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February Digital Cover: Shallipopi

“Wait, they call me Shallipopi Pluto presido,” Shallipopi sings his song Evil Receive as he roams the front stage of Brixton Electric. Fans cluster and huddle below, yelling back lyrics to him with confidence and conviction in their breath. Cameras flash brightly, sparkling across the venue, and there's an exhilarating feeling in the air. “Receive enter wallet!” the audience chants back to Shallipopi. This euphoric reaction from fans comes amid his swift rise to the top of the Nigerian music industry in just under 12 months. 

The Edo rapper, singer, and songwriter dons black shades, exuding an aura of enigma and mystery as he dances across the stage, flanked by two female dancers on either side. The energy in the venue is charged up. Throughout the night, attendees synchronised in movement, moving left to right while doing the viral Shallipopi Pluto dance that picked up traction across TikTok and other social media platforms. 

Ahead of his London show at Electric Brixton, the 23-year-old rapper intimately reveals that his song Evil Receive is his most cherished musical creation, perhaps explaining why he opened his show with it. The song delves into the themes of status, money and wealth, with his lyrics' brush strokes unveiling a poignant desire for financial prosperity, interwoven with commentary on the shadows that accompany such worldly triumphs. “I love the song because I can relate to it,” he says, before adding that he wanted this to show in his delivery, “it's like I'm talking to you on the song.”  

After dropping his debut album Presido La Pluto towards the end of 2023, the music scene was set ablaze with his unrelenting bangers such as Ex-Convict, Elon Musk, and Cast, featuring the powerhouse Odumodublvck, which took the last quarter of the year by storm. 

But it was his song Elon Musk, which crawled to the number one spot of the Nigerian Top 100 Apple Music charts that propelled him to new heights, landing him a remix with Zlatan and Fireboy DML. His inspiration behind Elon Musk is not mere admiration; the song's creativity was fueled by society’s response to social media, scrolling through his 'For You' Page, and the pressure of the current times we’re all indulging within. “It's not that Elon Musk is anything to me — that's just the type of songs I make. I make songs based on what is happening around me,” he says. “ There was one situation with Elon Musk with Twitter [X], So I just did a song about him; it was based on experience and reality; it's not that serious stuff.”

“Social change and my music, I don't think they’re close to each other,” he says. “My music is for fun and to get your mind off troubles.”

Shallipopi's vantage point is where musical notes and political dialogues tread separately but are in parallel paths. “Social change and my music, I don't think they’re close to each other,” he says. “My music is for fun and to get your mind off troubles.” He purposefully endeavours to provide a sanctuary for listeners to find a sort of escapism during societal turbulence. 

From the experimentation of his first EP, Planet Pluto, to the audacious exploration encapsulated in his first studio album, Presido La Pluto, both projects become a chapter in the tale of his creative evolution. “The first EP was experimenting with sounds,” Shallipopi reveals. “Even the album was experimenting; it was testing if this sound would work. But from now the stuff I will be dropping will be serious now.” Presido La Pluto is his proclamation of versatility and diversity. “The message I was trying to pass to my audience is that I can test different sounds, and it would work,” he says. “I wanted to let them know I've arrived.” When asked about his hit song Cast featuring Odumodublvck he responds, “when your song is catchy, you know it's going to blow up.” He then adds, “I make my songs as catchy as possible so it's easy to learn even if you don't understand the meaning.”

Like rare gems scattered across alluvial gravel, it can be challenging for Nigerian artists from Edo State to cultivate a foundation in the scene. “Right now, we’re just getting recognised,” Shallipopi admits. He understands that it is essential that artists like him from Benin City become architects of their growth, creating a sound that mirrors their cultural and personal perspectives. “You know an artist is known and will last when there is growth,” he says assertively. “I think from 2022 up to now, the only thing that has changed [in my musical journey] is growth.” 

Shallipopi’s music creatively embodies Benin City's stories and traditions. The city's spirit becomes the unseen collaborator for Shallipopi, whispering narratives in each verse and chorus. “Everything about me is from Benin City: my attitude, my sound, my music, my accent, so pretty much everything is influenced by Benin City,” he admits with glee in his eyes. 

The Edo star comes from a family lineage of Kingmakers better known as the Uzama in the Benin Kingdom. They’re among the highest-ranking chiefs responsible for anointing new sovereigns in the kingdom. Shallipopi uses his background as a pedestal to navigate Edo culture and legacy in his music. “My song Obapluto has a lot of cultural stuff inside and represents Edo State,” says Shallipopi. “It's so that people know this is where I'm from, Benin City, so they would not be misled on where I'm from.”  

When speaking on the longevity and impact of his music, Shallipopi discerns the complexities between artistic expansion and the sustained longing of his audience, acknowledging that not all artists navigate this dynamic journey successfully. 

Shallipopi's gaze extends into the future, envisioning a trajectory where growth, by the grace of the divine, becomes inevitable. “Longevity depends on your growth; not all artists grow, and people get tired of you. I hope a few years from now, by God's grace, I should grow, and my fans grow with me,” Shallipopi shared. “I want to be more international than this.”


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