Born Olakitan Elendu Ricketts, Trapp XL is a music producer and rapper passionate about pushing the envelope via his music. He has an unwavering dedication to his craft, making him one to keep an eye on within the new pool of talents emerging out of Africa.
Recently, he spent some time with Azuka Ogujiuba talking about his life, music and passions.
With your mother being a doctor and your father a businessman and politician, how did they react to you pursuing a career in music?
I started drumming at the age of five. I still practised in school and played in the school band, and after a while, I discovered rapping and music production and fell in love. My music teacher came to my house to ask my mother to purchase a drum set for me, which she refused to do because of how noisy it would be. At first, there was general disinterest from my parents, but as time passed, they saw I was serious about taking it on as a profession, and I had the talent/skill that was necessary, so they started to support my choice. I feel my dad is a tad more accepting of my particular brand of artistic expression, but they both have a good ear for music, so my mum is on her way there too.
Artists come and go. What’s your plan to sustain relevance in the music industry?
I’m the kind of person who gets bored relatively quickly. I need things to excite me and grab my attention. It’s the same with my art. If it doesn’t feel fresh and new to me, why would I put it out for the rest of the world to consume? I work with some fantastic people: Ibra Balogun (13alogun), my graphic designer, and Michael (SynX), my engineer. All three of us have our fingers on the pulse of what’s current. With our expertise alongside frequent collaborations with K-T3 and JKJMETASCO, we’re going to take over the world and hold our position for a very long while. I’ve talked to God, and that much is guaranteed.
Could you define your style of music and tell us why you feel you will win the people’s hearts and “take over the world” eventually?
It’s good music. In my head, the key elements are almost always interesting sync and a sexy bassline. Everything else depends on how I’m feeling at the time. I resonate with a lot of genres, so I flow in and out of different sounds. If you ask my friends, they’ll tell you that I am the person you hear in my songs (although sometimes a slightly exaggerated version). I am utterly unable to be inauthentic. I figured out a while back that people value authenticity, and that oozes out of every single track of mine. That combined with my need to constantly improve and my team/support system always having my back equals XL being unstoppable.
Who are some of your musical inspirations, who influenced you to get into music and who are your favourite international and local artists?
Honestly, I don’t have any artists to point to and say they have consciously influenced me. I make what sounds nice to me, and my sound is the result of years of tinkering around with my production software and notebooks till I figured out how to make the sounds in my head a reality. In terms of inspiration, a real inspiration of mine is Burna Boy. Seeing someone who grew up in my area in Port Harcourt rise to such astronomical heights made me sure that it was indeed possible. That’s all I needed to see. I listen to too many genres to name them all, but a few are Burna Boy, Daft Punk, Don Jazzy, James Blake, Gucci Mane & Slash.
How do you intend to curb the dangerous vices often associated with your chosen profession, like drugs, alcoholism and womanising?
Fortunately, I don’t have any interest in drugs, alcohol, or being associated with ridiculous amounts of women. Luckily, I’m the individual who is so comfortable with myself. Virtually nothing can sway me once I’ve made up my mind on a particular matter, and this is one of those scenarios. Also, I have ideas bombarding my head every second, and I can not afford to have anything cloud my judgment or disturb my ability to bring those ideas to fruition.
What was life like growing up for you? Any fond childhood memories you care to share?
Growing up was fun. We lived in quite a few different cities worldwide but always found our way back to Port Harcourt. That’s one of the best things my parents did for my siblings and I because now I’ve been exposed to so many different cultures and schools of thought, but I also know and value my roots one hundred per cent. It’s given me the ability to relate with anyone, and I try to utilise it in my artistic pursuits. Apart from that, my parents always made sure we had everything we needed and more (if we deserved it), so shout out to them. They’re both hard workers, and I like to think that rubbed off on my siblings and me.
I was hoping you could give me a little insight into your academic background and current living situation. Any plans for more education?
After finishing up high school in Canada, I studied Digital Enterprise Management at the University of Toronto and then I went to film school for film production. I’m currently in Nigeria. I’ve been here for a little over a year now because of the pandemic. I only planned to be here for a month or so, but it is what it is. I’m making the most of my time here, and I’ve met many bright and talented people, so I’m weirdly glad events occurred the way they did. I might decide to go to NYU for Music Business, but that depends on how my career goes and how much the world opens back up within the next few months. Either way, I will be heavily involved in music, and I’ll be working with many brilliant people like the guys from Legacy Films Global. They produced my self-directed music video for my song “Barney et Moi” off my EP of the same name.
What is the first thing you do as you wake up, and what is the last thing you do before you go to bed?
As I wake up, I decide the best time to exercise based on what I have planned for the day. I then look at my to-do list, get off my butt – work, work, and work. Before I sleep, I assess the day’s to-do list, pat myself on the back or give myself a little slap on the wrist depending on if I’ve achieved everything I set out to achieve, and then I finalise the next day’s to-do list that I would have been writing throughout the day. I crave order in my life, and this helps me achieve that. By the way, I know some people will be mad. I didn’t say I pray and read my bible first, but that would be a lie. I do that as the day progresses.
I see that exercise is a big part of your life. How did that come about?
I had been working out since I was 14. Within five years, I developed a very decent physique and strength I was proud of, but then, my world got turned upside down by the sudden loss of some very close people. The only way I could cope with it was to eat. I’ve always had an enormous appetite so that in conjunction with all the junk food readily available to me in Toronto and my loss of will to go to the gym resulted in me ballooning up from around 250lbs (113kg ) of mostly muscle to 310lbs (140kg) of fat within two years. I realised I had let myself sink too deep when I found out I was prediabetic and could barely make it up a flight of stairs, so I did something about it. I started training almost every day, eating right, and set goals for myself, and as of today, all of the goals have been smashed. I weigh about 205lbs (93kg). I am not prediabetic anymore and have never felt better in my life. Fitness and exercise are how I destress, and I promise to stay dedicated to bettering myself as a person each day. I plan on continuing with this lifestyle forever.
Could you open up a little about the sudden loss you say you have experienced?
I’ve lost quite a few people within the last decade.
Very close family members and two best friends, all at different times and all without warning. At only 23 years old, it’s not exactly normal, but unfortunately, it’s my reality. I tend to say I’m used to loss, but I try to stop myself from speaking like that. Every day I work through my feelings regarding this, and every day, I promise to always push towards being the greatest at what I do in honour of my family and friends who aren’t physically here anymore.
Could you tell us about your style, fashion sense and your interesting hairstyle?
My style is very eclectic and ever-evolving. While I love and respect certain luxury brands, I place more emphasis on the silhouettes of garments, the materials used and attention to detail like the quality of stitching and choice of hardware in certain pieces. Right now, I’m really into leather and lace. The only thing I don’t see changing anytime soon is my preference in jewellery. I love sterling silver, titanium and white gold. I won’t budge on that. Maybe as I advance in my career, I’ll incorporate a few diamonds here and there, but I have such an affinity for raw and rugged-looking jewellery, so that might not even happen. Regarding my semi-freeform locs, my family roots on my father’s side are Jamaican, so the locs are a nod to that part of my culture. Despite my mother’s constant eye rolls and threats to cut them as I sleep, the hair isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.
How have you been able to pinpoint and stick to your brand of style?
I’m very confident and comfortable with (and in) my personal style, but it wasn’t always like that. Growing up, my mum would dress us in ways she felt looked good, and due to her very keen sense of style, we did, in fact, look good, but when I got into secondary school, I would catch a lot of flak for not having whatever shoes or watch that was “in” at the moment. This was because my mum did most of my shopping and wouldn’t find said items appealing, but after a few years passed, being unique and confident in my individuality became my thing. When others wore skinny jeans, I’d wear straight leg jeans. When they wore graphic t-shirts, I would wear long-sleeved button-downs with a cardigan over my shoulders because that was what I was feeling at the time. Before I knew it, the same people that would tease me because of my different style were begging me to tell them what brands I was wearing and would try and copy certain things I did. That truly made me understand that I always needed to do my own thing despite what was happening around me or what others might think.