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Left Right, and Around the World with Keys the Prince 

Many artists come to a crossroad at some point during their career where two options are presented to them; continue to chase the dream, or simply give up. For Keys the Prince, that moment came just before he released his inescapable hit, Left Right. 

 

Photography by Paula 'Narcography' Abu

“At the beginning of the year I was in such a bad space, I was applying for jobs. I had hype after COLORS, but it felt like nothing was happening for me. Sometimes it feels harder to make it here [in the U.K ] because of opportunities and because we’re so small.” These feelings and frustrations have been echoed by many other artists on this island, and though not personal, it can begin to feel like a vendetta. It was close friend and fellow artist, 8syn (f.k.a One Acen), who gave Keys the push he needed, “8syn just told me to not quit because I had all of this momentum and he felt I was on the brink of a hit.” 


In a moment where his world felt the smallest, he opened an app which has considerably shrunken our world: TikTok. With the start date for the job he had just accepted looming in the back of his mind, he posted a snippet of Left Right. In an instance, it accumulated thousands of views, likes and comments, with people around the world demanding that the full song be released. In the span of a few weeks, he had signed to 5k Records and quickly let his job know he would no longer be taking the position. The Left Right snippet continued to touch corners of the globe Keys hadn’t imagined. From West London to the world. 


Photography by Paula 'Narcography' Abu

 

Self-produced by Keys himself, Left Right’s wide reach can be attributed to the up-beat, feel good nature of the song that inspires joy, and also the multiple genres seamlessly embedded and mixed into one track. Fuji, Afrobeats, Rap - it doesn’t matter where you are in the world, there’s an element in the song that will sound familiar. 


But perhaps the cheat code was the sample that adorns Left Right. Sampling Yinka Ayefele is an audacious task -  a fuji legend whose music reverbs in households and hall parties around the world. But Keys isn’t alone in his audaciousness, the younger generation of Afrobeats have looked to those who went before them for inspiration; Burna Boy references Fela Kuti throughout his discography, and Tems sampled Magic System on her latest album.  


“Clearing the sample was hard, because you’re approaching the GOAT, but once we got the green light we were good because he loved the song”.



Global but local. Init Boy. Child of the diaspora. 


Keys the Prince’s music style speaks to the myriad of cultures he’s collided with growing up in multicultural London, and more specifically how being Yoruba has shaped that. Like many second-generation children, he’s a child of many cultures. He so easily oscillates from grime, to rap, to Afrobeats, to gospel. “I grew up on Grime, Kirk Franklin and Yinka Ayefele. Some might say it’s a contradiction, but those are all parts of who I am. All of this music is the soundtrack of my life and what inspires my music today”. 

 

The “Prince” in his stage name is a nod to the family nickname, Omoba, meaning child of a King. “My [Yoruba] culture has always been very important to me, and I’ve wanted to do a song with a talking drum for a while, I just couldn't figure out how to incorporate it”. Like many great ideas, the chorus for Left Right came to Keys when he was in the shower. “I just had the lyrics in my head “Tota E Mole, Left Right. I wanna live my best life”. I went home, reproduced the beat until I felt like it was perfect”.

 


Adorned in Agbadas on the London tube, the song’s video brings the layers of Keys’ identity to life. Directed by Grace Edu, we see pink hairspray, Gele being tied, the infamous Nigerian embassy and as contentious and as hated as it is, trad being worn with Air Force 1s. Global but local. Init Boy. Child of the diaspora. 



As Keys continues to reflect on the year thus far, there isn’t a moment that he doesn’t mention God. And he mentions God not as a pleasantry, or flippantly, but in a sincere way. Faith underpins how he speaks, moves, produces music and navigates the world. “It was all in God’s plan” he says many times throughout our conversation. Penning E Se (Thank you in Yoruba) and collaborating with Melodees From Heaven for the live version was another part that was simply God’s plan. He cites the church and gospel being the foundation for how he’s progressed as an artist, a training ground for being able to make mistakes and find his feet artistically,  “I started playing in church when I was like 12, and that made me fall in love with Gospel music”. 




“Mayorkurn was someone that we had in mind for the remix but his team reached out to us, it’s all God honestly,” Keys shares. Mayorkun’s melodic infusion complements Keys’ rap verses, giving the track some added dimension. Keys returned to Nigeria after nearly 20 years to shoot the video for the remix with Mayorkun. It was like a homecoming for him; the Prince had returned. “It was just mad seeing fans and the people who love my song in real life,” he recalls. Since returning from Nigeria, Keys the Prince has no plans of slowing down. He toys with another remix of Left Right, more singles, an EP and a headline show in November.

 

A multi-instrumentalist and an artist who produces and writes all of his music. Keys exudes the confidence of someone who knows this is where he’s supposed to be, but also the excitement of a person who can’t believe just 6 months ago he was about to start a job he didn’t want to. “Keep grinding boy your life can change in one year” he quotes his favourite rapper J.Cole as he encourages those who may be at the same crossroad he stood at the start of the year. Keys’ is an example that sometimes that “year”, is merely a few weeks and a TikTok post away. 




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