Ottawa emcee Idris Lawal exudes a calm and self-aware confidence, a rare trait for a twenty-something who’s still trying to find his footing in the small Ottawa hip hop landscape. Lawal – who works under the artist name TÁDÉ (pronounced Ta-day) – got a taste of local success with his 2014 mixtape Boxing with God. I caught up with Lawal to discuss his inspiration for his new EP and growth as a musical creative.
Lawal’s sound and writing style have evolved since Boxing with God. For one, Lawal made a decision to stop using expletives in his music. Not that swearing was ever a focal point, but his most popular song, “Maple Syrup”, did make explicit use of, well, expletives. Giving up the swears “was a decision to make my music cleaner – to be more in tune with myself and clearer sense of what I want to do.”
His newest endeavor, a 4-track EP entitled Risession, focuses on the themes of how an emphasis on money can cloud the true value of things. “People sacrifice their passion to make money. It’s what we’ve been programmed to do. Everyone has a tendency to do this – even me – but I want to pursue freedom, passion, love…It’s still a work in progress but I try to practice what I preach.”
Born in Lagos, Nigeria, Lawal was immersed in African music at a young age. As a teenager, he picked up an interest in hip hop, which led him to his music career. It was only recently that he reengaged with African music, Afropop in particular. His current work takes inspiration from contemporary artists like Wizkid and 9ice as well as old school artists like Fela Kuti. He describes 9ice, a Nigerian artist who uses a lot of proverbs and double entendres in his music, as perhaps his biggest muse in terms of lyricism. “What I’ve mostly been emulating or at least trying to emulate, is just the way he uses his voice and tone when he performs, the way he inflects it to convey emotion.”
Lawal is at the midpoint in recording his new EP. While he has been experimenting with different sounds himself, much of the production is in the hands of Benoit Boulet, a recent graduate of the Music Industry Art Program at Algonquin College (a program Lawal is currently taking). Lawal acknowledges that as an artist, he’s still reliant on the capabilities and advice of his producer but is beginning to have more say.
Two of the songs from his forthcoming EP are already released. “Genesis” is an experimental jam with an icy feel while “Moonshine” is a slow piano ballad on living life to the fullest and appreciating what you’ve got. Check it out:
Lawal doesn’t see himself exclusively as a musical artist, but experiments with other mediums with the goal of becoming a “creative” in the music industry. When he writes, he doesn’t write to music, noting that tracks like “Moonshine” could be performed as spoken word. A self-taught graphic artist, he would love to get involved in other aspects of the industry, such as branding, marketing, production, etc. Each of the songs he creates for this EP has its own art, with colors reflective of the countries he has lived in, including Nigeria, South Africa, Qatar and Canada.
While his stage experience is limited, his goal is to create an overall multimedia experience that goes beyond the performer. “I want to be able to build an experience around the music. I don’t want to be the focus.” With two more songs to record, TÁDÉ anticipates releasing his record in late 2015 early 2016. Let’s hope he gets to create that multimedia experience for his EP release.
In the meantime, TÁDÉ will be a guest performer to close out Algonquin College’s Weekly AC Today news program. It runs this Thursday at 10AM.