Lust, the opening track of Nova’s third project S.T.A.Y (Still Think About You), spans less than two minutes and finds Nova feeling dislocated and navigating the liminal space between Lagos and Toronto. The mood-altering shifts in the song shows he’s yet to figure out everything, buffered by nostalgia and ambient R&B vocals, and thus sounding like the lovechild between Frank Ocean and The Weekend. His sophomore project Welcome to My City, released in 2017, is an under-explored gem where Nova shapeshifts as a rapper, the 4-track EP rooted in dreams and resilience and night-draped hedonism, resonant themes that have come to define Lagos.
Born Mobolaji Adeyemi, Nova listened to Lauryn Hill, Damian Marley, Sade, Sean Paul, Snoop Dogg, J Cole and Kanye West growing up, and cites albums like Kid Cudi’s Man on the Moon as one of his favourites. He knew he wanted to do music after graduating from high school, already freestyling with classmates and before he was admitted into Babcock, he started writing his own music.
Moving to Toronto, Canada in 2018 to have ample space in exploring his creativity, the 26-year-old singer-rapper finds himself missing Lagos. Still, he loves Toronto and the diversity and meeting people from different cultures. ”Wicked rhythms” is how he describes his sound, a fusion of R&B, Hip Hop and Afrobeats. His songs are filtered through millennial dating experiences, and conversations with friends on relationships. In this YNaija Next Rated interview, Nova speaks about being an independent artist in Toronto, the inclination for writing songs for others, and how’s he navigating the current pandemic.
How did you come about the name Nova?
Came up with the name around the end of high school. It was inspired by friends and our mutual love for comic books while I was growing up. I used to go by Novakillz initially. With time the killz faded away and now I’m Nova aka Young Mobolaji aka Novagotthatheat aka Novakillingthemsha.
Being an independent artist, which is the one factor, above all else, that you currently desire most (increased music distribution, better quality production, more media exposure, more club and live performances etc?)
Best way I can answer this is by telling you my goal in music. I want to travel the world and connect with people through my music. To do that I need access to platforms that allow me to sustainably grow my audience.
Do you currently write your own lyrics and make your own beats? If no, how do you get this done?
I write all my lyrics and I’m more than happy to put pen to sheets for others I collaborate with. However, I don’t produce my beats. I am pretty fortunate to work with some amazing producers. Bankyondbeatz, Toye Aru, Doozybeatz, Goldkeyz and OT Beatz are producers I frequently work with. It’s wild because Goldkeyz is the only producer I work with that stays in the same city as me, Toye is in LA, OT in SA, Banky in Lagos, it’s a blessing to be able to stay connected because of the internet.
Where do you distribute and promote your music and why do you think this channel works best for you?
Being an independent artist, I’m always exploring options for distribution. I distributed S.T.A.Y with Okay Africa. Distrokid and Amuse are also great alternatives for independent artists to distribute music. In terms of promoting, social media is a huge part of it for me and I am very active on Instagram @novagotthatheat and use it to share music and other content I find interesting. I also use ads on Instagram, Facebook and Youtube.
Do you think the advent of the internet and new digital technologies has helped your music and independent artistes in general, or do you think it just creates a mass of mediocre ‘’copycats’’ who flood the web, making it difficult to distinguish yourself?
The internet is the best thing ever because it makes it possible to find your audience. I think it is important to be original. I definitely get inspiration from others but I believe everyone expresses themselves in a unique way. Personally, I distinguish myself by being myself.
What aspects of the music making process excites you the most, and what other aspect do you find discouraging?
I love the actual process of making music! To me, that’s my idea of having fun. Whenever I’m writing, recording music or just vibing with other creatives, that is my happy place. I don’t produce or mix my music and I get impatient sometimes during that process having to rely on other people to fully bring my idea to life. While I enjoy collaborating, it is important to work with motivated people that believe in what you do. In music you’re interacting with people just like any other job, communication is super key.
If you could choose to work with some of today’s established artistes or producers to move your game to the top, with whom would you like to collaborate?
Snoh Aalegra, Kehlani, Juls Babbyyyy, Burna, The Weeknd and Pharell Williams!
What makes S.T.A.Y different from Welcome to My City?
In terms of the themes of both projects and how they are structured sonically, they are quite different. WTMC is me imagined Lagos as a Gotham like society where chaos thrives. I enjoyed working on that project and got to collaborate with Tay, Nonso Amadi, Tusic and Sute. On S.T.A.Y, I took a very different route. If you noticed S.T.A.Y has no artist features, the only voice you hear on the entire project is mine. The artist you hear on WTMC is just learning his powers, the artists you hear on S.T.A.Y is still learning but in control of using his abilities to curate a consistent sound. I found freedom in looking inwards for inspiration instead of waiting for features which can be a complicated process to manage.
How has the coronavirus pandemic affected you as an artist who isn’t yet in the mainstream?
2020 has been one hell of a crazy year so far. Personally, I’m glad I was able to make productive use of the pandemic because I wasn’t expecting to suddenly have all this free time. I decided to get my home studio set up and right now I’m recording more frequently than I ever have before. The pandemic also gave me a chance to take a breath, reassess things and identify the best way to go forward. With that said, it is so unfortunate that the world is experiencing this situation and I hope we all stay safe.