Zlatan Ibile dreamed of football, wealth, and escaping Ikorodu, with no thought for music. Today, music is his key to global fame and fortune. From Ikorodu’s concrete, a flower blooms against all odds.
Music is a powerful tool of expression. From the joyful highs to the heart-wrenching lows, music has the power to capture the full range of human experience and provide a platform for artists to share their unique perspectives with the world. At the inception of his music career, Zlatan Ibile was an energetic, and gritty artist that shook the underground and mainstream audience.
I remember listening to Zlatan in 2018 as he shone on ‘Zanku (Legwork)’ and the show-stealing verses on Chinko Ekun’s ‘Able God’ and Burna Boy’s ‘Killing Dem’. Zlatan was brimming with a glow, a diamond in the rough. His energetic approach to the records, infused with witty lyrics and distinctive adlibs, ‘Kapaichumarichupaco’, ‘Astalavi, give dem!’ and ‘Ayiiii’ made him memorable. I took a dive into his life and got a better perspective, listening to his 2020 Afro-Intelligence podcast interview with Joey Akan.
ZLATAN: THE GENESIS
Zlatan (born Omoniyi Temidayo Raphael in 1994) grew up with 4 siblings, a pastor dad and an entrepreneur mother, in Agbede, Ikorodu. As a child, he played football, and due to his skills and the name that was usually on the back of his jersey, he earned the nickname Zlatan. Realizing how much wealth footballers amassed, Zlatan’s heart was set on becoming a footballer and wealthy like his idol, Zlatan Ibrahimović, the Swedish footballer. After failing West African Examination Council and having to wait two years later to pass National Examination Council, the dream was starting to wane.
Zlatan’s journey to music began when his friend, Femi Bruki, played him his new song, right there, everything changed. Zlatan and Femi were part of the church’s choir group; Femi sang, while Zlatan played the drum. In his interview with Joey Akan, Zlatan recalls being inspired by Femi’s decision to make music, telling him that ‘if you can do music, then I can do it too.’ He told his friend to invite him to his studio when next he goes to record.
The first time Zlatan accompanied Femi to the studio (somewhere in the Ketu area of Lagos) to record, he recalled that he was nervous and his fast breath could be heard on the mic. He took a 30-minute break to relax before going back to the studio, after which he recorded eight bars. Zlatan didn’t think much of it; he thought it was all fun till his younger brother took the song to school and played it there.
Zlatan turned into a neighbourhood sensation and people kept clamouring for his next single. With no means to pay for studio sessions, Zlatan sold his Nokia Phone for N3,000 to record his next single. The neighbourhood fuelled him with praises, however, Zlatan struggled to get by. He had to sneak out of the house to perform at a nightclub and return home before 6 a.m. to join the family for praise and worship, relying on his neighbour and siblings to help with the door so he wouldn’t get caught.
In 2014, he gained admission to Moshood Abiola Polytechnic, Abeokuta, Ogun State and almost deferred admission as his family were unable to raise his fees till the final week. He had to live with his friend while being untruthful to the landlord that he was searching for his place to gain accommodation.
While in the polytechnic, Zlatan’s friend signed him up for the ‘Airtel One Mic’ talent show in 2014 which he won and was awarded a Picanto car as part of his reward. He turned his prized car to a taxi so he could raise money to buy fuel and eat. After acquiring his Ordinary National Diploma, Zlatan decided to leave the polytechnic and explore his passion for music. He found some initial struggles in the industry but everything changed in 2017, when Olamide followed him on Instagram, which led to the creation of their hit song ‘My Body’. This track brought a lot of mainstream success for him and marked a major turning point in his career and he has since continued to achieve greater success in the music industry.
CHILD OF GRACE
Zlatan, released his latest EP, Omo Ologo, on 28 April, and the EP sets a new standard for his artistry. This EP has charted at number three on Apple Music Nigeria, and it debuted at number 20 on the official UK Afrobeats Chart, owing part to the success of the hit single ‘Oganigwe’, which features acclaimed rising hip-hop stars, Odumodu Blvck and Jeriq.
While ‘Oganigwe’ has quickly become a celebratory anthem, the opening track of the EP, also titled ‘Omo Ologo’, sets a different tone. This song is a deeply intimate and reflective track that showcases Zlatan’s humanity. We hear his vulnerability, heartfelt thanks and versatility as an artist, backed by a soulful choir. The track’s minimal yet powerful production allows the raw emotions in Zlatan’s lyrics to shine through. Indeed, you can feel the weight of Zlatan’s personal experience in ‘Omo Ologo’ with so much self-reflection, and gratitude for personal growth. In this track, Zlatan bares his soul, setting the tone perfectly for the rest of the EP. It is a testament to his skills as an artist, switching between celebratory bangers, emotional ballads and everything in between. When I asked him about the story behind the song, ‘Omo Ologo’, Zlatan told me via email:
Every day when I wake up in the morning, I get inspiration about things around me. What inspired ‘Omo Ologo’ is that ‘Omo Ologo’ means a glorious child. Whenever I look at my background and where I’m coming from and how God has been able to sustain me despite the ups and downs I just look at myself sometimes and give glory to God telling myself: Zlatan, you are a glorious child. I think that was what inspired the song so I decided to write the song about this glorious child.
At the start of 2023, I believed I was getting ready for what the year had in store, so ‘Omo Ologo’ stuck to my head. Most of the time, I groove to fast-paced beats when I’m in my element. But the songs that I truly cherish are the ones with slow-paced rhythms and lyrics that people can really listen to. Sometimes, that’s why you can dance to my songs and as well listen to what I’m saying.
It’s hard to hear Zlatan’s delivery and not think of fellow artist, Olamide. Both artists have recognizable sounds, a buoyant flair in their music that excites the audience, especially when they share anecdotes from their rise to fame. You also begin to understand why both artists have been known to spotlight emerging talents and why several artists enlist their help when it comes to making music.
Omo Ologo highlights all of Zlatan’s strengths and the journeys he has taken to overcome his weaknesses. The production sets the ambiance for his delivery, which is soulful, hard-hitting, and pulsing with vigour to match his style of rapping. Zlatan recognizes Chech Da Producer for his contribution towards the creation of the song. He told me that it took almost seven months to complete the track, as they had to work meticulously on the instrumental and trumpet elements, among other components. Zlatan described Chech as a fantastic producer who always comes up with new ideas. Chech, he told me, made the working process easy.
When I inquired further, Zlatan jokingly credited his creative process for Omo Ologo to some groundnut soup he ate in Edo State, in May 2022. He also credited his crew of background musicians, a producer called Jason and the people around the studio that showed their support.
In Omo Ologo, the soulful production and church choir humming draws listeners in. Zlatan eventually comes on with a melancholy tone, his cadence then becomes more relaxed as he reflects on his journey to greatness filled with perseverance and self-belief. When describing the writing process, he states:
The writing process of the song started with the word ‘Omo Ologo’ chorus repeatedly in my head so I started with a verse talking about how I will always be in the game regardless of whatever happens and then every other thing you hear in the song. The writing process was short like every other time, when I recorded the song. I recorded three other songs like two verses and this other song when everyone was sleeping In Auchi Benin City dated around May 2022.
What makes Omo Ologo beautiful is how Zlatan channels his feelings. His words are raw, honest, drawn from his own experiences and are deeply moving. When I asked how the song relates to his personal beliefs, he responded:
It’s a thing that bothers me so much, not like it bothers me that much. I believe God doesn’t leave people who don’t sleep and attend to the ones who sleep. I have that mentality whereby if I don’t sleep and then you sleep God is gonna answer me before He attends to you so I’m used to not sleeping every night.
I’m used to recording all the time and the emotions were just folding up at that time. I think I was gonna drop my first single of the year so I was thinking about how I was gonna make my run for the year smoothly, so I was thinking about dropping songs back to back and then understand the emotions behind how I was feeling about the song which is directed to the ghetto youths, going forward and being successful in life.
This moment is Zlatan’s victory dance and he is celebrating the milestones he has crossed while attributing his success to God. ‘Omo ologo, to ba ti ri mi o romo ologo,’ translates to ‘Glorious child, when you see me, you see glory.’ Zlatan’s lyrics offer words of wisdom to listeners, emphasizing the importance of hard work and declaring words of affirmation. As much as he speaks to the audience and encourages them, Zlatan also speaks to himself. Not one to rest on his laurels, he comments:
Some people are really into luxurious things and there are brands like Jacob & Co, Richard Millie, and AP that are extremely expensive. However, owning these items may bring temporary happiness, but ultimately one may come to realize that there is more to life than material possessions. It’s just a matter of personal growth and time.
‘Boro yii shey n bayin bee naa lo n bamiwi’ (This same advice is what I give to myself), he says in the eponymous track, ‘Omo Ologo’. This song is definitely worth a listen due to its perfect blend of a soulful beat and captivating lyrics. However, what really sets this song apart from other songs in its genre is its inspiring message about growth and triumph. With lyrics that resonate with themes of self-improvement and perseverance, the listener is reminded that despite the challenges that one might encounter in life, it is possible to come out stronger and more resilient on the other side. The way Zlatan conveys this message through music makes this song truly remarkable and impressive.
If there’s one thing Zlatan wants you to take away from ‘Omo Ologo’, it is that everyone has their different pressing issues but ‘When you wake up and declare to yourself you are a glorious child even the Angel passing will help you see to it when you claim it for yourself as an affirmation,’ he says. As listeners, we can all learn from Zlatan’s story and apply the lessons to our lives. Zlatan has shown that through music we can find our voice, tell our stories and inspire others to do the same⎈
The views, thoughts, and opinions published in The Republic belong solely to the author and are not necessarily the views of The Republic or its editors. We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editors by writing to [email protected].