It’s Not My Goal to Compete with Anybody… I’m Just Trying to Create My Own Lane
Atlanta-based singer, Morenike Lasode (stage name Marenikae) was born in Nigeria to a Yoruba father who is a multi-instrumentalist and songwriter, and a mother who majored in theatre arts. Her name is as unique as the culture she represents. Her stage performance is always electric and soothing. Ferdinand Ekechukwu xrays her genre of melody aimed at making Afro music a little bit easier for foreigners to understand
Sometime in December 2018, artistes were setting out their stalls for a big year and Morenike Lasode, pseudonym Marenikae, was in the doing as well. The listening sessions held at the exquisite Terra Kulture on a humid Lagos evening that December was pretty revealing. Once into the venue, exchange of pleasantries followed with the hosts, music heads spanning several generations and journalists who were there to figure out what the artiste had up her sleeves, all upbeat.
One of the guests recalled that Marenikae’s voice, once the artiste was in her elements, was surreal. “She could hit notes like no one’s business; her stage performance was at once electric and soothing. There she stood big, bold and beautiful, owning the stage like a veteran,” said the guest.
The guests were applauding before they knew it and standing ovations punctuated what would segue into a night of premium entertainment. The Atlanta-based singer was born in Nigeria to a Yoruba father, who is a multi-instrumentalist and songwriter, and a mother who majored in theatre arts.
Born to a Yoruba father and a mother of the Efik tribe, growing up in a mixed tribal household was enlightening as it gave her an appreciation for deeper aspects of culture. She was no stranger to the world of music and entertainment as her mother majored in theatre arts and her father owned one of the first Nigerian record labels – Africa N Vogue – where he worked with several Nigerian artistes. Marenikae’s inventive family lit in her, very early on, the fire to be creative.
Her father was also a celebrated film director of several television shows and even cast his daughter in one of his shows titled “First Family”. Marenikae’s mother often produced shows alongside her father, making them a film family. Marenikae typifies West African pride and culture, fused with the glamour and sophistication of a pleasing past age. The artiste had explained during an interview that her moniker was to allow easy pronunciation of her name upon arriving US. “When I went to America people would always struggle with pronouncing my name.
“People would call me ‘more Nike’, thinking my parents named me after sneakers. So, for them to be able to pronounce my name I had to figure out a universal spelling that will be easy.” Interestingly, the elegant Nigerian singer/songwriter is a brand that reaches beyond facets of music with current projects ranging from music, art to fashion. Marenikae grew up in Lagos and recalled writing songs, creating arrangements and layering complex melodies as early as age 14. Her approach to songwriting stemmed from a fascination with spoken words and attending poetry and writing workshops.
Marenikae discovered the melodic timing in spoken word resembled her natural writing style and translated to the melodies she discovered in song. Growing up, Marenikae was exposed to various types of music and cites a myriad of artistes from the American rock bands of the 70s and Nigerian music of the 90s as inspirations; from Nigerian artistes like Sade Adu, Asa, and 9ice, Styl-Plus, Dare Art-Alade, Fela and Plantashun Boys all the way to the Backstreet Boys, Freddie Mercury, Daughtry, Dwele and Raheem Devaughn. Marenikae once said this of Sade Adu. “Sade is a very huge inspiration for me because she was the first Nigerian artiste to really cross over. She was popular in America, in Europe and Nigeria as well.”
Throughout her teen years, the 26 year old Marenikae worked to create a signature sound relying heavily on neo-soul and afro-pop music. The end result is “Afromerge” a perfect blend of her beloved Nigerian rhythms which the ‘Smooth Operator’ crooner described the genre as a combination of neo-soul, afro-pop, electronica, “and some adult contemporary influences”. In an effort to distribute her own music to assist other artistes like herself, Marenikae founded “The Zucharia Nexus”, an independent label geared towards becoming a meeting place for international producers, songwriters, and artistes to support each other while exchanging ideas and cross promoting.
Having lived abroad and at home, Marenikae is on a pursuit to bridge the gap between foreigners and their understanding of African music, case in point, Afro-pop. Basically, the Marenikae-pioneered Afromerge is a huge melting pot of different sounds.
“The entire point of my genre is to make Afro music a little bit easier for foreigners to understand,” the singer explained. “Right now African music is big all over the world but people always say they don’t understand what they’re saying. So let me make Afro music that a Nigerian will love and understand and people out there will understand as well. Because of my upbringing, I was exposed to different kinds of music so all of that informed my current sound.
As much as she’s musically able, the ‘Ajebutter’ isn’t going out for competition. “I definitely feel I’m as prepared as I can be. There are so many amazing artistes in Nigeria and it’s not my goal to compete with anybody. I’m just trying to create my own lane.” As if being the flagship artiste on her own label wasn’t enough, Marenikae also started a fashion line named, Makan Gid’N. Much like its founder, Makan Gid’N is a blend of West African culture meshed with urban street wear. For Marenikae’s involvement in fashion, Makan Gid’N was her way of creating memorable costumes for her performances.
The line represented her music perfectly and allowed her to create an atmosphere that would entertain and educate fans about her native homeland. Her debut album, Ajebutter, a unique mix of rich African culture meshed with Western European subtexts and overtones is the artiste’s way of bridging the Western world, musically. The project is a refreshing journey into the mind of a Nigerian millennial with womanist roots. With songs like…Vybz, Gidi, Rosé High, The Bad Bitch, Kraze, Cool Ajebutter, Remember, the 11 track album is believed to be bold, cocky and a little arrogant.
Her vocals range from sultry, to passionate, ﬂirtatious to daring, transitioning between tracks and sometimes verses! The album was released on March 11th 2018. Besides its cultural inﬂuence, a source stated that Ajebutter is the product of the millennial mindset challenging age old beliefs and cultural norms. After growing into her independence as an artiste, she jumped at the opportunity to reclaim the cultural label that creates a socio-economic division. One Tribe Magazine was quoted as saying this of the freshman project: “A debut album without features is a bold statement and a testament to Marenikae’s hustle. Her confidence is through the roof and you can feel it in her voice. This is a feel-good album, and gives you Marenikae’s signature sound, straight from a real Ajebutter.”
Like many iconic musicians, Marenikae uses her pen to entertain while subtlety addressing political and social issues wrapped in a musical tapestry that represents both her homeland Nigeria and her transplant home Atlanta, GA. As Marenikae grew older, her interest spread into other fields, leading her to secure a degree in Criminology.
Now pursuing a full-time career in music, she doesn’t feel her education is going to waste because she uses what she has learned to “read people” which is a great tool when meeting with label executives and conducting business. “I guess it was when I was 15/16 that’s when I knew I wanted to be an artiste,” she recalled. “I started writing and recording my demos here in Nigeria and I took them when I went to Atlanta and I shopped them at record labels. At the time we met with record labels, the format was changing, they weren’t just signing artistes with just songs anymore; they want artistes to be brands before they put money behind you.”
When a record deal was not forthcoming, the unique singer concentrated on graduating from college and building a brand for herself. “So I graduated from college first and spent the next couple of years trying to build my brand, trying to find my sound, record an album, and pretty much get all my stuff together before going back and presenting them with what I have,” she added. “So I felt it was also important for me, before I present Americans with what I have, let me present Nigerians with what I have first because this is my home.”
Marenikae believes her move to the US played a major part in the artiste she has become. “I feel like I had to go somewhere else to develop my sound and build my brand,” she revealed.
“I registered for Broadcast Music, Inc. (BMI) which would have been very difficult to do from here. I have applied for my music on Pandora, Tidal, Spotify as an independent artiste, which would have been difficult to do from here. Even getting my US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) codes and all the things that are attached to the music would have been difficult as an independent artiste here.”