Interviews

Musmah: The Afro Surf Pioneer

He talks about his debut full-length album, his eccentric music style, coming back to Nigeria, and more in this interview.

Musmah Afro Surf
Musmah [Instagram/@musmah]

Itamah Musmah is a Nigerian-born/US-based rapper and songwriter who is in his late twenties but carries an advanced sense of depth and awareness with him – a quality that has influenced his avid storytelling over time. With a rap career that spans nearly a decade, Musmah has been able to affirm himself as a vast navigator of his craft- improving with each fresh musical project release. 

Although he is not yet a mainstream music artist, Musmah boasts an enviable and impressive performance portfolio- with tour opening credits for big recording Nigerian acts such as Davido, Burna Boy, Fireboy DML, and Omah Lay. He has also collaborated with popular singer and entrepreneur Mr Eazi and has performed at major league events like the SXSW and One Africa Music Fest amongst a few.

The New York resident rapper mostly takes his sonic musings from the realities of life as he knows it. His latest and debut full-length body of work ‘You Can’t Feel  The Same Love Twice’ is a hybrid of non-fiction and a few fictional stories that are performed with a poetic point of view. 

He talks about his debut full-length album, his eccentric music style, coming back to Nigeria, and more in this interview.

   Childhood 

Before relocating to the U.S., Musmah had a life in Nigeria. He grew up in Kaduna State, an insurgent hot zone in the West African country. He was the last child of five siblings. Musmah’s parents were average-income earners but made enough to give him the best education the country had to offer.  

my childhood was fun to some extent, but a better half of it was filled with gruesome terrors

Musmah, 2023.

Musmah gives an account of how tough it was growing up in such a bigotry-induced environment as a kid, how he had lost many family members due to religious and tribal war, and how lucky he had considered himself to still be alive. 

“Growing up, I would be honest, it wasn’t the best, especially considering where I was based at the time. I mean, my childhood was fun to some extent, but a better half of it was filled with gruesome terrors. I witnessed the death of many family members who had been a victim of one ate-fueled crime or the other. It was a terrible way to live, living in fear, but I am thankful to God that I am still alive”

Musmah picked up an interest in music at an early age. His father’s classical musical collections which comprised vintage music acts such as Janet Jackson, Abba, Sade Adu, Osita Osadebe, and a few others had influenced his early love for music.

Musmah
Musmah [Instagram/@musmah]

However, it was the legendary rap icon Lil Wayne that genuinely sparked the flame of creativity in him.  

“Lil Wayne was the first artist that inspired my love for rap. I fell in love with his music at age eleven. I would lock myself in a room and just listen to his works without a care in the world. I liked how he rapped with tenacity and how audacious he was, the way he expressed himself made me feel confident, so I began conjuring bars myself.”

At age fourteen, Musmah took his passion for writing songs a notch by paying money to record music at local music recording studios, subsequently releasing various demos in the process. However, his first actual body of work was in 2015, a four-track Extended Play titled ‘Mississauga’. After that, he released a Sophomore titled ‘Hotel: Hamdala’ in 2017, then a follow-up in 2019, a joint project with an artist named David Angel titled ‘ F.E.A, and 2021’s ‘Hotel: La Fayette'( a sequel to Hotel: Hamdala).

Afro Surf

Making music can be a rigorous sport, especially if you are doing it with very limited resources, it can be a very daunting journey. This is why many unsigned music acts/Independents are usually advised to diversify their hustles- prompting many to pick up other gigs whilst in pursuit of their passion. Musmah is no exception to the struggles of the game, he juggles as a 9 to 5er and a recording artist. He says it’s been tough trying to mix his day job with his passion for making music.

People kept saying my sound made them feel a certain way like they were having a cool time at a beach or something, so I came up with ‘Afro Surf’ instead.

Musmah, 2023.

“I haven’t had a great night’s sleep in a while, it’s been from one meeting to another. The hustle is real bro, and people don’t see the struggles, they only see the part you want them to see. It’s not been a child’s chore trying to push music while constantly being on the go for survival, paying bills, and all those responsibilities that come with being a functioning adult, I mean I am grateful, but at the same time, I would love a breather, you know what I mean.”

Musmah says all his struggles and triumph have however provided an eye-opener for him, especially when it pertains to his spirituality. He believes in a power above him, a supreme being that has heard his countless prayers and has made the road smooth despite the occasional fender benders. 

“As I advance in age, I begin to believe more in God. I read my Bible now more than I used to, trust me, even though I am still a young man, I have seen a certain side to life. When I weigh my past lifestyle with the present God-conscious one, the difference is as clear as day.”

Musmah calls the kind of music that he does ‘Afro Surf’, a calm and cool-headed type of sonic vibration. A mix of Nigerian Alternative music influences and Western influences. Musmah’s ‘Wavy’ rhyme schemes and tones however bring a nuance to the style. 

“I started calling it Afro Surf because of the compliments I was getting from music listeners. I had called it something else before, but it just didn’t click, because it was already taken by some other artist. People kept saying my sound made them feel a certain way like they were having a cool time at a beach or something, so I came up with ‘Afro Surf’ instead.”

You Can’t Feel The Same Love Twice

Musmah says he sometimes wishes he could relocate back to Nigeria. He says he has dreams of coming back to the motherland to fully get intertwined with the industrial practices, but quickly puts a clause to his wishes, stating that he has received several pieces of advice to remain at bay until further notice due to the gruesome socio- economical situation of the country.

Like when I talked about seeing a therapist on one of the songs, that’s actually false (laughs) I have never been to a therapist in my life

Musmah, 2023.

A trail of Musmah’s musical projects will lead you to several realizations (provided that you are curious enough)- one of which is his love for detailed fine art interpretations in Music. His cover arts are far from arty, rather very intentional and genuine- a depiction that is seen in his debut body of work ‘You Can’t Feel The Same Love Twice’. Musmah says he doesn’t take his art direction with sleight hands, he believes a good artwork should tell a story, giving an insight into the body of work proper, also citing artists like Kanye West as an inspiration.

‘You Can’t Feel The Same Love Twice’ is the rapper’s debut full-length album. The twelve-track body of work is a compilation of various thematic expressions ranging from love stories to heartbreak tales to Satirical renditions and more. The album was released on May 25, 2023, and has zero features with its lead singles being ‘Sade’s Dilemma’ and ‘Yaba’. 

The rapper says it has been a blessing putting out the body of work, adding that it felt therapeutic being vulnerable on the record.

“That is what this album is all about. A vulnerable expression of emotions. Some of the stories on the album are stories that happened to me, deeply personal tales. While some were stories of my friends, of course, I sought prior permission from them. While Others were the day-to-day happenings of the society. ‘You Can’t Feel The Same Love Twice’ is ‘ an honest body of work… well not completely, I must say. There are some fictional depictions on the album, but they are relatable enough. Like when I talked about seeing a therapist on one of the songs, that’s actually false (laughs) I have never been to a therapist in my life, but I hope someone who has been to can relate. That’s the beauty of art.”

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