Nigerian-American choreographer and musician Papi Ojo gained global recognition as “the blue man” who danced alongside Beyonce in Black Is King’s visual album. The 23-year-old multi-hyphenate, artist, actor, model, and choreographer has danced alongside some of this generation’s most notable R&B and Afrobeats artists, including Rihanna, Janet Jackson, Teyana Taylor, Wizkid, Davido, and more. Papi has also appeared in campaigns with Nike and Adidas, and as an extra on Ava DuVernay’s award-winning series When They See Us.
For a man who has been immortalized by stan culture as “the Blue man”, Papi Ojo is more than just a dancer and his music attests to this great talent.
Inspired by his West-African roots, Papi found a calling for music and dance at the age of 13 and went on to publish his debut single Awelewa in February 2019, followed by Carry Go. In 2020, Papi debuted his first single, Beremole translated to “go down low” in his native Yoruba and in an Afrobeats tune that will get you dancing.
In 2021, Papi Ojo released his “Unexpected” Ep a project he claims he created to show the range and versatility of his music. Also to put out a project to stamp/solidify his presence as an artist locally and globally.
The project highlights three main things, heartbreak, a journey to find new love, and gratitude.”
We spoke to Papi Ojo about starting music, his inspirations, his Unexpected Ep, and how he got to dance beside “The Queen” Beyonce.
How did you start making music?
I’ve always wanted to make music growing up, I grew up around music. My uncles and my older sister are musicians, so I grew up watching them make amazing gospel music.
Growing up what songs were you exposed to, what songs did your parents play a lot of the time?
Growing up I was exposed to a lot of gospel music especially Tope Alabi or Bola Are. I was also influenced by the music I was exposed to while schooling in Nigeria. That music will be the songs made by stars we recognize today as Dbanj, P square, Tu-face, Mohits records e.t.c
In your interview with Bric Tv your spoke about your sister and uncle doing music. How did they influence your music career?
My sister and Uncle definitely gave me that extra push and confidence I needed to jump-start my musical career. I was always insecure about putting out my music but they did it so why can’t I do it.
What inspired the name of your EP, why the name “Unexpected?”
Unexpected E.P name came naturally. At the time, I was going through a lot of unexpected trials and tribulations, a lot of unexpected wins and testimonies so it felt right to title my first E.P Unexpected.
What was the creative process for “Unexpected EP”?
Unexpected took about a year to complete. I had first created an E.P called ( A.K.A.T.A) which stood for “A king above all the animosity” prior to the pandemic but I was also working a lot so I didn’t have the time to really focus on the project the way I wanted to. When the pandemic hit, it gave me time to really self-reflect which led me asking myself If that project was the best I can possibly do. I then decided to trash all the songs on that project and start a whole new one because, at that point, I felt that I’d transformed into a different artist and the songs in the project were not in alignment with who I was at the moment as an artist.
I then reached out to my producer BIG FISH, that’s when all the work on unexpected started. Unexpected consists of 5 tracks, Sade, Angelina, Wonders, Secret, and If God.
The project tells a story of an individual who has gone through a situation that caused a heartbreak (Sade), to then finally finding a Person of Interest who reminds him how good it feels to want to love or be loved by someone (Angelina).
We then go on to wonders ft Lil Mama, Wonders speaks about the rekindling of love and life between two people who clearly feel the same about each other and are ready to take it to the next step.
Then we have Secret ft BemiSoul, this track was my way of letting all the men know that it is okay to feel insecure in a relationship and express that to your partner without feeling weak or less of a man. We all go through something in a relationship and it’s not the women that want to be seen or noticed in a relationship, men do too.
The last track on the project is called If God, and that song basically wraps up the story by giving all thanks to God for being supernatural because one cannot go through life and experience a story like this without the cover from God. The song says “ If God na human being, I for don die” meaning if humans had the ability to be God, I wouldn’t be here, I wouldn’t experience heartbreak, love, reconciliation e.t.c because i would’ve been dead.
Nigerian producer Big Fish produced 4 out of 5 songs, What was the experience like working with him on four solid tracks?
BIG FISH is an amazing creative, producer, songwriter, and a great friend. We grew a tighter relationship while making unexpected and we connected easily like it was meant to be.
Which other producers are you looking forward to working with?
I really want to make music with Sars, Juls, Jae5, and Tekno also.
What’s your favorite song on your EP?
I really enjoy “Angelina” and “If God.”
Just after releasing “Unexpected Ep” it hit no.1 on Ghanaian itunes Album charts. What was the feeling getting your no.1?
It was unexpected, but I was amazed that my work is finally getting recognized, sooner or later it will radiate the whole earth!
Tell us the feeling anytime you step on stage to perform your songs?
I always get nervous before I step on stage because I always want to put on an amazing show for my fans and supporters. The nerves keep me in check, they humble me.
Who are your fav Nigerian artists that has got you hooked on replay?
Right now I got Wizkid, Burna, Omah Lay on repeat, and I listen to a bunch of upcoming artist songs more than anything, to be honest. I have Mr. Bello, BemiSoul, DayG, Whiteboyy, Dolapothevibe, Toye, Jaey London, Sudan, and Meday music, I have all their music on replay!!
Can you share your thoughts on Afrobeats, the impact it’s had, and how it has popularized the African dance scene?
I wouldn’t agree and say afrobeats popularized the dance scene, I feel like that dance scene popularized afrobeats. The dancers brought out the beauty in the genre and made it fun for everyone who wanted to be a part of the movement. If you didn’t understand what was being said in the songs, you can at least see the beauty in the grooves and moves, and that alone will captivate you.
One key element that stood out in your new video “Angelina” was the storytelling that merged both music and dance. How are you able to perfectly merge the two?
I’ve come to learn that I need to stop fighting myself in prioritizing one from another in regards to singing or dancing, both craft make me who I am and I need to use both of my talents cohesively. I’m obviously still going through the battle of Being boxed as Papi the dancer but I can’t be mad at them because that is who I am, I just need to show them what I already know about myself and that is, I am more than just a dancer! I am a creative, entertainer, I am an artist!
In Dancing who are your top 5 artist, you’ve worked with?
Top 5 artists I’ve worked with, in no particular order are ( Beyoncé, Rihanna, Janet Jackson, Teyana Taylor, and Banky W).
Give us a backstory to working with Beyonce ?
Beyoncé’s team found out about us through Instagram. At the time, Jaquel Knight’s team reached out to us about a project but couldn’t disclose what it was or who it was with. When they finally finalized everything, they flew me and Caleb Ghana Boii to L.A to help out with the Afrobeats choreography portion to the song spirit on the lion king album. They fell in love with us and had us on board for the rest of the project.
What should fans of your music and your dance be expecting from you
I have so much that I’m working on right now for all my fans, all I ask is for patience because it will all be worth it when the contents starts dropping.
Stream Unexpected Ep:
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