INTERVIEW \\ Sly5thAve talks all things IGBO ahead of their debut London COOK OUT this weekend

16th July 2019
IGBO have an attitude all of their own.

New York based p-funk inspired trio IGBO have just dropped their dance-inducing album, cranked up with bass slaps, sassy vocals and stabbing horns.

‘Attitude’ is a feel-good future-looking funk record that draws on inspiration from the varied lifestyles of its three members; Jazz-trained Sly5thAve, stylist turned singer Ms. Jypsy Jeyfree and self-taught guitarist and producer, Benamin.

IGBO have developed a reputation for throwing tasty shows in the States; putting on COOK OUTS during their live performances, to emulate their experiences of writing and rehearsing in New York, encouraging thoughts of home for Texas musician, Sly5thAve. 

This weekend, IGBO hold their first ever COOK OUT in the UK. The Post in Tottenham – where Questlove played a pop up set a few days ago – is the perfect setting for indoor/outdoor fun, with IGBO as headliners. There will be DJs to soundtrack the day including Selassie TBC, KG and MARINA, food from Caribbean Kitchen (Mare Street) as well as special guests for the live sets – make sure you get there early, it’s an all day event, hosted by us and Musica Macondo! GET TICKETS HERE.

Ahead of what’s gonna be an exciting day, we asked Sly5thAve to tell us about the IGBO story so far. 

\\ Can you recall the moments when your deep love of music turned into an active decision to build a career in it? 

I think the moment I realized I wanted to do this forever was when I was 14. All my life until that moment I had wanted to be a doctor or lawyer or something that would be successful and earn good money as many Nigerian sons strive for. But that was around the time I was first truly introduced to Jazz and once that happened it was over. My Auntie showed me some tricks on the piano and I tinkered around on the recorder when I was 8 or 9 but the first instrument that I studied seriously and practiced regularly was the alto saxophone. 

\\ Your attention was caught by different kinds of music in different ways; your mum gave you classic Jazz record ‘Blue Trainʼ and you had the soul of Detroit around you; can you remember your entry point into hip-hop?

Honestly, I canʼt recount what exactly was the first time I heard hip-hop. To the best of my recollection it surrounded me from birth and was a sound that I was accustomed to hearing in the background. I was from the music video generation so I remember being home during the summer and there were three channels I would watch every day at the same time — BET, MTV, and VH1 in the states. I would flick back and forth between all three trying for a chance to catch my favourite video again or just to hear some more new black music because lord knows in Austin, the radio was not really pushing for that in the early 90ʼs. So yeah I’d say thatʼs my entry point — music videos and bootleg tapes. 

\\ It looks like you’ve moved past the point of being daunted when arranging popular work of world- famous artists; I wonder if you find yourself taking a deep breath before embarking on arrangements like ‘Bitch Donʼt Kill My Vibeʼ for example, given how precious a tune it is for his fans. How do you prepare yourself?

I usually just try and find the song with the most music present. Honestly the only time I feel intimidated is when Iʼm trying to make a spot-on recreation of timeless things. Like for example, I once played the whole Love Supreme concert and the amount of study that went into trying to recreate that vibe was crazy. But making something new always feels liberating because there are no rules. Even if it sounds completely different itʼs just like a remix. To prepare I just listen to it over and over until I start to hear it different. 

\\ A lot of your work is based around bringing new life to modern tracks; can you tell us what attracted you to arranging, rather than focusing solely on composing?

Iʼm not sure how this happened. I almost failed arranging in school because I blew it off but turns out thatʼs what I should have been doing the whole time. I just heard the Kendrick track and fell in love and it kinda snowballed out of control from there. 

\\ How did you realise that your interest in Dr Dreʼs music was going to lead you to arranging an entire album, as opposed to one or two tracks?

I was approached by Eric Coleman and Kentyah Fraser to arrange a two hour concert of the music of Dr. Dre. We had plans to record the whole thing but we ran into some troubles with the sound board and when the concert was finished I had no way to hear these arrangements I had spent the better part of the last 4 months working on. So a little while after I had the idea to record them because I thought it would be a shame for them to just sit in a closet somewhere . 

\\ Youʼve been throwing some of these cook out shows in the States, right? Tell us about how the idea came around and about the vibe of these shows?

Well, when we were recording our record ‘Attitude’, we were upstate at my partner Benʼs house. Itʼs a beautiful property removed from the city and he has a BBQ pit which I always take advantage of being from TX. So we would be doing takes in his basement – drums or horns or whatever – and in between weʼd run out to check in whatever was on the grill. So one day after we had come back to Brooklyn we had the idea to pair my love of Texas BBQ with making music and help foster a community environment. 

\\ How did the three of you connect to form IGBO, and what bonded you creatively?

Well, Ben and I started this as kind of an experimental hip-hop band. I had made these Jazz demos at the clubhouse and had intentions to remix them and put beats in. Ben and I were introduced and we hit it off right away and created a few starter tracks in between day jobs etc. But then after a while we realized that we were P-funk fanatics and the music took a shift more in that direction. Shortly thereafter we met Jypsy and now we are three. Creatively, I think we were bonded by the fact that we were all kind of weirdos. And we were all coming from different places. I was fresh out of Jazz school thought I knew everything and needed my mind opened a bit. Jypsy has just gone from being a professional stylist to being a singer. Ben was a a self taught guitarist and producer and brilliant musician but it took us a second to learn how to communicate and get on the same page. In hindsight I think thatʼs why itʼs so much fun and it works. Itʼs super easy to go into autopilot and do what you know. But we all kind of pushed eachother to adapt and work outside of our comfort zone. 

\\ ‘Something To Do’ is a fantastic track; could you tell us about how it was written?

Well most of our songs start with Ben and I. Somebody throws something and we keep chipping away until it sticks. I think with this one we came up with a keyboard riff and built it out from there. Itʼs funny the original demo sounds nothing like the final track. And as far as lyrics, the three of us would sit together and kind of play word association. Weʼd decide what the song made us feel and try and craft something that fit that. Like, ‘Something to Do’ is about people who are just bored but think they got it all figured out. 

\\ Can you tell us about the themes in IGBO’s new album ‘Attitude’?

‘Dr. Tom’ is dedicated to the crooked ass pharmaceutical industry; talking about how they are quick to get us hooked on pills to cure us while they get rich and we develop some new ailment as a result. ‘The Martyr’ is about living for something greater than yourself. ‘First impressions’ examines how we invest so much into “success” and money and making a good first impression. ‘OPP’ is about the Instagram obsession and how we all judge ourselves based on fabricated snapshots of other people. I could enumerate everything here but most importantly the album is socially speaking to a lot of bullshit that goes on. But not in a negative way—in a playful way that will hopefully leave people empowered. We want to inspire people. 

\\ Tell us about 20 July in London; who are you bringing with you in your band and what will you be performing?

July 20 weʼll be bringing the core band which is Benamin, myself, and Ms. Jypsy Jeyfree. Weʼll be performing songs from our new LP ‘Attitude’ as well as a few goodies from our debut EP. We are fortunate to have some homies from UK who will be joining us as well!! 

Get tickets for this weekend’s COOK OUT with IGBO, from just a fiver

Listen to the Supreme Standards podcast with our guest, Jordan Rakei

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