Psycho YP isn’t exactly sure where he stands on the “rap music is dead in Nigeria” conversation. On the one hand, the 24-year-old rapper is proud of his healthy catalogue — YP has released EPs back-to-back since he debuted in 2018 with Ypszn. But on the other hand, he doesn’t really fuck with the industry.
“I know my music will always slap,” he tells me with an air of confidence that’s almost intimidating. “But the industry is fucked. If I dropped A-Q’s last album as YPSZN3, boys would’ve dragged me on social media for putting out something mid. But that same album might win the Headies for Best Rap album next year. Rap music is moving at the same pace as Nigeria right now. You have to accept the fact and try to kill it in your own lane.”
YPSZN3, YP’s 2022 EP and the final chapter in his YPSZN series, is a hard-hitting project chronicling his experiences navigating life between Abuja and London. Cutting across multiple hip-hop subgenres like drill, grime and trap, YP paints a vivid picture of internal battles with self-doubt (Sinner), encounters with the Nigerian Police (Silent Mode) and the conflict of juggling multiple relationships (Commitment Issues).
The project is unapologetic, emotional and loud AF, with guest appearances from Zlatan, Odumodublvck, Ycee, Reeplay, Backroad Gee and more.
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When we talk about the story behind Silent Mode, one of my favourite tracks on the EP, YP laughs as we swap stories about the different times we’ve either been arrested or harassed by the Nigerian Police for simply existing. Even though humour is a recognisable Nigerian trait used to disguise trauma, YP’s story about sleeping in jail and mastering alternative routes to avoid the police is, unfortunately, the reality of most young Nigerians.
“I don’t really talk about my life experiences on social media or in person,” he explains. “I pour everything into my recording sessions. Rap is all I know.”
YP grew up listening to a combination of Young Money and P-Square, although he identified more closely with the former. Despite citing the works of Chocolate City rappers, M.I, Jesse Jagz and Ice Prince as early Nigerian rap influences, it was until Blaqbonez’ dropped Mr Boombastic in 2019 that something changed for YP. “That album made me realise rap could actually cause a wave on the Nigerian music scene,” he tells me, taking a deep pause before adding, “But Blaqbonez doesn’t even rap anymore. Everyone is singing now. I still haven’t listened to his new album, Young Preacher.”
This pressure to sing like everyone else is something YP is all too familiar with. Afropop seems to be the major genre selling out shows and climbing the charts in Nigeria. “There’s a sense of self-doubt that comes with being a Nigerian rapper,” he says. “Everyone keeps asking when I’m jumping on the amapiano sound. Then I go home and still get questions about why I’m not singing like Buju (BNXN). I have to keep grinding until they see that my grind is paying off.”
With five well-received EPs, a 2020 Headies nomination for Best Rap Album, a North American tour opening for Rema and his title as the Best Rapper of 2021 from Native Magazine, I put it forward to YP that his grind is actually paying off. He agrees to an extent, but he’s also conscious of the pressure that comes with people projecting this rap saviour identity on his image and music. After all, look what happened to former rap saviour, Kanye West.
“I can’t make an album that’s mid or full of skips,” he admits. “People aren’t rapping like they used to. So, one slip up and everyone starts saying, ‘Rap is dead’ again. I have to keep pushing myself.”
What’s next for a rapper who’s more consistent than the naira? Well, more music.
Although he’s a bit tight-lipped about what he’s currently working on, YP assures me his debut album will soon make its way to the public. But for now, he’s picking up the flowers being thrown at him for YPSZN3. “Everyone is happy I didn’t fuck up,” he says. “I can’t have anything less than greatness right now.”
Consistently shooting for greatness sounds like a lot of pressure. But something tells me YP will be just fine.
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