'I'm an Alté Guy': Nigerian Musician BOJ Is Pioneering a Whole New Genre

The next in our Share Location series takes in first kisses in Hemel Hempstead, Afro-Caribbean societies and how Alté skyrocketed off.
26 August 2020, 1:27pm
Boj press photo
Photo: @___tse

Bolaji Odojukan – aka BOJ – is one of the pioneers of Nigeria’s rapidly expanding Alté scene. Standing for “alternative” and blending Afrobeats, pop and rap into futuristic hyper smooth genre-hybrids, it’s been described as less a genre and more a state of mind. Think of it as fluid, left-field expression.

Party-throwing group DRB LasGidi came first. Consisting of BOJ and school friends Teezee and Fresh L, the trio flourished as part of a new wave of Nigerian youth culture that put individuality and creative freedom at the forefront. Though the group had been around since 2007 with various members over many years, its rebirth in the late 2010s helped crown a fresh movement – one centered around being yourself no matter what, and having a whole load of fun in the process. See 2019 track “Alté”, as some proof.

Stand out moments include BOJ and Teezee’s 2018 collab with Skepta, “Like To Party”, while this year’s debut album Pioneers brought together members of the Lagos Alté scene, such as Lady Donli who appears on silky feet-mover “Ma Pariwo”. That’s not all, though. Twenty-seven-year-old BOJ is currently rocketing his way through a slew of solo releases, with the most recent of these – “Abracadabra” – bringing in guest performances from huge stars Davido and Mr Eazi. If those acts are the huge, behemoth pop stars of their world, then BOJ is the left-field artist putting out mind-bending projects alongside.

Though he’s currently located in Lagos, BOJ and his fellow DRB LasGidi members went to school in the UK, while BOJ himself was born in Britain. With that in mind, we hit up Lagos’ current hottest star for Share Location, our series where we ask up-coming and prominent musicians about their experience growing up in the UK.

VICE: Hi Boj! You’re in Lagos right now but you went to school in the UK, right?
Boj: Yeah. I was born in the UK, moved to Nigeria when I was five, then was here until Year Nine, then came back to England and went to a boarding school in Worcestershire. Man, I went to so many schools. I was a bit of a troublemaker. I went from one college to another college to another college. Eventually I went to university in Kent, where I did audio engineering.

That’s it. Then Teezee and Fresh L came over to school here too, right, then you joined the group?
Yeah. They were making music – it was a whole bunch of Nigerian boys making music – and I just joined. I was the only one left out. I never really knew I could do music, but I joined the group and tried.

Where’s your favourite place to perform music in the UK?  Oh, bro. When we were in England we were doing tours. You know how they have Afro-Caribbean society? We used to perform at all the unis. The best one was when we went to Birmingham. It was just fun, obviously because we were young. There were wild amounts of girls too.

Ha. Do you remember your first kiss?
Yeah yeah. My first kiss? Ok. My first kiss, like ever? That was in Hemel Hempstead, with a girl named Sophie. I was probably about eight.

Wow. Early.
Yeah man, I started early.

What was your first experience smoking weed in the UK?
Ok, ok – so that one happened after GCSE. We went to some girl’s house, her parents are farmers so she had this big arse farm and it was just a big party. It was amazing, man [laughs]. Then after that I was hooked, innit.

How does the weed compare between UK and Nigeria?
We get the same stuff – weed from LA and London. I still smoke these days, but I don’t really do it in public like that.

What’s the worst night out you had in the UK? I can imagine university being potentially bad.
Ok, so I’ve never had one of those nights where you black out or anything like that. But I’ve been with a friend who has done some stupid shit. Basically… one night we went out and my guy got piss drunk and at the end of the night we go outside and he literally whipped out his cock and started pissing on people. It was so fucked. So many people were trying to fight us.

How do you even deal with a problem like that??
Broooooo. I can’t even start to explain how I handled it. I was drunk as well.

That sounds like a nightmare. At least it happened when you were young, not today.  Trust me.

You said you haven’t had a bad night out, but you must have thrown up somewhere in Britain. Have you?
Ummm, ah man, I usually do that at home. It never just happens. I’ve never embarrassed myself like that before.

Got it. Where was the first time you got in somewhere for free, or were given something for free, because of your newfound fame – whether here in the UK, or over in Nigeria.  It happened a lot with clothes. We used to get sent clothes by young designers – that’s it, really.

With the clothing thing specifically, looking from the outside it feels like Nigeria has had a new cultural movement over the past few years inside of art, music and the fashion scenes. What’s your experience of that, living it?
The African culture, yeah, it has – not frowned upon – but kind of looked down upon creatives. So loads of people growing up were like “Man, I have to be a lawyer or banker” or one of those things. But this new generation decided to rebel against everything and be like: “Fuck it – let’s be creative.” It’s loads of people trying to be fashion designers, photographers, movie directors, musicians.

It’s an explosion.  Exactly.

Then you guys coined the Alté term right?
One of the guys in our group used it to describe things that were completely on the left of what everyone else was doing. In 2014, I dropped a song called “Paper” where I used the word alté – “I’m an alté guy” – and things picked up from there. We’re known for creating loads of slang, so it picks up.

You put out the Pioneers record with DRB this year, but you’re doing solo stuff too. What’s the plan going forward?
The whole time we’ve been doing individual stuff. I’ve dropped projects before. Everyone else has individual projects. Next up I’m gonna be putting out another record, then a five track EP. It’s all gonna happen this year.

Looking forward to it. Thanks for chatting, Boj!