Wauve is a 22-year-old first-generation immigrant whose unique blend of R&B-infused afrobeat draws from his East African background. His parents fled the country just as a war with Ethiopia was imminent, and Wauve grew up around the music of the East African country, experiencing the culture through community gatherings and weddings. There are two distinct approaches that Wauve applies to music-making. One lies in the pursuit of clever storytelling and great songwriting that he’s taken from his love of R&B, while the other is focussed around sharing his own story.
We sit down to hear from the inspiring musician who continues to bring a new sound to our ears.
On growing up... I was born in North London shortly after my parents moved to England from East Africa. I feel like I’ve got a lot of traits from that side of things; and obviously growing up here, there’s a lot of opportunity here.
On producing... I grew up producing, I wasn't even trying to be an artist. I was a shy little kid but eventually, I fell into it. It’s funny, I was making songs and spending so much time around music, that I started to realise I had a lot to say, and a lot of stuff to stand for – you know, I have a story as well. I was 13 when I started producing and it was only 2 years ago that I actually started to make songs as an artist.
When was that moment when you thought: "I'm good at this, I can do this myself?"
As a producer, when you’re making music, you’re always humming along to your own songs or you hear a lot of artists; but seriously, I had a mad sort of spiritual experience and I was learning more about where I'm from. That's where my name comes from – I always made wild beats and that’s where it came from – it was never from me trying to be an artist.
The way I create music is different because of my producer background. I start by hearing sounds rather than focusing on lyrics. I make the beat first and I meditate on that and start humming, and that's why I have a lot of play on vocals and harmonies. It makes it sound more sweet.
With producing, you’d always be the one making your own beats and music. Now that it's a bit different, are you put into sessions or do you still produce your own music?
Yeah, so I'm a person that says yes to everything and if it doesn't work out then that's it, I don’t mind. I’ve done a load of sessions with other producers and in a way, it’s a learning process and it’s good for me to learn how to work with other people. There might be situations where I get to let go and be the artist. If I work on my own, I can work on something for 2 hours and then if I don’t like it, I scrap it – but if I'm in a studio with other people, you’ve got to learn how to get the best out of right now. So, it's been an interesting experience.
The singles I'm dropping have been produced by me or produced by someone else but I still maintain a heavy influence. That's because it's only one way I know how to enjoy it, music is a spiritual thing.
You recently released the single Fee Fi Fo, which samples Ne-Yo's So Sick, can you tell us how the song came about?
Fee Fi Fo tells my story of people & girls noticing my come up and them starting to treat me a little differently because of it. I think it’s something a lot of people from different walks of life can relate to in different ways. Fee Fi Fo is one of the only songs that has received the OK from Ne-Yo & Stargate to sample their R&B hit So Sick, which is exciting, it definitely shows people the musical background I’ve come from, with the song still providing the grit of someone who grew up in London estates.
Whatever genre I jump onto, there will always be influences in R&B because of the way I sing. Fee Fi Fo is a clash of R&B and afro beats and that's my main focus right now; merging the two, cause I feel like not many people are doing that, and the people who are, are really talented artists. I feel like I'm trying to follow into their footsteps and be part of that wave.
Most exciting moment of your career so far?
For me, I'm on the come-up right now, but the last song I dropped, Stay Dreamin, I remember when I posted something on IG before it came out – and it started popping-off and meme pages were posting it, that was really exciting. That's like when a kid has a dream and that's the first taste of how it could be, especially when it’s something you put so much energy into.
And obviously when I got the remix with someone as big as Yungen. I was listening to him since I was in secondary school. I was in the studio recording with him, but we were sitting there talking about football or whatever, and it was such a crazy moment, because me and my boys were listening to him like 10 years ago.
That whole phase of my career has been exciting and it's got me ready to start this year strong. That's why I'm starting it off by putting out Fee Fi Fo and I have lots planned for the rest of the year. I feel like this year is going be my year, I'm kind of bubbling right now.
Who are your dream artists to collaborate with?
Maleek Berry – he’s one of those artists I was talking about who merges R&B and afro beats. I feel like he even kind of started that wave, and he’s got mad melodies and a mad voice, and he’s also a producer.
Bryson Tiller is the main influence in terms of melodies. Also, The Weeknd, because he's one of the biggest East African artists out there right now and I really rate his music.
Fee Fi Fo is out now
Interview by Dylan Weller