“This is illogical,” Tar1Q’s gingerly vocals open the EP. Over soothing mid-tempo piano chords, the opening song, Bad Intentions, sees the NuTrybe signee (Chocolate City’s talent academy) sojourn down a trail of love, and romance driven on the hot wheels of storytelling and sonics.
Apart from the stories in his just-released debut EP dubbed, Son Of The Moon, another illogical reality is the fact that, like millions of other students across the country, Tar1q has been caught in the crossfire of a toxic romance between the Federal Government and the university teachers’ association. Fortunately, the Geology student has now learned to find gemstones in the only place not captured within his school textbooks: within his voice.
Born Tar1q Oluokun, the 21-year-old singer professionally known as Tar1Q, (stylized with the number ‘1’, but pronounced as Tah-reeq) is one of the brightest young stars shining within the game currently.
“I’m just that kid from the neighbourhood, with a bag full of dreams,” he tells Guardian Music in a chat.
While his lyricism stands tall as his most towering skill, his lithe vocals and emotive flows project him as a singer per excellence. Across five songs on the EP, the young maverick shows great promise as an exciting new act to watch.
From catching multiple buses to get free studio sessions to borrowing smartphones to record his viral and now life-changing freestyles, Tar1q’s story is a textbook of inspiration for fellow dreamers. He shares the ups, the downs, and the in-betweens of his exciting stardom story, delving into his days as a rapper, down to making a mark for himself as one of the most profound RnB singers of his generation, and many more.
So, who is Tar1q?
FIRSTLY, Tar1q is this young kid who is from the neighbourhood with a full bag of dreams. In terms of who I am as an artiste, I am just someone who is completely in tune with how he feels about certain things. I am one who spends a lot of time being in his space.
Growing up, I always moved between Delta and Lagos State; it made me very introverted. Making music became my only response to things happening to me.
Where did you grow up?
I was born in Benin City; I was barely two years old when I moved to Lagos. A couple of years later, I moved to Delta State to finish up high school. However, in my final year at high school, I moved back to Lagos. So, it was a crazy upbringing. I have been in Lagos since I was 17 till now. I got into the University of Lagos, right after high school, and I have just been able to stay in Lagos.
What are you studying in UNILAG?
I am a Geology student. To be honest, I have always been a fan of gemstones. I just loved stones; gold, diamond and all of that fascinated me. I just had to study it so that, may be, one day, I would discover it. That has always been my childhood dream; I love a lot of stones.
So, why are you drawn to music?
Even in high school, I was still the social prefect. I was still that guy who was the social prefect from science class. I am not completely introverted; I have too many things in my mind that people need to hear. I just did not want to keep to myself.
My English teacher in high school saw me perform music and she made sure I became the social prefect. In my own sense, I just want to be in my space, but I just cannot. I am introverted, but I am never afraid or shy.
How did you start singing?
So, for me, music was just that medium I always used. I had no musical training; I just loved to write songs. Growing up, I would just use my phone recorder to record songs being played on TV. I would tell my brothers to be quiet, so that I could record it and write the lyrics down; I just wanted to hear what the artistes were saying.
I remember performing EME’s Baddest Boy with my schoolmates. Off the top of my head, I could do the part of all the singers. It was always a flex, coming to school everyday to tell people that I had learned a new song. There were so many ways to brag in high school, but mine was being able to say I had learned the lyrics to a new song.
I switched from writing people’s songs to actually writing my own songs. I got more in tune with the English language. I kept mastering the art of songwriting. Singing came after. It wasn’t that easy, but it happened.
What type of songs did you start writing?
I started off with rap. I was called Driew world, which was the word ‘weird’ spelled backwards. I used to tell myself that I was the weird kid that nobody understood. I kept writing rap. I loved J.Cole, Kendrick Lamar, Kendrick Lamar, Drake and all of them. There was no Drake song that I had not listened to.
It was annoying listening to music with me, because the moment a song came on, you had to be quiet since I was going to record it. I tell my brothers to keep their phones on mute when we are watching music channels. I got addictive writing these songs; even my brothers joined me in writing these songs.
Why do you make the emotional type of RnB?
It is crazy how my sonic space has been completely in tune with how I feel. If I don’t feel good, I don’t make good music. If I feel good, I make good music. If we are not cool and you come into my studio, don’t come into my studio, because I won’t be comfortable. That is why I record every night. It is part of the reason I call myself the Son of The Moon. Almost every song on the EP was recorded at night.
Rapping was not helping to properly express how I really felt. All the songs on the EP are real life experiences. Even my friends cannot believe that I turned my real life situations into something beautiful. Every single song on the project is in tune with who I am. Here, you can make music with stories from other people, but right now, everything I make is I taking bits and strands out of myself.
Before I even started recording, I made out a list of moments in my life that I wanted to sing about. I made sure that I don’t try to focus on talking about very serious issues, but I just want to make people feel good. I am trying to explain myself the best way possible. And the best way I do that is through music. I know that in a couple of years, I will be selling out stadiums.
How did you get signed to Chocolate City?
I was mostly putting out freestyles. At first, it was my freestyles on Instagram. I was posting freestyles every single weekend; I used my weekdays to focus on school. I trained myself to never miss a single Saturday. I would get beats off YouTube, make a song to it on Friday, and then record me freestyling on Saturday. I had to borrow my friend’s Iphone to make those videos. I would even go to a friend’s place to use her makeup studio to record the video. Then, I would send it to my own phone or even use his phone to post the video. I just knew that it was going to work.
Then, someone reached out to me one day and asked me if I was signed to any management. They wanted to see me perform as well, and they saw me perform at Sao Cafe, in December 2020, and I had so much energy. I really love performing songs. From there, I got enrolled in Chocolate City’s NuTrybe academy, and it just felt like a family thing.
So, how did you fund your career before NuTrybe came along?
I could not afford studio sessions, but I had a friend who loved my music and he allowed me to record for free. Sometimes, I had to take like three or four different buses just to get a free recording session. I remember having to go to Ajah from Egbeda one time just to get a free recording session. I was not going to miss a free session; I had to save up a lot`too.
So, what’s going to be your go-to sound going forward?
It took a lot to understand how I actually sounded. It was like more emotions and less of the words; I had to master the balance. It is on fire now, but I know that I am not done cooking yet. I call it Neo-Afro RnB, not emo-Afro RnB. It is what my music stands for. Everything that I write down has to come out from how I feel.
Who are some of the contemporaries you would like to work with?
I have always been a selfish person, so I would say it would just be myself. I respect a lot of people though. I am a huge fan of Ckay; I think he stands out. Tems too. Growing up, my Dad would always wake us up by playing the radio and music from KWAM1. It was annoying at first, because I cannot speak Yoruba despite being a Yoruba Boy; I was born in Benin City.
Later on, I fell in love with KWAM1. I watched him perform last year and I was shocked; I think that was the one time I was star struck. So, I think I would like to work with KWAM1 too; it is actually a dream. Femi and Made Kuti are also legends I would love to work with.
What’s the vision for Tar1q, going forward?
To be the best at what I do.
So, finally tell us two things people don’t really know about you.
I cannot do without eating plantain. I am such a die-hard football fan. I love Chelsea FC. I always want to know what is going on every single minute. I am addicted to the team.