When Kizz Daniel was younger, he never dreamed of pursuing music as a career. “I’ve been in love with music since I was little. I love anything music, the instruments, the interface, anything that has to do music, I love it. Although I never thought of it as a career, because, you know, my parents would always say ‘my son is going to grow up to be a successful banker or a successful doctor’.” Referring to himself as a “business man”, he has always been interested in discovering new ways to invest his money. Kizz Daniel studied Water Resources Management and Agrometeorology at university; “To be honest, I didn’t choose that degree. The degree chose me,” he laughs. He originally had applied to study computer science and always had a love for computers, but fate had other plans. “I wrote the exams and then I didn’t meet the cutoff mark. So they suggested other degrees and asked me if I’d like to do a BSc in water engineering,” he says.
However, he did come from an artistic family and so it made sense that he would end up in the music industry. Kizz Daniel’s late dad was “a man of art” and loved to paint. In terms of musical influences, he listened to a lot of Fela Kuti as his dad was a massive fan, falling in love with the sound. From there, he began to find his favourite genres, which spanned from the meditative sound of Fújì music, derived from a traditional Islamic style of music used to wake Muslims up during the Ramadan fast in Nigeria – to the percussion heavy, dynamic Jùjú. He also tells me about his love for Galala. He mentions artists like Marvellous Benjy, Danfo Driver and Zule-Zoo as early sources of inspiration but says he doesn’t rule out any genres: “I catch my inspiration from anyone that can just get my attention.”
Fast forwarding to the present, Kizz Daniel has released three albums and has won various Nigeria Entertainment Awards, including Best New Act to Watch. He has collaborated with renowned artists, from Davido, Diplo and Wretch 32. “I was introduced to Wretch through my manager. She said ‘there’s this guy I want you to work with. I need you to listen to his music and see if you can blend your style of music either look with his’”. He listened and immediately fell in love with his sound.
As the conversation diverts to lockdown, Kizz Daniel reveals that his introverted ways have made it easier to adjust to this new way of life. A typical day in lockdown for him is “pretty much the same thing as before lockdown”. With a studio in his house, Kizz Daniel is pretty much set up: “I’m in the studio most of the time, watching Netflix, movies, that’s it.” Introversion is often said to foster creativity, as introverts tend to have a lot of time for introspection and contemplation. For Kizz Daniel, the same rings true. “It gives us time to think about most things that everyone else just doesn’t give a f about,” he explains. “You just get to notice the littlest of things because you spend a lot of time by yourself. Every day you start unlocking different skills, different ideas that come in.” He also tells me about the “bad side” of being an introvert, that being by yourself too much can make you feel like you’re going crazy.
Kizz Daniel’s Instagram shows the dynamic and lively side of his career. One video shows him in Bakau, Gambia performing at the national stadium. It had been a while since Kizz Daniel had been on stage: “it was amazing, a great experience.” But amidst sold out concerts and public appearance, he still gets nervous. “Even the greatest performer on earth gets nervous,” he tells me. “It’s because you want it, because you love it, because you’re passionate about it. That’s why you get nervous, not because you’re scared. You know, you’re stepping on stage and you have 1000s of people waiting on you.” He also tells me that he sometimes gets so overwhelmed that he cries before he goes on stage, and says that hearing the host introduce him, followed by his fans screaming his name, makes for a very “emotional” experience.
For Kizz Daniel, Lagos is “home” and always will be. It’s where he feels free and admits he gets homesick when he’s away. When he’s in London, however, it’s different. “I have a lot of friends in London and they always make me feel at home again since there are a lot of Nigerians in London anyway.” Now, he is aiming to “build an empire” with his music and “help other young artists coming up to achieve their goals…And hopefully, hopefully, one day I sit down, and look back on how far I’ve gone.”
And on how he wants his music to feel? “All kinds of emotions,” he calmly tells me. “You know, listen to my music and just decide on the emotions you want. Do you want to cry? Do you feel like laughing? Because my music is an experience – and I try as much as possible to make it real.”
Press play on Kizz Daniel’s video for ‘Flex’ below now.