The Man Behind The Mask: LasGiiDi
“I came to a contradicting realization that music is a delusion…or rather an illusion. It’s not real. Artists know this, but they won’t tell you.”
Within the current state of the genre that is afrobeats, it is understood that songs tend to be lyrically simple–with the focus being placed instead on the genre’s trademark danceability and catchiness. This is great for creating. music that is an easy listen, to vibe to. However, it is rare for the artists who create the catchy afro-pop tunes that we know and love, to display complex and conflicting thoughts and emotions. Cue in LasGiiDi, a recording artist born and raised in Nigeria, now residing in Dallas, Texas, who has way more to him hidden behind the mask he puts on. You may know LasGiiDi from his recent song, “One Shot” which currently has over 250k streams in just a few months. His short catalog has also recently surpassed a million plays on Spotify, which he has some interesting thoughts on. We sat down with the masked artist to get a deeper understanding of who he is as a person and his responses may surprise you.
Ayo Omolewa for OTM:
What got you into music?
I think I was born into it. I started making music as far back as 2007. I was still just a small child, so I didn’t know any better, I was just playing around. I had a $3 microphone and a tin tomato can that I used as my filter by using my mom’s pantyhose to tie it together with rubber bands. I’d record every night and take the songs to school the next day to show to my friends.
What did the music sound like?
Crappy (laughs). I was making rap songs but it was fun. My friends thought I was sick. Some days I would stay up a couple of days straight, because I’d go to school, then work, then record all night because I had so much adrenaline to show my friends in school. This was all back when I used to live in El Paso, Texas. Fast forward to 2011, I came to a contradicting realization that music is a delusion…or rather an illusion. It’s not real. Artists know this but they won’t tell you. Now you can’t be lost in this world because you may end up killing yourself thinking that the false image you created is really yourself. I still made music, but I never really wanted to come out as an artist, I just made them because people kept telling me I was dope. Further down the line, while attending Texas Tech students there always said I was nice, but I always told them, I didn’t mind singing the songs and they could be the face and run with it if they wanted. I didn’t want that lifestyle. Eventually, I met Mayowa, my manager now, in 2013 and he asked to play him some songs and he was impressed, and it motivated me. I didn’t know at the time, but he would send it to NotjustOk, where he used to work at but they wouldn’t accept it because I wasn’t even being serious.
Fast forward to December 2013, I created this song called “Twisted.” It was actually on the Miley Cyrus and Juicy J instrumental, I didn’t even know. Somebody just sold it to me and I rapped on it. That song got on NotJustOk and got 25 comments. For a new artist on that platform, that’s a lot of comments. A week later, I get a call about getting booked for a show in Dallas. I got there and guess who’s standing there? Mayowa. That’s how this whole journey started.
Let’s take things even further back, what was your life like before El Paso, from your childhood in Nigeria?
I was born in Lagos and I grew up very crazy, man. You know in Nigeria when they want to punish a neighborhood criminal, by throwing tire on their neck or burning them alive? They did all of that right in front of my house. That was always the spot. Wherever they catch them, it could be a mile or two away, they always brought them right to our doorstep. I lived on Ankoro street that led to Kekeru Market, which was popular, so some people used to steal. There was a gated alley next to my house on that street where I would see people get killed every day since I was 3 or 4 years old. My parents didn’t want me to keep seeing this, so they sent me to a boarding house in Ife when I was 9. That place was hell too. My first week there they gave me a machete and told me to go cut grass. I came from Lagos, we don’t have grass like that on our streets. Not to be stubborn, I just didn’t know how. I was then told to cut trees, which was fine with me but one day this kid told me I couldn’t cut a specific tree. It was his father’s tree. As Lagos boys, we like to do shakara and get in each other’s faces. I said, “guy, please move your hand.” I was already agitated, I came here to learn, and they have me cutting trees. The guy didn’t move his hand and well…
[The rest of this story has been redacted]
I’m not proud of it. I served detention for 3 months. Every day, I would go to school and kneel down. They never told my parents, which honestly was bad. I probably needed therapy.
At such a young age you were very close to violence. It seems to have made you more aware of the human capacity of life, being around death so much. Is your music therapy for you?
Music is cool. Music is where I get to express myself. I speak your truth, the truth you’re afraid to say. But therapy for me, is probably the gym. Whatever anger I have inside of me, I put it on the weights. Pressure is normal, I come from a place where you have to get used to it. I just talk through my music.
“I TELL PEOPLE UNTIL YOU KNOW YOUR TRUTH, YOU CAN’T GET ANYWHERE.“
Are people connecting to what you’re talking about through your music?
Yes! They are connecting more than I even expected. As I said, I speak your truth, not just mine. As a person, I try to get into everyone’s shoes and see how they think. I’m a very observational person. The thing about human begins, we have a tendency to be very hypocritical. Even our own truths, we hide it from ourselves, and that’s horrible. I tell people until you know your truth, you can’t get anywhere.
Going back to your music catalog, you have songs like, “Twisted,” “Oneshot,” and “Bottles” featuring Olamide–it seems like you’re playing the game right now trying to make these types of records, but I feel like there’s still something inside you that you’ve yet to make. I feel like you have a lot to say but you haven’t started.
Thank you, I appreciate that, you’re a very intelligent guy! I said a little bit on “Immortal.” I gave y’all a little hint that there is more to me. My vision is to do shows and not jump. I want people to put their lighters up and let’s talk and connect on a deeper level. You’re here because you don’t want to be home, it’s a distraction. The drink, the smoke, it’s all a distraction because you may not want to live with who you really are. But until you conquer that thing you’re running away from, you can’t live.
You want your music and live shows to be a safe haven.
Exactly, even though my music may be turnup-y, like “One Shot” for example, the whole idea is that you only get one shot in life. The average human is very shallow minded, so you got to give it to them lightly. Let them enjoy themselves first. Before Jesus preaches he gives them bread and fish, he didn’t just hit them with the preaching. So, all this so far is my bread and fish. When their belly is full, we will speak. Right now we are feeding their tummy, we will soon feed their soul. Every morning when I wake up, I record at least 2 songs from 7am-9am before I leave. Most likely at 7 am, you’re not recording turn-up records. These are deep, conscious songs, and I listen to them while driving to work. These ones are for me, they don’t go out.
Yeah, I guess it is.
How do your parents feel about your music?
Man, I don’t know. I’m just a point in my life where I just want to be happy. You can’t be happy for me if I’m not happy, you’re only happy for you. We live in a time where parents are very strict on their kids and have an image of we should be and try to force us to follow in their footsteps. My dad called me on my birthday and asked me if I’m still doing music. I’m like you want me to do what you want to make you happy but the thing is, the day you die and they bury you, do you want me to dig my own grave next to you? Because the day you die is the last day I’ll be happy. If I’m living for you and you’re dead, what am I living for after that? So, do what’s best for you. Don’t be selfish but at the same time care for yourself. So, how do my parents feel? I don’t care really. If you can’t accept me for who I am, then I’m not your child. But we’re not fighting, we have a beautiful relationship. They even tell their friends about my music sometimes because it’s getting bigger.
“I have big dreams, and everything could change in one second.“
Speaking on you getting bigger–you just crossed 1 Million plays on Spotify. How does that feel?
It made me feel like all of this is worth starting. Not to sound ungrateful but the journey has just begun. If 1 million people could hear your music, that means you touch a million hearts. That last show I did in Houston, it was finals week, $20 to get in. It was the first show I ever headlined. People came from Chicago, New York, Missouri, etc. If you have that power within you, why settle for something else? I have big dreams, and everything could change in one second. The day I’m laying down on my dying bed, I want to look up to God and say, “thank you.”
What about the music business?
I don’t like it. It’s a necessary evil. It might seem like I’m doing all of this for me, but I’m doing all this for my unborn child. The generations after me. The first thing I created when I started taking music seriously was my Itunes. I had this formula in my head. If a song called .99 cents on iTunes and a million people download my song on iTunes, then I’m a millionaire. That was my idea. But it’s not that way. You may not even get half of that. But the point is that money will keep coming in, even after I die. My people can still eat long after me.
Are you signed to a label?
I am the label. Beam Entertainment. It’s Mayowa, Muyi, and I that own the label. I don’t speak on it much because people will think I’m an executive or CEO and ask for help when I still need help myself.
What has been your favorite collaboration so far?
The one with Olamide (“Bottles”). This is the truth I’ve never spoken about before. When I first started doing music, I used to make Yoruba rap just like Olamide. The people around me kept telling me lowkey, Olamide has competition. So, I came into the music scene trying to come for his neck.
Not in an angry way, but like in a respect way?
Nah. Back then I was like a rabid dog, I wanted his neck for real. But when I met him, he was calm, and he was cool. Imagine the person you want to fight is showering you with love, I had to fall back. I had to re-evaluate my tactics. This is somebody that could help take me to the next level. Why do I want his neck? You could either kill the king or make the king your friend. Me, I’ve always known, “attack attack attack” and I read a lot of books that inspired me to do so. We linked up in DC after “Who you epp” came out. Phyno sent me to give him something and we clicked, and I ended up going on tour with him. As much as I wanted his spot, I also wanted the collaboration. In 2016, I went to Nigeria and we did the song. I regretted ever wanting his neck, he’s a great guy.
What’s your creative process? Do you hear the beat first or do you have a message already?
It depends on what state of mind I’m in at that moment. Sometimes I wake up at night with a song in my head, and I do everything I can to get that sound created. To be honest, these days I never hear a beat before I make the song. For the past two years, I’m in there with the producer and we make it from scratch, from my idea. They make the beat to the nonsense in my head. Funny story, for “One Shot,” it’s actually 5 people’s voices on the beat singing the hook.
Oh wow, I thought that was just your voice, layered.
Nope, that’s 5 people. There’s power in numbers. Fela Kuti, Jimi Hendrix, Bob Marley, Michael Jackson, 30BG, YBNL, they all have people behind them.
What are your studio sessions like?
A good example is the story behind, “Logo.” At the time my manager, Mayowa, and I were going through hard times. We had a house in Texas, but we didn’t even have jobs. We were 2 months behind on rent, but all we cared about was music. He was worried, but I used to tell him just to relax. One day we managed to get some money, instead of paying rent, we went to the studio. I told everyone to come, lets party. Everybody was lit, and it was a vibe. I told Giggs, my producer, to make me a beat. Everybody was partying until 1 am, until it was just me, Giggs, Mayowa, and our friend Teelo. I told Giggs, lets record. He said no, this beat is hard, you need to go home and write. I said no, press record. I entered the booth and it all just came out. “We go kick in every day that dey close, I swear, money go come oh, ni oruko Jesu…monkey dey walk, baboon dey chop, when monkey stop to dey walk oh, how baboon go chop.”
You were using the energy from your struggle and the energy of your environment to create the record.
Exactly. Don’t stress, just keep going. I said, “when monkey stop to dey walk oh, how baboon go chop,” you know what that means? It means every day we complain about our lives, not realizing that inside of us we have the power to change it all. If you don’t like your job, quit and find another one. You cannot come and kill yourself. The power you use to complain, divert it to changing your situation.
Earlier you said you read a lot of books, what do you read?
I read a lot of Robert Greene because I’m a big fan of 50 Cent. One of the first books I read in high school was From Pieces to Weight. Then I read Wretched, Beautiful, Poor, Blind, and Naked by Pusha T’s brother…
Yeah, him, and it was from him that I learned about music being delusional. I also like the 50th Law of Power and Think and Grow Rich.
Our mutual friend, Paakow, would love this.
Yeah! He always texts me. I only met him like two months ago and he’s always sending me books (laughs).
You’ve been in America for 15 years and you mentioned the Clipse. Which other American artists were you really feeling living here?
Chamillionaire, Juelz Santana, the old Beanie Sigel, Jadakiss, Cassidy back in the days.
You’re more into hardcore rap.
Yea. East Coast Rap. Not a big fan of West Coast music.
Wow, not even Kendrick?
Not really, not even Snoop Dogg. It just doesn’t hit me, it’s too chill. West coast rap is usually about partying and smoking weed. I can’t personally connect.
“God gave me that revelation to feed the people at my door back home. There’s a lot of Africans in America.“
Is your music growing back home in Nigeria like it is here in America?
No. I’m going to tell the truth. Prior to now, my target was always Nigeria. Even though people here were supporting me, I wanted to get that audience there. When I went to Nigeria in 2017 I realized how hard it is. For example, if there was new, popular slang in Nigeria, we won’t hear it in America for 2 months. It takes time. Now imagine it takes that long to get to me in America if I want to use that slang, it’ll take 2 months to get back to them, I’m already 4 months late. On the other hand, here I can drop a song and simply text all the DJs that I know here to play it at the clubs here. That was an eye-opener. God gave me that revelation to feed the people at my door back home. There’s a lot of Africans in America.
How did people there treat you?
Even though I was born and raised there, they could tell I’m a little separated and they called me out for it. It made me realize, I’m not them and they’re not me, even though we come from the same place. The way we look, dress, even smell. They could tell when we’ve lived in America for some time and almost try to make you feel bad for it. I even speak fluent Yoruba but I don’t speak it in public much.
People here in America thought I was forcing it. My own Yoruba is kind of better. I grew up with my Grandma and schooled in Ife, the capital off Yoruba people. I also understand Igbo. Most of my exes are Igbo. Not on purpose but that’s just how it has turned out so far.
Is it hard to date while pursuing music?
It’s hard as fuck. You won’t even see any women around me these days while I’m working. There’s a time and place for everything but right now, I’m focused on my music.
“We ask local promoters to pay us a couple of hundred to do a show and they don’t want to pay. We have to support the people we can touch”.
How do you feel about the afrobeats surge in America right now?
It’s a revolution. It’s about to start. I’m not really supposed to mention this but there’s this guy, he’s an A&R for Atlantic Records who heard “One Shot” last year and told me it had a lot of potential and asked if we could work together. With that being said, we have to take ourselves there. Davido and Wiz live in Nigeria. Just to fly them here with a first-class ticket takes a couple of thousand dollars. However, we ask local promoters to pay us a couple of hundred to do a show and they don’t want to pay. We have to support the people we can touch.
Why was “Immortal” so short? I really like that song.
We live in a time where people’s attention span is almost nonexistent. You tell someone to watch a 15-second video and they can’t’ even keep their eyes on it. I had to bring it back, I stopped going in from 48 seconds into the song. It’s a deep song and I didn’t even send to the DJs because they won’t play it. It’s not for the club. I wanted to continue but people may lose attention and it would lose the intensity. The true story behind the song is really a small clap back to my label. They keep asking for a song because I haven’t dropped a song this year prior to this release, but they don’t understand my process. It’s God that directs my ship. That’s why I said, “Me, I’m timeless, so I’ll live forever. So immortal, so they’ll sing my songs forever”. Meaning if I don’t sing for 10 years and I decide to sing on that 10th year, the people will still sing. That’s why I named it “Immortal.” I will die but my songs will live forever. Perfect example, Nipsey Hussle increased 400% in sales.
Do you fear death?
No, at all. Why would I be scared of something that will come anyway? I don’t look for it though. I don’t even like rollercoasters…I want to go skydiving though.
Skydiving is one of the best things I’ve done
The beast that is inside of you, that was the day it was unleashed. Sadly, you don’t live until you are near death. I’ve had a few experiences. I got hit by Okada in Nigeria when I was 7, I ended up in the gutter. Look at my leg.
*He pulls up his pant leg to show his scar*
I was bleeding out, I could barely stand. But again, I won’t go hiking or go on a roller coaster or anything like that. I’m not reckless.
But you have a reckless side?
I’m…realistic. In my house in Nigeria, they came to rob us one day. We had a huge water tank in our place. The thieves climbed the gates and scaled the 3 levels of our house all the way to our roof. They emptied out the water in the tank at 3 am in the morning, pushed it and came in and robbed everybody. They caught the key holder and opened the gates, and more people came in with cars and surrounded us. We were kids. So, I’m not reckless, I just have a will. Life is just a movie.
So, if life is a movie and music is a false image, what’s real to you?
Maybe Heaven. Death is real. I’m not saying life isn’t real but my own life sounds like a movie. My school in Ife was burned down twice. We knew the sounds of every gun, as kids. We thank God, we’re still living.
What’s your end goal when it comes to your music?
I want to be able to penetrate minds. I believe a lot of people think certain things are impossible. I just want people to know that they can do what they want. The things that are meant for you will come to you. As long as I fulfill my mission, I’m good.