In the music business you come across passion driven individuals with big dreams and aspirations, everyday. Some of them radiate confidence and positivity, with ample humility to meet their goals. And sometimes, these guys actually have talent. One of these talented rarities in the business is Tyson Noir.
On a windy Sunday evening, with the ocean providing the perfect backdrop, I sit with the man known as Tyson Noir, my goal was to provide our readers more insight into the life of this multitalented individual, at the end of our conversation, I think we achieved something even better.
I’m just going to start off with simple questions. I know you get a lot of same old questions but I'll try to be a little different here. So let’s start from what inspired you to call yourself 'Tyson Noir'?
Tyson Noir is… literally it means “Black Fire Brand”. Tyson means fire Noir means band. I have always tried to identify myself as an artist that makes dope music, has concept in mind that he wants to execute, like inspire people and make sure my music connects to people.
So you see yourself as a multi-dimensional artist?
Hmm I’ll say a creative. I love music, I do music but at some points, I know I’m going to go into fashion and at some point I’m going to go into film production. I think right now I’m enjoying music and I’m trying to be successful.
Can you describe your journey so far in the music industry?
Ups and downs you know but we just take the good with the bad you know. Like there are wins there are disappointments and I just keep pushing. That’s all I have been doing since I started.
I mean, you are one of the more popular upcoming artists in the country, especially in major markets.
You think so?
You have gotten a few co-signs in the industry, how does that feel?
It has made me grateful. When Niniola posted the video of her singing my song (laughs) I was star struck. I mean I know her, I’ve hung out with her, but just seeing her do that was different.
And she seems like a proper fan man. She loves the music...
I’m just happy she does, because I think she is so sick. I think… Right now, she is my favorite female artist from Nigeria.
She is dope.
She is brilliant and its good to get that.
Speaking of Niniola, what is your view on the censorship of her track 'Maradona'? Do you think artists should be censored? Or do you think society sets the rules and artists have play within those rules.
I think society sets what should be censored and that can subjective as well because I listened to the song and she was very poetic about it. So I didn’t understand why it got censored. But I know there are some songs that are put out and yeah you can hear how explicit it is and some artists like her put in effort to write songs and make sure there are a lot of metaphors.
Do you think an artist can utilize metaphors to pass a controversial message within a song in our current climate? For example, criticism of the government or speaking up for equal rights in society.
Right now, I can’t really make a decision on that because I haven’t really heard any popular song in a while that speak on those subjects.
Yeah in a while...
But now there is… who knows, if someone did it, then we would see what the censorship would say…
I think if you looking at the song 'ye' by Burna Boy, some could say the song is part social commentary on today's issues.
Yes. And if it was banned then that’s ridiculous. That’s definitely ridiculous. So that’s a good example. That’s a very good example.
Let’s talk about your music because I have been listening to a lot of your songs...
Oh okay. Thank you (laughs)
You know I had to do my research (laughs)...on “YOURS” you speak of sacrifice, giving it all for the love of your life. What inspired you to write such heavy lyrics.
That wasn’t my experience. I can’t remember who told me about it, but like sometime I write songs about what I went through and sometimes I write from somebody else’s story. So that definitely wasn’t personal. I think it was just interesting to write a song about that as well because I have never… I don’t think I have ever written a song… That was my first time on writing something about that.
That’s suprising, listening to the song, you would actually think that’s your story...
Because of how passionate, how sincere the lyrics come across...literally thought that maybe your ex-girlfriend or someone close was your muse. What is your song writing process? Are you inspired by your personal experience or immediate environment?
Just everything… films, I watch a lot of films, anime as well, peoples stories, my experiences, yeah just anything
I've observed your songs vary in tempo and in rhythm, I see you go from “YOURS” that is more of a modern ballad to “JEJE” that is like… you know its “moving’’
Its moving, its moving. Are you comfortable with either pace or is there a particular pocket you feel most relaxed?
I’m comfortable with either pace. For me when I make music I always try to do something different with each project but still make sure I have my essence, my style and so “JEJE” was the song where … I listened to 'Work' by Rihanna and I really love that song. I love it so much and that was what really inspired the song so when Rob and I; Rob was the guy that produced it. When we were in the studio making the song and I told him "yo like can you play work" and he played it and I was like yeah that’s the vibe I’m going for. And he started making the beat and I think for that song I hummed melodies first like just hummed melodies then put in words later on when I picked the best.
So that’s the process? You make the melody then the beat comes or?...
The beat is there, then the melodies. I sing the melodies and then I think (laughs)…
…of what would suit…
Yeah. I mean there are some melodies you hum, the come out as words so like its almost half complete so you just need to make sure it makes sense.
Do you write or freestyle your lyrics?
No, not off the top of my head…
Or in that moment when you are making the song?
I mean there are some times like I could I hear a beat and then a line for the chorus just comes to my head, sometimes it could just be a, line no melodies per say so it varies from time to time, but I won’t say off the top of my head. I definitely need to like…because sometimes I get stuck. You know like a line or something that ill need to like write it down and you know like figure out the flow
Do you have a personal producer?
I don’t. I just have… I have worked with so many people but like the people I have been consistent with… Somi Jones. Somi Jones produced “YOURS” and he produced “JEJE” and we still have like more tracks coming out soon. He definitely understands how I want my music to sound and we are fans of each other. You know it’s crazy because I knew about him before. I knew he had been producing for L Marshall and I was making “YOURS” when he walked in… he was locking around and then he just finally worked in and then he was like he likes this that can he work on this and that’s how he got the project when…
Yeah that’s the guy cos we both listen to a lot of electronic music so I try to infuse all of that in my music and he does that as well. Like he is dope.
Electronic Music. What is it that inspires you about electronic music?
I just think it sounds sick. It sounds very clean. It sounds very progressive as well. It sounds new. And I just… for me I’m just a fan. I just like the drops. Everything about it.
I think Nigeria is taking some elements of Electronic music…
I think of the street hop like the movement, like the “legbegbe” movement…
That’s house. Like Olamide’s “Wo”, that’s house.
And people don’t really know.
People don’t really know but they are just dancing to it and like… that’s house music.
That’s electronic. That’s club music.
Yeah. And like those guys when I listen to their music it just makes me feel like I can do electronic music cos I can infuse it in my music
Lets talk about other artists. Obviously I’m gonna ask who you're checking for locally and internationally, who would you like to work with? Your dream collaboration...Who would Tyson love to work with?
in Nigeria… how many options do I have (laughs)
I mean…you can talk about as many as you want.
Definitly Wizkid. I think he is brilliant. Definitely Niniola, I think she is brilliant as well
You guys will definitely do a song together. I'm putting it out there...
(laughs) Fingers crossed. I think… definitely. I would love to. She is amazing. I would love to work with Wande Coal. He is amazing as well and err… who else… I really like Kiss Daniel as well. Yeah… I think his style and like his pop vocal as well is like sick…
And he's a great live.
Yeah I have seen him live, yeah I have seen him lifeso m a fan definitely a fan. Internationally, Kanye West. I would love to work with Kanye West.
Why Kanye West?
I’d describe his music as progressive, gritty and dynamic in terms of themes. Definitely Kanye West, definitely Timbaland. I’m a big fan of Timbaland. I’m a big fan of 40 as well.
He is amazing.
So what do you think about… let’s use Kanye West as an example. Do you think an artist can be separated… in terms of their actions and their music? Do you think you can make that separation?
You mean as a consumer?
As a consumer. As a fan. I mean do you think you can say… I mean you know Kanye has been in the news a lot for his controversial statements and stuff like that. Do you think people can actually separate his music from his person? Like still be a fan of his music and not really be a fan of Kanye West. Do you think I can be a fan of Tyson and not be a fan of Tyson’s…?
I think it depends on peoples…each individual's level of objectivity. Some people consume music and they take everything together you know. Like the personality, the style, and even in the current state of the industry where there is social media. And its very image based now. So its not just the music anymore. Like you have to have a look. People have to like you. They have to think you are cool and everything. So for some people, I think they can separate the personality, the controversy from the music. I did. Initially when he (Kanye West) made those statements I was upset but then after a while he said his album was dropping and I was like yeah! We move. I need to listen to this. You know, so I have a friend that he boycotted him (Kanye West) after that and he lost interest in him. We were in the studio and I played a track off the album and he was bumping his head and I was like you know that’s 'Yeezy' right and he was like hmmm...
(laughs) but that’s the dilemma. That’s the conflict I think a lot of people have with artists. For example, I believe Nigerian musicians celebrate a lot of things that shouldn’t actually be celebrated. You know what I mean?We are talking about excessive wealth, misogyny, fraud, etc…
Subjects, that if we actually dissect them, they're not really okay but when the music comes on we forget and then after the music stops playing we become advocates again.
(laughs) You know its mad…
You know… Science student… I think that song is a jam but you know when it came out I realized there was a lot of backlash, people thought it was about him promoting drug abuse but he said that he was just creating awareness for these things that happen in these schools and how we should be more pro-active about it and I know I can swear that the people that bashed it, when the song comes on they are dancing (laughs) and when it comes off, it’s like…
I think that’s the power of music. Music makes you forget. So when are we getting the Tyson Noir album?
When people are ready for the album they can get it but right now, I just want to give out music in small doses. Yeah. Not when its ready, when people are ready.
When will that be?
Hopefully next year. Definitely next year. I’m looking at next year. Yeah. Because I really want to put out an album, even though like sometimes, I find it daunting because like it’s my first album. I’m excited because I have so many ideas and like so many sides.
At this stage of your career, are sales important to you? Would you take popularity over talent…
…talent or compromise. If you want to compromise, would you compromise your artistry for more popularity? Because compromise is not always a bad thing
Yeah its not always a bad thing. I don’t think so. You know, like I have seen some artists compromise and they put off the track and I still like it and I still pump to it. I think it’s different but like its hip hop, it’s a jam and I have seen some people compromise and I didn’t connect to it. So for me it depends on the artist and sometimes I feel you should compromise because music moves with time…
… and I always respect artists that have been relevant and they have always evolved because as music is changing, you have to grow. You don’t necessarily have to lose you artistry or lose your identity. You have to switch it up, you have to re-invent yourself and that’s the way I see it.
Then I think we shouldn't use the word ‘compromise’ because that might come across negative.
Yeah…an experiment… yeah, people experiment as well. Exactly
Lets just call it 'experimental'
They don’t go out of their comfort zone and …
I think in Nigeria; a majority of consumers are not yet ready for experimenting. I can remember the backlash that Wizkid was getting for trying to go…
I love that album
…for trying to go with a worldwide sound.
I love that album and I understand and I don’t understand why some people don’t like it. I understand… I mean, maybe they love a certain type of Wizkid and maybe that’s what they want, but for me it was interesting to see him you know take on that sound and branch.
So apart from music, what is Tyson Noir venturing into? Is it solely music or are you trying to be a mogul....
I always like to use Kanye West as an example. Kanye West started music and then branched out into fashion, while he was doing music and he could go into film if he wanted to. I want to be recognized as a stellar artist , collaborate with people in the fashion and film industry.
Lets imagine you have access to a time machine, what would you tell 16-year-old Tyson about his future.
You can do anything… You should find yourself, find what you want to do, find your passionate about and you should focus on that.
What would you tell 40-year-old Tyson Noir? (laughs) What would you tell your future self?
My future self?
you are cool as fuck… you did epic shit…you are dope and you are a good person.That’s what ill hope to tell myself definitely.
What’s your favorite childhood memory, a memory that really stands out.
I was in secondary school… does that count?
Yeah I think so
(laughs) I remember Js 1. I was scared. I really wanted to do well. I studied really hard and I remember like I didn’t even know results were out but the senior prefect just came because he was in my room. I was in boarding school and he just came into the room and was like, "yo you got first position" and he shook my hand. And I was like wow okay, yeah that was a moment for me.
Damn, I never got first position in class (laughs)
I know you studied Law at Uni. Was completing your education an important milestone before you fully committed to your music career?
I think so. I think at the time I wasn’t too objective about it. You know I was really passionate about music and I felt like I was wasting my time; I should be out there doing music but then I had to finish school. My parents wanted me to finish school and now I really appreciate it because you have a degree and you can’t go wrong with a degree, ever. It’s good to have a degree and still have whichever thing you are passionate about that you are chasing. I’m glad I went to school, I’m glad I’m educated and it definitely has helped me in like processing information, working through the industry and like just seeing how things could turn out. You never know how things could turn out. Definitely I definitely appreciate going to school.
Do you think that if you were not an artist you still be a lawyer?
I don’t think so. I think I would have done law for probably like two years and I will get bored and I’ll go into something else
Like every lawyer today (laughs)
Let’s talk about your parents. How supportive are they? Do they listen to your music? Do they give you some criticisms? Do they tell you to do this do that? How much influence do they have on your music?
My dad really really supports me. My mum is a bit iffy. Sometimes she’s quiet sometimes she just feels like you shouldn’t be doing music and she has her fears as well that she points out. But I don’t want to sound… but this is how I think… I think there are definitely distractions in the industry and the higher you go you… there are more distractions, there are more problems. There are more pitfalls. So you just need to be on your toes, you always need to be on your toes and I think for me, I always study and stick to the artists that have been on their toes.
I won’t say role models but people that like I admire that have just… that are still around, that are still doing their thing. I won’t say role models because…
You don’t know what they really do...
Yeah, you don’t know people. You don’t really know people; I just listen to their music. I see their moves, their progress in the industry so I just study and admire that.
Speaking of distractions, obviously the one common distraction (laughs)
No not drugs. I wasn’t going to say drugs. I was going to say girls. Has that affected your social life being an artist? I mean I’m always intrigued about an artist’s social life. Like when he is away from the music, do you like to be around people that just treat you the same?
I just like to chill with my friends, most of the time that’s what I do. If I go to a show, then yeah I can interact with people that love my music but most times I’m by myself.
So let’s go back to the music industry. Well we are rounding up. I don’t want to keep you too long. There has been a lot of talk about the growth of the Nigerian music industry. For example, some argue that the success Afrobeats and Afrocentric music is only at surface level, a sense that it’s not trickling down to most industry players; it’s basically just a few elites that are eating off the popularity, the global popularity. What would you say to that?
I would say the people that find our culture cool music and you know they are trying to jump on the wave are also looking at it from a business perspective; like who are the top cats, who are the guys that have the… been following you know. Who are the relevant guys that does are the guys they would want to work with. For them it’s not just… I feel like it’s not just the music, it’s the clout as well. It’s the new cool and everyone wants to be a part of it. So that could be a reason why is not really trickling down. But I would say I don’t know how long this is going to last but if its last really long, then maybe it may trickle down...
So how would you market yourself globally. How would you want yourself to be seen?
For me I would like to… you know, look cool and comfortable, make music that connects, make music that is of a certain standard you know, that the quality is good to make people connect to it. Even if they don’t understand what I’m singing, they can just get into it and executing like… because I have concepts in mind, I have concepts behind videos, photo shoots. It’s an image. It’s like a vision and you know its executing all of that.
Final question, any message to your fans?
I want to say that I really appreciate them. Like you know, they listen to my music and you know connecting to it and there is really more to come like I’m always making music so I would love to share more with them so…
Thank you Tyson for your time.
Thank you so much for having me