Afrikan Boy moves from Lidl to a chicken shop

Afrikan Boy plays at Hoxton Hall's Gidijand. Picture: Hassan Hajjaj.

Afrikan Boy plays at Hoxton Hall's Gidijand. Picture: Hassan Hajjaj. - Credit: Archant

Olushola Ajose talks about life and music since his viral hit with a song about Lidl ahead of Gidijand performance at Hoxton Hall

As music genres go, “songs about supermarkets” yields few results.

But in 2007, a song called One Day I Went to Lidl garnered almost two million YouTube views, a difficult feat for an unknown artist in a world before social media.

“Originally I wrote it to re-work some old lyrics about the shame you were made to feel if your mum shopped at the store,” reminisces Afrikan Boy, real name Olushola Ajose. “At school you’d get cussed if people found out you shopped there, but everyone’s mum did it, so the song was about keeping it real. There was no Facebook or Twitter and YouTube had only just started, so it went viral before viral was even a thing.”

Almost a decade on, experience has impacted on the development of the artist’s sound which he decribes as “afro-grime”, a mix of the musical and cultural influences he was exposed to when growing up.

“My early influences musically were people like So Solid Crew and Sway, stuff that was popping up in the UK at the time.

“I then have my African side and that was much more of a culture thing and the music came from within that culture. I try to bring this part of me into my work whether lyrically or merging beats and traditional rhythms.”

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The melding together of these two different influences is the concept underpinning GigiJand, which takes place at Hoxton Hall on September 24.

GidiJand is a collaboration between artists from London and Lagos, combining Nigerian inspired music from the east end with Nigerian artists such as Wura Samba and TemiDollFace. Ajose is joined by London locals Bumi Thomas and Munti Valdo.

“As a concept GigiJand definitely excited me as an artist and a supporter. The audience can expect to hear quality live music by people who really own their craft,” he says

“Other than that, no one knows what is going to happen. Not even the performers because the music will be spontaneous and will not have been performed anywhere else but at the gig. The music is moving and flowing; it isn’t contrived.

“It’s about collaboration between performers. I’ll bring my work as an MC and rapper then merge it with what musicians are doing with their intruments. These sorts of things make me enjoy the show more and the feelings are amplified by the fact I create something new.”

For Ajose, the reason his Lidl song was so popular was that, like much of his work, it deals with issues that most people can relate to on some level, something that he always tries to consider when writing music.

“I talk to people on a regular basis who tell me where they were and what they were doing when they first heard that track. It’s great to know the song, which some people thought of as being a bit of a joke did actually became engrained in people’s memories as part of a particular era.”

His latest single 2PCC is about the days of being able to buy chicken and chips for £2. The music video was shot at a chicken shop and features groups of local children, with Afrikan Boy giving away 100 free chicken pieces.

“People get to know your work and your brand, so when you deviate form the core of what you do, you’re in very dangerous territory. People have come to know me for telling stories and writing lyrics with messages.

“That’s not to say I don’t sometimes go from writing tight stuff to having moments of lazy writing. All artists have these moments – we are only human so having a good team around you is very important.”

Gidijand takes place at Hoxton Hall on September 24.