In this interview, Notjustok chats with Terri to meet the man behind the enigma and also chop it up on his recent EP, In Transit, to see where he’s at and where he’s headed.
In an age where everything is digitised and documented, every wisp of a public figure’s personal life that makes it to the endless abyss that is the internet is not only fodder for the blogs but a treat for interaction-hungry fans and netizens. And while it is argued that the pathway to stardom has been marginally decolonised, the evident downside lies in how the art of balancing the ball of relevance has become a much tougher and fickle task as stars are born and burned everyday, sacred sabbaths inclusive.
In Nigeria where the entertainment industry has become the new crude oil, with music being at the center of it, the demands of fame are equally hellish with the need to please standards in multiples. Yet, like the proverbial birds in the wide sky, stars continue to soar, at different degrees and with unique trajectories.
The latter has been the case for Terri Akewe, popularly known as Terri, and fondly as Starboy Terri, a nod to his Wizkid slash Starboy Records cosign as well as his social media usernames.
A singer with a unique blend of melodies and a compelling command of two of the major indigenous Nigerian languages, Ibo and Yoruba, Terri has been able to defend his seemingly sudden rise to fame, from his teenage years when Wizkid’s Soco had dropped till date without courting the media or playing by the unspoken rules that prompt social media virality. While only openly acquiescing to his star power with his social media handles, Terri has quietly established himself as a young star.
Recently, Terri released his sophomore project, an EP titled In Transit which has now become a tacit reminder of his melody-weaving ability as well as an indicator of his current state of mind where he feels the need to blend his musical skills into a more socially-forward version of himself. In this story, Notjustok chats with Terri to meet the man behind the enigma, learn about the boy before who’d wowed the nation on Soco, stolen their hearts with Bia and Ojoro and also chop it up on his recent EP, In Transit, to see where he’s at and where he’s headed.
Interviewer: We know you but not entirely, we just see this very calm persona that we also know as ‘starboy Terri.’ That has lowkey become your name but I can’t speak for you. So how would you describe yourself and what is it like being starboy Terri, who is starboy Terri?
Terri: first off, my name is Terri not ‘starboy Terri’, my social media handle is ‘Starboy Terri’. I’m just a young kid growing up going through young people problems, like I’m going through every other thing that every other person is going through, and I’m definitely shaping myself like every other person nothing extraordinary per se. I’ll just say what’s different would be the discipline that I have instilled and tried to live by all of these years. Because being signed to someone as big as Wiz was something that was initially such a joyous thing. Like it was so joyful that I couldn’t see or I couldn’t put myself in a head space to see everything that could possibly come with it. Growing up, I liked to be out there but I don’t like to be very loud, especially if I have to deal with a lot of people, I feel like a lot of people bring a different energy and a different vibe and I always have to go back and filter through what I get in. I want to know that I’m receiving the right stuff out of everything. I’m on my social media from time to time, I don’t even take breaks, I do not go off, I just don’t speak if it is not necessary for me to speak, I like for people to see me more as an artist as a musician than any other thing else. I do not have issues with people who do their music and every other social activity in entertainment but, I don’t feel like everybody needs to be that type of person. I’ve been trying to do something that is actually like my own kind of thing aside from music on social media because I only know how to sing and just put my music out there but I’m currently learning everything else that I have to do that is necessary.
Interviewer: Would you say reaching the point in your life where you had to teach yourself discipline was tough? What was that like?
Terri: it was sort of tough because you know when something hits you unexpectedly. I thought I was just going to get into it and just live my normal life, do my normal stuff. I wasn’t really like an introvert, I wouldn’t even say that I’m an introvert right now, but I wasn’t as distant from social media I was more expressive growing up. In high school I got into a lot of school troubles, I was like a troublesome kid.
Interviewer: you were a bad boy?
Terri: yeah, sort of like a bad boy
Interviewer: Nollywood type of bad boy or just your own wave?
Terri: I don’t know what Nollywood type bad boy is but I mean like a bad boy, I was quite influential in my high school, in my area where I grew up, I was quite influential because I was really out there. When I got into music I realized that most music people have a form of introduction or exposure to what the music industry really is, before they have major deals.
Interviewer: their big break
Terri: yeah exactly. I didn’t really have an idea of how the industry works before I got my big break on Soco. I’d never been to Lagos island, I was living on the mainland and I just had limited knowledge and when I eventually got this big break I find out that there’s a big world here, there’s a big market here, there are different orientations, there are different ways people do things, there are different things people do even with the music. So it was different, the approach had to be different, I had to reshape my mindset, I just had to do so many things and I wanted to make sure I was doing it the right way, and that I wasn’t doing anything I ought not to do.
Interviewer: That must have been a huge culture shock. You went from being this kid that was gifted to getting a Wizkid co-sign at 18. So, what was that like and as well what was meeting Wizkid like, how did that happen?
Terri: It was on Instagram, I made a cover to one of his songs and I tagged him and I got a call and it just happened.
Interviewer: from that moment till now how would you say the journey has been for you?
Terri: I'm grateful for everything that has come with it, I'm grateful for everything that I have learnt because so far, there's nothing that has happened that has damaged me and I think there's nothing that could eventually happen that would be damaging. Everything is like a learning process there are a lot of wins and there are a lot of things to take into the future.
Interviewer: To take it to the very beginning of this journey, what was growing up like, would you say that was where your music journey started from?
Terri: My interest in music started from my childhood, my family weren't really music people, so my love for music started from me listening to a lot of music, then it was mostly Afrobeats. At times I mimed songs and I used to introduce people to new songs and then it started to become a thing, people used to expect me to give them updates on music and artistes and it was only a matter of time before I took it to the next stage which was recording my song. And when I recorded my first song it dawned on me that I had to make it a career path and I have been chasing since that time.
Interviewer: So, the minute you made your first song you were like "woah, this is it for me."
Interviewer: So, when did you make your first song and what was your first song?
Terri: I was in high school, it was called Jeje, I remember it went viral in my high school and I really had the attention of everybody and I liked that, that's one of the reasons I followed through.
Interviewer: So, speaking of journeys, your latest EP is titled In Transit, it sounds like you're moving from one place to another. What is the inspiration behind the title, where would you say Terri is moving from and to, and where would you say you are right now?
Terri: like you rightfully said, it's like a movement, it shows off where I was as at the point of my last project up till now, growth basically and where I'm headed. The people clearly also hear that because the music gives that feeling. And so far, since it's dropped I can see that people can see growth from my last releases and where I'm heading and it's an exciting ride, people are excited, I for one is excited for where it is that I am now and where it is that I'm heading and my fans want to remain on that journey with me. It's exciting to see and that motivates me to do even more.
Interviewer: we've seen several times that a sophomore album or your second project after your debut is also really important, it could literally be the make or break point. What was the process for you making this EP? What was it like and how was it?
Terri: I didn't think of that because you can't give what you don't have basically and first of all I'm chasing this because I and my team think that we have something that should be out there, that we can sell. So, I’m most importantly working on getting better, I know I have the ability to do stuff but I know that my abilities can be enhanced by a lot of things so I try to put my energy into trying to make myself better whatever the outcome. I trust that if I put work into myself I trust the outcome would be great as well cause all you need is to put in the work and I try to do that.
Interviewer: In Transit also has some interesting elements it touches on love, understanding and all other related elements that and we are in this era where people are against love "e go spoil", "it will end in tears," " breakfast" all of that and we also know that you had Ojoro from way back. So, what was the major inspiration for you and what were the major elements that you put together to make this EP?
Terri: basically my experience and everything that I try to write about or I try to write a fictional story around is something that you've probably heard before or I've expressed in the past or present. I feel like we are just catching cruise in this country cause regardless of how you try to prove the narrative of no love, heartbreak and all we are still built on love, we still exist on love, like we still do everything every day, we still look forward to loving, love is like the most beautiful feeling that you can ever experience so because of people's unfortunate experiences don't mean that you shouldn't be an advocate or you shouldn't try to express a loving moment. Most of the songs were expressions of love moments and I don't think that would ever happen or stop me.
Interviewer: so what song would you say was the most personal to you off the EP?
Terri: Wanna Know, because I took a lot more time recording it.
Interviewer: why was that? Was it difficult to just put it out?
Terri: the process was just difficult, in the sense that it was just a bit more difficult to get me in the right space, sometimes it happens. So, that’s why it was longer and I think I enjoyed doing it, taking that long and I didn’t try to be in a rush or anything I just followed the flow.
Interviewer: on the EP you actually have only one feature and it's Mugeez from R2Bees. So how did that happen, how did you get Mugeez on it? And what was working with him like?
Terri: Mugeez is my big bro, we always get to see each other and I’ve been around him a couple of times, we’ve gone to social events, the studio and I know his way of life and I’ve gotten a lot of inspiration from him so it was really down to when we would record something. I made Chargie in Lagos, from the time that I made Chargie till when he jumped on it was a lot of time. One day I was just playing all the records that I had made and I asked him if he liked Chargie he said he loved it and he wanted to do a verse and that’s how it happened. He blessed me and I’m grateful for it. Right now it’s going really great.
Interviewer: there’s something about how the entire EP, it feels very you, its refreshing, and then again there’s this thing where you switched effortlessly, one minute you’re singing in Yoruba and we literally have you saying “Ngozi ka o” in another one. It’s like you’ve just blended all the things that make you Terri perfectly into making music. So, how do you make music the way you do? When do you realize this is the track I want, is there a formula for you?
Terri: I like to be inside of the music, I like to be really connected to the instrumentations, I get my inspiration from really getting into the music, when I get into the music, I understand better what should be sung about and I just try to experiment with real life experiences. Energy is important as well, I make the best of music when I’m happy.
Interviewer: energy is important, even for work, music, what have you. And then you had the song with Bella. What is collaborating like for you? What are the things you look out for when you’re collaborating?
Terri: I look out for the person that fits right for whatever I want to say or whatever I’m trying to do, whatever type of music I’m trying to do because I like to experiment a lot and sometimes I’d do stuff that I really would not do on every other day or probably mix the beat or I get to hear the beat accidentally or someone just plays the beat to me or I’m in a space where I just want to experiment. For Money, I just felt like that song was right and that Bella Shmurda and Mohbad would kill it. So, I’m like okay why not just do it. I made the hook and sent it to both of them and they liked it.
Interviewer: And you were really shining on that track. So, are collaborations something we’re going to see more of you doing?
Terri: Yeah, definitely. I have like remixes on the tape ready, I’m gonna put out a remix for some songs on the tape in a short while. They’re like huge ones so I’m excited for that.
Interviewer: now we’re going to talk about the co-sign, but from the fact that it also looks when it comes to that, there is a change. We can see the growth, we can see where you are at right now, we’ve also seen questions being raised on whether you’re going solo. And we know you as one of Wizkid’s biggest protégés, but in recent times, your records haven’t been distributed under Starboy records. What are the current music arrangements for you right now?
Terri: I never said anywhere or made any suggestions to anybody.
Interviewer: But in your apple music description it actually even references you going solo…
Terri: The idea of my contract was to have people who were going to nurture me and make my music decisions, Which was Starboy, and the only thing that has changed is that they no longer make the decisions as per release dates and when to put out music, who to feature, who not to feature, what to do and what not to do. I was literally left to myself to get through this industry and know what it is and the in and out and what could work for me or not. They feel like now, I know all the things that I need to know and I can make those decisions myself, not like I’m independent, I still have to consult them, they’re like my biggest family, I go to Wizzy’s house from my house almost every other day, like we see each other every day. We have our different types of relationships, nothing has changed in fact throughout my time with them, there was never any day that we had any misunderstandings that were brutal or tough, everything just had to be understood. If you noticed, before I didn’t even have a feature but right now like you mentioned, I had a feature with Bella and even now even for my project I have more features. The independence is in that sense, they’re still my family. I’m not consulting or working with anyone it is still them.
Interviewer: Would you say that over time you’ve had to prove yourself to some people, to prove that I am this and more, going from the fact that you were launched off a really huge co-sign
Terri: yeah, a lot of people had wanted to, because nobody has really been signed by Wiz except L.A.X. and it’s more like a trend in Nigeria to have a big artist like Wiz signing more people. So, people were really interested in knowing what I really was about and normally I would just make music without having to worry about those people that are waiting to see something. But still everything pushed me to be better and it’s to my advantage.
Interviewer: going back to the EP. What are the key points that you want your fans and listeners to take from it, and what do you want them to know about Terri?
Terri: that I’ll always be here, I’m always here making music, I’m always gonna make music and put something out for them to enjoy and there’s always definitely more to expect and more to come and they should enjoy this music that is out now and just wait for more stuff that we have coming.
Interviewer: Also, I see that like despite everything you seem to have an actual relationship with your fans, like they send you messages and things like that. So, what role would you say your fans play in your artistry, do you have any plans for them as well?
Terri: Yeah, they play a major role, they motivate me, they show me what it is that my music represents and they just give me the vibe to keep on going and definitely we have a lot of things in store for them especially for shows and most importantly I’ll be dropping music. Then a concert, I have a show coming up in December for my fans, I’m doing that in my hometown, the area where I grew up In Lagos.
Interviewer: That would be wild, that would be fun to see. So, what next for In Transit, Danger has a video now, what next for the EP, what next for Terri as well
Terri: so more music videos off the tape, like I said remixes and shows. Basically, just connecting more to my fans and putting out more music. I’m excited, I’m happy, I’m hopeful.