fast rising Afropop singer Ayra Starr He says he knows he is always destined for greatness. It didn’t take long: before his 21st birthday next June, he signed with Africa’s leading record label Mavin, amassed hundreds of millions of streams, went on a UK tour and got autographs from many of his idols. After her debut single “Away” made her a star in her native Nigeria, her hit single “Rush” has surpassed 100 million streams on both Spotify and YouTube, and is a team single with label mate DJ Big N and singer Oxlade. published. in your name “How many times.”
It all started simple enough: She had spent most of her life singing with her brother, and one day when she was 18, “I posted a video – it was the first original song I ever posted online,” she recalls, “and the next day my executive producer called me and invited me to the studio. Literally three days later I was signed. The company in question is Mavin Records, Nigeria-based powerful company that launched the global careers of industry icons such as Tiwa Savage, Don Jazzy, Rema and more. His career rose in the UK and later joined the remix and Starr’s He took the leap to the next level with “Bloody Samaritan,” an R&B gang that caught the attention of Kelly Rowland, her mentor.
He has released a self-titled EP and an album called “19 & Dangerous” to date, and his versatility has made him a highly sought after collaborator in the Afropop community. He recently appeared in a remix of Cameroonian singer Libianca’s “People” with Omah Lay and lent his vocals to “Stamina” by Tiwa Savage and Young Jonn. Still, “How Many Times” showcases a more vulnerable side of the singer: The music video flips gender roles with Starr served by male bartenders at a girls’ club while collaborator Oxlade and his men hang out in a lounge.
He has a busy few months ahead of him with a performance at Pharrell Williams’ Something in the Water festival in Virginia Beach on the weekend of April 28-30, followed by a series of European festival dates this summer. he caught Variation via Zoom earlier this month.
You talk about being a bit of a “sabi girl” in your songs – what does that actually mean?
The American equivalent of “Sabi girl” is baddie. “Sabi” in Nigerian pidgin [a mix of native languages and English] “to know, to be aware” means a person who is capable of everything. So sabi girl, like “I’m the best – that girl, ‘She’ girl”.
Have you always thought that about yourself?
I had such ridiculous self-confidence as a kid (laughter). I don’t know where it came from but it was hilarious. Ever since I was little, I’ve always stood out in my own way. It’s not “I’m the best person in the room”, it’s just always been me.
Has that trust ever gotten you in trouble?
How many times have I gotten in trouble for being like this (she chuckles)… I used to do my own thing at school and when they punished me, they said, “I’m not going to do that when I’m a superstar. “I always had a mouth. Even my mother would slap me and I (whimpering) said, “Oh, you don’t believe me!”
Did your family support your music in your childhood and youth? Sometimes in Nigerian culture our parents want us to go to science or medicine and they don’t understand art until we prove ourselves.
They definitely supported. I said I’ll be here since I was 5 years old. Me and my brother wrote songs together – when my mom came home tired from work, me and my brother would sing to her while my other siblings massaged her. He always knew what we were going to do, so he always supported. When I was younger she used to tell me, “You should post on Instagram so people can see your talent.” He always said school first, if I went to school, I would sing whatever I wanted.
He bought us a guitar once – it only had two strings, it was rigged. He didn’t know exactly what it was, but he knew we wanted a guitar so he did it. And we made it work! We serenaded the whole neighborhood with those two strings!
How did that musical relationship with your brother begin and how is it now?
My brother has always been a musical genius. I was a little jealous of how well she could write and sing. He would steal something for me and I would go to the bedroom and try to write something better. (laughter). As a kid, I was very competitive and tried to do just like him. He’s making his own music now and hopefully he’ll be releasing an EP very soon. I’m excited – we’re still very good. I felt the music last night.
Has healthy competition at home inspired you to work harder and be the best you can be?
My aunt and mom made us race for the smallest thing. Literally, if they had chocolate, they’d say, “Everybody – write the best song about chocolate.” If we wanted the TV remote, we would have to learn every word of a Nicki Minaj song. That’s the type of environment I grew up in (laughter).
Mavin Records is one of Africa’s biggest labels — how did you connect with them?
My mom used to encourage me to do song covers. Since I didn’t have a good phone, I would go to my friend’s house and use his iPhone to record. I would do this a lot. Then one Sunday I posted a video – it was the first original song I ever posted online – and the next day my executive producer called me and invited me to the studio. I was signed literally three days later.
What was it like working with Tiwa Savage and Kelly Rowland, the artists you admired before you met them?
These women I grew up listening to feel great. Whenever she calls me with Tiwa, I start singing her songs without even saying hello. “Ayra calm down” she will say, and I will say “No, actually I have your number and you are calling me!” I’m proud of where I am right now and grateful that they love and believe in me.
Have they shared any helpful career or personal advice?
I was once complaining to Kelly about how tired I was, and she said, “Sorry, you can’t rest – it’s not time to rest.” I remember the look on your face when I said, “Rest.” (laughter). It reminded me of Destiny’s Child days – you have to keep going, you have to work hard. I can say that he really did and did.
Who are some of your dream collaborations?
Wow. Definitely Doja Cat, Nicki Minaj and Rihanna – these are my trio. Kendrick Lamar, Burna Boy, absolutely.
In your new collaboration with DJ Big N and Oxlade, you adopt a different vocal approach, a calmer melody. What inspired the change?
I just really love that song. Whenever I make features I put my maximum effort into it. I’m usually very busy – I want you to feel like “Ayra is here.”