Bursting onto the scene as a fresh-faced teenager, Afropiano trailblazer Zinoleesky has rapidly become one of Nigeria’s most important voices. His early series of viral freestyles spoke for themselves, reaching the masses and catching the attention of Afrobeats royalty like Davido, Kizz Daniels and Naira Marley. 

Signed to Marley’s label, Marlian Music, 2019 saw the release of Zinoleesky’s acclaimed debut EP, ‘Chrome’. He soon became one of the hottest rising Afrobeats stars of 2022 with over 300 million plays to date; now receiving over 800,000 plays a month on Spotify alone. Like his label head, Zinoleesky’s music addresses political issues and social injustice in his country, with the 27 year old strongly believing in creating a catalog with a message. 

Following the success of his sophomore EP, ‘Grit & Lust’, which debuted at number 13 on the Billboard World Albums chart, TikTok notoriety came fast, Head to the app for videos of everyone – including Kylie Jenner – vibing to his music. I mean, how could you not? The singer showcases his musical prowess through the catchy rhythms of his songs, blending Afrobeats and Amapiano while singing about his journey and the trials of love in his native tongue of Yoruba. 

Within the UK, he’s received strong support from BBC 1Xtra, Capital Xtra and KISS Fresh. With three Billboard charting singles and a Headies ‘Next Rated’ award nomination under his belt, March saw Zinoleesky complete a sold-out debut UK tour including dates in Manchester, Birmingham and London’s Electric Ballroom. 

The rising star of Nigeria’s music scene talks to VIPER about how his country’s Fuji sound influenced him and the status of his upcoming project. Read on to find out why he’s one to watch within the global music landscape. 

What’s your favourite thing about London? 

In London nobody sees anybody, I guess. Everybody’s on their own type of timing, it’s not like Nigeria. I can’t work in Nigeria, I can’t go to the mall. 

Do you like creating music while you’re in town? 

I’ve only done that a few times, I’ve not really dived into it to check that out. In the future, of course! 

Your music is very feel-good. Do you have to be in a good mood when you get in the studio? Or can you record when you’re angry?
I feel like I can record in any kind of situation as long as I want to record. As long as I feel like “okay, I have to put this down.” It doesn’t matter what mood I’m in at that moment. 

What’s your perfect studio setting? 

It’s just gotta be good vibes, good vibes. I have to be smoking, chilling. 

You seem like quite a happy guy, do you ever get angry? 

Of course I feel like everybody gets angry at one point in time. The little things get me angry now, not the big things. The little things are the ones that get me angry, I feel like I won’t really get angry over stuff that I’m supposed to get angry over, I’ll feel like I need to calm down but it’s the little things. 

Your breakout song addressed social inequality, is it important to you that your music has a message?
I feel like music is all about the message, so it has to. It started in the beginning for me, because when I was younger, when I wanted to freestyle or sing for someone else like my friends, I really wanted it to make sense from the start. I want whatever I put out to really make sense, for it to grab someone. 

Were there certain artists that inspired that? 

A lot of people, but the people that really started making it matter were Kizz Daniel, Reekado Banks, yeah them lot, many of them. Older people that inspired my music are the Fuji artists in Nigeria: Barrister, Pasuma, all those Fuji artists; that genre is different. 

This is an extract from the SS23 issue of Viper Magazine. Buy physical and digital copies here.

Photography: EDDIE CHEABA
Photography Assistant: RENÉ CONNAGE-DURANT Stylist: NADYA MAKI

Location: BLANKBOX
Creative Direction: EDDIE CHEABA 

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