The pandemic was a blessing in disguise for me,” 18-year-old Princewill Emmanuel echoed with confidence. His ambience is as warm as the Wednesday afternoon when we spoke. Better known by his moniker, Alpha P, the Edo State native has just released his second extended playlist, a four-track tape partly inspired by the COVID-19 pandemic, titled Wolves and Mustang.
After a cancelled tour of his first EP, King of Wolves, and a 7-month lockdown, the Afro-fusion singer has grown to become more intentional and delicate about his art.
“The project is really about me and how I felt at that time. I am very intentional with the message that I spread and the way I want people to view me and my music.”
This actually sets the tone for the entire EP, which is a compilation of freestyles recorded during the lockdown. The opening record, Quarantine, is an RnB/Trap love-letter, expressing a longing for his lover amid the lockdown. It snowballs softly into the Afro-pop duet featuring Trap maverick, PsychoYP, titled Vibe with me, and the song retains the romantic expression of the playlist. The penultimate song, Mustang, embodies the ambitious aspirations of the superstar, while the closing track Pray, is a solemn Trap record that sketches the singer’s experiences and perspectives on love, faith, work and survival.
For a sophomore release, Alpha continues to distinguish himself with his ‘new school’ vocals, trademarked by his fluid falsetto and Afro-fusion melodies. For him, the music is a personal journey of self-expression, whether they are direct or indirect experiences. He opens up in this chat with CHINONSO IHEKIRE, on starting a singing career in primary school, getting an unforeseen signing deal with Universal, and leaving a legacy in the Nigerian music industry.
Your sophomore EP, Wolves and Mustang just dropped. Can you kindly explain the project to us, in your own way?
It is a special project to me, because when I came up with the project, all the songs were like freestyles I put on my Twitter and Instagram, and I always had fans saying ‘You need to complete this and put it out as a record’. So, at the beginning of the year, I was ready to put it out.
The project was supposed to drop seven months ago, at the beginning of the pandemic. So, that really slowed it down. The project is really about me and how I felt at the time. Like in the first song, Quarantine, it was just expressing how I felt at that time. There were a lot of people that had loved ones in different countries and just couldn’t see them at that time. So, it was just like a love letter to their loved ones. The entire project was just about how I felt at that time. The title, Wolves and Mustangs, is my two favourite things; that was where my head was at when I was making that project.
What would you say inspires your sound?
A lot of things. First things first, it doesn’t come from my head; it comes from my spirit. Before I make music, I have a little conversation with the Holy Spirit, to give me direction. Sometimes, I don’t know what to do, but I just ask the Holy Spirit for direction, and I go on the Mic and it comes out dope. I can’t even trace how I made it, but it happened.
Again, I listen to a lot of people that others do not listen to; I get to tap from what I listen to. I listen to Billie Eilish, I listen to Lana Del Ray, I listen to Aurora; I am also inspired by the producer. When I hear a fire beat, I try to go hard on it. So, I draw inspiration from different places.
Can you put a description to your style?
It is kind of like Afro-fusion. However, this project doesn’t really portray that because it was a freestyle EP. My style as Alpha P is Afro-fusion. I major in Afrobeat, but at the same time I tap into different genres. On my first EP, I did a little Rock; I played RnB, and I played pop. On this EP, I did Trap; I did the UK thing. It is majorly Afrobeat, but I add other sounds just to give it flavour, and to make it different from what you regularly hear.
Your last project was very experimental. What’s the process like when you want to make music?
With the songs, sometimes I have an idea of what I want to talk about; I go on the mic and I have melodies. So, I just go with the melodies and start fixing the message in the form of lyrics. Sometimes, I just vibe and I might just get the right lyrics at that point. Songs like Paloma, I didn’t think about it; I just vibed to the beat. I did the whole hook, then the first and second verse.
Then, I was like I didn’t need to stress to add anything. So, sometimes, it is intentional.
My music, I would say, has evolved since last year; because I am very intentional with the message that I spread and the way I want people to view my music and me; it is very intentional. With the next songs that come out, it is going to be more understandable because it is going to get more intentional. I just feel that, as you grow, your sounds should evolve.
So, essentially, your music portrays your thoughts at every given time?
It is both ways; my music is also very fictional. In my first EP, everything I said was fictional. Even in Quarantine, everything was fictional, but it is still relatable to people. I am still young and I haven’t experienced a lot of things, but I have people who do. So, when I see that, I just tap into it and use it as a message for those people who do. So, sometimes, I have to go through it. I don’t have to be in love to know what people go through in love; I just study those things.
You spoke about the pandemic. How were you able to cope music-wise?
I was in Lagos when it happened. First of all, it was a blessing in disguise. Then, my first project had just dropped; that was King of Wolves. Then, I started going to a lot of shows, because I had a lot of bookings. Then, the pandemic started. I was like this was when I was supposed to come out and meet the fans and travel, but at the same time, it helped me to like sit back at home and work on my music and myself. I really learned a lot of things I didn’t think I would have learned in the next two years.
You have a peculiar background, what’s the story like?
I started music in church. I used to rap; I had a couple of friends who used to rap, we were like seven of us. Then, I didn’t have a singing voice, because my voice wasn’t good enough. Later, it matured into something else and people liked it. Then, I started going out for shows outside church. I met a lot of people who were like managers to me, because they were like big brothers – they were taking me out. I was still like in Primary four the time. I was going for shows at night and they were taking me there. The crowd was amazed, because this was a young boy who could do this. I did that for a long time before I left Benin. I came to Lagos to work on my music and sound.
At that point, I had a lot of ideas, but I didn’t know how to deliver it. The people around me then in Benin didn’t really get it. At that time, I was talking to the DNA twins; they are my friends. They were like ‘come to Lagos so we can work.’ I came in 2019. At the time, I was 16. We worked on a couple of things together. Funny part is I didn’t even come to Lagos to get signed; I was just trying to work on the music.
So, two months in and I met my manager now; he said he liked my sound. He played it for Bizzle Osikoya, then, he sent it to the Head of Universal. The next day, I was in the studio working and they called me, ‘you have a meeting with Universal’. I was excited. They talked to me about their plans. They liked the sound and they wanted to work. So, it happened. The crazy part is, that was just a week before I was going to resume school in Benin. That changed everything for me. It has been an amazing journey. There have been ups and downs, but it has been amazing so far.
How was the approval like from your family?
From listening to the story, you’d be surprised why a family would let a kid in Primary four go to night shows; that just shows how my family always had my back. My mum was scared, because I was her little boy, but my Dad was like ‘he doesn’t want to be the reason why we wouldn’t be successful’. So, he gave me that free hand to do what we needed to do, as long as it makes sense. So, at the time, my mum was very skeptical. He was like ‘If this is the path you choose, believe in it. I believe in you.’ It was just great having your family at your back.
Now, you’re schooling in Lagos. What is the plan like, balancing that with the music?
I have been doing that all through high school, but now, it is a little bit different because there is more exposure. But I can handle it. It is not going to be easy, but I can handle it.
What’s your take on the acceptance of Afro-fusion music in Nigeria?
I would say that it depends on how you make it; you can’t make a Trap song that has no Afro-elements in it and call it Afro-fusion. When I say Afro-fusion, I am talking about songs like Paloma; every Nigerian can relate to Paloma. I go for shows all over Nigeria and they literally scream the lyrics back at me. That is me taking tapping into something no one has tapped into yet and giving it this Afro sound. It is just giving this fresh sound. It is just depending on how you make it. I make it in a way that is relatable to you (as Nigerians). If the melodies aren’t relatable to you, then the lyrics are relatable to you; that’s how you balance it.
What’s your agenda for making Afro-fusion?
I am just trying to do something different; I want to create a whole new experience and sound. It is a big move, with everyone pushing Afrobeats now. I am happy to be part of that movement, but, at the same time, I am just trying to take a different route. I am not trying to make it the common sounds that you hear. At the end, I want to be remembered as that kid that did something different. I was speaking my truth, but in a different way.
At 18, you have gone a long way. What is your vision for remaining relevant in the industry?
Hard work. I would just keep working hard and making the best music I can make. I am taking myself as a struggle. It is just working hard and just believing in the struggle, for me.
On this EP, there is a song titled Pray. It seems that you might be returning to your gospel routes soon?
I had to put that in the freestyle project; that was the first song that got me signed. It was the freestyle that my manager and Universal saw that they liked. That was the introduction to my new sound. Prior to then, I was on hardcore rap, but I started experimenting. So, that was one of the first things I did. I was like ‘If I was going to put out a project of freestyles, this has to be it.’ That song was recorded in 2018; I had to re-record it before it dropped.
Who are the top three artistes you would like to work with and why?
Number 1 for me would be the Weekend. The second would be Billie Eillish; she inspires me a lot. My third would be Post Malone.
It seems you don’t want to work with anyone in the country?
No, I have a song with Davido that’s dropping soon. I have worked with Tiwa Savage. So, I have worked with a couple of people here. I am very privileged and ready to work with everybody here. When you say top three, I have always had those top three.
Tell us three things we do not know about Alpha P?
Alpha P knows how to cook. I am a baby producer; I haven’t fully learned everything, but sometimes I co-produce some records. I can’t think of the third one.