Last December, international rap artist S.O. heard news from back home, in Nigeria: his grandmother had passed from COVID.
S.O. moved from Nigeria to London at 9, and now lives in Texas. But throughout his life, he maintained a strong relationship with his grandmother. His first experience rapping on stage was at her 60th birthday party. She named his three-year-old daughter. Sometimes, he still reads her WhatsApp messages.
The news gave new significance to the afrobeats project he had been trying to put together for years. He needed to feel connected to his grandmother, and to Nigeria.
“What would she be listening to?” S.O. asks. “We’ve always had a strong bond, so I wanted to honor her with music she’d enjoy, with melodies.”
That desire for connection led to “Prosper,” the first song on S.O.’s new EP Larry Ginni Crescent. The song puts an afrobeats spin on the popular Bible verse: “no weapon formed against me shall prosper.”
The EP, released August 20, is named after the street of S.O.’s childhood home. He’s considered the project since 2016 — A&Rs told him to avoid afrobeats because “Drake wasn’t doing it” — but connecting to his West African roots became more pertinent upon the birth of his daughter and passing of his grandmother.
“When I grew up, when I went to college, people called me by names that weren’t mine,” S.O. says. “Then I had a kid, and realized that I didn’t want her to feel that disconnected. I needed to tap into it, so she knows her dad is a proud Nigerian man, who makes proud Nigerian music, that people in the diaspora can appreciate and relate to. I need to add to this conversation, not only for my sanity but for my kid’s.”
The EP spans themes of familial, romantic, and sacred love. His wife is featured on the music video for “Kinda Love” — S.O. jokes that every love song he writes is an attempt to make up for the breakup album he wrote about her in 2015. Fortunately, the emotions inspiring the breakup album didn’t persist. But as a husband, a young father, and a Christian, S.O. is focusing more on the legacy of his music.
“What am I going to leave for the people who are listening?” S.O. asks. “There’s a verse in the Bible, that says, and I’m paraphrasing: do your job, mind your own business, and keep it pushing. I’m just trying to do my own thing, listen to the people who are listening to me, and convey a message fit for them.”
Though S.O. is known by many as a Christian hip-hop artist, and he has integrated religious themes into many of his projects, his music does not announce itself as religious. Larry Ginni Crescent is an upbeat afrobeats album, fit for bumping in a convertible with the windows down.
And that’s what the artist intended: S.O. seeks to make music that people of all faiths can listen to, without necessarily honing in on religiosity. His music is Christian, because he is Christian, he says. But he is not interested in converting anyone. He merely wants to represent his experience.
The negotiation S.O. makes between the music of his community and the themes of his music occasionally strains his relationship with both genres. Rap distributors may shy from his music for its religiosity, while Christian distributors may shy from its sonics. Fortunately, S.O. says the internet has provided an opportunity for him to find an audience without industry entrenchment.
“I get a lot of love form the Christian industry, but sometimes I wonder if I don’t make white enough music,” S.O. says. “But I’ve dabbled enough in it to know it’s not my art, it’s not for the people I interact with through my music. I try to be intentional about how I create and who I create for, because I want to create for people who are searching, who are eclectic, who have diverse interests and don’t want others to assimilate to their way of thinking, alone.”