My last conversation with Amuta Stone was in 2015, where she featured in the now defunct Root n’ Raw platform. At the time, she had just kickstarted a five-year goal to building her stage presence, following a previous five-year strategy of finding her own sound. Today, Amuta has two EPs to her name, Perspectives released in 2019, and Hook n’ Rap published May, 2021, which she dedicated to the dying art (at least in Abuja) – rap, she debuted in acting in the short film Breaking where she played a single singer, and gets to sing her own song. In addition to those, she has a thriving IT business that grew a lot more during onset of the pandemic, and continues to thrive.
Chinelo Chikelu speaks with the artiste who expands on her making the EP Hook n’ Rap, her sound and interests.
“The purpose of Hook n’ Rap is to address the plight of Abuja rappers who have given up on rap or creating music because they feel like there is no platform for them, or because they got so involved in doing other things. But I know that they have that passion to do rap. So, I called together a few of the rappers that I know and we got to creating the five track EP.
“What we did in the album was to create a hook, then pick several genres of music such as soul, rap etc. for the rappers to create around. The message is generally good, positive vibes, which resonates with my mantra of peace, love and light, messages I infuse in every song I make. Hook n’ Rap uplifts listeners,” said Amuta.
Aimed at mixing up both mainstream and underground artistes, the five track EP features five rappers creating around five different sounds: Praying For You with mimic rapper Shady Ville (who mimics Cardi B in the song); Tailor Made with Korey; Round About The World with Darlington; Winning with King David and I Give It All Away with Mr Nelson.
The songs reckon with themes of identity – identifying the struggles between artistes and supporting one another through prayers and goodwill; companionship and the need of giving one’s all in a healthful relationship; thriving after overcoming an eventful 2020 and hope of increased and meaningful relations as travel restrictions are lifted. The singer hinted at a second edition in the near future that could feature more mainstream rap artistes like M.I.
While her distinctive sounds (jazzy vocal and narration) remain, the album centers more on emotion than storytelling, the latter of which fell to the rappers.
“The rappers are the ones telling the stories, and I liked that because their message and mine flowed together in every song,” she said.
Amuta who spent five years developing her own unique sound, still finds herself avoiding being pidgeon-holed in a genre.
“Music for me is about sound not style. I consciously decided that music is what I want to do,” said Amuta who took voice lessons between 2007 and 2009 while schooling in Malaysia, and worked with a vocal coach, and a music teacher with a Kogi-based studio between 2010 and 2012, period when she developed her sound.
“In the process of discovering that (her sound) I realized my voice is my sound. Which means that if you put me on any sound – hip-hop, soul, R n’ B – so long as it’s me I will sound like myself. Most people who have followed my music career often introduce me as a jazz singer. But I respond by saying I am a singer, and sing other genres besides Jazz. When people hear me sing on EDM or Afrobeat and go, “that’s not your style”, I tell them it’s not about style for me, it’s about sound. I have a sound.”
Beyond singing, the singer debuted in her first acting gig during the pandemic. A short film Breaking which premiered online last year, where she played one of the four-lead protagonists, Emordi. She further got to perform her own song.
“I got so much inspiration during the lockdown and in these times than I had ever had before.” This is in spite of a four-month (March to June) forced hiatus from live performances, spent caring for her sick sister. The calls came streaming in after, beginning with a live virtual session in July; a live outdoor performance for a very private affair, and in addition to Breaking, recorded a single EDM Relax – which proved a release of sorts for the pent-up emotions and anxieties that comes with the inability to create and care for a loved one in the midst of a pandemic.
“I had a sort of social awakening (at the onset of the pandemic) in the sense that I realized we need to take mental health seriously in Nigeria. “People will say, “What? You are not physically ill but mentally ill. Abeg go sit down,” I think people need to take a whole day off to rest. We need to take timeouts to be by themselves, relax, go do what we like to do; and visit friends who make us feel good. We as individuals have a role to play – especially the way we speak to and treat people.
“Also, having alternative streams of income is necessary for artistes, especially during this pandemic. I spent a lot taking care of my sister but I also made a lot more too. A lot of clients called to create me either create or update their websites etc. I am thankful I was extremely busy during the lockdown. Creativity, I know takes time, but then doing other things help fuel creativity. It also increases your reach, because as you do this, people get to know you do other things,” she concluded.