Bella Shmurda is a conscious Afrobeats artist taking the industry by storm. Hailed as the “new voice of the streets”, the multi-award winning singer/songwriter represents determination and drive. In a very honest conversation with 9 Bills Contributing Music Columnist, Gracey Mae, Bella Shmurda shares on the highs and lows of his journey so far! The Lagosian gives us insight on growing up in a polygamous home, battling with inferiority complex, being bullied as a child and feeling misunderstood. Plus, we hear about his plans for world domination, giving back to his community, seeing snow for the first time and so much more…
Hi Bella Shmurda. How are you?
Fine. What’s good?
How can I even be calling you by your name? At this point, I should be calling you 02 Arena Boy. What was it like joining WizKid on stage in front of 20,000 people, at Day 2 of the Made in Lagos London shows?
Well shout out to Wiz. It was a nice one, it was a big one and it’s a motivation for me. The moment I left the stage, I was like, “Yo, I have to do more. I felt like I’m lacking – like ah, guy. I never do anything. I just dey joke. Do you understand? I feel motivated, I feel inspired and I feel I have to be a better person. I have to be a better Wizzy. I have to be a better Davido, a better Burna Boy. I just feel I have to do more. I have this load on my shoulders – better days ahead.
This was the crowning of an amazing introduction to the UK. Talk to us about your five stop tour and your UK trip in general.
First of all, shout out to my team in London. These people really held me down, these people were really there for me. My first stop was in Manchester – it was a crazy crowd. People turned up. People love the vibe. I was inspired. Same thing goes for Birmingham. It was so crazy. I think I overperformed. I love the energy. It was nice. It was good. London was another level; people were singing my songs word for word. Me meeting a different crowd, a different set of people, is crazy. I feel great. I did Scotland. I was in Dublin, Ireland. I had fun. I enjoyed myself. I got to see different places in the UK. I saw snow for the first time in my life, it was a big deal. I’m feeling more exposed and feeling more experienced. Shout out to Pa Salieu, Backroad Gee, NSG, Not3s, Swarmz – I went into the studio with them. These people are great people; we have a great connection. I feel good. I have good records with them which I still have to work on. It has to come out good. I’m energised. You get me? I have to do better for my fans, for my lovers, for my people, for myself – I have to do more.
To see you tour the UK and the US in the same year is wow! Where do you feel like you receive more love – was it in the UK or the US?
US was good despite a few ups and downs – it was a good experience for me but I think UK was another energy entirely. I was feeling the heat right from my heart. It’s crazy. I love US. I love UK but London for sure is somewhere I’d like to be some more.
On that note, in your song ‘Far Away’ you talk about you wanting to be far away from home, did you ever run away as a kid?
Yes I did. You know I’m “Osanle” – you know when Yoruba people say “Osanle”? I just want to be free. I want to be comfortable. I want to do whatever I want to do, whenever I want to do it. That’s the mood when I say Far Away, not running away but wanting to be who I really want to be. I want to be free from conflict, free form Instablog [Laughs] I just want to be free, I just want to be me.
On the topic of Instablog 9ja, they recently posted about you driving a virtual car whilst on break from your USA tour. Can you actually drive?
Yeah, I can drive…
…But can you drive well?
Erm…Your driving means different things. I can drive in well and park [smirks]
Next question please! We love your music. Is it true that your granddad was into music too?
Yeah, yeah! My mom’s dad is musical too. He didn’t really do it as a profession but he loved it. He’s the kind of people that would be outside; he has drummers and everything.
Let’s talk about your Mum! She’s a head teacher, so how did she respond when you told her you were going into music?
Ah. Omo – it’s war oh! [laughs] It was war because she’s like “Everybody’s going to school”. I think I played my part well by making her understand; I’m proving her wrong. I’m showing her that I can really do it. It’s what I love. At a point, she started listening to my music and she was like “Na you sing this one? Yo! You bad oh!” Shout out to my mom, she really moulded me. Thanks to life, she’s getting goodies, she sees me on TV, she’s bragging around. Any time she’s in the church, she the Bella Mummy…Bella kini ko, hallelujah! [laughs] I’m happy she’s happy. I’m happy she’s supporting so it’s cool.
I loved seeing your Mum at your High Tension 2.0 listening party. Allegedly, we have an album coming and you’ve already told us that it’s called ‘Hypertension’; are you trying to give us high blood pressure?
I’m trying to disturb anybody that wants to disturb me. Yeah, it’s tit for tat. Now I’m working. I’m trying to get my fire hits out. I must give people hypertension. Definitely people must listen to me. Definitely people must pay attention. You have to know I’m here. You have to know I’m really doing this. I will shock you with every track. You are not getting what you’re expecting.
Alright, so I have a personal question. In the past, you’ve had some bad press. Do you think you’re misunderstood?
Yeah, definitely. I want to be free. I’m an artist. I have to package. I have to always be inside. At the same time, I can’t be an artist and I’m not happy. I can’t do hit songs and I’m not free with myself. I can’t do hit songs if I can’t even share my thoughts or if I can’t express myself. I think it’s good to be misunderstood. Sometimes it makes them know you better; people try to know the other side. [Even though] I’m being misunderstood, I’m still doing my thing – it’s funny. People don’t know me, they just put up funny things like yayaya. It’s fine, I’m moving and they want to tag along, I understand, it’s fine.
The reason why I asked is in the lyrics of ‘So Cold’ with Popcaan, you talk about the pressure, people being bad mind to you, the government being corny… it all makes sense now. On the topic of lyrics, what is your favourite Bella Shmurda lyric?
World – If I ever lie to the world, I can never lie to myself, and that’s true. If you lie to everybody, you know the truth yourself. That’s it for me. I like it because it’s personal too.
That song shows us another side of you. I’m sure many people don’t know that you’re actually very generous. For your last birthday, you and your mom fed the less privileged. What inspired you go back to where you grew up and give back?
Those people inspired me. These are the people I saw every day when I had nothing. These are people I saw suffering. These are the people I’m really doing this for. I really feel like if I make it, if I blow, omo I go change tings oh! That’s my mind set, and I want to really change things. Let me help the little people I can help from my community, even if I can’t help the whole world. I just feel it’s a blessing when you bless someone. There’s more to come, givers never lack. I want to be that giver, I want to support my community. I want to be the best for them. I can’t be eating and looking back to my house to see that nobody else is eating. I won’t be able to eat well. I don’t feel good when I’m wearing Dior and Gucci but everybody at home is just roaming about. I just feel like it’s not really giving back, it’s what I’ve always wanted to do. Even when I had nothing, it’s what I’ve always wanted to do. They gave me a lot so I’m not gonna giving back. Giving back is optional. This is a must.
I love that you’re saying it’s your duty. It was amazing for me to find out that you are one of 10 children. Describe what like dinner time was like at your house.
[laughs] While I was living with my parents, the children used to eat in one plate. I’m the last born. I’m the last person to pick fish…the smallest fish but it was nice. I had to grow up. I had to understand things. I have to learn myself. It wasn’t funny having three different mothers to scold me, three different mothers telling you three different things. You just have to be yourself. Those days made me Bella Shmurda.
Coming from a polygamous house, do you think you will do the same – do you think you can manage more than one wife?
I’m an artist so everything is everywhere [laughs] but it’s not my vibe. Me learning from my father, seeing the ups and downs, I don’t want to go through those things. I prefer just one lady with me. My children are fine. I don’t have to call different mothers. No. No. No, or three different women calling me – this that. We want to buy nappies, we want to buy…ah. No! I’m this kind of person – I just try to stay away from stress. I don’t like to argue. With a polygamous family, you have to shout every day. You have to fight every day. You have to argue every day. You know, it’s not my thing.
In a previous interview, you mentioned that you used to be bullied and it caused you to have an inferiority complex. Do you feel you’ve gotten over that?
To some extent. I’m expressing myself through my music. I think I’m more crazy now. Whilst growing up, I couldn’t really talk to people or approach people but when I realised that I’m even better than the people I’m scared of, that took everything away. I think I overcame that and I want to be stronger. I want to be more crazy. It’s not funny to live in this crazy world. I’m a better person so I can look into anybody’s eyes and tell them what I want now.
I’m guessing the bullying happened at school. Tell us about your boarding school experience.
You know, I have this small body. At a point in my life, I was an introvert because I was always feeling down. I’m one of those kids that if I wake up, na problem I dey see. My mum fighting my dad. My brother left the house. Police catched my sister…all these funny things. It was so crazy, I didn’t even want to talk to people. I was always moody so that was it majorly. Because I didn’t talk, people used to say “Where this boy dey come from? This boy na local boy! This boy no sabi English”. I’m exposed but I’m not open to these things and people try to take advantage of that because I don’t try to relate. I just tried to stick to myself. I just tried to hide my feelings, put in my emotions, stuff like that but now nobody can fuck with me. Oh chale! [laughs]
I had a similar experience. It’s all mad sha!
You know! You reach school – problem. You reach house – serious problem. You see your friend – problem. Which kind wahala be this?! It’s funny. That made me love music more. Through all those times, all I do is just try to write lyrics. Try to express myself through my music. I’m better now.
Bigger, better, bolder. Right now, you’re sitting on over 500 million streams, over 5 million followers. What is 2022 looking like for you?
I have my plans on ground. I’m giving them back to back. I’m doing me. I’m doing Bella Shmurda. I’ll continue the good music, continue the conscious sound, continue relating to people, lifting people’s sorrows, making them happy. It’s looking good. My team is stronger now. We are better now. We understand things now. So I think it’s a better year ahead.
A couple of weeks ago, we saw you pledging to sponsor a young boy through his school education after a video of him reciting your lyrics went viral. That’s amazing. How do you want to be remembered?
I want to be remembered as someone that makes people happy. Someone who makes good music. I just want to be remembered as a good person. That’s so important to me.
Do you have one last message to the 9 Bills readers?
Whatever you’re going through, take your time. Everything is about timing. Don’t lose yourself over anything because the world won’t got you. You have to got yourself. So whenever it’s time, it’s time. Don’t waste your time. Pull up on anybody. Tell them they’re fuckin up. Pull up on anybody, tell them you love them. You hate me, I hate you. You love me, I love you. You pray for me, I pray for you. It’s all karma – it’s going to come to you back. Just stay cool and be yourself.
Well, we love you Bella Shmurda! Thank you so much for joining us here on 9 Bills.
STREAM BELLA SHMURDA’S LATEST EP: HIGH TENSION 2.0 ON ALL MAJOR DSPS
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