New Punk: An Interview With Aunty Rayzor

In the wake of blistering debut album, Jasmine Khan speaks to multifaceted Nigerian rapper Aunty Rayzor about redefining punk and the intensity of the Lagos scene

Photos by Michelle Isinbaeva

Aunty Rayzor wants her fans to go wild, not listen intently and stare at her as she performs.

“Hello, can you hear me…? What did you say?”

She’s just finished a 10-hour rehearsal in a studio in Paris. It’s hot and Aunty Rayzor’s voice crackles over WhatsApp like the wifi can feel the distance between us.

“I want everyone to dance when I dance, to scream when I scream, and to jump when I jump,” she says. “I want them to go crazy.”

Aunty Rayzor, aka Bisola Olugbenga, is charismatically adamant. She’s a thoroughly excavated underground rapper from Nigeria, who made her name back home with the afro house, pandemic anthem ‘Kuku Corona’ (Corona Virus) in 2020. Rayzor has performed to sold-out stadiums, she’s toured across Europe and appeared at last year’s Negye Negye in Uganda, which is renowned for being one of Africa’s wildest and most adventurous festivals. Now, her musical prowess and self-proclaimed “gangsta” approach mean she’s beginning to receive the recognition she deserves internationally.

Rayzor’s sound is mischievous and chaotic with an air of absolute control. It roars in your face then flirts with you from across the room, winding its waist and stomping its feet. Rayzor’s musical roots were planted quite innocently when she started singing in church as a child, writing her own songs at just nine years old. But after a lengthy and brutal education in Nigera’s underground rap scene, Rayzor’s flow has grown to be provocative in more ways than one. Her teeth lacerate producers’ beats before she chews them up and spits them out into a mangled sonic marvel. Her hooks pierce deep into your flesh and her rhythms are unwaveringly danceable. As one of Nigeria’s most ruthless emerging artists, Rayzor adds to a growing movement redefining what it means to be punk.

“To me, there are certain feelings and thoughts that I want to express using other genres, but only punk does it for me, especially when it’s something political or ideological,” says Rayzor. “Punk allows me to be authentic, my unapologetic self. I can be creatively rebellious with punk.” She’s purposeful with her words: “At the same time, I compromise because I want to be myself but I also want to be who my fans want me to be.”

Rayzor explains that hip-hop culture in Nigeria is “mostly indigenous”. Western flows are “appreciated” and included, but developing your own sound in line with the “local flavour” is what makes your reputation as a rapper. “It’s like a real fight. It’s crazy. Really, crazy,” says Rayzor. “Everyone wants to feel your energy, they want to feel that you are saucy. It’s like a real fight, trust me, it’s like a real fight to battle in Nigeria.”

For Olugbenga, the name Rayzor caught on during a “savage” gig at the Club Royale in Lagos. Lagos is also the city of her birth, so it’s her favourite battle to date. “I looked so little, so tiny then, people didn’t believe it,” she recalls. “When people see me, they see me as this quiet person, very reserved. But when I go on stage people were shocked. They were like, ‘Oh my god her mouth is so sharp!’”

Rayzor’s rough punk energy oozes down the line. She’s not arrogant, but she knows exactly what she’s capable of. Tracks like ‘Stuttrap’ with its reverb and grumbling beast of a bassline and ‘Never’ with its sinister, treacly flow reveal the depths of rhythmic warfare which have moulded Aunty Rayzor’s sound. On her first and only album so far, Viral Wreckage, Rayzor shows off her musical prowess, some tracks boast textured synth beats militantly jarring against one another like white trainers slipping on spilt blood, ‘Doko’ is particularly hypnotic with its West African beats and rasping rap. In other tracks, R&B melts like hot wax into Rayzor’s vocals and her raucous lyrics are stark, almost eerie, retaining a harsh slickness reminiscent of early Missy Elliot.

For Rayzor, her environment is vital and she looks for every opportunity to progress. She has decided that her sound is best developed alongside a vast community of multidisciplinary artists. Looking through Rayzor’s discography most tracks have a feature which broadens the cultural influences available to her, each creating a fuller, more varied and complex end result. On Viral Wreckage alone, she works with Nigerian singer and producer Slimcase, Kenyan avant-pop futurist Kabeaushé, Titi Bakorta – a producer, guitarist and singer from Congo, Scotch Rolex (aka DJ Scotch Egg), Ugandan producer Ill Gee, São Paulo-based baile funk DJ Cris Fontedofunk and French producer Debmaster.

“It gives me new inspiration and makes me discover something I’ve never felt before,” says Rayzor. “I feel like it gives me a new part of me, that’s why I work with different producers. If you give me something and I feel like it’s good I can jump on anything, if it’s gqom, if it’s afro. I relate to any kind of music. I just want to explore with my music, I want people to see that I can touch different aspects, different stories, anything that people can relate with. It’s nothing but the joy I derive in it, the joy I derive in doing it, that’s why music’s important to me. I always feel the need to constantly evolve myself because music itself constantly evolves.”

Aunty Razor’s most recent release, ‘What’s My Name’, is the first time she’s been recorded alongside live instruments. It’s got all the grittiness of a typical Rayzor track, but the introduction of a band’s energy alongside produced beats makes the sound more immediate and urgent. When combined with Rayzor’s ever-flexible vocal abilities, the dynamism of live instruments feeds her spirit and emboldens her creativity. The track marks the beginning of a new ongoing project for Rayzor where she’ll be working with French jazzer Théo Ceccaldi, afro-futurist Faizal Mostrixx and singeli artists Kadilida and Twende Pamoja.

“Trust me it’s going crazy,” says Rayzor. “It was the rehearsal I had today, like a ten-hour rehearsal, oh my god it’s so hot. We’re actually having our first show at umm… BEEP.”

Aunty Rayzor’s debut album Viral Wreckage is out now via Hakuna Kulala

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