Azekel Journeys Inward on New EP 'Azekel Unreleased'
The Massive Attack and Gorillaz collaborator speaks with HYPEBEAST about his latest project.
“Making this project for me was like a reset button,” Azekel shares about his new EP, Azekel Unreleased. “It allowed me to do something different whilst returning to something I did earlier.” The Nigerian-born, London-based musician has several projects under his belt, building momentum through cosigns from the likes of Prince, Massive Attack, and Gorillaz. Following his 2018 debut album, Our Father, Azekel’s latest project is darker than many of his previous works, placing his velvety falsetto atop woozy downtempo production.
Written, produced, performed, and mixed entirely by Azekel, the EP features four tracks including last month’s single “Thrills.” He flew to LA to finish the tracks alongside Om’Mas Keith (Frank Ocean, Anderson Paak), noting that they were “just trying to make something fresh and otherworldly.” The result is something spectral, with Azekel highlighting his tender vocals by way of solemn lyrical narratives. Speaking on the project, he shares that his personal life and his music are woven together: “Making music for me is very cathartic and listening back is like talking to a familiar voice.”
Azekel joined HYPEBEAST for a quick interview about the project, discussing his identity’s influence on his music, his intentions with Azekel Unreleased, and more.
The past few months, and especially the past few weeks, have been a pretty tumultuous period. How are you holding together these days?
Yeah it’s mad, emotions have been high and low. it’s like being in an episode of Black Mirror, I definitely feel we are moving into a new age, I’m just trying to figure out what role I play as an artist and where I belong in all of this. I do think the world is moving towards the right direction in terms of equality and ending mistreatment of black people.
Your own identity as being a Nigeria-born, England-based musician fuels a lot of your own lyrical portraits. Can you elaborate on how this continues to influence your direction?
It’s a big influence on everything I do, I’m always journeying inward to find new sounds, direction, and narrative for my work, thinking of old and new ways to express myself. Being African and raised in the UK. I’ve recently felt the need to continue building my label “Thunderlightning Recordings” around my sound, having ownership of my music, and providing a platform for other artists to counteract the lack of diversity in the music business. I grew up constantly hearing about black artists ending up with nothing after making music we all enjoy today, and the people around them profiting off their labor. My identity influences the music and business behind it too.
This is your first release since 2018’s Our Father. What inspired you to put together this collection of tracks and release them?
I was making new ideas straight after I put out Our Father in 2018. I had the songs all done ready to go in 2019 but there were challenges with releasing it, and I started a whole new project, but once lockdown happened I decided to share this [because] it felt right to continue to share music for this time. I chose these particular songs because I was playing them a lot during lockdown, [they] share the same sound.
Azekel Unreleased is a much darker, more melancholic offering than previous. What was your creative process and inspiration behind the project?
I made quite a lot of music after our father, in a studio in West London and Whitelines Studio in LA, with Om’Mas Keith (Frank Ocean, Anderson Paak) lending a hand, we were just trying to make something fresh and otherworldly.
Making this project for me was like a reset button; it allowed me to do something different whilst returning to something I did earlier. The inspirations were the new experiences I was having and the new people I was meeting. There was a lot of change in my life, it made its way into my music.
How important is it for you to have creative control over your output?
Yeah 100 percent, as a black creative it something that’s very important to me. I’ve had opportunities where I’ve given the control away for support and finance behind my music but it comes with a price. I’m really into how blackness is represented in the media/ public eye, I believe it can only be done correctly with black artists owning their work, at least to a degree. I think it’s important artists control the narrative of how their communities are presented in the media, I believe this can only truly happen with there being diversity in label owners, artists having ownership and collaborative ownership of their work.
What’s next for Azekel? Any big projects in the works, anything you’re currently working on?
I’ve just finished off a new project, so that will be out soon, and I’ve recently collaborated with some really dope artists. I’ve made and been involved in a lot of new music and I just want to share it, also I’ve been producing for artists on my label Thunderlightning Recordings which is something I look forward to releasing too.