Nigerian Rapper, AcebergTM Talks Signing To SJW Entertainment, Creative Collabs, And Debut EP, “Far From Home” – BLACK&GIFTED

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AcebergTM is a rapper from Lagos, Nigeria with an international sound that fuses Hip-Hop, R&B, and Afrobeats. His Nigerian roots and Western influences play a part in his international sound, but his African identity is not lost in translation. Read more as AcebergTM details his transition to becoming a signed artist, collaborates with some of Nigeria’s best talent, depicts his views on the music scene and up-and-coming artists in Nigeria, and shares insight about his debut EP, “Far From Home”.

“I’m from Abia State here in Nigeria, but I spent most of my time in Lagos,” AcebergTM explains as we settle into our phone call. “I’m in a family of seven—two brothers, two sisters.” Through the in-and-out network connection and back-and-forth clarification, I learned that he’s the third child. As someone who only has one sibling, I always wondered what it was like to have many. Aceberg says, “it’s cool.” He describes his family as ‘huge fans of music,’ which comes to no surprise that he would tap into his musical gifts by way of the underground rap scene.

Although he spent the majority of his life in the hustle and bustle of Nigeria’s largest city, Aceberg’s musical taste spans across the Atlantic. He mentioned that both Drake and J. Cole embodied qualities and skills that inspired him—their impact and relatability. Taking note, Aceberg began cultivating his love for music and discovered his strengths.

Aceberg’s Nigerian roots and Western influences play a part in his international sound, but his African identity is not lost in translation. His rhythmic bars and smooth vocals intertwine with Hip-Hop, R&B, and Afrobeats soundscapes, keeping his listeners’ ears in tune. When asked what it’s like creating an alternative sound in an Afrobeats-dominated country he says, “Nigerian music is stepping up. A whole lot of genres are popping up and people are catching up to it, so I just want it [my sound] to be different or unique—to show everyone what I’m all about and that I can fit in. It doesn’t have to be centralized in one county. I just want to make it global.”

Throughout our phone call, it was evident that Aceberg simply wants to excel, build, and grow with his team. He understands the meaning of hard work and knows first-hand what it’s like to not be taken seriously. He details this struggle on the final song of Far From Home, “Loyal”—what he describes as his favorite track and after listening, the “why” is self-explanatory. With a humble demeanor and focused mindset, Aceberg is well on his way.

Read more as AcebergTM details his transition to becoming a signed artist, collaborates with some of Nigeria’s best talent, depicts his views on the music scene and up-and-coming artists in Nigeria, and shares insight about his debut EP, Far From Home.

AcebergTM, Photo: TSE

The interesting thing is, whenever I heard your sound, I was like, “Is he from the states? Has he spent time in the states?” Then I learned that you were in Lagos, and I’m like, that’s dope. You have a sound that’s American-ish, but your accent comes through in certain aspects, so I was like, “Where is he from? Who is this guy?”

I was influenced by a whole lot of American artists. I listen to a lot of American music all the time, so it just took a toll on me.

What’s the significance of your artist name? I already have a thought in my head, but I want you to break it down for me.

You let me know what you had first.

The first thing that came to my mind honestly was an iceberg—cold. An iceberg in the middle of the water. It’s large, you’re going to see me. Make a statement. That’s kind of what I got from it.

Kind of. To me, ‘Ace’ is skillful, talented. Someone who is skillful at what he or she does. I started noticing Ace everywhere. Ace this, Ace that. So, I just wanted it to be different. There’s no form of creativity in the name. I just went with Aceberg and the ‘TM’ means time.

You’re like no big deal, no metaphorical thing, but it’s still creative. I think it’s creative. AcebergTM—time. Why time?

I was doing these underground rap battles—just Aceberg. I wanted to make actual music and decided to give it a twist. Like this is my time so, Aceberg Time.

My time to shine, that’s what’s up! I was introduced to your music through your single, “Danca”which led me to your EP, Far From Home, and from there, I was like, wow! I DM’d you to share my thoughts. It was just a great listening experience for me. Prior to that you released a single titled “Heart Breaker”. It seems like you’re fresh on the scene, but when did you begin your musical journey?

A very long time ago, but most of the music I was making back then, I was just doing it for fun. There was no backing up, there was no sponsorship, there were no resources, so I was just having fun making the kind of music I wanted to make. I was not serious at all, but I started taking it seriously when I got signed a year ago. That’s when we released “Heart Breaker,” so I’ll say that’s when I officially started making music.

So more professionally, you take it seriously and you’ve got the backing. Before that, you’ve been on the scene. You’ve been doing it!

Yeah. I’ve been doing it nonstop—rap freestyles, mixtapes, and stuff like that, but I took most of it down when I got signed because I wasn’t proud of it and didn’t want anyone to listen to it. [laughs]

Why’d you take it down?! I think it’s good to see your growth, but shoot if you weren’t rocking with it then hey I respect it!

On the creative side I just felt like they should know what I’m all about now and just kick off from there. No bad vibes.

I just want to make it global. I want someone listening from America, someone listening from anywhere in the world to connect with what I’m doing. No matter if it’s Afrobeats or anything.

Well, I came in on this new wave of music and it’s solid. I’m glad that you decided to take it seriously because this is your lane. You have a very diverse sound and that’s what sparked my interest and I keep saying I want to know more about you. That means a lot because I love music. I’m listening to different artists, but if I listen to a project and I’m like, “I need to get to know this person” or “I have a lot of questions for them and want to pick their brain and know more about the project”—that’s major for me. So, that’s what your project did for me, and I explained to you that you have a balance of the Afrobeats, R&B, and Hip-Hop soundscapes, but you did say you were heavily influenced by artists here in the states, so that makes a lot of sense with the diversity in your sound. You’re also creating music that’s not the norm and I do air quotes, “norm” in Nigeria. How do you craft your sound, and what is it like having something so different in a very Afrobeats space?

Nigerian music is stepping up. A whole lot of genres popping up and people are catching up to it, so I just want it [my sound] to be different or unique—to show everyone what I’m all about and that I can fit in. It doesn’t have to be central to one county. I just want to make it global. I want someone listening from America, someone listening from anywhere in the world to connect with what I’m doing. No matter if it’s Afrobeats or anything. Sometimes I feel like it’s all about the process—getting to do this until you decide that this is the balance. You just keep learning and keep adding the knowledge you gain to music.

Your older music that you released, do you feel like you were on this wave—and when I say that, do you feel like it was international in a sense?

It was a whole lot international. I think I was driven by my—how do I put it? I was in my head. All over my head that period, so I was just making songs that I would find the balance into the market. It was all about myself. I wasn’t thinking about what people loved to listen to.

I read that Drake and J. Cole are two of your musical influences. Can you elaborate on why?

I became a fan of Drake when I listened to Views. The songs made me want to make songs like that and get a lot of fans like that. The impact and the way I listened to the songs and loved them—I wanted to do the same thing to make people love my music. That’s when I started writing and practicing to see if I could make songs like that. Then I saw J. Cole, and I understood he was rapping from a different perspective—about life and reality. Stuff that I could relate to from this part of the world. I’m not even American, but I still relate to what he’s saying as if I was there. It got me inspired, so I kept writing and developed my love for music to the next level, discovering all the parts of me that I didn’t know were there.

Are there any other artists—they don’t have to be from the states?

Here in Nigeria, I’ve got Burna BoyWizkid, and T Major when it comes to Afrobeats and how they’ve paved the way for artists in Nigeria to go international and blow up internationally. I think they’re doing great and are a huge inspiration to not only me but also a whole lot of artists over here.

Now I want to talk about your duality as a rapper and a singer. Did you experiment with one before deciding to take on both of those roles?

I love that question. I don’t think I get that a lot, but that was how I started off—just rapping. Then the singing came from me trying to find hooks for my verses. I was doing it, and people were like, yo, you can actually sing. I started singing, one song led to another song, and it became this way. Started off rapping, totally.

Did you even see yourself as a rapper-singer? Because you said you had to come up with some hooks.

I was doing it, but it wasn’t perfect. It wasn’t sweet—I like to put it that way. It wasn’t sweet. I was just singing, just faking it until I grew into it.

It’s a popular thing—the singing and the rapping together. That’s good, you’ve got two great skills under your belt.

It gets confusing sometimes, though when some people listen to the same song and they feel like there’s two different artists on the same song. Right now it’s about finding balance in between and getting everybody to know when I come on to say this is Aceberg, this sounds like Aceberg. That’s the path that I’m on.

We’re going to dive into the EP, Far From Home. I’m going to hold off on my questions because I’m super excited—we’ll get to that! You mentioned that you got signed a year ago. You signed to SJW Entertainment at the start of 2020. How were you navigating the scene as an indie artist prior to signing with SJW?

As an indie artist it felt completely different. I was looking for a way to spark the industry and make a huge impact. I was just trying to take it slow, just do me. When I got signed—it’s business, so I was working harder than I used to and pushing myself to do a whole lot of stuff that I normally don’t do. It’s different, you just have to make it your way.

How has your transition been? You’re saying it’s different. I could definitely imagine how things have picked up for you. So, what is your transition like from doing it on your own, trying to find a way, to now being backed by a label that’s assisting you in your journey?

It’s crazy. It’s been an amazing experience so far. I’ve been learning a lot about the business and music. Getting to see things that I never saw before as an independent artist. The transition has been quite amazing.

What are some misconceptions that people have about signing to a label?

I think a whole lot of people just want to be themselves, making the kind of music they feel like doing, and they think once they get to a label it’s all going to change. So, it’s important for an artist to sign to a label that understands who they are and what they want to do and just stick with that. Some people get into a label and—when I got into the label, I thought I would stop rapping. I’m at a label now, so I can’t be rapping all the time. I have to make hit songs and stuff like that. They told me I can do what I want, but find a balance in between. Now I’m trying to do me at the same time with the business part of it. I think other artists should take note of that once they get signed, your label wants you to be successful as an artist. They don’t come up with suggestions that would only benefit them, but some are going to benefit you. You just got to work your way through it. I’m not saying it’s going to be easy. It’s going to be challenging and stuff like that, but if that’s what it takes to make it, then fine.

I also feel that it definitely depends on the label that you’re signed to. You got to have the right people in your corner, too. It sounds like you have a good working relationship to where you’re not having to compromise your values or what you want for yourself as an artist and what they see for you on the business side of things. That could be very discouraging and that could also make an artist’s career go downhill real quick.

It’s a work in progress. It’s moving step-by-step and learning. It’s a new label. I’m their first artist, officially. So, we’re learning. The label is learning. I’m learning. Just moving with each other and trying to help each other achieve something.

Directed by Ademola Falomo

That’s nice, I didn’t know that they were fairly new. That’s what’s up! A lot of growth there. A lot of learning opportunities. Well, I’m sure over this year—almost two now, you’ve learned a lot. The creation of music videos is one of the fun and creative aspects of being an artist. It’s a very important component. Amazing visuals bring the song to life. What was it like shooting for “Heart Breaker” and “Danca”?

First off, most of the sounds that I make, like you said, are a bit international, so I tried to keep it African—tried to maintain the Culture from the vixen to the environment—everything around me has to signify the African world. The African surroundings. At the same time, I also tried to be creative because there’s a story behind the video. The creativity is on another level. I’ve got one of the best video directors here, Ademola. He’s killing it! He understands what I’m all about, and we just put that to work.

Are you a hands-on artist when it comes to the creation of different assets for your music whether that’s cover art, photography, and the visuals?

I like to be in charge of everything, especially when it comes to music production. If it’s not what I like, then I’m not going to be down. I like sharing my ideas with whoever I’m working with. If the producer has advice or a way that could be better, we can go from there, but it has to be what I like.

Now, we’re going to move into discussing your EP, Far From Home. The EP is an eloquent introduction to your artistry. Far From Home—what does the title allude to?

Most of the songs on the EP are different from what other artists from Nigeria were making, so it felt like I was far from home—different from the environment. That was just an idea in my head when I was creating the songs. I like to keep it simple.

Walk us through your creative process from writing, to producing, track sequencing, and all the things that go into your creative process.

When it comes to making music, I like to work with a lot of producers. Different producers keep it diverse with every sound that I hear. I like to write based on how I feel. To me, it’s an expression of my feelings into songs, so I like to sing about how I feel and just put it into the music. Even if I need to get people to dance to it, it’s still going to be how I feel. It’s still got to be motivating or been some experience that I’ve had. I just hear a beat and sing about the way I felt at that particular moment.

That makes it relatable. That’s a good aspect to your writing.

I think that most artists do the same thing. It’s not all about just putting a bunch of words together. On the I think that most artists do the same thing. It’s not all about just putting a bunch of words together. Creatively, I think most artists like to talk about what they saw or how they felt. Just keep it so people listening to it can connect with the songs.

Do you have a favorite song off of the EP?

Yeah, it’s “Loyal”.

I was just vibing to the EP before we connected. Had to get in the zone! Now is the time for the track play-by-play, so just a brief overview of each track. Whatever you want to share. Whatever comes to mind, just dive into that!

The first track on the EP is “Rockstar”—which was produced by Phantom. I met Phantom and just told him I wanted a song for the UK because I was listening to a whole lot of UK artists when I met him. I just said I needed something to get into the UK market, but also keep it Nigerian at the same time. So, it was quite confusing because he played a lot of instrumentals at first, but when I heard this one I started vibing to it. It came out perfect—notice the part where I had to do the singing stuff in the first verse and I switched it up in the second verse with the rapping. That was me trying to show what I’m all about—showing that I’m a rapper and still trying to keep the singing in too. That was the balance that I was looking for in the song and we made it happen that way.

Moving to “Slow Wine” (prod. by Tempoe), the second song on the EP, it was the only song that featured an artist here in Nigeria, Mistruff. I just met him in the studio. I had to make a hook for that song. He was vibing to it and came up with something, and I told him to record it. He recorded it, and it sounded nice, so I said, ‘yo, you need to be on the song. You can have your credit, too.’ I talked to my label about it, and they said no problem, so I put him on the song. Also, the song was about feelings for a girl that I met at a party. A lot happened at that time. So I just put all of that into the song and wrote about that.

Third song on the EP, “Danca”—I think that’s your favorite, yeah?

It’s one of my faves, yeah! Fasho!

That one was produced by Kel P. When I went to the studio, he was playing a lot of records. He told me the vibe he was on, and the vibe that he feels would suit that instrumental and tempo. I already had something down for it but had to scrap it and make it simple—talk about this girl, the vibe she was giving me, how she moved, and how she dances. I expressed how I felt at that moment and made sure it was relatable to everybody that was listening to it.

Directed by Ademola Falomo

“Bella” is the fourth song on the EP. “Bella” is another love story attached to the EP [laughing]. It’s about this girl, once again, that I was in love with. I couldn’t say anything because she already had a boyfriend. I was trying to have my way to see if it was possible to make it happen. Like I said, music is all about expression—expressing how I feel. That was produced by J Fred.

The fifth song on the EP is “What I Like.” I think that’s the most creative song on the EP. I had to work with a lot of instrumentalists. We had the saxophonist, the pianist, the guitarist, and the producer, WineXRoll. It’s about having a vacation with the girl of your dreams, or the love of your life, just having fun around the world. It was inspired by a movie I had seen the day before. I just made it about that movie, kept it simple at the same time, and did my thing. I had this backup singer that sang, too. We’re just having fun in the studio and we made that one possible, so that’s “What I Like.”

The next track on the EP, “Loyal.” I actually wrote the song before I got signed. It’s personal to me and talks about how relevant you are when you’re popping and when you have money. How your friends and family are loyal to you only when you have money, but once you’re broke, they don’t take you seriously. That’s the way I felt when I was writing the song. I felt like I wasn’t being taken seriously and I wasn’t getting the amount of credit that I deserved. I spoke about it and talked about the fact that people treated me like I wasn’t anything. It was quite tough back then. That night, I just made that song personal, and we recorded. I think that was the song that got me signed. I posted a snippet of it on my Instagram, and the label saw it and called me up like, ‘yo, let’s talk business.’ That was a change I was looking for. That’s why I feel like that’s the best song for me, although all the songs are super dope. That one, that’s personal to me.

That’s nice! And thinking about the sequencing, too—it’s a great way to end it and say what you needed to say. Like, look this is what I was going through, this is where I’m headed.

Most people understand how it feels to be in that situation. That’s why it got everyone’s attention when I posted it—not everyone, but it got a lot of attention when I did it. From there, I just decided everything I’m making has to be an expression. It doesn’t have to be all of them, but the music has to be about me expressing myself. That’s the only way to get a lot of people to connect to the music.

The price of music production—it’s just so expensive, but they’re important for an artist to have. If you don’t have all of that in place, it’s the same thing over and over. That’s the way I felt when I was independent.

I rock with that. I’d like your take on the music industry in Nigeria. I love to get artists’ perspectives because it seems like—so far, things are very similar with folks’ responses. Do you feel that there is an equal opportunity for up-and-coming talent to be seen and heard?

I think there’s no certain answer to that. I think it’s a thing of luck for up-and-coming artists because it’s very, very difficult online to support your music—I’m talking radio, I’m talking distribution. It’s very expensive and if you’re just trying to make it here with just your music on passive income, you might not make it to that level. You’re going to go through a lot of challenges, but at the same time, being signed to a label that has the resources to make it happen for you is helpful. Just keep pushing and eventually the label will follow. Having a label comes with its own challenges, too, but as an up-and-coming artist, it’s quite difficult on your own. I heard a lot of people saying the radio charges for playing your song—the stations playing your videos trying to make a deal. The price of music production—it’s just so expensive, but they’re important for an artist to have. If you don’t have all of that in place, it’s the same thing over and over. That’s the way I felt when I was independent. I just felt like I was putting out songs, I wasn’t having the visuals, I wasn’t having a good amount of promotion, and with no money or resources—just trying to be creative at that time.

That’s real, though. It costs to do anything in the industry. Like you said, radio placements, getting your video played, getting on playlists—all of that! It’s not easy. That’s why it’s good that you’re backed by a label that can help you maneuver through certain avenues.

Like I said, it comes with its own challenges too, but I think it’s a better challenge than being an independent artist. Being backed is a plus.

Another great thing, though, is that you seem to be really personable. You’re making a name for yourself. I’m glad that I was able to connect with you to learn more about you and have you speak on your journey on my platform—although I’m an up-and-coming platform myself, it’s rare that you come across artists that are still willing to tap in with the people that are supporting. So, shoutout to you on that. I appreciate it. Like I said, you’re personable, and that’s a good quality to have. 

Thank you for having me on your platform. I feel like this is going to be bigger one day, so you should keep this going.

Thank you. There definitely has to be more on the way from you. What can we be on the lookout for?

I’m currently working on an album, but I think it’s going to take a whole lot of time, so it’s just going to be singles at that point. I’ll be putting out something at the end of this month, so look out for it.

Before we go, what does it mean to be Black and Gifted?

Being Black and Gifted is knowing where you’re from and knowing what you represent. It’s being real.

Stay connected with AcebergTM via Instagram.

LISTEN: EP, “FAR FROM HOME”

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