- Words Liam Cattermole
One of the UK’s most talented wordsmiths, Bawo talks about his new single “Same Team”, forthcoming project ‘Legitimate Cause’ and more.
Born and raised in west London, Bawo is a rapper generating an unavoidable buzz of his own. His borderless approach to rap music has caught the attention of new and old hip-hop heads alike, who appreciate his imaginative flows and rhyme patterns. Using his music as a vessel to reflect on the rap game, and London’s inherent diversity, the artist taps into an introspection that illuminates a clear vision. Few tracks in his discography explore this as well as “Same Team” – Bawo’s brilliant new single. An ode to his competitive career path, the tune sees him coming to terms with needing guidance to progress.
Starting to release music on Soundcloud in 2019, Bawo has gone from strength-to-strength, accumulating millions of streams across all platforms. This year alone, he’s graced the Great Escape festival alongside Kojey Radical, and supported Knucks on three dates of his sold-out Alpha Place tour. Acquiring co-signs at a rapid pace, the wordsmith continues to soak up experiences that influence his own creative path. Taking inspiration from his Nigerian heritage, which contributed to an eclectic musical diet growing up, Bawo draws on his upbringing to highlight cultural experiences unique to him.
On ‘Live & Let Thrive’, his debut EP, Bawo moves between a variety of BPMs, highlighting his breadth of talent. Experimenting with genres such as afrobeats and garage, the rapper shows great composure on a diverse sound palette. Standout track “Starts with a Text” proves his worth as a confident vocalist who can harmonise on an addictive hook as well as writing innovative rhyme schemes.
Latest single “Same Team”, which features an Oscar #Worldpeace beat and Reek0 verse, is our first taste from his forthcoming EP ‘Legitimate Cause’. Promising to be Bawo’s best work to date, the project is set for release in January next year, and with a newly announced six-date tour in March, he’s firmly on the map of artists to watch in 2023.
We spoke with Bawo about his forthcoming milestone moments, touring with Knucks, and being brought up on 50 Cent.
2022 has been a big year for you! You’ve released several singles and featured on so many brilliant projects. Have there been any standout moments to you?
Thank you. A standout moment would be “SKATE” doing as well as it did, because of how much I love the song. To see it being received in this way, it really is a moment for me. Another standout moment of the year, in terms of the projects I’ve been involved with, is being embraced by the scene. I’ve ended up on more projects than I thought I would, so it feels like I’m being respected. I feel grateful for that.
Your new single, “Same Team”, came out recently. Can you tell us a bit about how the track came about and your relationship with the other artists and creatives involved?
I wrote “Same Team” a year ago. It came about when the maestro Oscar #Worldpeace sent me a loop which I thought sounded a little strange. I thought the sample was weird, but I loved the drum pattern. I started writing to it in the studio and the chorus came out first. I loved that. I thought it was a lot of fun. I wrote it all in one session by myself. I sent it back to Oscar and then went about structuring it with the mixing engineer. That’s a very special song and I was very grateful that Reek0 was able to jump on it and pattern it in the way he did. He really blessed the track. The more I hear the whole song together now, the more I love Reek0’s involvement in it as well.
The single is our first taste of your new project ‘Legitimate Cause’, which is out next month. Can you tell us about some of the themes you address on here as well, as the creative process?
One thing I can say is that I touch on the struggle of responsibility, trying to do your best despite all of the distractions around you. I touch on the relationship with maintaining focus in the madness, and chaos of the city, and the internet. Creative process-wise, I did my best to make the best music I could. I wasn’t trying to think about how it would all fit together or how the listener would take it in. In terms of a common thread, I just knew what sonic world I wanted it to be in. It’s not really something I can articulate but I managed to do it anyway.
What’s one thing that you hope fans take away from the project?
I hope they feel as though I give my best with every song that I make. I’m trying to make the best music possible. I hope people take hope from it, I hope it’s a relief for some people, I hope it can be motivational and be something that makes them laugh at points and find a place of comfort from.
As well as the EP, you recently announced your first UK tour. How are you feeling about it and what can fans expect? Are there any dates you’re looking forward to?
I’m just excited to be honest. I feel like we’re at a point where I can announce six shows and it feel right. From doing open mics and jumping on the beat at the wrong time and having to start again, to announcing a tour is so special. I feel very excited, very grateful and that it can’t come sooner. People can expect me to give my all and can come ready to enjoy music together.
You supported Knucks on his sold-out Alpha Place tour this year. What’s life like on the road like with Knucks?
It was great to see the love he received and him doing his thing. To see somebody else who loves music in their element was cool. The London show at KOKO was also the largest amount of people I’ve ever performed to and that was a special moment for me.
Looking back to your beginnings, you and your brother Origho are both talented rappers. What influenced each of you to pick up the pen and start writing? Did you live in a musical household?
It’s hard to say. It’s one of those things where you just do it; it doesn’t feel like a choice. It’s what we want to do. We’re both in similar environments and grew up during a time where grime beats were going round on phones and we already loved hip-hop music. Both of our parents had their own love for music too. Neither are musicians or vocalists but they both listen to different types of music. We used to listen to Akon, 50 Cent, Usher, Whitney Houston, and a lot of old school R&B on long drives. I feel like that was a catalyst – all of us singing these songs in the car together.
When did you personally decide to take music more seriously? Was there a particular moment in your life you realised you wanted to pursue music as a career?
I’ve known that I love music for as long as I can remember. In my earliest memories, I’ve loved music. I just wanted to be on the drums or dancing or singing. I didn’t care about whether I was on stage or not. When ‘Get Rich or Die Tryin’’ dropped, seeing 50 Cent and that lifestyle made me want to be a rapper. I decided to take music a bit more seriously when I was 18 and started looking at it as a career. This was when I first started to record music at uni, but I’ve wanted to do this since I was 10 years old.
You’ve been releasing music via your own platform ‘Say Nothing’ for a while now. Is independence an important factor for you when making music? It feels like it’s allowed you to experiment with such a broad range of sounds, do you agree?
Yes, it is. Nobody likes to feel like they’re under control and I’m quite a stubborn person as well. Rather than forcing a situation to fit the bill, I may as well do the best that I can for as long as I can. It has allowed me to experiment but that’s just part of me being a musician.
Aside from your debut tour and second EP, what are you looking forward to in 2023? Anything on the bucket list?
So far when making music, I’ve learnt that this is a line of work where you never know what could come from it. A lyric could mean that certain things happen in a certain country and next thing you know somebody’s calling you to say “come here to do this”. A song could inspire someone somewhere else – you never know who’s listening. I’m really excited to see what surprises come from this tape and what shape my path takes when the sounds are out there. There’s an element of not being in control when you put something out, so I’m excited to see what happens.