Laycon: Music’s Big Brother
“Bro, good to finally meet you,” Laycon says, stretching out an arm. We hug smile and I move towards a seat. A golden Lhasa excitedly circles and sniffs around the room as Laycon, dressed in a two-piece suit, explains her utility. “That’s my dog, Greece,” he says, rubbing her back and directing her to a metal kennel in one corner of the room. “She likes being touched.”
Laycon has spent the sunny afternoon in his Lekki home in Lagos, working to get his debut album, Shall We Begin, from his hard drive and into the phones, playlists and hearts of everyone who cares to listen. There are photo shoots to be arranged. Documentation needs uploading. Signatures are being chased and added to contracts, and a barrage of calls constantly inundates his iPhone, which is never far from his hands and ears. A member of his management team, Tarela, interrupts periodically to seek approval and get clarity on new engagements. Turns out there’s a rehearsal with a live band scheduled on the mainland. “I rehearse a lot, even when I don’t have an upcoming show,” Laycon says. “I just have things I have to do to move to the next level, and this is one of them.”
Sitting pretty beside the living room bar, a foosball table betrays Laycon’s hobby. I ask after the game and his interest in it. “You want me to flog you, let’s go. Let me teach you a lesson,” he says as we move to the table. I stare at a huge portrait of the singer hanging on a wall. Laycon makes good his promise. I get totally dominated and handed a bottle of water for hydration as he brags and makes little victory dances.
Lagos born Laycon, Olamilekan Massoud Al-Khalifah Agbeleshebioba, is on a winning streak in life. Big Brother Naija reality show winner. A personal reality TV show on the streaming app Showmax. Recording Academy performance sets. Writing a profile of Davido in the Times. Social and brand endorsement deals. Performances in foreign countries. And an army of stans who unite under the positivity of his Icons moniker. It’s all coming together for the Ogun State native who has spent years pursuing a direct path to music success and stardom, only to acquire it via reality TV. The Big Brother Naija season 5 winner became one of the biggest beneficiaries of 2020, a year when a pandemic held humanity back. Laycon appeared on our screens as a soft-spoken, intelligent musician who could spit a mean bar while teaching you about the rudimentary methods of pasteurization. Dreadlocked and creative, he coasted through weeks of confinement before winning on the back of popular support.
“I saw a means to a means,” Laycon tells me. “It’s not even a means to an end, that’s the funny thing. The music is still a means. And I took it. And to God who made me, I was just thinking, ‘Spend two weeks there and leave.’ Because in my mind, what would people see in me? Because I’m going to go there and talk about my music all through. And you would understand when you watch the reunion because a lot of the things they were talking about there, I wasn’t really bothered about. Because I was like, I’ve done what I want to do, unless I just want to keep talking about Shall We Begin here. That shows that I just went there for one purpose, and that was the purpose. Music. I came out and I’m facing the music. And yeah, it’s this way because it was meant to be this way.”
It’s always been music for Laycon. Long before the blinding lights, the screams of fans, and microphones shoving their way to get his story, the young rapper had made music his life’s mission. He made the decision in 2009. “It was the year Novak Djokovic won his first Australian Open, because I remember vividly,” he says. Laycon’s older brother had linked him up with an orientation camp for the compulsory one-year paramilitary training program, National Youth Service Corps.
On one of their social events, he signed up for a talent exhibition contest, beating multiple contenders to emerge third. The achievement blew his mind. “I wasn’t even a Corper. Those two [other winners] were. I just went there, I think I rapped, and I won a TV or something. And my brother was like, ‘Oh, wow, music.’ That’s what actually changed everybody’s mind in my house about music. ‘You won this thing because you just went there to rap?’ I said yes. He said, ‘Oh, cool, cool.’”