In Conversation With: Tempoe

From as early as he can recall, music has always been a true love for Nigerian-born, music producer Tempoe. So much so that as a child, he can remember regularly being questioned and berated for his insistence on creating rhythmic beats with any and everybody part feasible.

“I’ve always liked to listen to music. I was thinking about it the other day. I lived with close family friends for a while, and they always had an issue with me tapping. I was just playing stuff in my head. Just tapping. They would always tell me to stop dancing or ask me what I’m listening to, and I say ‘nothing’ and they would say ‘stop dancing’” he laughs.

The story of Tempoe’s desire to create music starts in Lagos. Having previously attended a Catholic Church, a change in his living arrangements led to him joining an Anglican Church after moving in with close family friends. This change proved to be significant as the music in his new church sparked a deeper intrigue within Tempoe, and at the early age of 12, led to him joining the church band.

“Music in Catholic Church is very, very slow. In the Anglican church, it can get very vibey sometimes. That interested me. I now wanted to go to church to learn instruments. They play the drums, the worship is crazy. They’re lively. Way livelier, and I just wanted to be a part of whatever that was. It was the first time I saw people playing the drums, the guitar, the bass. That did a lot for me.”

His time with the band proved to be an invaluable learning experience. This would be a haven where he first learned how to piece music together, whilst he both played and experimented with instruments. "The church was where I really learned how to arrange music one way or the other. Even though I had my own ideas and couldn’t wait to implement them, they definitely rubbed off on me. The way I make music, the way I arrange music." Where there is room for elevating, stagnating has never sat well with Tempoe. His determination to explore sonics and sounds led to a decision of leaving the band in search of more. The quest for more than the band could offer led him to a popular market in Lagos, where Tempoe was able to dabble into another aspect of his multi-layered interests, technology. Tempoe came across FL studio, a music production software, which enabled him to merge his love for music and technology. “I was using my aunty's laptop at the time, and she had no idea I was making music. I then worked in the tech industry for a year or two. Just web design and I got into applications, but I realised that I would always find a way to make music at the office. I stopped reaching my quota at work and started showing my colleagues my beats. They would ask me why I am here?”

Tempoe’s first true foray into the music industry came when a fellow Nigerian producer by the name of Ckay caught his attention, and he couldn’t resist the urge to connect and give him his flowers.

“I think I met him when I was 20. I got his number somewhere. He produced a song I really fucked with at the time. I don’t really hit producers up about ‘let's work’ but I heard this something I really like, like ‘damn whoever produced this is crazy’. In the end, I sent him some stuff. He heard them, fucked with them. I went to meet him and we just connected. We made his first single Nkechi Turn Up which we co-produced. We’ve done a bunch of songs together."

One of those songs has turned out to be a global phenomenon which has taken the world and social platforms by storm. 2019 saw Ckay and Tempoe join forces to create the international hit Love Nwantiti’. A remix of the song soon followed in 2020 featuring Nigerian singer/songwriter Joeboy and Ghanaian singer/songwriter Kuami Eugine which proved to be a masterstroke. Soon enough, you couldn’t go anywhere without hearing Love Nwantiti on someone’s TikTok, Instagram reel, or playlist as the song took flight in a way Tempoe nor Ckay could have ever envisaged. As it stands, there are currently five different versions of the song, with the original amassing over 300 million Spotify streams alone. It was ranked number one on Shazam's global charts, peaked at number three in the UK Top 10, and reached the Top 30 on the Billboard Hot 100, with over 1.2 Billion streams to its name and counting. To call the song a success would be an understatement, to say the least. “I feel really blessed. I feel honoured by God. It’s so huge. Sometimes it doesn't feel real. It’s so big right now. This is 2019 sonics and that's what's driving me. I can’t wait for people to hear everything that’s about to come out of Nigeria and Africa. Just watch.”

Tempoe can lay claim to being one of the most prominent and well-renowned music producers in the game today. His catalogue is as rich and sonically pleasing as they come with the likes of Omah Lay’s Godly and Understand, Joeboy’s Sip (Alcohol), and most recently Savage & Buju’s collaborative hit in Confident.

A key aspect to the journey of Tempoe’s life and career so far has been self-discovery. A steely determination to explore and unearth for himself has led him down the path of being titled a superstar producer. “I didn’t have any grand entry into the music world. I also didn’t have anyone to teach me. I kind of figured everything out myself, and I’m still doing that today.” The rise in popularity of social media apps coincided with the ever-growing global ascent of a genre like afrobeats, which haven’t always been afforded mainstream coverage. An ascent that goes far beyond Africa or pockets of African diasporas. Tempoe is extremely proud of his role in spreading the music of African heritage and giving it to the world to absorb. “What afrobeats is doing, I don’t think anybody saw this coming. We have things that the world needs to hear and if they do, they’ll love it. With the help of social media, it’s connecting the whole world in a way that’s unimaginable. Different cultures have access to different music.”

Despite this success, Tempoe is well aware that there’s a long way to go for afrobeats and remains determined to play his role in elevating all aspects of the music. “I’d really like to see more Nigerian producers get more spotlight, so people can know who these guys are. If we can nail this part, credit, business wise, that would be amazing. DSP’s need to show more love to producers. People want to know who made this beat. Sometimes I hear a song and think ‘who made this' and can't find anything. That’s messed up. There’s definitely been growth, but there's more that can be done.” The success Tempoe has attained so far is something he is extremely proud of. Yet, the feeling of pride that comes with such monumental achievements, is balanced with a burning desire to give more to the world. Tempoe is excited by the new music that he will be releasing in 2022, steadfast in the belief of his musical growth over the last two years. “People love this shit, so why not give them more. It’s something I have fun doing. I’m having fun just realising everything that’s happening. I didn’t know I wanted to make an EP until I wanted to make an EP. I'm enjoying the music, whilst taking my time with it. People are going to enjoy.”

From as early as he can recall, music has always been a true love for Nigerian-born, music producer Tempoe. So much so that as a child,...