Exclusive Interview: Drizilik – “I want us to blow up on another level”
Sierra Leone rapper Drizilik is looking to take on the world along with Salone band Freetown Uncut
Drizlik is a rapper from Sierra Leone that you need to know about.
Along with the renowned band, Freetown Uncut, he has been shutting down shows all over Sierra Leone for the last couple of years and has had dreams of taking his Afro-leaning rap style global.
These hopes were achieved when management from the UK helped to organise a tour for the group, reaching various cities in England and allowing the band to spread their fusion sound of Afrobeats, hip-hop, jazz and reggae.
Thankfully in between Drizilik’s busy tour schedule I got time with the man himself, to catch up with him over a tasty Wagamamas, chatting about his notorious Shukubly necklace, connecting with various artists on the Osusu Project and his goals for the rest of the year.
How did you guys initially come together to form the group?
The rest of the group were at the Academy of Music in Freetown and I was just starting up my music career in 2012. I performed at a beauty contest around that time and a colleague of their’s, Rampage, who’s my official DJ now, he was there with the director of the band. They judged the contest, so when they saw me perform they suggested that I come and join them at the music academy as well. It was supposed to be a one time thing but we were so good together that we officially became a group after that show.
What’s it been like trying to break through the music scene in Sierra Leone?
It wasn’t so easy, but we’ve been doing music at a top level for some time. We were the best band before we even blew up. But you know with live music, it wasn’t so popular over there, so even though we were good, it did not really matter, because at first it was falling on deaf ears. But we kept at it and I got my breakthrough in 2015 when I released a single called ‘Pop Collar’ and that one was big on radio, at parties and just in general within the country. With the band, we’ve been building up things for a long time, so we were a popular band before we even blew up, so it was like we were there, but our movement wasn’t really recognised until we started performing with the top acts in the African music industry. When artists come from Nigeria, Ghana and other places they would get our band to perform with them; that’s when the band actually hit mainstream.
Was it always a dream for you guys to tour in the UK?
Definitely. Because we’ve had fans in places like the UK and the US for long. People would come back to Sierra Leone during the holidays to watch the band and swear that they’d never seen anything like us before. So it was about time actually, I feel like the clock was ticking, we just didn’t know when it was going to happen. Plus it’s something we’ve been preparing for. So yeah, it’s like a dream come true.
What was your experience like performing at the Freedom Festival in Hull?
It was dope. The crowd was responsive, even though they didn’t know our music, they could feel it. We got a very positive reception.
How have you guys found the UK music industry in comparison to Sierra Leone’s music scene?
I’d say it’s one that has developed versus one that is developing.
Have you guys got to enjoy any parties or club events in England?
Plenty. We’ve had a great time!
Do you think Sierra Leonian music can ever be as big as the Afrobeats scene in Nigeria?
Yeah it can. I feel like we have enough acts to push it to that level, but the problem is that the infrastructure is not there. It will take time to be honest. But I just can’t rule it out, because the potential is there, it’s very possible. If we were to judge individually, I feel like we have musicians that on par with the Afrobeats artists in Nigeria and Ghana: ranging from vocalists, to instrumentalists, to producers, to sound engineers. It’s all about time and with exposure we can get to that level. Not saying its going to happen in the next couple of years, but with time and work, we will get there eventually.
Who are some other Sierra Leonian artists that we need to be checking for?
Check for DJ Rampage; check for Block Jones; check for Macmuday: check for the Afrobeats collective LXG; check for KME, they have bangers too; check for Akman; check for Simche; we also have a rapper called Prodigy, who has other artists under his belt and CR; these are very good upcoming vocalists who have not made it to the scene yet, but it would be great for them to be on your radar, as they have so much potential.
Drizilik, ‘This Is Sierra Leone’ is a big song for you, did you know what you had on your hands when you were making it?
I did, because it was the fans that pushed me to do it. They dared me to do it. So I kind of knew the reaction would be good before I even made the song, because the supporters wanted it; I feel like they directed that one.
What’s the significance of the necklace you always wear?
The Shukubly. It symbolises my relationship to things that influence me. It is actually a container and most Krio (an ethnic group in Sierra Leone) households have it in their house. it comes in different sizes, it all depends on what you want to put inside it. So my family had one that had all our necessities, like medicines, spare pottery, pennies from around the home, basically things that we need to use during our daily lives. Also my Grandma has so much influence on my career and how willing I am to push for success in my life, so the Shukubly is also a symbol of me relating to her. It is also a symbol of global citizenship, so I feel like through the Shukubly everything connects.
So you guys came together with artists from Iceland, Ireland and the UK to create the project Osusu in Sierra Leone, what can we expect from the tape?
FIRE! We’ve already dropped one song off the project called ‘Woman’, which features Daniel Bangura, Hildur, Cell7 and Mohammed Kamara. The artist on that one are from Iceland, Ireland and Sierra Leone.
What are your goals in music for the rest of the year?
I want us to blow up on another level, where even if people have just come across us briefly, they can rediscover us and really get into our music. So even though they know of us, we want to turn more people into fans. I honestly feel that my last project I put out was slept on. I think Shukubly is a good project, like people know of it, but it was slept on. I was expecting Sierra Leonians to receive it when it first came out, but they are only properly taking it in now. So whilst I work on my second album, I’m going to give the people a good amount of time to get into my last tape. At the moment I’m working on plenty of visuals from the project and I’m also collaborating with a lot of artists. We are returning back to the UK in November for an event, so hopefully we get to travel with our music more this year, as well as perfecting our production so I can come up with another banger!
Interview by Denzil Bell