Hailing from Jos, Nigeria, the pop sensation Bella Alubo is making a name for herself; from starting out on SoundCloud in 2017 to gaining exposure on a global platform. Alubo has released several singles and projects including her self-titled album: Bella Buffet, executively produced by her. We spoke with Bella Alubo about her musical journey thus far, her unexpected collaboration with the Notorious BIG and much more.
Q: For those who may not know you, give us a bit of an introduction to who Bella Alubo is.
Bella Alubo: Bella Alubo is a Nigerian musician, I’ve acted a bit, and I’ve modelled a bit. My music is like R&B meets Pop, meets Afrobeats – obviously, meets Hip-Hop.
Q: So you’ve been in the music industry professionally since 2017; how has the journey been so far?
It’s been great really, very interesting. Soundcloud was the place to start off music when I started off. Everyone was doing SoundCloud covers. I used to write poetry at first; then I started rapping. I was basically like rapping my poems and then I put them on SoundCloud. I didn’t know what to expect, but people seemed to feel them. I did a cover of Ice Prince More’, and Kanye West’s ‘Therapy’.
And the feedback was good. I’m from Jos (that’s where I was born & raised), Jos Nigeria, there were hardly any female musicians really. Mostly rappers like M.I, P-Square, and stuff like that. So I think people were excited to see a girl from Jos. So anyways like on the internet I started building a following, and the reception was great. And yeah that’s how it started.
Q: Looking through your SoundCloud, I was thinking: not only can you sing a melody but you spit too! Where did your passion for rap come from?
I think it was poetry but also listening to – there was that year when young money was doing their thing, it was madness. When Lil Wayne dropped ‘Lollipop’, Nicki Minaj came out. I don’t know. It was crazy. So I’d say Young Money definitely inspired me. But obviously, I was writing already and what I tried to do, was rap my poetry.
Q: Besides Young Money, which other rappers inspire(d) you?
Angel Haze, for sure. I used to be on Tumblr a lot, and there’s this rapper called Angel Haze. She did a cover for Kanye West – ‘Therapy’. And I remember just thinking, “how is she spitting so hard” and then I took it like a personal challenge, and that’s how I ended up doing my own Kanye West ‘Therapy’ cover.
When we come to the afro side: Tiwa Savage obviously because I feel like very few women have gone to the lengths, she has for Afrobeats, and there were hardly any feminine girls doing that kind of music so she kind of set the tone. Mo Cheddar as well; Mo Cheddar was swaggy. She was singing, but she had the rapper swag if that makes sense. So in terms of brand and carriage, I would say Mo Cheddar.
Q: You were previously signed to Tinny Entertainment, then went independent. How was the transition for you?
I would say when I first got signed in 2017, that was the best time, I was on an industry level doing things on a national platform. People knew what my name was; people were listening to my music. It put me on an industry national level in making music. I became independent in 2018. Being indie obviously has its ups and downs, but there were a lot of things that I learned, and I liked the freedom of just dropping music whenever I wanted to.
Obviously, funding is like the hurdle, but then there’s that thing about having a team and having a structure. Having A&R, having everything you need essentially. And I was used to that from 2018. So I guess I wouldn’t say something was lacking but like, I was open to finding the right team and the right company to work with, and that is how I ended up signing with Benin City Entertainment.
Q: Congrats on the Biggie collab! How did the opportunity come about?
Thank you. The record label I signed to -Benin City Entertainment – is owned by a Nigerian-American tech entrepreneur called, Elliot Osagie, and he manages Biggie’s music. They were working on a release for Biggie’s 50th birthday, and I guess it was that opening to work with an Afrobeat artist.
Then someone recommended me to them, that’s Victoria Kimani, she’s a Kenyan artist and then I did the song. Everything was just happening at once, both working with them and working on the song and working on other songs as well
Q: What did you learn from this experience?
Hmm, that’s a wonderful question. I would say having that global mindset whilst making music. I was speaking Pidgin and everything, but it was in a way that anybody can relate to whilst still reppin’ Nigeria. It made me think about holding my own in a space where there are OG’s – I mean that’s Biggie we’re talking about, that’s Ty Dollar Sign we’re talking about. So what I learnt is reppin’ and making music on a global level.
Q: How was it working with the team?
Working with the team was amazing. I was very excited about details like Diddy doing his adlibs on the song. And then everybody supported, Diddy, posting the song as well. Elliot Osagie is just being the middleman in all of that, giving feedback from everybody, and keeping the energy right. I don’t know; it was just mad exciting. It was really exciting!
Q: What are you most looking forward to about your press tour?
I always enjoy engaging with the press because that’s how your story gets told. It’s not just from people who know you, happen to meet you, or just like shows. The people who leave the actual trail on the internet and tell the story. So I’m looking forward to redefining my moment and redefining myself as an artist.
Q: You’ve had a busy month of May with the Biggie collab but also the Red Hot Organisation charity collective EP. How do you resonate with the cause?
Covid is a pandemic on its own, but there are several health problems and public health problems that the world is facing and the Red Hot Orga and organisations like that, are making an actual difference.
So as an artist, if you cannot be out there creating awareness, what can you do? Make your music, donate it to organisations, and hope to make someone feel better. I made ‘Loneliest Girl in The World’ when I was mad lonely. So someone who is ill or facing loneliness for whatever reason, I just hope they listen to it and know that it’s a feeling that anyone can have.
Q: Besides music, I think it’s safe to say you’re an entrepreneur. How did your jewellery brand Luvbybella come about, and how do you manage to balance it all?
Bella Alubo: I’ve gotten that question a lot when I did my Master’s people were asking me how am I balancing it? You know when there’s just one thing that you consider yourself? So I feel like I embody being a musician. So it’s just my normal operating, I don’t know, that’s what I am. So I feel like anything else could just come in, and it’s not really hard.
So Luvvbybella, I’m wearing my jewellery right now. My mum used to make jewellery when I was younger. When I was around 10, I would take the extra beads and twine and make friendship bracelets. So that’s how I learned. I knew all of the parts I needed and everything just from watching her. Somehow, I just stopped, but I really liked it at that time. And then you know how there’s something you like and you just forget about it.
But then last Christmas, I went home and I was home for a month, and that’s the longest I’ve been home in a while and it just felt like remembering myself. Do you get it? Remebering my hobbies. My mum had this little box that had leftover materials from when she was making stuff. Talking like 10-year-old materials. So I started Luvvbybella from what was in that box. Then a stylist saw some of my pieces and was like “wow, these are so fly” and I was just gingered and then I made more!
Q: Do you see yourself venturing into other avenues?
Bella Alubo: Definitely. I’ve acted before in a TV series called Shattered Crown. The acting was fun; So I would say I see myself acting. And entrepreneurship – my master’s is in that field, and I’m trying to be a mogul.
Something like Rihanna but in my own way – an African way. Like Rihanna and my mum combined. I want to make money and put people on. I care about woman empowerment; affirmative action and you need to have the resources to do stuff like that.
Q: What drives you to want to go harder for the things you aspire for?
Bella Alubo: I would say passion and love. That’s part of why I have a company called Luvbybella. I just feel like I do everything from my heart which can be problematic because I’m emotional or whatever. It’s just I really care. I just really, really care. Whether it’s people, whether it’s music, or whatever it is. So, I think, yeah, I care too much I guess – that’s my drive. (laughs)
Q: It makes sense that you say that because I noticed that Luvvbybella, is based on a scripture verse about love. Is your faith also one of the things that keep you grounded and focused?
Obviously, I feel like that’s just something that holds me and creates a constant reality. Because the world around me may be changing but if I decide this is my faith, this is what I believe, just as I do with my music. I believe that I’m a pop star, I believe I’m an international sensation, I believe I’m successful, stuff like that. That’s basically what faith means and that is what I believe. And love is an embodiment of that ‘cause I feel like if you’re not doing that, then everything is empty.
Q: As iMullar is all about emerging African artists within Africa and the Diaspora, I have to ask you, which upcoming artist have you had your eye on?
Bella Alubo: In Nigeria, I would say Ria Sean. She has a song called ‘Satisfy My Soul’. I really like that one!
Q: What can we expect to see from you this year and beyond?
Bella Alubo: I like to stay consistent; I like to drop as much as possible. So I’d say more music, music videos, shows, and projects on a much bigger level. By the time this interview comes out, my single Location with Niniola would have dropped with the video. So I would say everyone should stream and share!