Nigerian artist Ruger is one of the latest superstars in the ever-evolving roster of new wave afrobeats artists taking over the global music scene. At just 22 years old, he’s already managed to infiltrate the mainstream with his youthful charisma and meticulously-crafted approach to the afrobeats sound that has seen a rapid renaissance over the last decade. . Having been paved by artists like Wizkid, Davido and Burna Boy, the African sound has made its way around the globe, influencing the music we’re hearing in every continent. Representing a new wave of young afrobeats artists with bold personalities and the ability to create effortlessly ear-catching music. Ruger brandishes an infectious, boyish attitude towards his current lifestyle and sudden fame while exuding the utmost confidence with his contribution to the afrobeats sound. It’s refreshing, and exciting, and is a direct testament to the dedication he puts into his craft.
With a list of viral Tik Tok dance trends to his name and his strong, self-sustained origins in music, Ruger is gunning for the top spot. When he stopped in Sydney to chat, he told us he will become the number one artist in Africa. And we don’t doubt it.
Hi Ruger, how are you? You’re in the middle of your first Australian tour right now. How has it been so far?
It’s been amazing. And I didn’t expect my music to have travelled this far. You know, even some of the songs that I don’t expect them to know, they’re singing it word for word, and that’s one of the most amazing feelings ever. The people are amazing. The reception has been good. Eating good food. Seeing beautiful people. So I’ve been enjoying myself. I just dropped new music, so, excitement everywhere.
Obviously, it’s a long way from your hometown of Lagos. Tell me a little bit about growing up there. What was the kind of music you were surrounded by growing up?
Growing up, I was listening to almost everything. I feel like musically my family is divided into several parts. My dad was big on the reggae and dancehall part. My mom, there’s this local Yoruba type of music, it’s called Fuji. My mom was so big on that. I have two sisters, I’m the only male child. My sisters love R&B so everything influenced me all together. So it was a mix. My sister’s listening to Brandy, my dad is listening to some Bob Marley. So just in general, everything I know is from being bombarded with music.
I grew up with a lot of Bob Marley as well. I feel like he’s an artist that’s defined unity and community and bringing people together.
Let me tell you how amazing it is. My last show in Melbourne, I wore a Bob Marley shirt. I threw that shirt to the crowd, and when I went backstage, I felt bad. I was just like, “Yo, that shirt. I love it so much.” I was like, “No, come on. How could I throw that shirt?”. I should have kept that shirt at least.
Obviously, he was a big influence on you growing up, what was one of his songs that kind of resonated with you when you were young?
It’s ‘One Love’.‘One Love’ is that song that will never die. Because we need love in this world, man. We need that constant love we see from countries where they’re fighting wars and all of that. We need that to stop and we need peace. We need to get together.
I agree. That’s a great song. As you said, you were clearly brought up around a whole list of musicians, some that we declare as legendary now. For you personally, who inspires you the most musically?
Musically, I’ll say D’Prince. That’s my boss. He is not just my boss, he makes sure that I go into the studio, and ensures that I give my best. He sometimes tells me the direction to go. Go this way and see how it goes, let’s see what comes out of it. And that has been a major inspiration for me. Before I got signed to him, I was recording for a year before the world even knew me. So, he inspires me a lot personally and musically too. I listen to him a lot, and I love his music too. The songs he dropped back in the day were so amazing. So easy like that.
Talking about the early days, how did you first start recording your own music? What was the moment where you thought “damn, I’ve got to start doing this professionally”?
I started back in high school, my sixth year in high school. I used to sing on a normal basis. I didn’t know I knew how to compose songs like that. So there was a time in class, I composed one song and everybody loved it in class. It became popular to the extent that anytime I came out of my hostel—because I went to boarding school—every time I’d come out I’d hear someone just singing it casually. It was like the most popular song in school at that time. So at that time when I started, like, composing more songs, I had passion for it in the long run. And I started enjoying it, because the most important thing about this music is to enjoy it. When you enjoy it, you are able to put in your best. You’ll be able to explore different sides. So I decided that yes, I want to do music. That’s it.
Take us into the studio with you for a moment. What’s the energy that you try to create when you go in?
My studio sessions are more premeditated than just going to the studio to just vibe. I plan my studio sessions for two weeks before the time. So I know what I want to go into the studio to do, know the bounces I want to put together, know the progressions I want to play that will bring out vibes from my head. I love making music from scratch. I’m not really that type of artist where you just play beats for me, and I’ll just sing on the mic like that. I like to settle down, listen to every string, you know? I like to be involved in every process. All my beats were co-produced by me. So I love making music from scratch. I love premeditating my studio sessions, I plan it ahead and I give it my best.
That’s actually very interesting because I don’t think I’ve heard many artists who kind of go in with preparation.
I feel like the problem is most artists are in a rush. They just want to release songs. And that’s not it for me. I when you release, release the best. Don’t just go into the studio and do anything and then release it, and it’s mediocre. Never that.
I want to talk a little bit about Nigeria and the huge musical impact that afrobeats has had in recent years. You’ve got artists like Wizkid, Burna Boy and others who have taken the sound worldwide. And it feels like that you are a part of the new wave of Nigerian artists coming up now and experimenting with that sound. What kind of changes have you noticed in the scene over the last few years?
I feel like we’re more respected now. When you see a Nigerian artist, you know they’re delivering. I go back to the days where you cannot just come somewhere like Australia and just hear songs like that. Now, it’s just everywhere. I’m so glad to be part of the generation pushing the narrative that afrobeat is the sweetest sound all over the world. Whether they like it or not, it’s actually the sweetest sound. It’s a forever sound, a sound to dance to for the rest of your life. It brings the happy feeling in you. Girls like you, just imagine when you go to a concert, if you love Afrobeat, then there’s this vibrant attitude you get to exhibit. So Afrobeat is the way now and everyone should just jump on it. Afrobeat will leave you behind if you don’t follow it at the right time.
I think it all comes down to movement and the way that it can bring you to your feet. What is it about your music that allows people to connect with it?
My music is relatable. I make music out of experience. So there are a lot of people having the same experience. When I sing the songs, you understand it. You on Snapchat?
Yeah I am.
[Ruger singing] “Put me on your private story, girl let me see you in your full glory”. That’s like what we do on Snapchat, it’s just like, relatable. When I make music, I’m exactly speaking to you.
What has been your biggest challenge musically so far?
Being patient. It’s not easy as an artist to be patient. I’m this type of artist when I release, I want to release next week again, I feel like that’s my biggest challenge. I just want to keep going, but you can’t be like that. You have to give your fans the time to digest what you put out. It makes you feel like “Is my song fading out?”, it’s not fading out. I’m just feeling like that.
How do you keep yourself grounded when you feel that way?
I just do other things. Distract myself. Watch movies. I’m a Netflix guy.
What are you watching right now?
I’m watching Peaky Blinders now. But I just finished Stranger Things. Yeah, new episodes are coming again. I’m watching The Boys too.
You talk about how crazy and how hectic life has gotten for you, especially over the past few years. Do you ever experience moments of reflection where you get to sit down and think about how drastically life has changed for you?
Yeah, definitely. If a man doesn’t do that, you get lost in the world. I do that from time to time. You know, everyone makes mistakes. I like to sit down and think. So before I take action sometimes, I just think, remember where you came from. Remember how it was back in the days. I used to fix phones and laptops. So I would just remind myself of that, and that keeps me going. Now, I want to use this blessing to change other people’s lives.
That’s amazing. You’re doing exactly that through your music. You released The Second Wave Deluxe EP today, which features three new tracks. Can you tell us a little bit about the deluxe EP and the new tracks on it?
It’s more personal because it’s about myself. The first track is “Girlfriend”. I met another girl, she knows I have a girlfriend and I said what if I do? Can we just get this going? [laughs]. And the second track is “WeWe”, just like vibes man, when I go to the club. I feel like that’s how my life is right now. I’m just enjoying myself basically and using it to make music.
Talking about that track “Girlfriend”. You semi-debuted it on Tik Tok, and now there’s like a big dance trend surrounding it which has happened before with your music. Tell me about the way your music travels on Tik Tok.
I’ve never enjoyed Tik Tok as much as I do now. I’m really enjoying it. I never wanted to do Tik Tok, but now, I’m thinking “What can I do quickly? What can I do?”. Every time I post on Tik Tok, it goes wild man, at least 1 million views on it, you know, so it’s good. It’s another way to push your music. Even if you’re not signed to any label, you can do something and it just goes up. It’s another avenue for artists to put whatever they have out there. So, Tik Tok is good.
Looking at the people that you’ve worked with so far, you’ve got your labelmate and boss D’Prince, as well as Rema and Projexx. Is there anyone you’re hoping to collaborate with in the future? Who’s on the dream list of collaborators for you?
I would love to work with Popcaan and Adele. [laughs] I would love to work with Adele. I don’t know what would come out of it. But I know. I just have that feeling something crazy will come out of it. Whatever it is, I’m patient. I would love to work with Burna Boy. I would love, if I had the chance, to work with Gyptian, Davido. Those are the mandem in the Nigerian scene that are doing the most. That’s it.
I mean you’re 22 now, you’ve got so much time to go, what are you hoping to accomplish in the next year?
I will be the number one artist in Africa. I will say it now, and it will be so. I’ll be that number one artist in Africa because I’ll continue to work hard towards it.