The acceptance speech by Burna Boy’s mom, Bose Ogulu, as she collected the ‘Song of the Year’ award at the 2018 SoundCity MVP Awards – the part where she said, “thank you Shina Peller for writing history when all you thought was, you were providing a studio.” – adds weight to the existing belief that success, a lot of times, is the result of a chain of events – sometimes unplanned events.
“I didn’t plan for Ye, even Burna didn’t plan for Ye. Nobody planned for it”, Phantom said.
The story behind the birth of the song which brought mammoth-sized success to Burna Boy in 2018; made the world recognise Phantom; and gives joy to millions of music lovers across borders, is a fine example of how, sometimes, the big break comes when you least expect it. Even Phantom never knew Burna Boy would walk into his studio to record on a beat he had wishfully prepared for him; they both probably never imagined the song would reach International heights, or that it would someday share title with Kanye’s album. A fairy must have granted his wish for a Burna Boy collaboration – that is if fairies actually exist.
What is established, however, is that the recording of the song was very “spiritual.” Phantom revealed that “there was this quietness in the studio after he (Burna) voiced Ye”. This force behind the song caused it to become the biggest material in Phantom’s portfolio; and maybe the biggest in Burna’s too. However, Phantom rates Airboy’s “Aiye Po” as his best work yet. “With that very song, myself and Airboy were able to restructure our lives”. Like the excitement of the first sign of germination is to a new farmer, the success of Aiye po, coming after four years of working tirelessly without “buzz”, occupies a special place in Phantom’s heart.
The years before the first sign of success were spent trying to get a Town Planning degree without necessarily attending lectures; chasing a career as a performing artist under the name “Carlzino”; making amateur beats and getting funny payments like a bottle of Pepsi. The idea of creating a brand of Afrobeat that would appeal to the world changed all of that. “I went back to the drawing board and started creating my sound, even from the tempo to the kind of instruments I used – I started to use more African instruments. I infused western sounds to make it sound modern”.
While Afro-fusion is very much a sub-genre, which everyone looking to retouch Afrobeat music to create something new can claim, Phantom is looking to imprint his signature sound as a new Afrobeat’ special, perhaps he would record success – at least a measure of it – with his forthcoming EP. Already the likes of Wurld, Airboy, Wizkid, Boj are working with him on that. “I had a first-hand experience of how legends work” he said, about his experience working with Wiz.
The duo – Wiz and Phantom – share similarities in their meticulous creative approach. “I take my time for my kind of music. I don’t rush my music. I could spend three hours on only one kick or one snare”, he said. Since there’s no prize for the first artist or producer to put out music, Phantom’s style is the right one – till the idea has been formed the process of creating continues. With the confidence of someone who has the knowledge he said: “classics take time to create”.
Ye is considered a classic – until proven otherwise. Phantom believes the song stamped his name amongst the greats. “Everyone knew Phantom was there. They know he is always working but Ye stamped the brand. It made people to take me serious”. It took 4 years for Phantom to get heard, it took another 5 for the producer to get recognised and his talent acknowledged. Popular producer, Sarz, his mentor recently called him to say, “I am proud of you”. Top artists like Davido and Tekno have met him for his skill.
Now that the world is listening, the introverted producer is not preparing to disappoint. “Right now, the onus is on me to spread my reach in industry and take my sound across borders, to U.K, U.S. That’s the plan this year”. Of all the good happenings around Phantom’s life lately, what’s most assuring is the convincing desire for improvement he displayed during our chat. Where he could have called himself a genius or the man of the moment, he simply said, “I am a work in progress”.
This article was written by Ibironke Oluwatobi. He tweets via: @ibironketweets