ALBUM: Vector – “Teslim: The Energy Still Lives In Me”

Vector’s third album is the culmination of a journey of rediscovery and realignment that was kicked off with the passing of the celebrated rapper’s dad in 2017. “I thought I had an idea of what my album was going to be, then suddenly your dad passes and you then start to understand that life is vain, you start to reevaluate the meaning of things you do,” Vector tells Apple Music. “I started to reevaluate what I wanted my music to be like, what I wanted the message to carry, and how I wanted my music [to be]. I was also considering things—iIf life is a fleeting thing that we all can’t hold on to, how then is it easy for us to be distracted by things that we really don’t care about?”

Keen to not get bogged down by superficial concerns, the 16 tracks that make up Teslim: The Energy Still Lives In Me reverberate with the clarity of Vector’s convictions as he ponders fatherhood, country, life and romance. With contributions from the likes of Nasty C, Seun Kuti, and Ladipoe, Vector maps out a record of thoughts and moments. “I went from just making music that was just compiling an album for fans, to then taking it slow and making music according to my life’s truth and story,” he says. “So when you hear songs like “I Need You,” it’s not the skill of delivery per se, it’s the writing. It’s a letter to my child. I’m telling her, ‘Your grandpa left but he’s a part of me, which is a part of you, which is a part of everything you do’.” Read on as Vector takes us through key tracks from the album.

Teslim Introduction
“This track is a story of detachment from the norm. I’m addressing things that I felt needed to be addressed in my career as a musician. It’s bringing to mind the discussion about how people expect artists to be what they were not initially. So it ends with, ‘Don’t expect me to be something that I wasn’t in the first place’. Because in my entire career, I always meet people who want you to do the same thing that you did that was a very, very massive hit, forgetting that you are a human being with emotions. You go through life, you deal with difficulties, you win in those difficult moments, and you grow. There are other parts to life for an artist than just the hit records you hear.”

I Need You (feat. Ichaba & MILARE)
“I was doing a camp where I just rent a space and was with the music—I was going to be on daddy duties and still be able to do my music. I was making my music and [my daughter] was doing her thing. The first time I ever heard Ichaba he was in a parking lot or something, and I thought he had a very peculiar voice; I never forgot that moment. When he came and recorded it, the energy was so true. He has a calling and I liked the rasp in his voice. I like the rough-neck idea of how he did it; it is such a crazy bounce.”

Why Me
“’Why Me’ comes from a place of honesty. The entire album comes from a place of honesty. Most of the time, especially with attacks that are unwarranted, you can see people attacking you for being you, but they wouldn’t see that as a wrong thing, especially if them attacking you is just a way of them being themselves I’m being me, and I’m being attacked for being me. But that character you’re exhibiting is alien to me. There is a side of the record that has that honesty of, ‘Yo, what are you doing?’ I’m warning you because I’m not the guy; I see through your trick. I know my life, so you can have all your opinions and you can do all these things you’re doing, and that’s cool because that’s your life, but I know my life.”

You Don’t Know [Vector & Erigga]
“I feel like the moment a lot of people see the true value in themselves, they will be more thankful for the life that they have. I feel like a lot of Nigerians lack understanding, talking down on Nigeria the way they do. There is so much value to Nigeria, and that Nigeria brings to the table. But we can only operate in the knowledge of the life that we know. If only people knew the value of who they were, they would not be engaging in things that devalue themselves. ‘You Don’t Know’ also has a sample from an iconic Chief Commander Ebenezer Obey song and it’s important to pay respect, because that music is an important part of Yoruba upbringing from back in the day and it went with the lyrics we were putting together. I also liked that Erigga’s verse was quite daring.”

Insomnia (feat. Cracker Mallo)
“I didn’t think that in the era of social media, time-mapping, and location tagging, something like the Lekki Massacre could happen at the level that it happened. It was dark for me and I feel like we should never forget such an incident, especially if it was done to us by our own people. It’s important to keep records of those moments and what’s happening; it’s what I tried to do with ‘Insomnia’. When my dad passed, my mum said, ‘Sometimes you fight your loved one but it shouldn’t lead to killing one another’. Moments like the Lekki Massacre are important so that you understand clearly what your reality is as a Nigerian today. At the same time, there are different realities. We’re also doing great in other places and it just points to the fact that you can’t stop God’s light. So, ‘Insomnia’ is just me wondering about those things on the side.”

Mercy [Vector & Seyi Vibez]
“‘Mercy’ is a byproduct of a conversation that I had with my dad in two phases. The first phase was when I started to rap in a white garment church. The energy I got because rapping was my preferred way of communication made me feel like an outcast. I was made to believe that rap was a worldly thing; an unholy type of music. That experience made me remove myself from that community because the thinking didn’t [work] with what I was about. At one point, my dad told me to fuse hip-hop with white garment church music and I refused, because of my initial experience in church as a rapper. All that energy didn’t make me want to connect with white garment church music. I knew the music was dope. I respected the music. But, as a kid growing up, I was scarred by the interactions I had with them. All of that made me reject my dad’s idea. When he passed on in 2017, that conversation came back to mind and I decided to try the idea he suggested and that became ‘Mercy.’ It made sense to make that song thinking about my dad because he was such a great man. He also gave me proof that it was a people problem within the church, and not the church necessarily, and that made me stay with the music because he loved cele hymn music as well.”

What’s That II (feat. Nasty C)
“I had started this rapfrobeats journey for a while. I wanted to see if we could do an Afrobeats base and still be lyrical—an Afrobeats base of knowledge. I started just to put these things together and on that journey, I met Nasty C. I remember him saying, ‘Yo, I don’t know what this is, but this shit is dope’. He still went into the studio with the energy and killed it. That shows that he’s truly gifted.”

Mama Maradona [Vector & Wande Coal]
“This one just addresses the typical nonsense of trying to force-match people even though you are seeing chaos. I don’t think it makes sense that when people are in a relationship for example, and it’s abusive, other people always tell them to go back. That’s not what it should be. That’s how much I see people trying to say, ‘Oh, come and marry this person,’ simply because they think you should marry the person. Whether they have money or whether they have affluence, or whatever it is, it’s weird. I don’t believe in that mentality. So ‘Mama Maradona’ is about that exactly and I’ve also been in a situation related to that in the past.”

Mami Wota [Iyemoja] (feat. Seun Kuti)
“That’s a proper introduction to rapfrobeats. I wanted to confront this argument that rappers everywhere in the world are rappers simply because American people started the genre. In my head, I think it’s Black art and we have Ewi in Yoruba tradition, we are orators. This song was basically catching a vibe off an original Yoruba belief system and culture. This is a proper introduction to rapfrobeats as a sub-genre because it’s a fusion that allows African rappers to be their lyrical selves on their traditional sounds.”

My Name (Choral Version)
“I put every other thing you heard on ‘My Name.” ‘Sometimes you wonder if your name truly means your life’s journey. ‘My Name’ is a project that also signifies the value of names to us as Nigerians and how a good name is better than gold and treasure. So, it’s a note to end the album but also saying, ‘Trust me, everything you heard, put it on my name, I full ground’.”

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