria until I was six, then I moved to England. I spent some time in Lagos and Ibadan before moving to London (Peckham) and I still speak Yoruba well, so yeah, I’m a full Naija boy. I started singing in college, but I didn’t take it seriously because I didn’t think I could sing or do what people would want to listen to until guys around and in the studio began to say, “Yo! You’re really good, we don’t even have to do much editing to your voice”. Then, I decided to take it seriously and got into professional studios to record and make music.
What’s your core genre and what would you say inspires your current style of music?
Curtis: A lot of times people categorize my sound as Afro-swing or some other Afro subgenre, but I wouldn’t say my style of music is Afro-swing exactly, because my focus is Afrobeats in its core. The songs that you’re going to be hearing from me soon are like a blend of core Afrobeats and juju music. That’s the kind of music I grew up listening to and till this very day, I listen to the likes of Yinka Ayefele, and Baba Ara, that’s where most of my inspiration is drawn from apart from personal experiences.
I discovered you’ve had interesting collaborations with the likes of Darkoo, how do you manage to fuse your UK R’n’B sensibilities with the Nigerian lingual in your songs?
Curtis: The thing is, I’m from South London and as much as I can’t choose to scrap my accent or the slangs and terminologies we use, I also know that I’m Nigerian and it’s just inbuilt. With my friends here, I can always do UK type music, but for me, there’s always this reminder that I’ve got to speak pidgin, Mo like latì ma so Yoruba (he briefly switches to Yoruba to explain how much his Nigerian heritage means to him) I don’t want to sound like everyone in the UK, and I want people to understand where I come from and represent in my music and personality.
Let’s talk about what it’s like to be a Nigerian musician doing Afrobeats in the UK. What has your experience in the UK Afrobeats scene been like?
Curtis: For real it’s not easy at all. To get into the Afrobeats scene here is not something you do overnight you know. Thing is, when you’re recognized, you’ve got to keep up the tempo. Over here, when people want to connect with Afrobeats they’re usually looking for the top guns you know, and I’ve been doing this for about 4 years now, and it’s not until last year I started getting the recognition. So I’m glad my name is beginning to get into those conversations that matter.
Your previous release ‘The Man’ has amassed recognition and acceptance by the UK Afrobeats scene, what’s the story behind that record?
Curtis: Yeah, so ‘The Man’ was born out of the reality of Nigeria. The things I see from here in the UK are crazy and the way it affects me, I can’t really do much from my corner, I just had to speak up through my music. You know how the youths and people, in general, look good and they’re flexing and they’re seen as ‘The Man’, but in reality, na the soldier’s wey dey ground be the original man them. There’s visible oppression on the youths. The police and those in power see young folks well dressed, looking good and there is a sort of battle between who’s truly the Man. Yeah, so that’s what I tried to portray with the song and video.
*I can relate and for a second, we both feel the pain that comes with being unable to change it all.*
It’s crazy. Anyway, you’ve just released a new single with an interesting video, ‘Sweeter Love’. What’s the story behind the song, and why that specific theme for this release?
Curtis: Well, it’s like we are in the marriage season, but at the time, I was in my zone. I had just woken up from an interesting nap where I saw myself in love. The sound of the saxophone that woke me up couldn’t leave my head, it had this Marvin Gaye feeling you know? So I just knew I had to make a sexy song for women and I hadn’t done anything like that so I got up and started vibing to it and that’s how we made ‘Sweeter Love’. It just fit right into the wedding and marriage season anyway, so we decided to put it out.
Interesting. So, I have to ask, is ‘Sweeter Love’ a subtle hint at an imminent marriage, or what’s your relationship status, for the curious fans?
Curtis: Ah! No oh! I’m still young and single. The video made it feel kinda real though. It gave me an idea of what my wedding day might feel like. It was an interesting experience that I want everyone that watches the video to feel.
Nice, I’m pretty sure your female fans will be relieved. So, there have been recent studio sightings with King Promise and Buju, is there anything you’d like to share regarding those meetings?
Curtis: Oh, yeah. Very interesting times, I must say. Be expecting songs from me with both of them. Both guys are super talented. In our sessions I made like three songs with King Promise and like two with Buju. We did everything from scratch and they understood what we wanted to achieve. Be sure to expect something very soon from me and Buju. Y’all will love it!
Let’s talk about how you’ve been managing the love and fame that has come with your growth, how do you handle all of it?
Curtis: It’s great. The love, the fans, all of it is awesome. But it comes with a lot of pressure and I just try to not let it get to me and maintain my lane as much as I can. Man’s got to stay afloat because if you let the pressure get to you, you could get lost in it. So I just absorb the fun part of it and let go of the rest. No negative energy.
Undoubtedly, you’ve had a great run-up to your current release. Are there any collaborations we should look out for, and what’s next for Curtis J?
Curtis: Thanks man. There’s a lot more coming for sure. There are projects I plan to put out, but there are also some interesting singles lined up to give y’all a bit more taste of what I’m made of. I‘ve got a lot of surprises and amazing stuff that’ll keep you guys satisfied. The next project involves amazing talents across multiple genres so una go enjoy am well. But for now, a couple more singles.
As we wrap up our conversation, Curtis hints that his subsequent releases will tell more of his personality and style. We exchange pleasantries, and this exciting, chatty young man heads back into the store to continue shopping ahead of Tiffany Calver’s birthday party later that evening.
The events surrounding Curtis’ musical growth as well as his accolades in recent press, and as one of Rebecca Judd’s ‘Ascending Artists on Apple Music’, all imply Curtis’ trajectory and star power see no bounds. With his growing fan base increasing by the day, the South Londoner aims to take over the Afrobeats scene one hit song at a time.
From the genre-fluid Afro-swing, R’n’B, and rap flows Curtis delivers, he has had a great run-up to the release of ‘Sweeter Love’ and is rightly equipped, ready, and surrounded by an amazing team, as the ‘No Requests’ via Polydor Records signee navigates the musical sphere with style and confidence. In addition to the growing acceptance by grassroots tastemakers in the global music scene, ‘Sweeter Love’ continues a string of releases that concretes Curtis J as a promising young Afrobeats star, and one to watch closely.
Watch ‘Sweeter love’ video below
Connect with Curtis J @officialcurtisj