Born Ezeh Chisom Faith in Anambra State, Rexxie has been instrumental in the rise of the Zanku sound in popular Nigerian music. As the pioneer and go-to producer for the sound, his infamous producer tag, “Yo, Rexxie pon dis one”, can be heard in many infectious zanku-inducing songs that have made the youth of Nigeria and around the world show off their leg work. In this interview with YUSUFF ADEBAYO, the hit maker delved into his sound, working relationship with Zlatan and Naira Marley as well as his new album. Excerpts…
Given the trajectory of your journey so far, we can only imagine what an impressive ride it has been. How exactly did you get here; from the thick of the streets to becoming one of the most coveted music producers in the country?
What’s the success story like for you? Thank you. The basis of all of these; I don’t know if success story is what you call it but I always played the piano at my father’s church as a child. And about 10 years ago, I decided to activate my career as a producer, crafting beats for my friends; from studio to studio. But then, it was in 2018 when the whole thing started getting traction.
That was after producing Chinko Ekun’s “Able God” featuring Lil Kesh and Zlatan. That was the moment and I actively capitalised on it really. Over the past few years, I’ve worked with a lot of street artistes and I have also continuously worked with Zlatan and Naira Marley
. Apart from them, I’ve also had production credits across a wide range of African superstars including Davido, Burna Boy, Tiwa Savage, Olamide, Sarkodie, just to name a few. It’s been an incredible journey.
I’m glad that what I wanted to do is happening now. When I was still struggling, I was determined to get the street sound into mainstream attention. And that’s happen-ing now. I’m glad that I contributed to that becoming a reality.
Your beats are versatile and multi-layered. What or who are some of your influences or inspirations when it comes to making music?
My influences and inspirations are not exactly from people. The need to have people move their body and as well enjoy sweet melodies at the same time is what inspires my productions basically.
How did your producer tag come about and why is it important to have one especially in Nigeria, where even mixing and mastering engineers have tags?
An artiste friend I recorded some years ago actually did that as an intro for his song and I liked it, so it’s been my tag since inception. I feel it’s important to have a unique and interesting tag, as it gets people accustomed to your works because they can easily recognise your song when they hear it.
You work extensively with Zlatan and Naira Marley. Could you tell us about how and when those relationships began?
I met Zlatan a couple years ago when I recorded him on a featured track and we clicked since then and proceeded to record our own songs. I met Naira Marley when we had him on the “Jogor” song by Zlatan. After recording, he asked if I had other beats and I said yes. I played him the “Japa” instrumental and he loved it at the first listen and voiced on it.
What do you enjoy the most about working with them?
Their creativity and approach to beats.
How does it feel being responsible for shifting the sound of Nigerian music and being part of the new generation of producers who have brought a different vibe?
It feels great for my pioneered sound to be accepted, recognised, and appreciated globally.
You produced “Bebo” and “Comma” on Burna Boy’s Grammy- nominated album, Twice As Tall. How did those two collaborations come about and does Western validation matter to you?
I got a call from Burna’s PA to inform me Burna was in the country at that time and would love to work with me. We linked at the club, had fun, and headed to the studio from there to record some amazing vibes together for four days straight. We jetted out to Accra [Ghana] after the fourth day to record even more, and we continued making music and more vibes. It was out of that spree that those two songs came about. Western or any form of validation matters to me because I feel it’s my hard work being recognised and I appreciate that. To have a reputable platform like the Grammys nominate my works is actually huge for me.
You refer to your sound as Afro- streets. What constitutes Afro-streets and how does it differ from the other Afropop styles?
Afro streets is the sound from the streets of Africa, a combination of traditional musical instruments to create a rhythmic, energetic and melodious vibe and several signature dance steps like the shaku shaku and zanku to accompany.
How did the idea of “KPK (Ko Por Ke)” come about, and for anyone who doesn’t understand the slang, what is the song about?
“KPK” is an acronym for the Yoruba phrase “Ko Por Ke” or “Who says it’s not plenty?” As a creative, there are times when things might not be going as planned, or energies around you might not be pushing you to do greater, “KPK” is more of a motivation for me saying, “Yo boy! You’ve come a long way, you’re doing great, and you’ll do greater because it’s plenty.”
The song quickly went viral after you released it on social media. Did you expect it to go this crazy and be so well received?
“KPK” is doing just fine, as predicted when we first birthed the song. I knew it was an instant hit from the moment we were recording in the studio. “KPK” is an interesting fusion of your sound with amapiano. Was it intentional to include elements of amapiano on it? In one tweet you wrote “Afropiano 2021”. I fell in love with the amapiano sound at the very first listen, and I knew I had to infuse the amapiano elements like the piano and log drum into my own signature sound. That gave birth to a new sound I call Afropiano, which is a mix of amapiano and Afropop, first of this is the smash “KPK” and there’s definitely more to come.
Are you currently working on a project?
If yes, what can the fans expect to hear on it? Yes, I am dropping my album this year. It’s a 10-track album with contributions from artistes around the globe, it’s titled A True Champion. Expect to hear me explore different sounds and vibes on the album. It has a balanced mix of Nigerian and international artistes.