Surfing twitter is my best social media habit. Most of my time online is spent on going through my timeline for tweets to munch, retweet or reply. If I am not doing any of those, I am reading linked articles of interest. I was in my usual twitter surfing habit sometime around mid-October when I came across a friend’s tweet: “Join the #ReBellaz movement 💪🏽 ”, with the image of someone I recognise attached to the tweet: Bella Alubo!
I met Bella in 2017, for an interview, during which she discussed her preparedness to take her music to new heights, having just signed a record deal at the time. I ran into her recently, at Osagie’s office, where we had a chat – a lively one – which morphed into a mini-interview. Since 2017, a lot has changed about Bella: she now has a mainstream collaborative EP to her name, she has got a Nigerian Entertainment Awards (NEA) nomination, she has become one of the industry’s few consistent feminist figures, and she is now associated with a movement – ReBellaz. All these we discussed during our recent chat.
“Late Night Vibrations” – the duet EP of YCEE & Bella Alubo – was one of the earliest music projects of 2018 to arrive. The 6-track EP has been described as the manifestation of the potential of the two rappers to embrace their pop sides. It feels, to me, like a proper meal of a piece I took a bite on, on “Radio.” Bella, particularly, seem to have poured a lot of passion into her verses. She left me impressed with her communication of the sombreness of self-doubt, resulting from loving a guy who is not against the idea of love, but prefers the freedom of noncommittal affairs.
Some people have suggested that the chemistry exhibited between the two, on the EP, couldn’t have been completely made up: that they either had or still have some sort of romantic connection. Bella laughed it off when I mentioned it. “I have never been romantically involved with YCEE”, she said. Her delivery on the EP led to the NEA nomination, for “Most Promising Act.” The impact of the EP has brought her fulfilment. “It helped me define my sound and it helped me showcase the different things I can do with my talent. It helped me show how much I have grown”, Bella revealed.
The release of the EP was like sunrise for Bella; 2018 was a whole day for her to work (make music), but she has not offered much since the EP. Bella admitted to this when she talked about her new direction. “Because I haven’t released music since January, the plan, at first, was to put out a single. In fact we had selected the song to be released, then I recorded another one. Then I recorded more, so my manager (Osagie) suggested that we make an EP.” The new EP is to be called “ReBella”, while her fans would be called “ReBellaz” – a combination of “Rebel” and “Bella.”
“It is about reinvention for me. It is a showcase of what Bella has become”, she said, explaining the concept behind the EP. Since her aspiration to mainstream success led her from Jos to Lagos, Bella has grown her network of industry friends, she has picked up new music techniques and her general understanding of the workings of the industry has improved. She tells me, “there are songwriting tips I have picked up from people like YCEE. People on the radio, like Wizkid, like Tiwa.” “Things like melodies, things like using catchy words, things like adding bridges that people would remember, so it is not just the hook, are essentials in making a good song.”
The ReBellaz EP is Bella’s way of showing the beauty of her artistic evolution. She spoke of the project with the confidence of a student who is expecting an A from a test. “The EP is a compilation of 7 mad songs”, she told me. Every aspect of the project is hinged upon a strategic idea: the intro is a self-praise material with testament from a credible voice, the featured artistes are picked from different regions of the continent and female representation is favoured, the choice of producers is a near-balance between familiar hands and new associations.
“I chose it (“Ask Bolaji”) as the intro because it is something like a co-sign. I am hyping myself, saying ‘I am dope’ on the song and saying ‘oh ask BOJ’” There are other contributions from Victoria Kimani, Efya, and Sho Madjozi of South Africa, on the EP. “I knew I just wanted to feature a lot of women to show that it is not just by mouth”, she said, confirming that her choice of guest artistes has a tone of feminism in it.
A while ago, Bella caused a stir on the Internet with her tweet about female disadvantage in the industry. When I brought up the topic, she reiterated her point that female representation, in the industry, is low. Truly, there aren’t many females in the industry’s upper echelons and the ones on the come-up do not get the right support. “There are times when I have reached out to male artistes and they don’t want to hang (out) with me based on my artistry. They are interested in other things other than music,” Bella said. “How can this issue of female representation be fixed”, I asked. She told me, “I want to see more successful male artistes collaborate with many, not just one, female artiste.”
“Honey” is one of the new EP’s constituent songs, which Bella really hyped. She called it the “turn-up song” of the project, saying Sho Madjozi infused the South African energy into the music to compliment her soft-sultry singing. The story behind “Aiya” is one I particularly find exciting. “The first person I like in Lagos inspired that song. Things didn’t go well. So a lot of emotion went into recording that song,” she revealed. For production, Bella relied on her chemistry with Syn X – the producer of “Radio” – and Quebeat, who she described as “family”. Remy Baggins’ skill with creating sounds that combine foreign feel with Nigerian flavour, was brought in on two of the tracks on “ReBellaz” and Tempoe made a Late Night Vibrations-esque record with Bella and Efya.
Commonly, artistes measure the success of their project by the number of sales. Some look at the impact on the size and diversity of their fanbase. Some aim to establish their identity, or a unique sound. For Bella, she is looking at all these factors to judge the success of her forthcoming EP. She is however particular about the numbers of digital sales. “I think the signs in the music industry are numbers. If anyone wants to get you on shows or endorsements, they look at the numbers. You know the digital market has grown and that is one area of focus for me.”
This article was written by Ibironke Oluwatobi. He tweets via: @ibironketweets