Escapism: Bloody Civilian Interviewed

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It took a party some five years ago for Bloody Civilian to realise the impact West African culture was having on the world. The Nigerian artist – born Emoseh Khamofu – was in LA on a writing trip, when someone suggested an after-hours visit – and the DJ played afrobeats all night long. “I couldn’t believe it!” she gasps. “Every single song was Nigerian.”

If artists like Burna Boy and Wizkid broke the glass ceiling, then cross genre hyphenates like Bloody Civilian represent the next wave. Merging soulful appeal with club energy, she made a spectacular debut with her Black Panther: Wakanda Forever soundtracking single ‘Wake Up’, quickly becoming one of the most tipped new artists on the continent.

“It feels natural,” she says of her lightning-quick rise. Growing up, she was influenced by “pretty much whatever my family was listening to”, absorbing African folk music, and Jamaican reggae classics. “All the greats,” she smiles.

As a teen, she was fascinated by Kid Cudi’s magnetism, and the world-building production of Tame Impala. Constructing her own demos, Bloody Civilian quickly caught attention, an artist who couldn’t quite be defined. “I don’t think that genres follow the theoretical rules they used to go for,” she insists. “If an African artist makes R&B then people will call it afrobeats, regardless. As a kid, I learned music theory, so I know what I’m doing is just experimenting. I just love making music.”

“I have a very ADHD way of making music,” she smiles. “I will write for about 20 minutes before I get tired, then I need to do something else.”

Music is tethered to her life, with Bloody Civilian seeking inspiration in her day-to-day existence. “I’m inspired by everything I experience, everything I see. It might be an event, or a story someone tells me,” she says. “It goes hand in hand with my lifestyle. I make music in-between living my life. I get ideas and inspiration, then go back into the software to express that.”

Signed to powerhouse label Def Jam Recordings, she’s already setting her sights high. “I’m excited to make an album,” she says. “I want to work on a longer body of work, because you get more time and space to implement your vision.”

Yet the explosive rise of this Nigerian all-rounder has been a long time coming – some of her songs were written four, five years ago, with Bloody Civilian waiting for the right time to release them. “It felt exciting,” she says. “I’ve made art for a long time, so it’s exciting to share it with people… finally!”

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Words: Robin Murray