For the last few years, one man has been at the forefront of spreading positive African music around the world, picking up a huge following along the way and that man is none other than Ghanaian South Londoner Richard Abiona, better known as Fuse ODG. He’s had numerous smash hits, millions of YouTube views, has won a MOBO Award and all before he’s even released his debut album, so our Urban Music Editor Matt Tarr decided it was time to meet up with the man himself to discuss his career thus far, which artists have inspired and supported his meteoric rise and how he relaxes outside of music, whilst Fuse also explains to us exactly what TINA is…
MT: At Gigslutz we have such a broad readership in terms of musical taste, so for anyone who isn’t so familiar with your work, how would you describe yourself as an artist?
Fuse: Fuse ODG, making Afrobeats music infused with African vibes and African influence. Specifically making music to create awareness of the Africa that people don’t know or the Africa that the media doesn’t show. Also, just making music for the world, for people to enjoy and to change peoples lives through music.
MT: Your catchphrase is ‘This Is New Africa (T.I.N.A)’, which is also the name of your new single, but what is ‘New Africa’?
Fuse: It’s vibrant, it has so many successful people doing their thing in different sectors such as music, fashion, business, technology; it’s a new generation of people, not just with African backgrounds but African influenced too. It’s encouraging people to represent it to the world, not just to Africa but showcase it to the world so the world sees the different side of Africa.
MT: Afrobeats is at the forefront of the whole T.I.N.A movement and as a genre it has taken the UK urban world by storm over the last few years, with you and a handful of other artists at the forefront of the scene. Do you think that the rise of Afrobeats will continue and the genre will get even bigger?
Fuse: It’s definitely something that’s gonna continue. I already said this two years ago to people about how it was gonna progress and penetrate the mainstream and for the average joe to be hearing the music on their radio and that’s what’s happening now. I definitely see progression in the genre cos it’s a movement and a lifestyle, it’s not just the music, there’s the dance, the fashion and everything that comes with it as well. So it’s definitely something that’s gonna be here for a long time and it’s gonna progress and influence other genres as well so it’s gonna be reborn. I’m really excited about the future of Afrobeats in the UK.
MT: People who are less familiar with you may think that ‘Antenna’ was your first track, but being the music lover that I am, I know that you recorded a load of music before that.
Fuse: There was a lot more music on YouTube before ‘Antenna’ and ‘Azonto’. Just type in Fuse ODG and it goes back to 2009. I’ve been making this music from a while ago, although the sound has progressed as with any artist in their career. I’ve always been making music that was afro influenced but it wasn’t until I actually went back to Ghana and soaked up the music and the culture and I was inspired. Then ‘Azonto’ came out and things just went crazy worldwide.
MT: If you could pick one of your tracks that you feel best represents you, either from your album or from your previous work, which would it be?
Fuse: I’d say the first track on the album because you get to hear me lyrically with both my singing and rapping side. You get to hear what the mission’s about and you actually get to know who Fuse ODG is and what mission he’s on from that track. It’s called ‘Letter To TINA’ so you guys can check it out when you get your copy of the album!
MT: You mentioned going back to Ghana and you were brought up there before you came over to live in South London at around 11 years old. How do you feel having lived both here and in Africa has molded your sound as an artist?
Fuse: It has 100% molded me as an artist and the sound I make; it’s British culture vs my African culture. I lived there so to me I’m just being myself on a song, so it’s definitely shaped me and also the impact I want my music to make and the messages that I put out in terms of being proud of who you are and representing who you are. From my perspective, I’m just showcasing the type of Africa that made me who I am and making the best music I can make to be able to raise the platform to create awareness of the New Africa.
MT: You’ve got your latest track ‘T.I.N.A’ out at the moment. Do you feel it’s been as well received as your previous singles?
Fuse: I think it’s been received even better than I thought it would. It’s blatantly called ‘This Is New Africa’ and the video shows the new Africa with the outfits and the dance and everything so to me its been widely accepted more than I actually expected, so I’m happy about that. I’ve seen it on the TV on all the music channels and heard it on the radio so I’m really happy about how it’s been received. It encapsulates what the movement’s about. It came out on Sunday so everyone grab your copies and let’s get it to top the chart.
MT: Having the collaboration with Angel on the track has worked well too as he is a hugely talented up & coming vocalist. He’s obviously released some stuff in the past but has never reached the ‘top of the charts’ heights that I think he can and he definitely has the talent to do it.
Fuse: He’s definitely got the potential to do it cos he’s got the talent. His vocals are amazing and it’s nice for me to be able to work with him cos I think he’s a talented brother. Whilst working with him on ‘T.I.N.A’ he brought a different dimension to the Afrobeats and his energy and my energy on a track worked well.
MT: We’ve heard ‘T.I.N.A’, ‘Dangerous Love’ and a few other tracks from the upcoming album but is that the sort of sound that we can expect from the rest of the release?
Fuse: Definitely not. There are different varieties on the album. The song that’s coming after this as well is completely different from anything you’ve heard from Fuse ODG so I’m really excited about that. I’m really excited for you guys to hear the varieties on the album and the different vibes and energies on there. ‘T.I.N.A’ is just one side of Fuse ODG that you guys enjoy but there’s definitely different sides to the album.
MT: Can we expect any further collaborations to come from the album?
Fuse: There’s a few on there. I’ve got a song with Wyclef [Jean], Krept & Konan and G Frsh on a song on the album and you know I’ve got Sean Paul on there already with ‘Dangerous Love’. It’s my debut album so I’m not trying to have features all over it but there are enough features for you guys to enjoy.
MT: The caliber of artists who want to work with you says a lot about how far you’ve come over the last few years.
Fuse: It’s a blessing to be able to work with these guys that I look up to musically and who I’d like to be like, so it’s almost as though they’ve passed me the baton. It’s nice to be able to work with someone like Sean Paul and have him support me the way that he does. Our relationship started with me supporting his tour and then we just stayed in touch. To me it made sense for Africa and the Caribbean to get together cos I feel like he’s someone who represents the Caribbean properly musically and it came out perfectly.
MT: The man who has produced the majority of the tracks we’ve heard from you thus far is Killbeatz. What makes your working relationship work so well?
Fuse: I work with him on a lot of my tracks. Even if it’s a track that I’ve produced myself, I always take it to Killbeatz and we finish it or even if it’s a track produced by someone else I always take it to Killbeatz and he’ll finish it. I like his vision when he hears my music cos sometimes I even present him the whole song and he sees a whole new vision and he ‘kills the beat’. It’s more of a partnership production when I’m working with him and I really like that.
MT: You’ve got some live UK tour dates coming up so who can we expect to see supporting you on those dates?
Fuse: I’ve got a live band for the tour and for the support acts we’ve got Mista Silva, who supports Afrobeats as well. I like to work with up & coming people as well cos I feel like they need that stepping stone, so I’m working with a couple of up & coming artists that are coming on the tour; Mikel Ameen, who is an amazing artist that you can guys can check out on YouTube, also Dun D who is an amazing rapper and I’ve also got Itz Tiffany on the tour, who is the girl that was on ‘Azonto,’ so it’s gonna be an amazing tour and I’m looking forward to it.
MT: Having performed at numerous venues around the world, have you got one that stands out as a highlight?
Fuse: Yeah, I did a show in Tanzania and that was crazy man. It was packed from top to bottom, over 10,000 people, it was mad. The energy was crazy and the love was so much. It was so crazy for people to show that much love so early in my career. That was last year so imagine if I go back, I haven’t even dropped an album yet so after the album it’s even gonna get crazier. Obviously shows in Ghana are automatically crazy but Tanzania was special!
MT: You mentioned working with up & coming artists, but who were the artists who supported and inspired you when you were first coming up through the industry?
Fuse: Someone like Sway definitely inspired me to represent. Sway gives me great advice and helps a lot in helping me make certain decisions and I’m still in touch with him. Also Wyclef has been really influential in my career and he gives great advice every time.
MT: You’ve been nominated for several MOBO Awards again this year having taken home the Best African Act at last years ceremony. What do you think your chances are of winning another this year?
Fuse: To be honest, I’m not really focused on that. Everyone knows I’ve been working and I’ve been pioneering African music in the UK anyway, so whether they give it to me or not we all know the hard work I’ve been putting in anyways regardless, so we’ll see what happens. I’ve also been nominated for Best Male so I’m looking forward to seeing the results for that and Best Song too but I never really rely on award shows, I’d rather focus on what I’m doing and everything that comes with it after.
MT: Aside from music which is obviously your main passion, what do you do to relax and take your mind off things?
Fuse: I like going away and just chilling and not doing much, but just being away from everything. I like my views as well so I go somewhere where there’s a nice view. You just get to reflect on life and just be calm and relax. I like relaxing a lot because everything else that I’m doing is so hyped so anything that helps me relax is what I’m on.
MT: If you could go to one place to escape from everything, where would you go?
Fuse: I’d probably go to Dubai. There’s places I can go in Tanzania to relax and Ghana, I go to Ghana a lot. So any of those places really.
With a strong possibility of another MOBO Awards win this year, a debut album being released shortly and a UK tour taking place, 2014 is set to end on a real high for Fuse ODG so make sure you support the movement and grab your copy of the brand new Fuse ODG single ‘T.I.N.A’ on iTunes here, pre order Fuse’s debut album here and follow the man himself on Twitter @FuseODG.