Why are you there if you are not going to turn up and make me feel your energy?" Falz asks.
Falz performing at Davido’s Lagos stop of his 30 Billion Tour was held at the Eko Convention Center, Eko Hotels & Suites, Lagos. (MOC Visuals)
Falz is in the lounge at Black House Media in Ikeja, Lagos, drinking Hennessy and giving high-fives to journalists. In a few days, one of 2017’s hottest rappers will be on stage, celebrating his artistry at his first ever headline concert. But at the moment, he’s dressed like a Lagos, in a designer shirt, and spotting those gold rims that never, ever have glasses in them. It’s a Friday in early-December, the type of day in Lagos where traffic kills you twice. But not Falz. He’s got Hennessy and Coke and is dreaming about his concert. “Do you want a drink?” he offers.
Falz has always been a dreamer, and who could blame him? It’s been 8 years since the son of prominent lawyers, Femi and Funmi Falana dropped his first mixtape – “Shakara: The Mixtape” – while still in high school. He has since abandoned his legal education, which now looks to have been a great idea, even if it angered his parents a bit. Three albums and a joint EP have swelled his discography since then, and the latest LP, titled “27” has become a success.
“At the end of the day, I don’t believe that anyone should see themselves as ‘I’m not there yet,’” he says. “I think whatever step you take, you achieve as much result as the amount of confidence you have. Confidence is everything. You have to believe in yourself as much as everyone does.”
Falz and Simi performing at The Falz Experience, which held on December 20, 2017, at the Eko Hotels & Suites, Lagos. (Olodo Nation)
It is this confidence that made him create his concert – “The Falz Experience,” where he treated fans to three hours of cinematic spectacle, moving between his personas as a musician, actor, and comedian. At the concert, had a long list of backers, and each one came dressed for the occasion. For ‘Chardonnay music’, he wore a white tux, invited Chyn and Poe to share a glass of Chardonnay with him, while rapping about life and all its fine things. Yemi Alade brought her relationship problems to him with ‘Marry me’ and ‘Single and searching’. His cat-and-mouse game with Simi was also a prominent feature, while Phyno was instrumental in escaping the pitfalls of ‘Karashika’. There was space for Ycee to tag-team on ‘Something light’, and the ovation rang out for Reminisce on ‘Atewo’.
Falz and Shody of them make an efficient unit on stage, feeding on each other’s energy to create an engaging set for the fans. (Instagram/iamshody)
He did all of this with backup from his personal hypeman, Shody. The two of them make an efficient unit on stage, feeding on each other’s energy to create an engaging set for the fans. Whether in Eko Hotel, or the biggest stadiums, they are always together. Falz and Shody have known each other for years. But it wasn’t until late 2016 that they began to work together. The synergy between both entities is a beauty to behold. While Falz supplies the stardom and the music, Shody is the engine that powers Falz up with crisp ad-libs, timely backup and limitless energy. “When you are having fun, and it’s very evident, that emotion is contagious,” he explains. “Shody is an extremely energetic individual, because of the fact that we are having fun, the energy just translates to the fans, and everyone starts having fun too.”
Falz and Shody have known each other for years. But it wasn’t until late 2016 that they began to work together. (Instagram/iamshody)
Falz rarely ever performs with a live band. Across multiple stages and concerts, the singer is known for using a backing track. This goes against popular calls on social media that Nigerian musicians should switch their sets up to accommodate a live band. “Left alone, I will like to use a band every time. But I have noticed that the Nigerian consumer pretty much does not like the band. Or they aren’t used to it,” he says. “They just want to hear the original. It’s a bit surprising because you expect that people want to hear something different from what they have been listening to. “Sometimes you are torn between deciding whether to give them something different or giving them what they are used to.”
Much of the conversation in December 2017 has been about the quality of performances at concerts. With many headline shows in Lagos, the conversation online has been about the connection between musicians, their fans, and what to expect when they buy tickets to see their favourite artists live.
Just like everything else that involves a transaction, as soon as our money goes towards a product, we feel like we own a part of it. In the case of concerts, after the money has been deposited, the dates have been fixed, the calendars have been cleared, and everyone is set for a good time, the connection between Falz and his fans become commercial. Once you pay for the product, the artist is under obligation to deliver for you.
But another view which considers the power of music exists. The musical experience cannot be simplified to just another commercial transaction. It is emotional. Whether it is the pop razzmatazz of Wizkid or the ethereal sensory intercourse of Asa, the performance is something experiential and essentially intangible. Falz thinks so too.
“It is priceless. You can request to get value for your money, but it is not tied to making live music. Everywhere in the world, the biggest artists don’t always perform live. You want to hear the artist do something extra and actually perform. If the artist does this, then that gives you value for money. When musicians use a backing track, and you can hear them perform, then that is just as good as a live band. It is a safer method.”
Falz and Reekado Banks performing at The Falz Experience, which held on December 20, 2017, at the Eko Hotels & Suites, Lagos. (BHM)
For Falz, the fans play a very crucial role during performances. They can either make or break a show. “You should be coming to a concert with a happy spirit,” he says. “You can’t get to a concert, claim to love the artist, and you would be sitting down as he is performing. If I’m performing at you at staring at me, I would want to give you flying kick,” he laughs. “But I’m just composing myself.”
“Why are you there if you are not going to turn up and make me feel your energy? Artists vibe off the energy of the crowd so much. Never ever underestimate the energy that you are giving to your favourite artists when you turn up to the maximum.”
During his headline concert, the energy from the fans was abundant. It was enjoyed by everyone who attended. But no one enjoyed it as much as a bald old man with a silver beard, who sat a few chairs away from me, singing ‘Soft work’, and miming like he drinks wine every evening made from grapes, hand-plucked from the sunny vineyards of Pamplona, Spain. That guy was soft and elegant. Perhaps softer than Falz himself.
“This means a lot to me,” Falz says about his fans, as he smiles, then sips on his drink one more time. He means a lot to them too.