Our NEXT UP series is a music discovery initiative that showcases the next big things in Afro-influenced music from across Africa and beyond! In this edition, we speak to Africa’s dancehall promise J.Derobie.
JDerobie, real name Derick Obuobie Junior’s story is indeed one in a million. It is not every day that a young new artist comes out and is so warmly received by the biggest names in the game and fans alike. J.Derobie went viral with his Empawa Africa submission of hit single “Poverty” two years ago and has not looked back since. Going on to earn a collaboration with Jamaican dancehall superstar Popcaan, earn multiple award nominations, and just recently bagging his first major music award. We had a hearty conversation with the Empawa Africa artist touching on his come up, successes, struggles, and his impending debut Album aptly titled: “A King Is Born”.
How did you get started in music and what gave you the motivation to stay with it?
So I started singing and writing songs back in high school, I however decided to take it seriously after people started giving me compliments, and nudged me to take a real swing at it.
What is the most difficult thing you have had to endure in your music career?
*Laughs* I would say having no prior experience of how the music industry operates and suddenly finding myself thrust into the “big leagues” and having to fight my way through… that was tough though.
Walk us through your creative process. How are you inspired?
Ummm.. my creative process is mostly me doing me. I sometimes get inspiration through real life events, other times I just create a storyline and lay it onto a “riddim” and then we’re good to go!
Which musical genre is your stronghold and if you could dabble in another genre of music, what would it be?
Well my strong holds are Afrobeat and Dancehall with a dash of Reggae, these are the areas I own! But if I could dabble with another genre, I think it would be Trap and RnB.
What is that unique element about yourself as an artiste that sets you apart from others?
Um yeah, it’s just me being me, striving to sound very different from others and I think the key element is my voice and my way of delivery.
Who are the artists you consider your biggest musical inspirations?
Wow, I kind of struggle a bit when it comes to question like this, *Laughs* well, Mr Eazi, Chronixx, Masicka, Vybz Kartel, Alkaline, Shatta Wale, Stonebwoy, Pop Caan to name a few. There are a whole lot more though.
Who are the new age “Afro-influenced” artists are you currently listening to?
I’m currently listening to C Natty, RJZ, Joeboy, Fireboy, Oxlade, Darkovibes, Quamina Mp, Kelvynboy.
What would make you want to collaborate with another artist?
I think it might be my love for the type of music or the style and manner he or she does works. So yeah these things may attract me to collaborate with another artist.
What are your dream collaborations?
*Laughs* I love this question! I have been blessed enough to have already had one which was with the legendary Popcaan. We collaborated on the remix of my breakout song “Poverty”. I’m also looking forward to work with Samini, Shatta Wale, Stonebwoy, Chronixx, Vybz Kartel and so on, they’re a lot too.
How has coronavirus pandemic affected your your craft?
Oh yeah, it has affected a lot of things… bookings, programs, tours and the likes. I even had to reschedule the release date of my debut album.
Tell us all there is to know about you debut album.
Well, all I can tell you for now is the album is almost complete. The album is titled “A King Is Born” and houses 14 tracks. Most of the songs were inspired by real-life events and some were inspired by songs of others and other stuff as well. But that will be out much later. For now, I intend to give the fans at least one precursor EP, the first titled “Nungua Diaries” which should be out any moment from now.
The album title carries a lot of weight. What is the mind-state behind such a bold statement?
Well… the album is about inspiration, love, dreams and struggles in life. Basically, it’s like a young boy facing life with the mindset of a king, and thus pursuing the greatness he is destined for.
If you can have your fans remember you by one thing, what would it be?
This might change in a few years, but for now, I want my fans to remember me as the one who came to save the future of the dancehall genre on the continent.
What is next for you?
Working as hard as possible to reach a higher level career-wise. As I said earlier I’m working on an album that is 80 percent done at the moment. Also, I’m hoping the Covid-19 pandemic crisis the world is facing now ends soon so I can easily carry my plans out.