As the global pandemic claimed the lives of millions of people around the world and redirected life as we knew it, the rest of us started friendships and built bonds with people thousands of miles away from us on other continents. I have to admit; it was not a completely new concept because part of my job before the coronavirus outbreak was to discover global talents and pitch them to American audiences. However, this time it felt different. For the first time, the wide world would hear and see what I’ve been praising from the continent.
As we sat home, it seemed to level us, and suddenly, our roles and positions didn’t matter much at that moment. We were all stuck at home with plenty of time on our hands, and in my case, I had to come out of “hiding” to survive. It was time for more people to know my name, and it was time for me to tell people how much I have contributed to the music industry under my journalism/public relations beats. Thus, I began to use Instagram Live to talk to young international music makers, and out of the thousands of people I met, there was one kid who didn’t sound like the pack.
Would I have met Yugo if the world didn’t stop? Maybe, but I cannot say things would have happened how it has.
In a recent conversation with the young Nigerian artist, I had a chance to learn which Nigerian tribe his name comes from, what growing up in Nigeria was like, how he got his British/English accent, and what’s to come on his forthcoming EP simply-titled ‘YUGO SZN’. Before you go, do not forget to stream his Drill record ‘Jump’, released in December last year, which depicts a cartoon version of Yugo skydiving.
GRUNGECAKE: So, tell us quickly, is it Yugo or YUGO SZN?
Yugo: My name is Yugo. Spelled Y-U-G-O.
GRUNGECAKE: How did you get the name?
Yugo: So, my native name is “Ugochukwu” or “Ugo” for short and it means “God’s Glory” in the Igbo language. Then, I added a capital “Y” to the short form to make it unique and distinct from the rest, and that’s how we birthed the name “Yugo”.
GRUNGECAKE: Alright, very nice. What inspired the idea?
Yugo: C’mon, my name means “God’s Glory”. I see myself as a walking testimony of God’s love and grace, and His work. The name is me claiming that title as a testimony of God’s glory.
GRUNGECAKE: Good. Speaking of Igbo names, tell us more about your background and what growing up in Nigeria/Lagos is like?
Yugo: Growing up in Nigeria, specifically Lagos, has been motivating because if there’s one thing it’s taught me is to always work hard, never stop working, never give up. You can feel the struggle of the everyday person when you wake up in the morning and you see the bus drivers and traders already active in the wee hours of the morning. That just motivates me to never stop and to always go hard.
GRUNGECAKE: For someone who grew up in Nigeria, you do sound foreign and one might mistake you for an European bred artist. How do you explain that to people?
Yugo: I get asked that question a lot of times. That’s what you get when you attend a high-end primary school in Nigeria. Some of my relatives aren’t Nigerian and I think spending time with them; growing up contributed to me having an accent, but one of the heavy factors that influenced the way I speak is the school I went to. I attended Nazareth school in Festac Town, Lagos. People that went to Nazareth can attest to this. Everywhere you went from the library to the staff room, everyone was sounding different, so being in that environment for 6 years at the development stage just rubbed off on me.
GRUNGECAKE: How do you spend your leisure time?
Yugo: In my leisure, I make beats. I can’t say I’m at pro-level, but I keep on improving by the day. I also workout in my free time. I pray, and I play chess as well.
GRUNGECAKE: You discovered your love for making music at a very young age. Tell us about your journey and how that is working for you right now.
Yugo: Okay there’s a funny story behind this. I was in Primary 4 at the time. That was when I wrote my first song and it was for my crush—this girl I really liked back in school. After looking at the lyrics, I discovered that I was able to tell my story, express my feelings through the music and I decided to keep on improving on the craft. At a point I also incorporated dancing alongside making music, so I was dancing and singing kinda like Michael Jackson but an African version.
GRUNGECAKE: Recently, you were featured on the record ‘Hours’ with Bella Alubo, Osa Zelé and Rebel Rae. How did that collaboration happen?
Yugo: I got a message from my manager. He hit my line and sent me a song and he was like “Yo, you know what to do. I need you to kill it and send this back in 48 hours.” And the rest is history. So, big shout-out to Osa Zelé, Bella Alubo, and Rebel Rae. They did an amazing job on the song.
GRUNGECAKE: What words can you use to describe your music?
Yugo: I would say my music is very soothing, very sweet. It’s a beautiful piece of art. If I was to describe my music in one word, that would be therapy. It’s very relatable, very consoling and has a lot of different vibes.
GRUNGECAKE: Are we going to experience those vibes on the new project?
Yugo: Yes. Definitely. This new project is going to show, how well my music has evolved over the years, so I’m excited.
GRUNGECAKE: Tell us more about this new EP. It would be your first project right?
Yugo: It would be my first mainstream project. I released a mixtape called ‘Rhapsodeep’ on Audiomack sometime last year, but this new EP is really really special. The ‘YUGO SZN’ EP introduces my sound to the whole world, how he tells his story, the intimacy in the lyrical composition, the different energies, the different SZNs.
GRUNGECAKE: Are there any international or home-based collaborations on this EP we should know about?
Yugo: I got a banger with one of the top African artists on the EP and I can’t wait for you guys to hear it.
GRUNGECAKE: What’s the trajectory looking like in the next say, five years from now?
Yugo: By God’s grace in the next five years, I see myself as the most successful young artist on the planet.