Starting mid-June of last year, Akoh Isaiah-Akoh—the owner of the Nigerian-based blog Jukebox Music—reached out to me. At the time, the Lagos writer wanted me to check out an artist he was promoting. Akoh and I didn’t get to connect the way he may have hoped in 2021, but I decided to contact him last month. I needed to get to know him a little better.
GRUNGECAKE: First of all, I want to commend you on your support for African artists over the years. When we crossed paths online, I felt the name of your website was fitting. What made you decide and land on “Jukebox Music”?
Thanks a lot, YAMS. We, as music bloggers, then need to push out music from the corners of the planet for other consumers to see.
I coined the name “Jukebox Music” along with a friend Kelvin. We were in a night class at university—preparing for exams. Then, I said I’d love to go into blogging, and we searched for a unique name for a music player on Google. We settled for the name “Jukebox Music”.
GRUNGECAKE: The first post on your website dates back to 2013, and the entry was about Burna Boy’s track ‘Smoke Some Weed’. How would you say the Nigerian music industry rated him back then?
We actually started Jukebox Music in 2011 on a WordPress free blog, used to share streaming links from Hulkshare, and then we moved to a proper website in 2012. Towards the end of 2012, we got hacked and lost all posts, and we started from scratch in January 2013.
GRUNGECAKE: We had similar experiences with hacking.
Yes, Burna!!! I can categorically say I was the first blogger/first platform to share the music online when I came across it. It was from a tape nobody knew about because basically, ‘Like to Party’ was buzzing, and I loved his sound. Burna is different! I could feel it. I shared the song, hit some of my blogger friends and in two hours, it was on basically every big blog in Nigeria!
Burna wasn’t really rated in Nigeria then, but as a music lover, I knew he was special. [I] worked closely with some guys on his PR team at Aristokrat Records. I knew he was different.
GRUNGECAKE: This month (April), almost ten years after your first post about him on Jukebox Music, he made history at Madison Square Garden. How does it make you feel?
Burna performing at MSG almost ten years after I shared his song—nobody knew—makes me feel like I won personally. You know the feeling when nobody sees something in somebody, and you do, and then, in no time, everybody gets to see it along with you. It makes me feel excited and really happy. I really have no words to explain.
GRUNGECAKE: Which part of Nigeria are you from, and how was it growing up for you? How did you get into blogging about music?
I’m from Kogi State. I have a mixed background. My mum is Yoruba and my dad is Igala. Growing up was fun. To be honest, I had a gift from my dad in 2003, and it was a personal computer. I mean his friends looked at him [like] why would he get his young son a computer. By 2008, we never had to go to the cyber café to browse and surf the internet. We had internet in our sitting room. It shaped me a lot [because] I had a wide access to try out things.
I got into music blogging in my uni days. I got bored of classes and wanted to have a part in music. I felt I could have a platform where people can come and check out the latest Nigerian music; it was really hard to get access to streaming links in Nigeria. So, that got me into blogging about music.
GRUNGECAKE: How proud are you to be Nigerian with the global representation occurring for Afrobeats and Nigerian culture?
I am super proud. I mean, Nigerians have been doing this music thing for a while, from the days of ‘African Queen’ by 2face (now 2Baba) and D’banj shattering records with ‘Oliver Twist’ (Kanye West and other American artists are in the video) and having a song with Snoop Dogg (‘Mr Endowed’ Remix). I have never been as proud as I am right now to be Nigerian.
GRUNGECAKE: How important is it for you to continue to promote music coming from the region? What makes your brand/site different from the others?
It is very important for me to promote music. Most times, I don’t get to reply emails and all; I feel incomplete. I’m used to it. It’s my everything. Well, Jukebox Music has always been different, even from the days we offered free downloads. We were the first to have the artwork on the songs like you got it from digital stores.
We have always been different because we make sure we share the message of the artiste, so the listeners will understand and be glued.
GRUNGECAKE: What things do you want people worldwide to know about Nigeria and Nigerian people?
I want the world to know that aside music, Nigerians are the best set of people you would love to have as friends and party with. (He laughs) We also have great sportspeople, and our food is really really good.
GRUNGECAKE: On the music side, who are some new African artists we should look out for and support?
Not forgetting my Ghanaian brothers—Kwesi Arthur and Black Sherif! Ha, Black Sherif will be super big. I can feel it already. Besides, the world needs to know there is a lot of good Drill music (234 Drill) coming out of Nigeria lately. Notable names like Droxx, psiv, Tomi Obanure, and the likes.
GRUNGECAKE: Is there anything you want the people that follow you to understand about GRUNGECAKE that they may not get at first glance?
GRUNGECAKE is the ONLY American-based website that truly supports emerging African artistes. I Know this [because] I’ve sent in materials several times, and I see the massive support they give to artists, and GRUNGECAKE is always pushing the African music culture.
GRUNGECAKE: How did we meet?
I think I sent a DM about how I am a fan of your website and your writers, and you followed back, and bam! Here we are!