Written by Isabella Crowther
“If we were all cards I’d be an ace,
So bring out the track,
If you’re ready for the race…
but you’re not though.” Ogun, ‘Flair’.
Andrew Ogun the artist, activist, fashion creative director, writer and Agent for Change at Arts of Council Wales. You’d be forgiven for asking if there is anything this creative doesn’t do. Ogun has studied in Birmingham, Berlin and London, so why did he choose to come back to Wales? He had this to say about the benefit of being a young artist in Wales, “I think one of the really beneficial things of being a musician, especially one that is working within the MOBO genres, is that you don't have to deal with over-saturation and an overly competitive atmosphere like other places. There aren't thousands of people all trying to break the same scene so that really works in our favour. I also feel like we support each other here in Wales and show each other a lot of love, which is exactly how it should be. You'll see your contemporaries at your shows, sharing your stuff on social media and just genuinely showing support and sharing opportunities. That is what makes a scene vibrant, healthy and allows it to thrive.”
Crafting his music career from 2016, in the trio AFTERPARTY with fellow rapper Tonyy and producer/multi-instrumentalist Goom, the outfit was likened to Outkast and Digable Planets. Their first and only release titled ’Would You Call This Art?’ is raw, unpolished but unique from any other sonic world at the time. After their disbandment, Ogun was exploring different sounds and releasing a single, leading to the EP ‘Flight Mode’. “I was back-and-forth between Berlin and the UK and Paris a little bit as well, so I was really living in transit in a sense. I wanted to capture this sonically and that was the foundation and essence of that project. It was a huge project in regard to time and effort; it took me just shy of 2 years to complete it from conception to release, and obviously COVID-19 struck which set things back a bit.”
Working in the role of Agent for Change at Arts Council of Wales has given him a behind the scenes perspective that few get to observe. He said, “I think it gives me far more scope and understanding of the larger context within which we operate as artists. I also think it has made me more motivated to really support and strengthen the MOBO scene here in Wales because there is so much talent here it's crazy. I've moved away from only thinking about myself and my career to caring far more about the overall ecology of the music industry here in Wales and I'm unsure if that shift would have ever happened if not for my role with the Arts Council. I also think that the role raised my profile on a personal level considerably, so there's more people paying attention to what I do artistically and anticipating what's next.” As Ogun wears so many hats, I asked how he keeps himself replenished so he is better placed to support other creatives. On this, he said he makes sure to meditate and get in time with friends and family, but that it is something he is working on.
With all the experience that he has gained both as an artist and someone who directly supports artists and creatives, his advice is “…ask yourself whether you're in it for the right reasons; don't just do it to do it. Creativity almost always has to come from a place of emotion and craftsmanship before anything else and you can't feign that. I would also say that it's key to network and connect. There's no point in making music in a soloed manner, music is a shared experience so get out there and actually get involved with the scene. I learnt that the hard way initially; I was so focussed on myself and my closest collaborators that I forgot to connect with other people musically so don't be like me. Lastly, make sure you actually have the right skillset for what you want to do in the music industry. Not everyone has to be a rapper or singer or songwriter. Perhaps your strengths are better served on the more business/executive side of things, or maybe you're better served to be a promoter, manager, engineer etc.”
So what’s next for Ogun? ”At this point now, my focus has been on live shows and expanding my reach and finding my audience and my tribe. I have a couple singles and other things in the pipeline, and I'm already conceptually developing my debut album which may or may not be out next year.” Well, I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait to hear it!