Ninety: The Singer who would be King

Tolulope Ebiseni
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With his distinct sound, an aptitude for finding and creating great beats, and genius songwriting, Ninety, or the “Rhythm Provider” (as he is sometimes called) has amassed a following of staunch fans and avid listeners both on the African continent and outside.

After years of Preparation, he has finally released his critically acclaimed Ep “Rare Gem.” We described the project as “a clear showcase of Ninety’s knack for stellar melodies and sonic cohesion.” And based on releases in 2022, it’s certainly making our end-of-year list.

We spoke to Ninety recently about quite a lot and it is our belief that in less than 10 years, you will find Ninety on the road, expanding the frontiers of the African sound. Enjoy each minute of our sit–down with Ninety.

As far back as age 15, Ninety started writing his own music. Like every young artiste of that age, he wrote about girls, which he playfully tells us; “I have always been intrigued by women, relationships, and the length we go through as men to get the women we want.” He talks about how his upbringing has shaped how he sees and perceives women. Growing up with a lot of sisters has sort of given him a closer look at all things women; “I have a lot of sisters, so I am more sensitive to women. That’s why I talk about women the way I do on my records; I must mind my manners.”

 When he finally dropped his critically acclaimed EP “Rare Gem”, he was prepared and ready to let the world in on his artistry; “when I realized it was ready, I had to let it go into the world and do its thing,” he says. With Rare Gem, Ninety hopes to solidify his presence in Nigeria.

 I hope to solidify my presence here in Nigeria. I want to create more music that will continuously be better than whatever I created in the past. Rare Gem is an introduction and I hope everyone is ready for what’s coming next.

 In retrospection, Ninety’s music isn’t a recent thing. Growing up in a musically inclined family and watching his father lead the choir in church birthed music in him—”Years of watching my dad handle a choir attuned me to the process of arranging keys, pitches, and melodies.” That came in very handy, especially with my song “Diamonds.”

Breaking into the Nigerian music scene has been a big learning curve for him as an introverted person. He has had to break out of his shell more and do things he’d naturally not have been doing. “I am enjoying the process and learning so much about myself as well,” he adds.

 He is currently signed to Freeme Music; “Basically, the story is, Magnito introduced me to Michael Ugwu, the CEO of Freeme Music. At that time, Magnito and I had worked in the studio together and created a few songs.

Michael Ugwu flew me into Lagos from Port Harcourt to meet with me. He really vibed to my music and decided to support me and take me on as Freeme’s first signed artist under their new label, Freeme Music. At the time, Freeme was just a digital distribution company and was in the process of creating a presence as an independent label. Everything just aligned and we were able to move forward with me as their first artist. “

 Before dropping “Rare Gem,” Ninety had dropped a few singles to prepare the audience. Rare Gem was released on the 28th of April and has been met with critical acclamation. He has been working on the EP for two years to curate what he had in mind. While the process hasn’t been the easiest, he says having a great team of producers made the Rare Gem process a lot more fun and seamless.

“Years of watching my dad handle a choir attuned me to the process of arranging keys, pitches, and melodies. That came in very handy, especially with my song “Diamonds”. As for writing, omo, it was just about spending days in the studio coming up with random melodies that fit the stories in my head. It wasn’t always easy. For example, Buttercup took me three months to write because I just couldn’t come up with anything. “

 His lead single from the EP, “Diamonds” dropped in mid-April before the eventual release of the EP. It soon became a fan favourite. “Diamonds” came about when I was thinking of love (laughs). I was thinking about how I wanted to feel when I was in love and find that special someone. I always seemed like such a pure and divine moment in my head, so having a choir, and that angelic vibe was a given for me, “he tells me.”

 A lot has happened since his debut. He has had to change his lifestyle to fit his current situation, and even when it isn’t the easiest thing to do, he enjoys it. I have always been a studio rat, but that has been multiplied by a thousand. Also, like I said, I am an introvert, so it has been a new experience having to socialize and meet new people as often as I do. I enjoy it though, it’s a bit exciting for me now.”

Born and raised in Port Harcourt, Alabo Tuwonimi Tuonims has always been inspired by his closely-knit family. “We are all very musical and have been since I can remember. I carry my family groove with me everywhere. “

 Music has always been sort of an escape for him ever since he was a child. When he speaks about music, he talks about it with so much joy and enthusiasm, it just feels as if music has been ingrained in him. He grew up listening to a lot of Michael Jackson and Styl Plus. “I am always listening to music; it is so deeply entrenched in my day. Another thing you can catch Ninety talking about with earnestness is football and his love for it.

 Looking back, Ninety has a few things to tell his younger self. Who doesn’t? But most importantly, he will tell his younger self that it isn’t always about the music, but making the music connect with people.

 “It’s not just about the music. It’s about the story you want to tell, connecting with people and reconnecting with yourself.

 Working in the music industry comes with perks, but sometimes the cons are just more glaring. He has had to learn to persevere and not lose his sense of self regardless of who is around or what he thinks is cool.

 He has had the opportunity to work with some industry big names in some capacity, which has also shaped his experience in the industry. I haven’t worked directly with Buju or D-O, but I have been in the studio with them before, and I enjoy working in their creative spaces, so I am looking forward to working with them. After shouting out Moelogo on my “Touch and Follow” song, I was given a chance to perform at his December concert last year. He’s a cool guy, and I’m glad to be working on some new music with him at the moment. “

 He listens to a lot of Frank Ocean; he sites Blonde as his favourite album of all time.  His dream collaboration is also with Frank Ocean. Ninety wants to get the younger Nigerian audience to embrace live music and deeper lyrics. “I want that to be what people identify me with in the new music community,” he adds.

 There is still a lot of music to anticipate from Ninety. He wants to connect more with his fans and make his brand a household name. “Since dropping Rare Gem, I have felt this wave of inspiration that is pushing me to create more, and better music. I can’t wait to deliver. “

Tolulope Ebiseni

Written By

Occasional writer, Cinephile and critic.

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