Interview: AJO talks Nuba, Affinity for Literature, staying Woke and more

AJO mid this year revealed he will be working on an album that purely discusses Africa an its reality: the future past and present. The first single Transcend  has us describe it as a pan-African inspired track – last week he dropped his second single Nuba.

I hit him up for a word or two and well we had paragraph length chat about African Literature, Africa, African Reality and Nuba entirely. We also dug into his plight for crafting a concept album and below is the conversation:

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SHAWN: By any chance do you have a literature background? Did you study it to a certain level, preferably of liking the subject?

AJO: No not really…I didn’t study literature, but growing  up from the kind of family I did; English was a hard drilled necessity. My parents were very particular about our grammar and general knowledge
We were surrounded by many literature accessories:  history books, story books and many more books so I kind of broadened my awareness of literature and knowledge.

SHAWN: No wonder there is a particular articulation when it comes to AJO spitting in the Brit’s lingo!

AJO:  Haha… I guess so.

SHAWN: As titles does the River Between (Ngugi), Grass is Singing (Doris Lessing), and Things fall Apart  Chinua Achebe] ring a bell to you?

AJO: Oh yes…these were all book references…I have read them, passively, not as a literature student though. But they have rich depth in African tales. Incredible narrations from African perspectives.

SHAWN: So it is wise for us to say: “AJO is a widely read man!”?

Nuba by AJO

AJO: Haha…that would be over rating it but I have been exposed to a fair share of literature. Not a lot, but i guess just the kind of literature that stands out in-depth of knowledge and mind opening.

On how the three books influenced the second verse on Nuba

SHAWN: Mid verse 2 of Nuba you spit these bars:

Pick your disaster Haile Selassie, one for the Rastas
From the land of the Timbuktu and dying cultures
Things fall apart from the rivers between
So as we cry the beloved country, the grass is singing
My head ringing, voices from the other side screaming

AJO: Oh yes!

SHAWN: And for anyone who has read a good number of African books that particular point forces one to think of the book titles in one way or another – did you actually put much thought how it pans out?

AJO: Definitely, see every one word stringed in that verse complimented the actual message of the song as I tried to make it artistic in a way.

SHAWN:  On first thought, it places you in a position: “I read the books” as in the particular titles and played around them. Reminds me of a thing  we actually used to do when we were in school – we would sort of ‘mash up titles’

AJO:  Every word, euphemism and reference was a message in its own; all these books hold powerful literature and influence enough to make you think and get woke.

About Staying Woke

SHAWN:  Speaking of getting ‘woke’, how have you managed to ‘stay woke’ – sonically Nuba (to me) is a sound that is so disrupting. One:  not the usual AJO, so you have to be patient and listen between and along the lines. Two: “It is cutthroat or straight in your face approach – here are the facts sort of thing”. You offer facts. How have you stayed woke?

AJO: Well like you had mentioned earlier, besides an affinity for literature; there should be a passion for Africa in all this. The Pan-African spirit should dwell within you. That way you will always look to better the status quo of Africa and see to do that you need to know your history as an African, where we went wrong or where we were strong, why we are existing as we are and the end game of so many opinions. At the end of the day, you should have the desire for knowledge

That is the way I have tried to stay woke: A pride of who I am as an African has driven me to appreciate the finer things we have,  and has encouraged me to open my mind to a better African people whose history shall not be lost,  but used to grow our race

Still from ‘Transcend’

Conceptualizing Africa

SHAWN: Nuba is like an advanced SST lesson you know? Historical references and those Historical-Geographic places. Before we wrap, how is the conceptualizing Africa and its problem like?

Nuba puts you in a sort of lesson, just to recall Transcend to mind the vision you have for African Reality is it coming easy and your plight at a time where attention spans are so poor.

AJO:  Its tough; it’s really tough, see first of all, your passion is put to the test when you try to conceptualize Africa and its problems. On one hand you want to paint a beautiful image of your race and continents. Then there are those moments when you dig into African history and current state, and it almost makes you want to shade tears because, we have and are still going through a lot of challenges, many of which are life changing, life threatening and death serving. These are real and they exist or have existed, so to put yourself in the shoes of the people who have gone through them, and just to imagine the pain they went or have gone through will make you weak to your knees…

It’s a bitter-sweet story, this one of Africa…one which doesn’t just have an uphill curve, it has the highs and the lowest of the lows and these happen concurrently. It’s a sad and beautiful affair of emotions but someone has to tell these stories, some has to invoke these emotions, and I hope I can offer a small piece of that to the masses

I believe the platform I have chosen can speak to somebody, be it one or two or three people, as long as a pan-African thought is manifested in them…that’s all we need…self love and rediscovering our self-worth

Premier: AJO unleashes ‘TRANSCEND’ Video

SHAWN: It is challenging but for any who hopes to uplift the African agenda they will have to persevere. Just to move away from that a bit – Enygma says on his Who Killed Hip hop track: They (rappers) don’t study they can barely write a poem. Education is a key tool and being ware aka woke – any books and tracks you can offer a rapper as a means to really stay woke. I am liking the ‘stay woke’ line but yes any?

AJO: Well there is a lot of literature out there, I personally have been watching so many documentaries, from the colonial times to keenly following modern-day Pan-Africans, there is a lot of information out there on the Internet, just search for what topic sparks your Pan-African spirit. Recently an amazing poet friend of mine called Malaika Uwamahoro shared with me a documentary called Hidden figures and man was it some very powerful information. I can’t point out really what books or documentaries to refer to but any material related to the African continent should be a good read. History books and these amazing past literatures should be a must read

SHAWN: To dodge listing haha, the Internet is a goldmine. Just to close the chat, when should we expect African Reality?

AJO:  Haha…that’s a million dollar question, but I would take off the sting on the anticipation if i answered it…haha it will drop quite soon

SHAWN: Haha, let’s anticipate.

AJO: Haha, oh yeah! …thats all we can do now

SHAWN: Surely. Thanks for your time AJO, It’s been great coolin’ and talking about your new single – and the related.  I appreciate the insights bruh!

AJO: Bro’ the pleasure is all mine…thank you chief

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This interview was conducted by Ayella NuveySHAWN founder NuveyLive. He is a freelance writer, hip hop blogger and Editor.

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