Vector Talks TESLIM: Family, Nigerian Roots, and Self-Discovery
Nigerian rap superstar Vector released his latest album, Teslim: The Energy Still Lives in Me, on November 11, 2022.
After topping Apple Music's Rap/Hip-Hop charts with his 2019 album VIBES BEFORE TESLIM: The Journey To Self Discovery, Vector added to his musical momentum with hit song "Crown of Clay". The track, created in collaboration with M.I. Abaga and Pheelz, sparked both rhythmic toe-taps and impactful conversations surrounding African cultures and experiences.
Dedicated to Vector's father (Teslim), Teslim: The Energy Still Lives in Me presents a vibrant celebration of love, life, fatherhood, and self-discovery. The title's acronym serves to immortalize Teslim's spirit through his son and his music. The album's two lead singles ("Early Momo" and "Mama Maradona") have accumulated more than 15 million streams and counting. Mellow "Early Momo" features GoodGirl LA in a rich amalgamation of affectionate lyricism, ambient guitars, and artfully designed beats. The catchy arrangement of "Mama Maradona", with Wande Coal, demonstrates Vector's clever incorporation of various genre influences. Gritty rhythmic hits in the chorus sections establish a balance in the song, contrasting with the consistent flowing, clean guitar riff.
"Clowns" stands out as one of the project's top tracks. Its distinctive synthesizer melody and sarcastic energy gives it extra bite. The song keeps listeners on their toes; audio panning puts Vector in every corner of the room. Vector and AO - MACHINE take each other's performances to new levels in the suave "Big Flexa". "What's That II" is another highlight track on TESLIM. In the collaboration with Nasty C, simultaneously spirited and haunting synths act not only as background for the vibrant verses but add to the intricacy of the instrumentals. These elements, combined with African-inspired rhythms, make for a vivacious and dynamic fan-favorite. "My Name - Choral Version" brings TESLIM to a close with an impactful, uplifting choir. The vocals-only finale is equally as joyous as it is emotive–the perfect finale to a beautifully crafted body of work. Teslim: The Energy Still Lives in Me commemorates the life and philosophies of Teslim, but it also solidifies Vector's future legacy as a trailblazer of the rap music industry.
We spoke with Vector about his upbringing, partnership with Hennessy, and new album. Read the full interview below and check out Teslim: The Energy Still Lives in Me.
How and when did you become involved in music?
The farthest back I can remember, my sister was in a choir in church. There was a time she had learned a harmony and she used me as a lab rat. She came home and said, “when I say so-fa-la-so, you say mi-re-fa-mi.” I held my notes and it was impressive. I liked the sound waves that I heard, so I started to follow music from then on. Way before that, as a kid, my mom would say something and I’d respond to her in a wordplay sometimes.
What kinds of music inspired you growing up?
There was a variety… I was always about the sound and the sonics over anything else. My dad also fought for the United Nations to keep peace in the world. Upon traveling, he came back with a bunch of CDs–karaoke CDs, too.
My music inspiration levels go from traditional music to everything else. I remember music from traditional Nigerian artists as a kid. I remember Sounds from King Sunny Ade. I sample this on my new album, but I was also aware of the Backstreet Boys, Blackstreet Boys, Seal, Celine Dion, Jay-Z, Ludacris, Destiny’s Child, and more artists. There was a shitload of music being thrown my way and I was taking it all in, so all that is a bunch of jumble floating in my head right now.
Who are your current musical influences?
Right now I have none that I can say because I’m on a journey of the self. I like what I see, but it's also that I’m more about my expressions in every artistic way possible. I’m not looking up to anyone per se.
Describe your sound in three words.
The journey of me. Well, the me journey…I like that.
Tell us about your work with Hennessy as a creative director and brand representative.
We curate hip-hop events in Nigeria, but our main goal is to create more opportunity and conversations around rap and how it's been done here. We want to find a way to reach the future generations by setting the record straight before they go into the art form. Part of that will be recognizing their self value and worth. It's all been infused through that medium to also encourage them to make more of themselves, get on mixtapes, feature each other, and grow their own communities within the larger one. That’s what it is and it’s been a wonderful journey so far.
"We want to find a way to reach the future generations by setting the record straight before they go into the art form."
Let’s talk about your latest album, Teslim: The Energy Still Lives in Me. Who or what inspired it?
Well, it’s the me journey, so it's a bunch of things. I had lost my dad right in the middle of when I was making the album and also just coming out of a bunch of stuff in the industry. His name was Teslim, and at the funeral, I found out that his name means pacifier or peacemaker. He fought with the United Nations to keep peace in the world–it just made sense. So, I created an acronym of his name: The Energy Still Lives in Me.
What was the most rewarding part of the project?
The sound. I grew up in the barracks, so I have a military background and upbringing. I've always known that musical expression, especially with rap, doesn't necessarily have to be misrepresented in violence and so many different types of energy. That seems to be the global, acceptable definition of what it means to rap or be in the hip-hop genre. That's what the entire energy with this album is… it means more to me than just being lyrical, seeking awards, or anything else. It's more.
"I've always known that musical expression, especially with rap, doesn't necessarily have to be misrepresented in violence and so many different types of energy."
It’s about coming to terms with the original story of what it means to be an African person in the world today–with the awareness that I have–and still be able to find synergy to create sounds that represent all realities. I incorporated my choral background; you'll hear that in the sonics. My cultural and rap backgrounds both show in the composition of the melodies, lyrics, and general creativity of the project. It's, within itself, an original piece of expression in art. All that energy is a fulfilling one.
"It’s about coming to terms with the original story of what it means to be an African person in the world today–with the awareness that I have–and still be able to find synergy to create sounds that represent all realities."
What was the most challenging aspect?
The most challenging part of the album was coming to terms with release and rollout. However, it's interesting that as much as we've had all that sorted, it's still running a path of its own. That's a beautiful thing to see, in its own way. It was difficult to come to terms with all the preset ideas of how music should be marketed, presented, or represented. There's always a hurdle to face there, for me at least.
What is your favorite song on the album?
All of them. Every song on the record represents a moment; I don't have a favorite one. I like the collective sound of the album. I like how it makes me feel when I listen and how it makes the fans feel when they listen. I've had music that was played at the psychiatric ward and a depressed person sang along for the first time in a long time. I feel badass about that. There are different situations that are special to every track on the album. I dare not pick one.
Walk us through your songwriting process.
There's no linear understanding to it. I'm quick with making music because I believe in the energy of the process over the validation of the process. You know what I mean? I'm all about energy. If it speaks to me, it will speak to me until the end. If it's interesting to me, i t will hold my interest.
Sometimes I have a record and I know something is missing–even though it sounds like it's done. There's one that took almost ten years before I was happy with it. It sounds so simple. I’ve been playing with the idea and making this forever and one day I woke up and said, “I know what’s missing now!” It was the intro. I just felt like it needed something and it took me that long to come around it. It sounds so simple, you’ll be like, “he’s a liar, this guy.” Sometimes it takes me 30 minutes, sometimes it’s an hour, sometimes a day, or even weeks, months, and years..
"If it speaks to me, it will speak to me until the end. If it's interesting to me, it will hold my interest."
Which parts of the song do you write first?
It’s a mix of things. I might just sit here and hear a sound that'll spark something so real in my head that it becomes music immediately. Sometimes I get the sound and I don’t know how, but I do know it will fit somewhere into the song.
What’s next for Vector?
I'm really just interested to see how many lives this could touch because there's a universal understanding that I think I have… I'd like to see if it's true. I wanted to be able to reach as many souls as possible. I also have some music videos on YouTube, with more content and growth to come soon.
Is there anything else you’d like to share?
First it'll be TESLIM. I've offered that to you with the expectation that it'll reach you at the times when nobody else can.