Joeboy chose 4 PM for his interview and he arrived 20 minutes earlier in a white Mercedes Benz in the company of his managers and a security man. Despite everything about him oozing the class and the glitz of his social status and superstar profile, Joeboy acts like an everyday man who couldn’t care less for fame.
I have interviewed several celebrities, most music stars, but none with the profile of the man sitting in front of me. Just before making himself comfortable, Joeboy asked his manager to hand him his red leather jacket which he wore over an expensive-looking white cotton shirt. His black leather trousers expertly stitched at the side sat nicely over a pair of high sole Dr. Marten boots.
While his demeanor, the way he cheerfully greeted the production team, and the ease with which he settled into the environment presented him as a simple man, his appearance was an unmistakable representation of his star status.
I had several questions I wanted to ask Joeboy most about his forthcoming album. However, I was personally fascinated with his lover boy profile that’s more or less in conflict with the current dominant toxic love theme in the Nigerian music industry. And it’s on this curious note that I kicked off the interview.
A peek into Joeboy’s discography will point listeners in the direction of the hit songs with which he has ascended to the summit of the music industry. A recurring theme in these hits is his love and romantic endeavor of mostly positive representation.
From his breakout single ‘Baby’ to his recent impressive release ‘Body & Soul’ Joeboy appears to be a man who wears his heart on his sleeve.
“My mission is to change the narrative of this toxic love everyone is singing about these days,” Joeboy tells me about why he keeps making love songs and why they will be a dominant theme on his forthcoming album.
Since the release of his single ‘Body & Soul,’ Joeboy has been flaunting a lover who appears to be the subject of his confessions. This is rather unbecoming for a star of his profile as it’s almost gospel the idea that music stars must present themselves as single, especially for the commercial benefits. However, like most things that involve pandering to commerciality, Joeboy couldn’t care less.
“I have been in a relationship for about two years,” he says smiling. When I mentioned how he thinks his female fans will take this. Joeboy enjoyed a good laugh before replying “I don’t care. Why can’t I have a girlfriend? Is having one woman not better than whoring around?” he asked me.
When I brought up the identity of this phantom lover, Joeboy decidedly tells me that her identity shall remain unknown. “Her identity will continue to remain unknown. Everyone can continue to wonder who she’s.”
A lover boy to the latter, I perhaps wondered if Joeboy will indulge me in just how much he spends on his woman. I asked him and threw in 100 million Naira in the question with the hope that the figure would push him to say something, and it did. “You’re right. I love to spoil my woman,” he says smiling. “As for the money I have spent on her, let us say above 50 million Naira.”
50 million Naira is a staggering sum but a mere pittance for Joeboy to express his love and surely a sum dwarfed by his streaming numbers. Just two days before our interview, I saw the news of Joeboy surpassing over 2 billion in streams across 5 platforms (Apple, Spotify, YouTube, Boomplay, Audiomack). This figure was by and large an unequivocal representation of his success. In an industry where numbers are held up as proof of success and even a tool for oppressing other artists, Joeboy is rather modest and perhaps disturbingly so as many of his fans and associates complain. I mentioned this and Joeboy simply shrugged
“I don’t really care about these things,” he says before expatiating. “It’s not that I don’t appreciate the numbers or I’m not grateful for them. I’m just not obsessed with it like other artists so I don’t see the need to flaunt them. For me, after one song, my mind is on the next.”
A presumptuous conclusion would be to assume that Joeboy despises success considering the levity and lack of ceremony that meets some of his record-breaking feats like the one he achieved with his 2021 smash hit ‘Sip (Alcohol)’. However, my inquest led me to understand that he doesn’t despise success, rather he doesn’t care for fame or social media clout.
If there’s ever any artist with the profile of the superstar next door in Nigeria then it’s Joeboy who barely uses social media and doesn’t care for the attention or approval that comes with it, but nevertheless still one of the biggest music stars out of the continent.
I asked him if he sometimes thinks he should do more in that area and he tells me that left to him, he doesn’t care much for it but he understands that he owes his fans more. “I don’t care for these things. I see everything people tweet and say online including yours,” he says with an accusatory stare. “I don’t care about chasing clout. I let my music do the talking but I understand that fans will demand more from me and I will have to do what I can to put myself out there more.”
The only time Joeboy has been in the news recently for something other than his music is when he was dragged into a copyright battle involving producer Tempoe and another Nigerian music star. Perhaps for the first and only time, Joeboy broke character and asked the superstar to do their worst.
I asked Joeboy if his calm demeanor and Lover Boy brand is sometimes taken for granted and he tells me the only way to know what he’s truly capable of would be to cross him. “I’m like a Bear. You know Bears look adorable and cuddly from afar until you get too close and see how vicious they can be.”
The only other time Joeboy has been in the center of a controversy or at least adjacent to it is the issue with Latino megastar Bad Bunny who was accused of sampling his vocals without permission. An action that greatly upset EmPawa boss Mr. Eazi who brought the issue to social media.
I asked Joeboy how the issue played out and he told me It was simply a case of taking something without permission and using it for personal gain.
“After finding out about the use of my vocals on the song, the label’s legal team reached out to Bad Bunny’s reps and they asked for proof. We sent it and they just went silent ever since. I guess that’s why the matter ended up on social media.”
Joeboy wasn’t concerned with getting drawn into the issue of Bad Bunny’s intellectual theft as he’s letting the label handle it. What he is however concerned with at the moment is his sophomore album that’s set for release in the 1st quarter of 2023.
The album is coming off the back of a sleepy 2022 where Joeboy failed to hit the heights he has set for himself. I asked Joeboy if his unconvincing 2022 run affected the creative process of his upcoming album and he quickly waved off the idea.
“2022 was an experimental period for me where I just tried out different things,” he says “While the songs I released didn’t reach the level I am known for, it didn’t bother me because I don’t make songs with the intentions of making a hit song.”
For his sophomore album, I asked Joeboy if listeners should expect an extensive offering of his love tales wrapped in their mid-tempo style and delivered with convincing emotions. He tells me nothing less will do. “You can expect a lot of honesty, vulnerability on the album, and the idea of love.”
Joeboy has a handful of collaborations with most coming after the release of his debut album on which he failed to register any guest appearance across 14 tracks. I asked Joeboy if there are featured artists on his upcoming project and he lists a handful of stars listeners should expect. “I’m very intentional about those I work with so every artist you see on my album was selected because they add something special to the music.”
I asked Joeboy what he hopes to achieve with this project and he tells me beyond making beautiful songs, he wants to spread love. “I don’t like this whole idea that love must be perfect or this glamorization of toxic love. Love comes with challenges and it’s far from perfect, and this is something I want to communicate with this album.”
Before we wrapped up the interview, I wanted to touch on Joeboy’s place in the industry. Many fans classify him at the top of the game alongside other artists considered the next crop of megastars. There are however other fans who think he might not be doing enough. I asked him if he thinks he’s rated at the level he thinks he belongs and he tells me that he doesn’t really trouble himself with the opinion of fans regarding his standing in the industry.
“You know, I don’t bother about such things. People will always classify me based on what they perceive or based on their metrics for success. At the end of the day, I know who I am, what I have achieved, and where I belong.”
I prodded a little more to know if his lack of a hit international collaboration is one of the reasons why he might not be highly placed in the ranking of some consumers and if it’s time to get an international hit.
“It’s inevitable. It’s one of those things that will happen sooner or later,” he says calmly. “We all just have to wait to see how it will unfold. At the end of the day, I’m my only competition,” he says with unflinching confidence.