Channel WAVY sits down with the multitalented British Nigerian artist, ESSEO. With a diverse background spanning from Luton to Lagos and Houston, ESSEO’s music is a fusion of cultures and experiences. His unique sound blends rap and melodic vocals, influenced by artists such as Travis Scott and PARTYNEXTDOOR. ESSEO’s journey in the music industry started with the group Vital Knights, with “Crutches Skank” and “We Just Entered” making waves on platforms such as Channel AKA and MTV Base. In this interview, ESSEO discusses his growth as an artist over the past two decades, his fond memories of the Vital Knights era and his thoughts on the thriving UK music scene. He also shares insights into his new release, “Nothing New”, and his upcoming project, Before you move on….
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Channel WAVY: Tell us a little about your story and background.
ESSEO: Well, I’m ESSEO, pronounced S-C-O, a singer-songwriter, artist and musician originally from Luton, UK, and I’ve been making music, recording, writing and performing for a good few years now! I initially started my journey as an artist as a young teen, or pre-teen even, back in the grime days around the time that Kano had released Home Sweet Home, and “Pow” was being televised. I had a bunch of family members who were making music in our local scene, and it made me want to get involved! I spent a bit of time away from the UK in my teens when I was sent to live in Nigeria for a couple years and attend boarding school, with some people who ended up being big names in the industry today funnily enough, as well as spending my latter high school years in Houston, Texas, before coming back and picking back up on my music career.
Since then, I’ve joined up with my collective, or group if you want to call it, Nothing Was Easy. NWE is an umbrella for me and my other family members that do music, and with the story the rest is history! You know I spent some time studying the music industry formally at Hertfordshire Uni on their Music & Entertainment Industry Management course, as well as Notting Hill Academy of Music’s A&R and Songwriting course. I interned at Insanity Records and Relentless Records under Sony for a while, and I also engineer for other artists! So, a real tenure in the UK music industry.
Channel WAVY: You’ve been in the industry for a long time now and co-founded Luton crew Vital Knights back in 2004. How have you grown as an artist in the last 20 years?
ESSEO: Wow! When you say it like that, 20 years is a long time! I do like to look at myself as a professional career artist though, so fair enough! I’ve changed and grown musically so much since those days. My inspirations changed, my music taste grew and changed, and my talents and skills have grown immensely too! Those days I was all about bars and specifically grime and intricate flows – these days I’m more about finding ways to tell people my story and give people an insight to me and my life in a beautiful way that they enjoy and wanna party to or relate to in their own way! I love melody and singing and the songs you can make through these mediums, and that’s how I like to put myself across these days. One major thing I’d say has changed since those days is you’ll have a hard time putting me in a categorised genre these days. I’m really just doing me!
Channel WAVY: What are some of your favourite memories from your time in Vital Knights?
ESSEO: Vital Knights was a great time. We were outside of London, so we may not have been a staple in people’s lives in that area, but in Bedfordshire, Hertfordshire and Bucks we were really a big part of people’s lives. To this day people send me videos of them nostalgically listening to the music and singing the songs word for word after so many years. Those days we were 15, 16, 17, and we had our music video spinning on national TV on MTV Base and Channel AKA daily! It was a big thing. I remember times when we’d support Wretch 32, DJ Ironik, Mz Bratt, some of the funky house artists, etc. on shows. I remember I even met Leigh-Anne Pinnock from Little Mix those days way before X Factor. Performing at the Luton Carnival was amazing in front of all those people. To be honest, my favourite memories from those days were when random people around the country would hit me up and tell me how their teachers were playing our music videos in class, and their parents were listening too – it was just a mad time. It was great.
Channel WAVY: What are your thoughts on today’s UK music scene? And what UK artists are on your playlist at the moment?
ESSEO: Of course, today the UK music scene is doing immensely good! When I was in uni studying the industry, I used to fight to get these old punk music heads who were my lecturers to take heed of what was going on – all they wanted to talk about was Dizzee Rascal! It’s definitely way more promising. Even 2023 specifically I love how it’s going, where there’s a plethora of independent artists with their own unique music and sound all getting the love and fans they deserve! I love to see it. These days you don’t even have to be part of the main usual scene.
Right now though on my playlists you’ll find some Aweezy, NWE Klash, ytboutthataction, RADA, AE, as well as some more mainstream names like Youngs Teflon, J Hus, Nines and Potter Payper really. I do need to get into Jim Legxacy and Len though. I’ve been hearing a lot about them. But I love the music the UK girls are making; let it be known I’m a big supporter.
Channel WAVY: Congratulations on the release of your single “Nothing New”. What can you tell us about the makings of this track?
ESSEO: Thank you, bro! That’s love for real. When I was making this track, I was specifically trying to change from my usual sound, which is kind of reminiscent of that dark Toronto R&B vibe, but this year I wanted to bring the vibes and enjoyment – similar to my last single “Blue Moon”. It’s at a time where I’m connecting more to my Yoruba roots. I’m implementing more of the language and sounds into my music, and this was one of the products of that! Plus, there’s a girl which it was basically written about. I kind of wanted to send her my own message in a little encoded way haha. It’s taken from my upcoming project, Before you move on…, where I’m kind of getting all my emotions about my situationships out.
Channel WAVY: Who are some artists or producers you’d love to work with in the future?
ESSEO: You know, I’d love to work with some Toronto artists. I really feel real synergy with them and their sound – mainly PARTYNEXTDOOR, the OVO camp, some of the other ones like Pressa, Top5, etc. In the UK I’d like to work with some of our big ones. I feel like people like Skepta, Stormzy, J Hus can all appreciate the different vibes I’m producing and find a way for all our different worlds to merge. I remember my first mixtape I was working on I was recording at the same studio that J Hus was recording his Common Sense album and used to dap him up, so it would really be full circle. Producer-wise I know I’d love to work with JAE5, TSB, Rapid, Low Deep and definitely some others who are escaping my mind to mention right now.
Channel WAVY: If you could only listen to three albums for the rest of your life, what would they be and why?
ESSEO: I’d say, I’m going with PARTYNEXTDOOR 1 or 2 – this is too hard to pick. These two albums did change my life and have been a major influence on my music of the last few years. The vibes were perfect, the perspective, and I just really connect to the songs as a person. Hearing these were the first times in music I felt like, “What the hell is this I’m hearing? I’ve never heard anything like it.”
Burna Boy – Love, Damini. Burna Boy has been going crazy over the last few years, as well as Afrobeats as a whole! I need Afrobeats in my life. The music brings me so much joy, so this had to be a part of it.
ESSEO – Neptunes. What can I say? I’ve grown to love my own music! This album was the first time I felt like I’d proved something with my music, and some of the songs on there mean so much to me, and I think will continue to for years to come.
Channel WAVY: What are your upcoming plans? What can fans expect?
ESSEO: I’ll be releasing my new project, Before you move on…, and promoting that with videos, performances, remixes, the lot! This year I’m looking to actively be in everyone’s faces all year, network with some more artists and continue going hard! You can expect to hear my name and see my face in more spaces and tastemakers’ mouths by God’s grace. I have love for everyone supporting me, joining me and yet to come and join the community.