I was prepared to die – Tems speaks on musical journey
TEMILADE Opeyemi, Nigerian singer and producer professionally known as Tems, has spoken out about earning acceptance for her music, years before she became an international breakout star.
In a conversation published via Interview Magazine on Tuesday, the musician spoke with superstar rapper, Kendrick Lamar, about her experience as an upcoming artiste whose sound was yet to gain an audience in her home country.
According to her, a lot of people advised her to join the mainstream Afrobeats genre as opposed to R&B which she was passionate about. The “Crazy Tings” singer said she chose to follow her heart even when she was not sure the move would earn her money or fame.
“I was prepared to die,” she said. “I believed in myself so much that I didn’t really care if I never became anything or anyone. I just wanted to get a message out. I wanted to get my frequency out. And I was like, ‘Even if ten people hear this, it’s fine.’ But also along the way, I used to listen to a lot of Nigerian music and I wasn’t getting a lot of spiritual—I love Celine Dion, so, I love that intense feeling of, I’m about to jump off a cliff.
“That’s how I want my music to feel all the time, and Afrobeats wasn’t necessarily giving me that type of stimulation. Everyone I asked for advice was like, ‘The only way you can do this is Afrobeats. It’s not that your music is bad, it’s just that it doesn’t fit in Nigeria. Nigerians don’t like this’.”
Tems also admitted that while earning money was good, she is more interested in “chasing a frequency”
“There’s artists I’ve loved all my life, that when they reach a certain stage, the music loses that frequency, it loses that touch they had. And I always wondered why. Why do I have to lose that touch? I don’t actually care where I end up. If I’m under a bridge and I have a way to make music, I’m going to be good.
“That’s what led me to meet the people that connected to that music. There was no indication that I would’ve ended up here. Nobody could have told me I would be sitting here in London speaking to you, Kendrick Lamar” she continued.
Openiyi has enjoyed a winning streak ever since her collaboration with Wizkid, “Essence” became an international hit in 2021. The song earned Tems her first feature on the Billboard Hot 100 at number nine.
She has since broken records and clinched several international award nominations and wins. Most notably, she made history as the first Nigerian female artiste to earn a Grammy after winning the Best Melodic Rap Performance category in 2023 for her collaboration with Future and Drake, “Wait for U”.
Tems also made Billboard history with “Wait for U” as the first Nigerian female artiste to debut at the peak of the Hot 100 charts in April 2022.