Soulful Sounds and Personal Stories: An Encounter with LeonAzeez

When I first tuned into Leon Azeez’s EP, I embarked on a musical journey I hadn’t reasonably anticipated. As the notes of “a sweet time” filled my ears, something magical happened – my body surrendered to an involuntary sway, my eyes closed instinctively, and I found myself in a trance, hitting that repeat button without a second thought.

Describing this extraordinary experience to my team, I struggled to put it into words. It was as if I had uncovered a hidden layer of intensity, a well-kept secret woven into the melody, euphony, and percussion of the track. That moment sealed the deal for me; I was officially a fan. Eager to share my musical discovery with the world, I sat down with Leon Azeez to unveil the essence of his artistry and shed light on what sets his music apart with that undeniable “wow factor.” A truly talented individual who serenaded us in the first five seconds of our interview, Leon Azeez’s magnetic presence was further amplified by the company of his manager, the equally prolific musician, and sound engineer Kinj Kade.

Here’s how our conversation went:

Could you tell us who Leon Azeez is? Beyond music, I’m your easy-going, sociable guy. I would describe myself as someone who’s straight to the point, friendly, and a goal-getter. I genuinely enjoy conversing and meeting new people. Now, when it comes to my music, I’m incredibly devoted. It’s not just a passion; it’s a way of life for me.

Can you share your background and how you got started in the music industry? What inspired you to pursue a music career? I’d say I was practically born with music in my veins. My journey began at six when my dad gifted me my first keyboard. He must have seen the talent in me even back then. I started singing in church performing special numbers, and my dad even wrote some music for me during those early days. Really?

Yeah, he did. He has written some songs from start to finish. But then, you know, we won’t go into that right now. As I grew, I continued singing in church and eventually joined the school choir. It was during this time that I realized my dad, a talented poet, didn’t have the musical prowess to complement our family’s artistic side. So, I decided – I could do this, and my dad was fully supportive.

In 2017, I decided to take music more seriously. Now, everyone has their reasons for starting their musical journey, and mine was a bit unconventional – it was heartbreak. I experienced a deep, painful heartbreak pushed me to turn to music as an outlet. It was a challenging time, but I decided to channel my emotions into my art.

I reached out to my friend, Grove Kifasi, a fantastic writer. Shout out to Grove! You see, I wasn’t the best songwriter at the time, but my vocal talent was undeniable. Grove wrote a song for me, and that’s when I officially kick-started my music career. I released the track on SoundCloud because, honestly, my knowledge of distribution models was limited at the time. From there, things began to pick up. In 2017, I recorded several tracks with friends from school, and the journey of my music career was well underway.

That’s such an interesting journey, starting at six. Could you tell us more about your journey since then? It’s been quite the ride. As I mentioned, it all started in 2017 when I recorded some tracks with my friends during my school days. I went through a school transfer, where I encountered three incredible individuals who shaped my path. First, there was Monty, then Kade, who is now my manager. Then there was Mimi. These three amazing people became instrumental in my artistic evolution. At that time, I wanted to explore beyond just singing; I wanted to dive into the world of rap. I didn’t want to confine myself to a single genre.

I crossed paths with Monty in a random school setting, and that’s when our musical journey began. I started experimenting with singing and rapping while Monty introduced me to a music world mainly influenced by artists like Juice WRLD. So, if you look at my catalog from around 2020, you’ll notice that I was leaning more toward the style of Juice WRLD.

Interestingly, a few months later, my roommate introduced me to Kade’s music. I had no idea that he was at the same school as me until that night when I was singing one of his songs. He turned to me and said, ‘You know, that’s my song.’ It was such a moment, and it marked the beginning of a friendship and then a musical partnership made in heaven. Kade introduced me to the R&B side of music, complementing my existing hip-hop aspirations.

That’s one of my favorite things to witness, your friendship with Kade. So, this question is for both of you. Leon, in terms of balancing your friendship with Kade and him managing you, how do you navigate that? Our friendship is the foundation, and we both understand that. Kade is incredibly talented, and it’s easy to trust his vision for me. He paints a vivid picture of what’s possible, and I can see that he genuinely wants what’s best for me. He consistently proves that through his actions and dedication.

And to Kade, what was it about Leon’s music that caught your attention? How did you decide to represent him, considering your impressive career? Leon has this unique way of making you feel like family from the moment you meet him. It’s like you both came from the same house. I remember walking into school; no one used to play my song at school, and I heard someone singing my lyrics. When I told him it was my song, he looked at me with such genuine warmth. That was the start of our friendship, which has been going strong for about two to three years.

I didn’t start managing him until ‘Leon Azeez, the EP.’ I told him it didn’t make sense for him to be my friend and not have a body of work to showcase his talent. He agreed and submitted himself to our vision. He could see the bigger picture, even when it required adjustments. He was willing to work towards our shared vision, which was truly impressive. With ‘Leon Azeez’s EP,’ there were only two songs I had reservations about, but he pushed for their inclusion, and I’m grateful he did. It was a fantastic project, and I couldn’t be prouder of what we’ve accomplished together.

That’s heartwarming to hear, especially watching your growth as an artist through the ‘Leon Azeez’ project; your music delves into various themes and emotions. How would you personally describe your genre? Describing my genre is quite tricky. How so? Mainly because I see myself as limitless as an artist. However, if I had to label it, I’d say it’s ‘R&B Bounce.’

That’s unique, especially considering the diverse landscape of Nigerian music right now. How do you think your music contributes to or stands out within this musical landscape? What is it about Leon’s music that draws people in and makes them say, ‘That’s something I want to listen to?’ First, I believe it’s about creating a different zone, a unique field. I know Nigerian music today is often associated with Afro-fusion, Afro-pop, and various other genres. But I want to bring something distinct and fresh to the scene, which is my ‘bounce.’ It’s about infusing R&B with this distinctive bounce. So, you have this R&B core, but this infectious bounce accompanies it, a relaxed Afro infusion, and a touch of hip hop on the side. It’s a blend of all these elements that makes it stand out and draws people in.

You mentioned Juice WRLD as a musical influence. Have other artists shaped your decision to create a unique sound for yourself? In hip hop, Juice WRLD’s style flows into his music, and I connected with his freestyle approach. It inspired me to prioritize staying true to my originality even as I strive to create great-sounding songs. I admired the way he played with his diction and his music, and it influenced my approach. Regarding R&B, artists like Blxst, Brent Faiyaz, Bryson Tiller, and Justin Timberlake have been significant inspirations. These original artists consistently bring out the best in R&B, which I also aspire to – standing out in my way. Blxst, in particular, has left a strong impression on me. If you look at my past four releases, you’ll notice his influence, but it’s also distinctly Leon Azeez.

You’ve emphasized being distinctively Leon Azeez. When someone listens to your music, what emotions do you hope they feel, and what do you aim for their general listening experience? When someone listens to my music, I want them to connect with a deep passion. Currently, I create, and release music based on how I feel. So, I hope they experience feelings of love, joy, and peace. There’s also a downside to being an artist. It’s when an artist says, let me take a break from being a person. My music is more about my life, experiences, and what makes me who I am. You can’t take those away, whether bad or good emotions- I wouldn’t be Leon Azeez without them. So, realism is one of the things I hope they feel because I’m doing good with my music. So, I want them to have that reality when they listen to my music.

That is such an interesting and brilliant perspective. I know that creating music comes with its own set of challenges. Could you tell us about some obstacles you’ve encountered in your creative journey? Indeed, there have been a few roadblocks on this journey. First and foremost, I’d say school was a significant obstacle. Balancing classes and assignments with my music endeavors could be quite challenging. I’ll let you in on a little secret, and I hope my dad forgives me, but there was a time I zoned out in class because I was lost in my music. I wasn’t even aware I was singing until my lecturer said, ‘Hey, you, leave my class. We both shared a laugh before he continued Another major challenge was having to make choices about friendships. In this industry, the friends you surround yourself with matter a lot. You don’t need friends who only tell you what you want to hear; you need friends who will tell you what you need to know. So, I had to make some tough decisions about which friendships were conducive to my musical journey. Some friends I had in the past I don’t talk to anymore because of music. While it’s not without a tinge of sadness, I don’t regret the decision. I’ve moved on and become a better person for it.

Additionally, my family played a significant role, both as support and as a challenge. Coming from a Christian background, there was a struggle between pursuing my music and adhering to religious values. It’s a balance you have to strike. My family has gospel music in our home, and I’ve recorded gospel songs myself, though I haven’t released them yet. Finding harmony with your family is crucial because, without their support, you can face numerous setbacks. When I released ‘King Leon,’ my dad called me at 3 a.m., asking, ‘What is this?’ I had to explain everything to him. My woman, whom I fondly call my baby sunshine, has also significantly influenced my music. She’s the foundation of it all. But sometimes, she’ll tell me, ‘You’re putting too much time into music; you need to focus on me.’ I try to explain that I’m here for her and can balance both aspects of my life. It’s just a matter of patience, and I’m grateful for Kade’s advice to make her feel special and share my vision with her.

It was indeed an exciting journey with your last project, filled with intriguing collaborations,” I commented. “Collaboration is a significant part of the music industry. Can you share some insights into your process of selecting those collaborations for your last project? Indeed, it all begins with the bond and connection. It’s not about picking up your phone and randomly seeking someone to make music with. You have to feel that connection and sync with the other artist. Do they understand and resonate with what I think? Can we merge our musical worlds seamlessly? Most collaborations involve two different worlds coming together, almost like an experiment. You never truly know until you try.

Regarding selection, Kade played a pivotal role in streamlining the process. I’d bring a set of potential collaborators to him, and he would assess and guide the selection. He has a sixth sense for identifying who would be the right fit for me to collaborate, ensuring that the music would turn out beautifully. I have no regrets about the collaborations I’ve been a part of. While there might have been many potential features, the ones that made it onto the project were carefully chosen to create musical bliss.

If you were to advise someone trying to break into the music industry, especially in the underground scene, what would you say to them? I would say to them, don’t chase a sound! Oh, interesting. Yeah, Don’t chase a sound, make a sound.

If you could collaborate with any artist you haven’t worked with yet, who would it be? That’s a tough choice, but I’d say Omah Lay and Begho.

That’s an exciting lineup! What’s next for Leon? Are you currently working on any projects, and what can we expect? What you guys should expect is my album. I’ve been working on it for about a year now. But before the album drops, I have a few surprises for you. There are two songs in the pipeline. One will be a complete surprise; I won’t reveal when it’s coming out. The other one is scheduled for either later this month or next. And if Kade allows it, you might also see ‘King Leon III’ before the album.

This interview has been genuinely fascinating, and we do not doubt that Leon Azeez is destined for great things in the music industry. To keep up with his projects on all platforms, check out our curated Leon Azeez

Authored by Neone Adebayo