I am kicking off the first post of my interview series by catching up with a young man who also happens to be my brother. Quite a talented family I have – yes, I know. Anyway, without further ado, let’s begin.
Who is Off.SA?
Adewole Agbaraoluwakiibati, better known professionally as Off. SA is a British rapper, singer, songwriter and producer. He was born in his parents bedroom in Hackney of East London.
Due to the vigilance of his parents, he and his siblings were speaking, reading and writing in Yoruba from their early childhood.
Last year, he got married to a great woman (he calls his best friend). He is also a father to a beautiful baby girl, and a bonus dad to three weird and wonderful stepkids.
Oh yeah, he’s also a big Arsenal fan!
Is there anything I missed in the introduction that you want to mention?
It goes without saying that I am proud of my Nigerian heritage. I loved my African name and its meaning from a very young age.
My name, Ade means crown and my middle name, Agbaraoluwakiibati means the power of the lord never fails – so how could anyone make me feel ashamed of that? I owe that to my upbringing and being constantly reminded about the power and cultural meaning of my name.
Would you say that your Nigerian upbringing has influenced the things mentioned in your music?
I plan to continue to incorporate Yoruba into my songs where applicable. I’ve already used it once in my song, World we know.
I also draw from my experiences, whether it’s something I’ve gone through personally or someone close to me that I know has gone through; I mention it in my music. Everything I put into a studio release is real life.
‘I loved my African name and its meaning from a very young age. My name, Ade means crown and my middle name, Agbaraoluwakiibati means the power of the lord never fails..’
Growing up, what sort of music did you listen to?
I grew up listening to a wide range of musical genres including classical, jazz, blues, hip-hop, grime & rnb.
You mentioned in your music that you have been writing for a long time – when exactly did you start? Why did you start?
I’ve been writing since childhood, but I only started putting my music out there in 2019, in and amongst uni and such, but I started writing poetry from as early as primary school. It was an outlet for me.
I went through a time of just being angry all the time, angry at everything and everyone. I was just angry with the world, and writing was a productive outlet; it helped me vent, and before I knew it, I was burning through notebooks like wildfire.
What or who would you say heavily influenced your early lyrics from then vs now?
At the very beginning, it was Eminem, a little bit of Klashnekoff (UK Rapper) but mostly American artists. For most of the stuff I wrote down, I’d probably cringe if I read through it now. I was just venting with no structure or filter.
Akala was a big part of my inspiration too.
Now, the average listener is a lot more inclined to listen to Artists from the UK; we have more globally known names now. That wasn’t the case back then.
How do you go about finding new inspiration for your music?
It’s like a ritual. I take from my experiences, the feelings they evoke, news, my moods and the emotions I go through.
It can come from anything, a song, a disagreement, some good or bad news. It just happens I can’t really describe it. I get bursts of inspiration and I have to write it down before I forget it. My memo pad is always open.
I was just angry with the world and writing was a productive outlet, it helped me to vent and before I knew it, I was burning through notebooks like wildfire.
What time do you find you are most productive – night or day?
It’s a bit of both as I’m very hands on. I produce my beats, write my lyrics, design my cover art and recently I’ve been directing and editing my visuals.
For its me usually nighttime, when daytime activities are done and it’s quiet – just me, my work and I.
I want to create great art and to do that I cannot rush the process, the quiet gives me the space to process my creativity. I absolutely love it! Most of the time I lose track of time and find myself working into the AM. Sometimes till the sun comes up. There are certain melodies, words and sounds that come to me only when I’m in a certain space. I’m in that creative space right now, so I just gotta keep it watered and let it blossom.
Describe a typical working day
I don’t really take time off. I’m always working on different projects so I don’t really have an off switch. I do try to work around family time, but in all honesty the ratio of work to family time is probably not as balanced as I’d like it to be.
With covid most work at the moment is done at home so I can’t really switch off from it. Under normal circumstances there was a lot of outdoor activity involved so I found it easier to separate the two when I got back home ie. video/photoshoots at different locations, studios etc. That has been cut down because many places are closed and of course some just aren’t accessible at the moment. So a typical working day right now is pretty much 24/7 unless I’m asleep.
Have you ever had writer’s block? If yes, how did you overcome it?
Yes! I hate it, but one thing I realised is it’s actually necessary. It’s my body telling me I’m either not digging deep enough or that I need to experience more before trying to create whatever it is I am trying to create at that moment in time.
Think about it, we give so much of our energy into creating this concept, this piece of art, a body of work coming forth from our imagination and we just wanna go again and again and again. The mind needs a break. It’s giving out so much energy it now needs to take some in!
I overcome it by either digging deeper or letting it rest for however long it takes. I take in some inspiration; I learn, I watch, I play. I become a lot more present in the moment, and that’s usually when I get another spark of inspiration and it’s all uphill again.
What are the main themes you have explored so far in your music?
- The Grind
I also talk about a lot of other things. Even subjects many people don’t talk about in their music, maybe because they feel it’s not as marketable.
It’s not intentional but I also talk about mental health a lot. I’m not a spokesman for anything political. I just speak my mind, my music is my story, my past, present and future.
What other themes do you plan to explore?
- Black history
- Entrepreneurial advice
I also talk about more mature themes, but I want to deliver it in a way that is relatable. I’ve only scratched the surface with the topics I’ve already covered, there’s so much more to say. I don’t think I’ll ever run out of themes to speak upon as long as I continue experiencing and living life to the fullest.
It’s been a tough year for creatives worldwide with closed music venues due to the pandemic. Is there anything you have been doing to reach new audiences?
I’ve been a lot more active on the socials. And right now that’s where most of us are, communicating through our handheld electronic devices.
I’m also part of a group of rappers who are performing for free in a live event called Rap Aid to raise awareness and funds for mental health. It’s such a pressing topic at the moment especially with the drastic changes in the last year. We are closely working with charities My OPPO and Mind.org to put on an exciting event on the 1st of May and support a good cause.
What advice will you give to independent rappers and artists trying to reach new audiences during these challenging times?
The most important is to be consistent. Things may not always go to plan but you just have to keep plugging at it.
Work on a plan of action.
Learn as much of the process as you can, from the production and editing to the distribution to the promo.
Build up content (e.g. music releases, freestyles etc.)
Know yourself and your sound (and you won’t find your sound by copying others, the best way to find your sound is to experiment and create a high volume of content).
‘I’m also part of a group of rappers who are performing for free in a live event called Rap Aid to raise awareness and funds for mental health.’
Off.SA on social media
Apple music: https://music.apple.com/us/artist/off-sa/1475377794