Myself, Anslem and Ogagus are at Bella La Vida, waiting for Kizz Daniel. We are talking blogs, artistes and the media industry in general. Honestly, the conversation is mostly gossip. We are still tossing this and that topic around as Kizz walks in with his trusted retinue – his brother, his guard and his photographer.
Few minutes after his arrival, we are in a hand-picked section of the lounge talking about Kiss Daniel, (not Kizz Daniel) – the artist who signed up for a 4-album recording contract with G-worldwide, the sensational singer of “Woju”, who made fine music but could not collaborate with inter-label artists despite interest from his icons. The name “Kiss Daniel” became famous following the successes of “Woju” and “Laye” (the latter, he says is his fastest hit). But “Good Time” signalled the acceptance of the artist’s persona in the Nigerian music fold. “Our intent with the song was to show my versatile side. We no even dey reason say people go accept am like that”, he says to me as he calls for a glass of Hennessy to be served.
After Laye, what followed is a run of successes and a relative walk in the easy street – series of hit singles, an acclaimed debut album and a teeming community of fans. The heterogeneity of “Sofa”, “Yeba”, “NoDo” espouses the diversity in Kiss’ songs and the consistent essence in his music. As we advance in our discussion, he tells me, “I make family music”, as a definition for his style of music. “The type of music you can play in your home, church or office.”
Kiss Daniel & His Music
For me, “family music” is not how I would describe Kiss Daniel’s music. I simply call it good music like a lot of his fans, even though the general term for all music made by artists based in Africa is “Afrobeats”. This generalisation, however, still leaves room to appreciate the rare homeliness of his music – the fearful teenage tone of “Jumbo”, confessions of love on “Kiss Me” and the thankful acknowledgment of divine privileges on “All God.”
As precious as a child and as close as a lover, that’s how Kizz Daniel treats his music; He explains, “son in the sense that it makes you more responsible. Girlfriend in the sense that it keeps you emotionally locked down.” Kizz goes deeper into the explanation saying, “I don’t owe music anything. It owes me something. God gave me this gift. He made us king over everything. I am god over music.”
It is still a mystery: how Kiss Daniel has done almost nothing to alter his creative altar even after his 360’ success. “I have always recorded with one microphone and same service speakers since I started till now”, he tells me as our discussion deepens and then continues, “It is just sacred to me. The only thing that changed is that I moved places. It is still the same feel for me, if I want to make music.” He sips a bit of liquor then continues, “I don’t think too much to record music. It is just how I feel at that point. I just deliver.”
Your guess is right, music, for Kizz Daniel, is a gift; not a skill he learnt. It is a usually effortless exercise that has caused his life to take a beautiful spin. Singing about his experiences of love, rejection, fun; has brought him fortune and fame. “Mama” for instance, is not just a love anthem; it actually echoes redemption, directed at his ex who left him for his repeated “mistakes.” “She left in 2016, the year I dropped the ‘New Era’ album. I wrote the song trying to apologise because I messed up, a lot of times. You know with fame comes a lot of temptations”, he explains with readable guilt on his face.
The G-Worldwide Experience
The melodious sound of Kiss Daniel singing, “G-world-wide”, is the fave of the opening lines on his earliest materials. All the while, the relationship seemed like a happy one, until Kiss Daniel sent shock waves across the industry with the announcement of his exit from the label, after about four years. The relationship, while it lasted, was effective but only to a fault – Kiss rose to national prominence as an independent talent, but one with limited financial strength and a bureaucratic situation that cut him off some industry perks like the happening International penetration.
I can hear honesty in his voice as he says, “I have not been able to penetrate to the International scene. That is what we are working on now. To be honest, there is a lot of International interest in Kiss Daniel but what they are looking for is accessibility”. But accessibility is not exactly the cause of his exit from G-worldwide; freedom is. The label continues to fight his exit, mostly, with an unending lawsuit; but it doesn’t seem to bother him – not like he didn’t expect it anyway. I curiously ask if he thinks his controversial exit is the best way to end his contract with the label and he responds with even more calm, “I don’t feel it is the best way but it has happened and I have to ride with it.”
Now, Kizz has downed his first cup of Henny but he is still as conversational as he was before the drink was served. I tell him how it doesn’t make sense to me that an artiste would enter into such a contract with a label and he says to me, “I never saw the bad side of it because I love to work.” Then switches to pidgin: “I no dey shy away from work. I don’t shy away from music. I just want to give people music.”
Kizz Daniel: The Family Guy
The bond between Kizz Daniel and his brother (Uthman) is not acted. It is natural and it is clear to see – I see it in how Kizz looks to his brother to confirm his narrative about his ex who calls him “zaddy”. I see it in how Uthman knows so much about the days Kizz slept in Jahbless’ studio in Berger. He even suggests that Kizz shows me his throwback picture with Sarz of EDGE Records. “See as I look like person wey dey sell sugar-cane”, Kizz cracks a joke and his brother’s laugh suggests it is a joke they often enjoy.
At this point, Kizz is narrating the life-threatening accident his brother experienced, around the same time they lost their father. He is flipping through the pictures on his phone – there are so many pictures of seductively posing ladies and cloth designs he must have saved from the internet – to show me how bad the accident was.
Kizz goes on to tell me the influences of his late father and his brother on his career. “He (his father) is the reason why I am still singing. My brother also”, he says. Kizz’s late dad is the “baba lecturer” he referenced in “BABA” – his collaboration with DJ Spinall. He tells me his father would often say to him, “son, you are a star among stars.”
Kizz still misses his late father. He cherishes the last moments they shared but he almost did not have these memories. “I was stupid”, he tells me, narrating how his father told him not to leave his business to visit him on his dying bed. “When I realised, I went to see him and he died the next morning. I didn’t spend more than 8 hours with him.”
These experiences tightened the family bond. Kizz tells me, in Yoruba, “mi o n fi family sere” – meaning, “I don’t joke with my family.”
Kizz Daniel: The Self-aware artist
Kizz Daniel should be getting more than just continental rave for all his brilliant effort. And he knows this. He isn’t sinking in self-deception not to admit that there are bigger things to aspire to. He believes the time to spread his tentacles is right now, and I nod in agreement, imagining what he can achieve with his new creative liberty and financial muscle.
Industry figures and International names have been reaching out to him since he became accessible. Locally, the collaborations with DJ Spinall, DJ Neptune are enjoying chart-ranking successes and the release date for the song with Major Lazer and Kranium is a forth-night away (at the time of this interview). However the rush in interest is not as awing for him as I would expect. Instead, Kizz is taking careful steps to all that is coming his way, including my many questions. “Myself and Diplo wrote songs a for top names in the US – big names. I don’t want to mention names. I don’t want to jinx it because they might end up not using it. I need my publishing money. I have had other artists reach out, which I am not going to disclose. There are steps, stages, don’t rush it. When the time is right you will get what you deserve”, he says to me as he scrolls through his Iphone to show me his WhatsApp chat with Diplo about the video shoot which they had in Senegal and the schedule for the release of the music.
He goes on to play some seconds of what would become “Loyal” to me but it doesn’t sound like all that to me. But I’d rather not say, not to alter the flow of our conversation. It would have been too early anyway, The Billboard would later rate the song as “a romantic, danceable bit of R&B groove with lots of international flavour” and I would later grow to love the song so much that I put it on repeat throughout my traffic-delayed journey from Victor Island to Ikorodu, days after its eventual release.
Kizz Daniel is self-aware. I listen to him say: “I do not see anybody making music the way I am making music. Not to brag or sound cocky. I make the best music in Nigeria, in Africa. I am VADO the great. That’s my honest opinion.” His confidence is like his superpower. He knows the difference between genuine love and the kind of “fake” love that victimised artists come out to rant about how its rampancy in the industry. And so, his approach to collaboration invites and deals is cautious – the type that comes from having learnt from unpleasant experiences. “I know when people approach me for what I have, not for the love”, he tells me. Then he tells me “it is best to wait for the perfect relationship.” Kizz is the type that uses analogies to drive home his point. He likens some of the offers to how ladies show interest in a man. I see through his BurBerry shades as he says, “you will know when a lady loves you truly, and when she wants you for what you have.”
Don’t come to Kizz camouflaging benefit for you as favour for him. The man sees through things. “After G-worldwide I had offers from some of the major labels”, he tells me. His response to some: “you don’t need to tell me how I can help you. Let me tell you how I can help you.” So what about the collaborations? He tells me, “I am just doing it. I wasn’t thirsty. I was doing fine on my own.” He shocks me with the revelation that he is no longer doing collaborations for now. His explanation makes sense: “in as much as I want to be part of the successes of other people, I don’t want to abuse it. I still want to make it (Kizz Daniel collaboration) special”, he explains. And adds, “and now that I have kids now, I feel like I should bless the ones close to me first.”
There are signs of exaggeration in how people see Kizz’s post-G-worldwide experience. I, for instance, in my review of “4 Dayz”, likened the situation to a kid who sneaked out from under the watch of a strict guardian to join other kids in playing outside; but Kizz reveals to me that “even the play ground is not that fun.” The playground, which actually is the industry, is composed of all sort of characters; Kizz prefers to create his own space rather than join the play party. He tells me, “I want people on the playground to see what’s going on in that house, through the window. I want them to gather around the house and keep guessing.”
FlyBoy INC is the new movement and Kizz is the pilot. The label announced the signing of Demmie Vee but there’s a bit of controversy surrounding the situation with Philkeyz – his new go-to producer. “Philkeyz is just a friend. I think people just mistook the whole thing. I only said welcome to Flyboy not that I signed him”, Kizz gives an explanation that needs an explanation. Demmie Vee’s signing, however, is certified.
Kizz captures his scouting style in his statement: “I see you I love your person. I love your talent. I want to work with you.” He is not pretending to be doing his signees a favour. Label-signee relationship is, first and foremost, business; which means both parties are “helping each other.” FlyBoyINC, Kizz tells me, would be run on the basis that a leader is the chief servant. “In fact I am their slave, they are the masters”, he explains. “The intent is to guard them”, he adds.
His experience with recording contracts and label situations is exactly what he is trying to avoid with his new outfit. His contract does not include slavish clauses like: “artiste is expected to deliver 4 albums” or “collaborations with non-label artists are taboos.” He reveals to me that “it is a 2-year contract. After that they (the signees) can move on. I am not going to tie anyone down.”
The Legacy of Kizz Daniel
“I just wanted to change the negative vibes around the other name. I am tired of ‘Kiss Daniel did this, did that’”, he explains to me his reason for changing his name and it is contrary to the popular perception that he changed his name to escape the lawsuit raised by his former label against him. Kizz Daniel debunks the notion completely. “I own both names around the world”, he tells me but “Kizz Daniel, with the – zz is the name now.”
It’s like life after baptism – it comes with guidance and direction. The few years of industry experience and decades of life encounters tell in the view point of Kizz Daniel. He is not losing sleep over rumours against him. “Na music carry me come Industry sey? Na music go carry me comot as well”, he explains that come what may, quality music is his response.
Kizz is “chilled” about International prominence because he believes the International community needs African music more than we need them. He shares how crucial the role of torch bearers likes Wizkid, Davido, Yemi Alade, and Nasty C with me. He believes Afrobeats would benefit from associations with other cultures like that of Spain and France. “It is like the gospel that should be preached”, he tells me; but he concludes his point with a note of caution – that the torch bearers should not “sell us cheap.” He cites Wizkid’s formula as one that can be emulated, saying, “I feel he knows what he is doing and we all have to learn from him. He works in a pattern that you can’t predict him. And he appreciates Afrobeat. He is always thankful to Afrobeat for putting him where he is.” “Do you know you are one of the torch bearers?”, I ask Kizz and he responds, “of course. I know.”
The first five years as a star has been fulfilling for Kizz. He drives around in luxury cars, owns multi-million Naira houses in choice locations in Lagos and several businesses. He is even willing to take me to his ongoing building project in Lekki, few meters from where we were. It is a 9 bedroom duplex and Kizz confirms to me his plans to try his hands on Real-Estate in the future.
With the future waits, his current mood is: music greatness. “I just want to be the f*cking greatest. I want to die and people would keep talking about my shit and say ‘Vado! those ones can sing and they gave us good music.’ I want to be the artist that never made a bad song.”
This editorial was written by Ibironke Oluwatobi. He tweets via: @ibironketweets
Culled from Issue 21