Having to pronounce SL33K as “SLEEK” would most likely not sound right at first, but when you look at it from an art perspective, it then appears as an interesting twist of a thoughtfully picked monicker. Like 6LACK is to BLACK, it adds style to the word, making it a fine name for an artist. But more than that, it is like a signature of the bearer – in the case of SL33K, Steven Iyere. He confirmed the intention behind the name in his statement: “It shows a deliberate attempt at making the name (SL33K) stand out, making it easily searched for and to give it better visibility, unlike “SLEEK” that is overly used”.

The word “SLEEK” found its root in Steven’s story when the Vice Chancellor of his alma mater (Covenant University), approached him with words of compliment after a show. He said to him, “that was sleek”. There, the scholar showed discernment of art, because the word perfectly describes Steven’s music – a hybrid music genre which embodies smooth-sounding rhythms and catchy melodies hinged on Afrobeat. “Afro R&B Music” which is what it is generally called; and SL33K is seen as the “new face of Afro R&B”, at least by This Day Newspaper.  

SL33K has made an impression of ambition in his chosen niche; he looks to be attempting a reintroduction of R&B to the popular audience in Nigeria, by infusing trendy music elements for a boost in appeal. “My Lady” makes a good case. It is the type of music that you hear on the radio at nights, when calm is finding its way back to nature. It is Afrobeat with rhythm and a measure of pop in it – the Tjan, Korede Bello kind. “Logba”, his recent song, which rests on the essentials of highlife, is a trendier record – one that has brought sizeable success.

While his rising profile delights him, SL33K revealed that his performance at Canaan Land, where he sang to an audience of about 50,000 people, is his most memorable musical experience. He described the experience as ‘humbling’; he eagerly shared the story of his performance at the Calabar Carnival, which led Sound Sultan to commend him and confess that he loved SL33K’s music. These events have boldened his belief in his music; the comments of naysayers too. “I have learnt a lot over the years. (I have) met different people – the ones that support and encourage my talent; and the ones that say unpleasant things. I learn from all and take what I need to better myself”, he told me.

For almost all (including the super-rich ones like Davido), the ride to fame is never totally smooth. In fact, it is oftentimes a rough Dakar Rally race with varying forms of challenges.

SL33K has had his own share of it. In 2014, when 800,000 Naira could comfortably cover a “big” wedding ceremony, he lost that amount to an unsuccessful video shoot, caused by a director who would allow himself get drunk, in the middle of a shoot. “I was so heartbroken”, SL33K said, at the end of the story. Support came from his mum, who would have preferred that he is a gospel artist, but will back her son to chase his dreams, even if it differs from her expectation.

Finding balance in his career steps meant finding investors that share his vision, a team that is “structured to get results at all times”, and a high sense of self-believe. SL33K might only be few songs in, no album to his name yet, no headline concert to claim, but his vision goes beyond these achievements; his sight is set on “making an impact on the lives of millions (of people)” and “building a legacy” – the language of greats like Jay-Z. In the same tone, SL33K spoke of fame like an item he had ordered already, only waiting for it to be delivered to him. In response to my question on his chances at success, he said: “I see it coming”.

This article was written by Ibironke Oluwatobi. He tweets via: @ibironketweets

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