It’s difficult, almost impossible even, to look back at the tumultuous year that was 2020 and not acknowledge how strange it was for Nigerians and the global community at large. Riddled with fear of the unknown, and a daily surge of coronavirus cases, the world shut down. Navigating those confusing days was scary. However, for Olorunyomi Timilehin, 2020 was also the year the world got a massive introduction to his musical avatar, Bad Boy Timz. His breakout single, MJ, dropped just five days after the Nigerian government announced a nationwide lockdown, on April 4, 2020.
“I was sad and happy at the same time,” the singer tells me at the tail end of 2022, over two years since the lockdown was lifted. “I saw my song climb the charts, but I was broke. I couldn’t perform or make money. It was a club song, but it peaked online. I wish it had dropped when we were all outside.”
Outside or not, MJ, Timz’s catchy tribute to the late king of pop, Michael Jackson, quickly became one of the biggest Nigerian songs of 2020, its infectious energy providing reprieve in uncertain times. The single was followed by two remixes, one with Mayorkun and the other with Teni.
In an industry where lightning rarely strikes twice, much less thrice in a global pandemic, Timz’s tagline “Iyanu yen shock won ba kan”, which loosely translates to “The miracles will shock them”, became a reality. A star-making appearance on Olamide’s Carpe Diem standout, Loading, was soon followed by another feel-good anthem, Have Fun, and finally, the Headies’ Rookie of the Year award to close out 2020. But just when it seemed like the then-21-year-old had established himself as an act to look out for post-lockdown, he disappeared for a while.
Bad Boy Timz’s introduction to music was unknowingly orchestrated by his father. Accompanying the accountant who moonlighted as a Tungba band member gave the future singer front-row seats to making and performing music. After years of covers and recording music unprofessionally in secondary school, Timz’s first brush with the spotlight happened when his freestyle to Davido’s If went viral in 2017. The freestyle caught the attention of rap icon, Olamide, who reposted the video and invited him to perform backup on Radio Lagos, off his Lagos Nawa! album that year.
In 2020, Olamide placed the singer front and centre in both the audio and visuals for Loading. “We recorded the song in 30 minutes,” Timz says. “I remember being in Ikorodu when he [Olamide] called me. Omo, I rushed to the island sharp-sharp, and he introduced me to P.Priime, the producer. I already had the melody in my head, so it was easy. Shoutout to Baddo. That’s my egbon right there.”
Loading changed Timz’s life. He admits to booking countless shows after the single was released. But things took a dramatic turn when a brewing rift between the artiste and the label he had previously signed to in 2019 forced him to take a break from releasing music after the Headies. “Winning the Headies came with mixed emotions as I’d already started having issues with my label at the time,” he confesses. “I expected MJ to win, but I also felt the heat from what was going on with my team. I couldn’t perform or release new music because I needed to leave that label. I was being acknowledged as one of the greats, but I couldn’t even enjoy the moment.”
The highs, lows and complexities of Timz’ creative adventures converge on Igboro, the opening track of his long-awaited No Bad Boy, No Party debut album which came out in June, 2023. Giving insight into his journey from the ghetto, Bad Boy Timz reminisces about the past while acknowledging the poignant Nigerian dream of blowing regardless of where you come from.
The party part of the album goes into full gear after the first track and continues until the album closes with the BNXN-assisted Make Sense. With production from heavyweights like P.Priime and BeatsByTimmy, and appearances from Olamide, Zlatan and Shenseea, Timz successfully packaged a fun night out into a 30-minute LP. But as club-friendly and fun as this album sounds, there’s more to Bad Boy Timz than what the audience is getting right now, especially after 2022’s Big Money with its underlying social message. The best part? He agrees.
“I feel like the Nigerian audience is ready for artistes to be versatile,” he admits to me while discussing his decision to put out more experimental music. “I want them to say, ‘Ah, Bad Boy Timz, we love this lamba music, but we also love your R&B work.’ There will be reggae Bad Boy Timz, drill Bad Boy Timz and even trap Bad Boy Timz soon. I need my fans to get to the point where they love my music so much, they won’t even care what genre I’m doing.”
Timz’s new direction is inspired by another artiste. “I’m not saying Burna Boy is my role model,” he tells me. “But this guy has the kind of versatility that allows him to talk about social problems or heartbreak while making you dance.” He explains that while he wasn’t always bothered with messaging before, now, more than ever, there’s a need for music that connects with people’s souls instead of just helping them escape bad times.
As a singer whose music has become known for its resilient, positive energy, I’m curious to know if Timz is familiar with these bad times he talks about. Taking a minute to catch his breath, he reveals that, just like everyone else, he struggles with navigating life in Nigeria while dealing with the pressure of being in the spotlight.
“People think we’re not human beings with real emotions,” he says. “We are prone to make mistakes. I try to remember that if I don’t make myself happy, no one else will. I used to allow the craziness around me fuck me up mentally. But now, I understand that problem no dey finish. If I wait for my life to be perfect before I enjoy myself, I’ll wait till eternity.”
Timz’s pursuit of happiness bled into his music first, and now, he has his sights set on new dreams — becoming a toymaker then a restaurateur. Yes, you read that right. The first is an attempt to reconnect with his childhood while growing a sustainable business that could see Nigerian toys become valuable collectables in the future. And the food part? Well, Timz is aware that no matter what, Nigerians will always need food. “Do you know how much Olaiya makes in a day?” he asks me, referencing one of Lagos’s most popular amala joints.
Singer, future toymaker and restaurateur, Bad Boy Timz has his hands full with present tasks and future aspirations. But in the face of everything, I want to know the ethos that drives the singer?
“I’m trying to make a statement,” he explains. “I want people to know I’m capable of much more than what they’ve come to expect from me. I won’t box my creativity to fit in.”
Listen to No Bad Boy, No Party here: