There are very few Nigerian artistes who have done it as long and good as Skales has. Part of Banky W’s original EME crew, the rapper and singer has been on the scene for more than a decade, helping to push and advance afropop with a series of thunderous bangers and alt-pop records that have lasered his identity on the scope and flow of our music.
His new project, “Proof of Life”, however, is the beginning of a new course for the singer who is embracing his journey and all that has come with it over the years. In a chat with Turntable, he talks us through his inspirations, “Proof of Life”, and what comes next for him
TTC: Hi, Skales. What was the idea behind “Proof of Life”? Does it signify anything? Is there any meaning to it?
Skales: The name of the EP is called “Proof of Life.” My daughter is my own proof of life, and of course, the fact that I'm still here too. So, that was the idea behind the cover. The fact is that life has changed, and I'm responsible for another life right now.
TTC: Recently, there have been discussions on paying more attention to artists and their choice of words in their songs as it's usually an extension of self. So, what is your take on this?
Skales: Should I say I agree totally? For me, I feel like when I make music, it's what I'm going through. It's how I feel that I put on the song. Definitely, I agree with it.
TTC: “Proof of Life” __portrays a very deep image. You talked about your daughter and the fact that you are also here, but was there a particular reason you felt like it would be perfect for this particular body of work?
Skales: When I get online, there are always trolls. There are always people talking down on my achievements, talking down on things that have happened to me that are supposed to be celebrated. I got the inspiration from the fact that any small thing, they are saying, "His career is dead." That way, I got inspired, and I thought, "Oh. Proof of life." That's really what inspired it. It's that worry in the trolls, that's what inspired __Proof of Life” __
TTC: So, you are talking about trolls now. I'm curious to know. How are you holding up in the midst of all that cruelty, the horrible takes, the talks that you don't find favourable?
Skales: Now, I have odeshi. It's normal now. A troll is supposed to be a troll. A hater is supposed to be a hater. A critic is supposed to be a critic. A fan is supposed to be a fan. Everybody has their job. So, it won't be interesting if there are no trolls. It just makes it more interesting for me. I'm just used to it. I just ignore and keep it going. Then, I also —, sometimes.
TTC: Take us through the creative process of creating each track on the project
Skales: “As I Wake Up”: Every song on this EP, I'm one way or another seriously attached to it. It was inspired by things that just happened. As I Wake Up was inspired by one time I went to the bank, I think it was during the cash crunch. I was always trying to go to the bank to get cash and stuff like that. I remember that week, I went to the bank like three or four times to get cash but I couldn't get enough cash. So, the last time, I was just thinking positive things, like 'Today, they are not going to give me bad news,' and I remember that I was in the car and I played the beat. They sent the beat to me since, so I just played the beat and I just started singing. That was how the hook just came. It just happened like it was a miracle. I remember recording it on my phone and coming back home to the studio. That was after I went to the bank, everything actually went well. I came back home, I recorded the hook sharp. That was how As I Wake Up came about.
“Don't Say Much”: I went for a trip in Abuja. You know how when you go to see these big men, you have to wait for when they are free. So, during my waiting time, I had a producer come over at my hotel. I just explained to him what I was looking for. He played different kinds of songs, and I was like, 'I just want soul music. If it's not soul, I don't want it.' He cooked it up. I remember I slept off. Then, when I woke up, I heard it. — Sometime after, I heard the beginning and was like, 'Wow. This is so dope.' So, I changed it. I remember I was thinking about something else. I can't remember it now. I just told my engineer to delete some things that I did there, and the whole 'Don't say much,' talking about my story, talking about what I've been through. I'm still focused on doing better and making myself a better human being. That's what Don't Say Much is all about. Always getting to work and making sure I'm better for not just myself, but for my fans and my family. That's what Don't Say Much is all about.
“I Still Dey”: It's just plain and simple. I'm still here. It's over a decade in the game and I'm still here. I feel brand new, I feel fresh. I feel like I'm just starting again.
“How High I Feel”: I remember when I made this song, I got a lot of alerts that day, so I was feeling really good. I was happy. I was feeling really great. I was just high on life that day. I just made the song. That's how that was made.
“Aran Romi”: Aran Romi was a track that I made over a year ago. I recorded a collaboration project with one of my favourite producers. His name is Jaypizzle, and Aran Romi was supposed to be the single from that project, but things just happened and we never got to release the project. So, I was like, 'Ah. I need this song.' Aran Romi is my cruise life. Things like my vices, but most importantly, I'm just focused on money. It's what tickles my fancy. Making money.
“Omo”: Omo is another crazy story. I was invited to come to a writer's camp for Olakira. Olakira was like, 'We are organizing a writer's camp. Do you want to come?' So, I said, 'Yeah, man.' So, I went there and he played me a bunch of songs, then he played me this song. He played me the beat for Omo. He had already recorded on it and he wanted me to be on it. I was like, 'Nah, man. Just delete everything that's on it.' And once he deleted it, I just started singing once. And that's how I made the track. I actually did everything at once, of course, later on I edited it, but I sang the whole track. He was like, 'You know what? This is your song, mehn.' Omo is just the typical, you know there's no Skales without bumbum. I love bumbum. I have to make a track about it always.
“Case Closed”: The whole theme of Proof of Life is just about being hopeful, being expectant, being positive, just knowing that there's a light at the end of the tunnel. That's what Case Closed is about. I feel it coming. I'm in a good space now. I know that all my dreams and closer than I ever envisioned them to be. That's what Case Closed is about. I remember I sent it over to my brother, Mohamed Ramadan. Mohamed Ramadan happens to be one of the biggest Arabian artists in the world. He's from Egypt, but he's huge. I sent a couple of songs to him and was like, 'Which one,' and he said, 'Yo, I like this one.' He was saying what I was saying too about being expectant and hopeful. It makes you feel so hopeful. So, that's it. Case closed.
TTC: You chose Mohamed Ramadan all the way from Egypt. Is there a particular reason why you went for him and said, "Oh. You are the person I want to feature on this song, on this album."
Skales: For me, when I do collaborations with anybody, the most important thing for me is the chemistry, the fact that we vibe and respect each other. That's why if you notice, you don't see me doing a lot of collabos. People I collaborate with are people that there's something that really connects us because I feel like that's how it's going to reflect in the music. I've also done songs with people that we are not really connecting and you can tell. They just did whatever and left. For everybody that I now feature, there has to be some chemistry, and of course, this is coming off of us having a successful single together that he featured me in and released. This is just me reciprocating and featuring him back, too.
TTC: So, what goal did you have in mind when creating Proof of Life? Did you think the album is doing what was intended? ****
Skales: Yeah. My major goal is for people to relate to what I'm putting out there because if people can't relate with you, there's no point. I believe whatever struggles and whatever things that I put in my songs, there's always one thing for anybody to grab from. There's always one story. That's the whole idea.