Titled Arise & Shine, the long-awaited fourth studio EP from the South London native of British and Nigerian heritage BREIS has been backed by two lead singles – the well-received solo rap cut “Stay Diligent” and the newly released fusion track “Wahala” featuring award-winning German Nigerian neo-soul veteran Nneka, and it also comes released with a special edition blue vinyl, and a behind-the-scenes book that details the making of the project titled Diary Of A Creative Mind. We sat down with BREIS to discuss his new EP, working with neo-soul royalty Nneka, and more.
AllHipHop: Is Arise & Shine more of a personal journey to your origin roots than any project before?
BREIS: Arise & Shine was a journey unlike any other project I’ve been involved in. I was actually working on an album in 2016 that got abandoned due to problems with my producer. I hadn’t planned my next steps and somehow my footsteps were guided to arrive at the place where I said, “Yes I’m going to make an EP and call it Arise & Shine.”
AllHipHop: Why was your recent journey to South Africa so decisive for the EP?
BREIS: My trip to SA was about having some time to myself. I’d been working noNstop for months and wasn’t creating anything new. In SA, I met with so many other creatives thriving in their creativity that it reminded me of its importance. The music, the people, the vibes all helped me rediscover the love to create. I came across an artist in his gallery and was in awe of his style and commissioned him to paint my EP cover. I found a freedom in myself that I hadn’t experienced in a while, I was asking for anything I wanted and was getting a lot more than I normally would.
AllHipHop: How are the separate songs linked to each other? Why did you choose this song order particularly?
BREIS: I started off with songs that I didn’t think fit into the theme of an album I was working on a few years back. I started looking at musical ideas I’d put on the backburner, it ended up being very eclectic but somehow they worked together well. When you put all the songs together, you get a mantra: stay diligent, arise & shine, give dem wahala and keep on.
AllHipHop: Nowadays artists are constantly producing new albums and some may feel pressured to release music regularly, was it important for you to give yourself time in the development process?
BREIS: I’ve never been the kind of artist that constantly releases music every month. Music is quite an organic thing with me. I probably give myself too much time to work on projects. However this time around the timing was perfect. Everything started to become clearer whilst I was in SA.
AllHipHop: It was your first time releasing a behind-the-scenes book, how did you get the idea and what did it mean to you to document the making of the project?
BREIS: ‘Diary of a Creative Mind’ is my second book. My first book was looking at the inspiration behind my lyrics. With this book, I wanted to take it further in terms of not just behind the scenes of my lyrics but the thoughts, triumphs and challenges that an independent artist faces. Emotionally and spiritually I was in a dark place after losing my mum but could see how focusing on this project was healing. I decided to document that process, it developed into a diary.
AllHipHop: How did growing up in London and Lagos shape you and your music?
BREIS: Lagos gave me my African pride and a lot of self-discipline. London opened my eyes to the world at large and made me appreciate my Nigerian culture even more. I grew up on Motown and many Nigerian music styles including Fuji, juju music and Afrobeat. When I returned to London, I began to appreciate the music of my youth even more.
AllHipHop: Your song “Wahala” is referring to the pandemic lockdown as well, how was this time for you personally?
BREIS: The lockdown was horrible! In the first few weeks, it was obvious that either the UK government didn’t have a clue and were incompetent or they were okay with many lives being lost. I tried to stay busy and kept writing, then decided to build a home studio. I lost an uncle just before lockdown, then lost another one during. Around this time, Ty and my friend Sofia went into hospital for about 6 weeks. It was a very crippling time for me, but I got to a stage where I said I won’t be a prisoner in this life anymore and focused on living in the present instead of the unknown future.
AllHipHop: How can music help us to get through ‘Wahala’ and hard times?
BREIS: Music can heal, music can uplift, change your attitude, your demeanor or state of being. It’s possible to stay out of mild depression if you’re listening to the right music and allowing the higher vibrations to move your molecular structure.
AllHipHop: What did it mean to you to produce your first song in Nigerian Pidgin?
BREIS: I wanted to distinguish myself from other rappers and it was my culture that became the thing. Language, sounds and rhythms. It made me a little odd to some at the time but it worked for me. When I rapped in Pidgin for the first time, the response was insane. That’s the moment I knew I had something and decided to continue with it. Many years later it’s quite common to hear it in songs, so a few who experienced it back then knew I was ahead of my time.
AllHipHop: How did you experience the collaboration with Nneka?
BREIS: I opened up for Nneka in London many years ago. We stayed friends and kept in touch for a while before losing contact. I happened to be visiting Nigeria one year at the same time as she was. When I had the track for ‘Wahala’, I contacted her manager, Yemi to get her to come to the studio and record. She was an absolute angel. She’s a very free spirit that knows her voice and trusts her musical instincts. I have footage from the day on a camcorder, I need to find it.
AllHipHop: Will you release further visuals for the EP?
BREIS: I planned to shoot videos for the 5 songs of the EP. I’ve shot 3 already. So far there isn’t another lockdown, I’ll shoot 2 more.
AllHipHop: What’s the overriding takeaway or message that you want listeners to leave with after listening to this EP?
BREIS: The overall message is that life sucks but what are you gonna do about it? I choose to stay diligent, believe in my artistry in my worth and stop hiding my light because that serves nobody. No matter the wahala, you have to keep on and arise & shine.