Limoblaze: How ‘God’s Favorite Baby’ is Riding Afro Gospel Train & Building CHH in Nigeria
Gospel hip-hop songs are fast becoming the in-thing in Nigeria and the world at large. Limoblaze is one of the key drivers making that happen.
The past few months have been dark for the world. The entire Earth has not been herself after she got hit by the Coronavirus pandemic. The streets at some point became empty and the world had to stay at home. Many say that this loneliness and idleness have given the world time to reflect on how much hurt it is passing through with racist attacks, rape, and high-level robbery cases stealing the headlines. However, none of these chaoses seem to be getting to Limoblaze, popular Afrogospel, and urban Christian rap artist as he describes these past few months as one of the best times in his life so far.
“The crazy thing is this season has been the best part of my life. God’s love literally blows my mind because I’m mind-blown, bro!” he said to me that night after a very stressful day. He had spent the entire day granting interviews and attending press conferences. Nights are the only hours he gets to be by himself and make more magic through music. I stole a little of this ‘me-time’.
This is Limoblaze for you – the hardworking type, always willing to do a little extra. The growth of his career since 2016 with three albums is very much evident in the reception his music has been getting lately. It’s a huge credit to how hard he has been working as an independent artist to push out his music into the Nigerian gospel space. His “little extras” are actually paying off and very well too. It’s been about a month ago since he released Blow My Mind, a sequel to his Afrobeats, Rap, and Jesus album from last year. So far, the song has been doing very well. He tells me that he wrote this song to tell the whole world about how much love God has shown him in this trying time.
“So a lot of people have not had a good report about this season. Team #cancel2020 (laughs), but the best things have happened to me in the past three, four months. I’m God’s favorite baby.”
Amongst these ‘best things’ is ARJ hitting four million streams across mainstream platforms. For an independent gospel artist in Nigeria, this is a very huge feat. Something many non-mainstream acts can only dream of.
“Itty, people love it! Having to see people love your work as a creator gives a refreshing feeling of satisfaction.”
This interview with the rap star only adds to the list ‘refreshing feelings’.
Imagine you were a new teacher in a new school and you had to introduce the subject ‘Limoblaze’ to your students. How would you go about that?
Limoblaze is an urban Christian artist. He loves God, loves music, loves interacting with people, and is big on community development. I love impacting my generation, and music is the prevailing tool I’m using to make that happen.
Has it always been music for you? I mean, growing up as a kid.
Right from being a kid, music has always been a major part of my life. But yeah, at some point, I thought I was going to be a doctor. I am actually a trained biochemist; I thought I was going to be a doctor, but I changed my mind eventually because of music. I knew if I ended up as a doctor, music was not going to work out; at least not as effectively as it is working out now. I needed something that wouldn’t take my life for the rest of my life – if you know what I mean (laughs). I act too I’ve been in a few movies. I’m actually big on acting but I took a pause for certain personal reasons which I will return to in the future.
At what point in your life did you stop wanting to be a doctor or a biochemist?
I didn’t stop wanting to be a biochemist. I’m already one, I’m just not practicing and I don’t think I intend to anytime soon. But the dream of being a doctor eased down in my senior secondary years when I started getting a bigger mental picture of what being a medical doctor entailed and I realized it was going to take a lot of my time in life. It wasn’t the life I envisioned for myself either. So, I said to myself like, ‘you know what? I’m not gonna do this anymore’.
I decided I was going to study Pharmacy but one thing led to another and Pharmacy didn’t work out on my first trial. So the second trial, I thought, ‘what’s the closest thing to Pharmacy?’ That’s Biochemistry. So the plan was to do Biochemistry and get a Master’s degree in Pharmaceutical Biochemistry. But none of that happened anymore. Right now, I’m working on my second degree as a business manager. That path has completely shifted.
Most times, artists coin their stage names from their real names or an event that happened in their lives at some point. But I don’t seem to find any ‘Limo’ in ‘Samuel Onwubiko’. How did ‘Limoblaze’ come about?
My name is actually Samuel Imo Onwubiko. So the Limo has ‘L’ from ‘Samuel’, and then Imo. Blaze is just something burning with nothing deep to it. People often expect my name to have some deep spiritual revelation and interpretation, but it doesn’t.
Why Afro hip-hop?
I wouldn’t say I chose Afro hip-hop. When I started making music, I used to be more of a rapper. As a matter of fact, I have two Hip-hop albums and four EP’s that are all Hip-hop. So it wasn’t like I chose afrobeat. But I’m in a season right now where influencing my generation is all that matters. And you need the number some times to achieve influence. So, I’m currently doing a lot of afrobeat because there’s a market tuning to this right now. The work I’ve been called to is bigger than the genre, so I’ll do what guarantees me a bigger audience to impact and speak to. However, afrobeat has always been a part of my musical foundation. It’s as natural to me as any other thing.
Are you not scared that now that you are building a community around Afro hip-hop for yourself, if you delve into some other genre, you might lose these people?
No, no. I’m a very progressive artist. Even if I was going to another genre, I am not just going to show up in another genre. I’ll be very progressive about it. I believe so much in reinventing oneself.
You’ve officially put out three albums since 2016. Which has been your favorite so far, and why?
I think ARJ is my favorite; Afrobeats, Rap, and Jesus. For starters, it was a very expressive album for me. I had a lot of mental freedom creating it. I wasn’t putting myself in any box and some of my favorite songs of all time that I’ve made are in the album. Let’s not even forget the reception. Itty, people love it! Having to see people love your work as a creator gives a refreshing feeling of satisfaction. Plus, ARJ has set the bar up amongst other albums by some of my friends. It has set a standard for what Afrogospel is supposed to be.
Which track is your favorite off the album?
“Your Love.” ARJ has had about 3 million streams across various platforms. Actually, the numbers now run over four million.
That’s mind-blowing. And “Your Love” is doing great as well. Do you think Afrogospel is getting the recognition it deserves?
Not yet, but in a matter of time, everyone will be compelled to give it the recognition it deserves. The numbers won’t lie. The feedback won’t lie. The fruits won’t lie.
There’s a misconception about hip-hop being a secular genre and so many religious outfits believe this. How do you handle that misconception?
I’ve never really tackled it as an issue, Itty. People believe what they believe based on the knowledge they are exposed to. So, my job is to provide them with the knowledge that they need to change their mindsets. Over time, when they see the fruits, they’ll have no choice. I’ve been in churches where rap music was not approved, but I rapped there and even the elders of the church had a change of heart because it’s a thing of looking out for the fruits, understanding your audience, and then serving the dish how it should best be served.
Have you ever at any point considered secular music?
No, I’ve never. When I started making music, I didn’t know there was anything like Christian rap. At that point, I was just rapping about random things. But at that time, I had never totally wrapped my head around the idea of being an artist. It was just me doing music and making melodies. From the moment I decided to be an artist, I chose gospel and I have never had a different thought. Of course, there have been approaches from people who thought they could “advise” me and things like that (laughs). But I have never had a second thought.
What’s the story behind “Blow My Mind”?
So a lot of people have not had a good report about this season. Team #cancel2020 (laughs). But the crazy thing’s, this season has been the best part of my life. God’s love literally blows my mind because I’m mind-blown, bro! The best things have happened to me in the past three, four months. Most of my songs are a reflection of my feelings per time and if you listen well enough, you could actually feel my heart in these tracks.
Who are your influences?
I can’t exactly say there’s this one person that influences my music because I have a very wide range of musical influences. I come from a musical family so I’ve listened to every genre. Would rather just say the people I look up to are Lecrae and Da’ T.R.U.T.H.
Tell us about Cross Rhythm Music.
Cross Rhythm Music was a team I had when I started making music. We were not functioning as a group because we were individual artists but then we were making collaborations together and planning movements. Just like what 116 was.
Are your other teammates still doing music? Are there notable names among them?
Well, the producer of “Blow My Mind,” Cray Beatz, used to be one of us. But he’s no longer an artist now. He’s a producer.
So how does it all make sense to you at the end, Limo? What makes you feel fulfilled?
The testimonies and feedback. When I get messages of people saying ‘so and so’ song helped them through a certain struggle. That’s the greatest fulfillment I get from this. And then just being able to fill a void.