Obongjayar wants you to know that he will never stop changing. The Nigerian-British artist exudes a confidence that translates into everything he does. “What makes me comfortable, what excites me, I just do whatever I want,” he says proudly.
Wearing a Supreme x Stone Island camouflage jacket, Jurassic Park tee and Cav Empt pants, Obongjayar likes to be comfortable. “Freedom of movement without worrying about what to wear” is his motto, and his Balenciaga sunglasses and Bottega Veneta rain boots complete his everyday looks.
This belief is also reflected in his music. Obongjayar describes the just-released debut studio album, Some Nights I Dream of Doors, as a cathartic but quintessential experience. The 12 tracks are an honest and raw shot of who he is: the pain he endured, the joy he received, and the love he cherished. The art project allowed him to fully embrace who he was, and once he realized it, “creation became different”.
His roots bear witness to his success and self-recognition. Obonjayar wears an African-shaped necklace that holds his Nigerian self to his heart. “Your environment, whether you know it or not, affects who you are, how you see things, and how you feel. Morality and doctrine are still with you by default,” he affirms.
Singles like “Message in a Hammer” are his appeals to the police brutality that SARS caused in Nigeria, while his name references his Efik ancestry and upbringing in Calabar. He explained, “‘Obong’ means king or god, and ‘Jayar’ is a derivative of ‘Junior’. A king serves his people, and the contrast between these two words makes sense to me because I’m not an overlord. That’s not my character.”
Embracing this cultural confidence has allowed Obongjayar to tap into Afropop, Hip-Hop, Psychedelic-Soul, West African Influences, Funk, Jazz, Electronic and more. He thinks his music “doesn’t follow the usual rules”. The biggest challenge for him on Some Nights I Dream of Doors was “finding the sound I wanted to wrap around the package,” he says, “but figuring that out was also the most exciting part.”
As he rushes to his next project, Obonjayar’s eyes and ears are making sure he doesn’t fix himself on one particular thing. Growth as an artist is integral to him as he pays close attention to how the world evolves and how he transforms with it. “I’m constantly creating and reimagining new perspectives based on the changes around me,” he shares. Only time will tell how ready he is for the next feat.
Here are the tracks from Obongjayar’s new album, Some Nights I Dream of Doors.