Following the release of her new single Disturbing U, which features Nigerian singer Arya Starr, The Floor Mag had the opportunity to interview DARKOO, hailing from South London. In the interview, she shared about her childhood, her admiration for Wizkid, her life before her worldwide hit Gangsta, and her immense pride in her African heritage. She also discussed how her collaboration with Arya Starr came to be and how their shared passion for music led to an authentic friendship.
One of the remarkable things about London is that you can adopt the identity of a Londoner without being born here. It's a feeling that can gradually develop over time and catch you when you’re not expecting it. This is partly due to the fact the city is renowned for its diverse cultural mix, particularly in South London, which has been home to some of the most talented and successful music artists in the world. These artists have contributed to a flourishing and ever-expanding UK music scene.
Yet, DARKOO's initial passion for music was heavily influenced by the sounds of Nigeria, particularly Afrobeats, before she moved to the UK at the age of eight. She was particularly captivated by Wizkid, the Nigerian Starboy and global superstar. "Growing up listening to Wiz was insane," she reminisces.
Entering secondary school marks a significant transition into a world of self-discovery for young people. Parents are compelled to let their children explore beyond their comfort zone and experience new perspectives. It's during this time that our likes, dislikes, and personalities begin to take shape. For DARKOO, secondary school was the starting point of her musical journey, specifically into UK music. The early to mid-2010s witnessed a surge in the popularity of Afrobeats in the UK, which coincided with the emergence of a new generation of UK-born Africans expressing their pride in their African heritage. This gave rise to new sounds and opportunities for both artists and listeners alike, paving the way for another evolution in the UK music scene.
“My secondary school was where I found myself and the music I would want to listen to. Back then the people I would listen to at the back of the bus were people like Tion and Hus. Those times I didn’t really have Spotify. Back then I was just using a Youtube converter.”
The irony of life is certainly something to marvel at. Its unpredictability is what makes it so beautiful. DARKOO's journey from not having Spotify on her phone to accumulating over 3 million monthly listeners on her Spotify page is remarkable. Her top five most popular songs on Spotify have now surpassed 408 million streams and continue to grow by the day.. It's a far cry from her teenage years, where she would spend her leisurely hours listening to Edmonton born Tion Wayne's music at the back of the bus. Years later, DARKOO collaborated with Tion Wayne on their 2021 release Slow Down. The irony of life never ceases to amaze.
“We used to have rap battles and my school used to beef with other schools. Not beef, beef but you know how girls are! We were doing videos at lunch time and dissing them and everyone would be hyping me saying ‘come rap and do a couple lines’. I was in ICT and one of my friends said I should take it seriously.”
After a few years, Darkoo was getting ready to study engineering at university. However, the release of Gangsta in 2019, featuring One Acen, was a life-changing moment for her. It propelled her to overnight mainstream music success. Despite the sudden fame, Darkoo has proven herself to be more than just a one-hit wonder. Her talent, authenticity, and dedication to her craft have led her to collaborate with numerous musical talents on her journey to stardom. Some of these collaborations include Hardy Caprio, Blanco, Unknown T, Buju, Black Sheriff and Mayorkun on her way to stardom.
Darkoo's latest music release marks her collaboration with Mavin's fast-rising 20-year-old songstress, Arya Starr. The song, titled Disturbing U, was produced by Grammy winner DËRA, who has worked with renowned artists such as Bad Bunny, Jack Harlow, and Oxlade. The catchy beat and production are complemented by Arya's smooth and seamless vocal delivery, while Darkoo showcases her versatility and ability to seamlessly collaborate with any artist she works with. The unique blend of Afrobeats and R&B in their latest release makes it an infectious and feel-good listen. Typically, Darkoo likes to create the vibe when making a song with another artist, but when Arya sent her Disturbing U, she was happy to hop on board with the vibe that Arya had created.
“With Arya she sent me Disturbing U with her verse and when she sent it I said 'this is cold'. I said ‘yooo i’m going to the studio right now’. I did my thing, sang on the hook, did my verse and the outro. The song with Arya came about because we’re good friends. When she came to London I would make sure I was with her and going out. We built a very good relationship until the time came where we said we’re going to make and release music together.”
Her collaboration with Arya Starr not only displays DARKOO’s continued ascent as an artist but is another showing of pride in her African heritage. Her formative years in Nigeria were key in laying the foundations of the person and musician DARKOO is today. Black culture and the impact of African music on the world is continuing to grow which leaves DARKOO immensely proud of where she’s from.
“My heritage has had a massive impact on me. I don’t think anything can move without being African. I love that we are in a position where we can be happy being African and being African is cool. Being from Nigeria is cool. It’s an amazing time to be African. It’s an amazing time for us to shine and I love how proud we are of where we’re from.”
DARKOO's versatility and ability to work with a variety of artists have been defining features of her career and development so far. The ability to seamlessly blend different genres and sounds has enabled her to build an organic and ever-growing fanbase, making her one of the most promising young artists on the scene today. She is a force to be reckoned with and has only just gotten started. Her plans for the rest of the year include the release of an LP as well as doing something she hasn’t yet been able to do. "We're going to tour the hell out of the world. We're going to tour and tour and tour and tour.”