Nigerian-born, UK-grown talent Kida Kudz is ready for a global takeover. His vigorous style of music—often led by xylophonic and bass-led sonics—has managed to encapsulate audiences in both Nigeria (and wider West African regions) and England, where he has resided for just over a decade. Travelling to the UK (via Essex-London) to live with his father and step-mother aged 14, Kudz found himself fascinated with already established genres in the country, such as grime, UK rap and even a touch of cheesy pop, citing everyone from Giggs to N-Dubz as inspirations. It was here that the now 25-year-old’s passion for music was born.
Succumbing to the expectations set upon him, Kida Kudz dabbled in academia, attempting two university courses before dropping out completely in order to dedicate his time to making music in 2017. After months of hard work, the rapper-singer introduced his self-proclaimed ‘Afroswank’ sound later that year, quickly establishing a core fanbase in the months and years that followed. His alluring persona, paired with instantly infectious numbers, soon placed him amongst music’s hottest names, like Burna Boy (who jumped on the remix of his 2018 song “Issa Vibe”), Olamadie and Ms Banks.
Beyond his collaborations in the studio, the genre-blender has managed to secure attention from Afronation, performing at their debut festival in Portugal in 2019, as well as Axel Arigato and Tim Westwood TV. On the eve of his debut EP Nasty’s release, Kida Kudz joined Complex to unpack the process behind its creation, as well as his newfound perspective on life after recently becoming a father and the current Afrobeats landscape.
“I’m slapping everyone’s necks this year [laughs]. Last year I said I was coming for everybody’s necks, now I’m slapping them.”
COMPLEX: Tell us about life growing up in Nigeria and then in England.
Kida Kudz: I grew up in an area called Sagumu, which is in Ogun State. I enjoyed my childhood. I was my mother’s favourite [laughs]. My mother never wanted us to beg for anything so she would always make sure that we were cared for and catered to. Growing up, I often listened to artists such as Fela Kuti and older school afrobeat. I also enjoyed Apala music, which is a traditional genre back home. That will always be a part of me. When I was 14, I moved to England and lived with my dad, stepmother and step brothers, but I didn’t like it there much. I found my way to London and stayed with my aunt while I went to college and did media studies. Then I went to UEL and studied music engineering, and then business. I dropped out of both though, because I loved music. That’s what I wanted to do.
How did both countries inform your sound?
Afrobeats and afrobeat will always be in my blood. I think it will be in any African person’s blood. That stays with you. But when I came to London, I found myself listening to everything: Lil Wayne, Westlife, Kano... There’s a particular song of Kano’s that I’ll always remember, “Nite Nite”. I still play that to this day. It all inspires me and helps me to find who I am and grow. It took me nine years to find who I am, so all of these experiences growing up and being in London have made me who I am. I like to grow organically and avoid following anyone. My sound is now global; it can play in Chicago, New York, over here, in Nigeria. I want my songs to be able to be played everywhere.
You call your style of music ‘Afroswank’. How did this sound come to fruition?
You know what? Back when I first moved here, I loved to play songs by Joey Bada$$. One of his songs has the word ‘swank’ in it. I have to acknowledge his influence. Afroswank is jiggy! It’s me. It embodies the confidence that I have on my songs, the approach that I have to my melodies. It’s all different and unique to me, and that’s why it’s different.
One of your first songs to go viral was “Issa Vibe”. Ironically, it began to gain traction in Nigeria first—why do you think that is?
I actually won a competition in Nigeria before coming here. It was a talent-based one. Ever since then, I’ve found that I have constant support over there. I didn’t even know it was taking off over there until I was told about it by my peers. Now, I’m determined to go back whenever I can; I have a core fanbase over there that I love. I’m heading to Nigeria in a few days to do performances and a listening party for my closest fans. I want to do one in Lagos and one in my childhood home.
How did you manage to get Burna Boy on the “Issa Vibe” remix?
[Laughs] This was not planned, I assure you. I was in Boiler Room over here and saw him and Wizkid. Me and Burna Boy had been talking for a while on social media, but we met on this particular night. After the party, he told me that he was heading to the studio and that I should come along. We ended up on a boat in Canary Wharf with Wizkid, and Burna Boy freestyled his verse. It was all so fast.
You’ve also collaborated with Santi on “Raw Dinner”. Do you plan to collaborate with more Alte artists?
Yes. We are all close. I actually recorded another song with Santi; I think that might be released later this year. I also have a track with Odunsi—that’s my brother, man. It’s all about collaboration. When you’re feeling the vibe, you just do it.
Your new EP, Nasty, is extremely vibrant. Did you go into it with any specific ideas in mind?
I wanted Nasty to be one hundred percent me. If I’m being honest, it’s inspired by everything around me, everything that I’m listening to. The project is about me expressing myself and having fun with it. It’s the confidence, the swagger... I just want people to enjoy themselves listening to it.
Describe the process behind Nasty’s creation and some of your favourite songs on the project?
A lot of the songs on Nasty were actually recorded in my home, or while travelling. I managed to record in Amsterdam, too, with a producer called N64—he’s the guy behind “Big Up” and “1AM” with Jaykae. “Tasty Time” is a song that I remember making when I first found out that I was going to be a father. It’s dedicated to my fiancé; her vocals are featured on the song too. I also worked in LA around two years ago with a producer called Poly for the song “Flex”. We got to work with an old beat box, the ones that Dr. Dre would use back in the day. When I found out they had one out there, I knew I needed to record with one. The whole process has been enjoyable. Even down to a few months ago I was still recording and wanted Chip on the final song, “Red Flag”. People keep telling me that one is a hit, and I’m glad they like it.
You tend to say “jigga boys” in a lot of your songs. What’s the inspiration and meaning behind this saying?
That’s my tag. Whenever I say that, you know what time it is [laughs]. It’s like when Lil Wayne says “young mula, baby”—it’s just the energy I want to start my songs with. It’s my trademark: everything jigga boys!
Is Afrobeats and its surrounding sounds being exploited right now?
I support whoever is doing their thing. If they love Afrobeats and want to do it, why not? Everyone who is from Africa has a right to acknowledge and celebrate their roots—it all stems from Fela Kuti. Now, if someone doesn’t understand the genre and culture, that’s different, but you’ll always know the real people doing their thing.
You mentioned earlier that you’re a new father. How has fatherhood impacted your life thus far?
I had my son in August and it has been such a beautiful process. I didn’t know that I was having a son, I only found out after he was born. It’s changed my perspective on life—we all chase these accolades and careers, but it’s about putting happiness at the front of that, and family. Now, I’m just happy living my life with my son and my girl. We should all aim to put these things first. I may get less sleep now [laughs], but I’m blessed to have such gifts in life.
What’s one thing that you want audiences to remember about you?
That I’m slapping everyone’s necks this year [laughs]. Last year I said I was coming for everybody’s necks, now I’m slapping them.