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AzekelPhotography Agatha Powa

You need to hear Azekel, the R&B singer putting love under the microscope

Fresh off the release of his new mixtape ‘Analyze Love’, the artist talks musical heroes, artistic progression and directing his first-ever music video

Apart from his own, there’s one other voice that appears the most on Azekel’s new mixtape, the soothing and graceful Analyze Love. It’s that of retired Zimbabwean academic George Shire, a man whose life went from serving in the war under Robert Mugabe to working as a professor at Central Saint Martins and Oxford University. Using the wealth of knowledge that he’s accrued, Shire pops up on interludes scattered throughout the tracklist, drawing in the listener with his worldly intellect. On the opening track “An Analysis of Love”, he searches for a definition of love (“It’s not something you can approach with a formula. Loving is becoming”); on “Love and Death” he decries the state of modern relationships (“Your generation is forced into thinking all of these things must be in a package, like a list in a shopping centre”); on “Black Joy” he asserts that you can’t market the love between Black people in the way that capitalism is always attempting to.

Relinquishing the mic to another voice, especially one as compelling as Shire, could be a risk, but it’s one that has paid off for Azekel. Although the appearances are brief, in sharing his record with an authority voice – specifically that of a Black elder – Azekel succeeds in cultivating an atmosphere of warmth, intimacy, and genuine respect.

Below, we chat to Azekel about the rest of the new tape, his experiences with love and loss, and the shape of his artistic journey so far.

Hi Azekel! Congratulations on the release of Analyze Love. Can you talk to me about the inspirations behind the mixtape?

Azekel: It was made during COVID, so I was alone, but then it became a collaborative project. The inspiration is just analysing relationships and the different aspects of love. It wasn’t initially a group project, but it only came about through collaborating with other artists.

Is that something you thrive in, collaboration?

Azekel: Collaboration is really helpful because it allows you to explore different sides of yourself – it allows magic to happen. In comparison, my last project Our Father was done solely by myself, so it was fun to collaborate with other artists. And it was artists who were within the diaspora as well, so it felt right to discuss Black love with other Black artists.

Who are your musical inspirations?

Azekel: I love R&B music – golden era R&B. I grew up on Marvin Gaye. Also Bob Marley, Fela Kuti, Fújì music, Jùjú music. For this tape, I wanted to tap into a lot of afrobeats, but also disco music as well. I have influences from everything, from those artists to Morrissey, the Smiths, Massive Attack. Anything that’s good music that I can connect with.

In what ways has your sound progressed from your 2018 album Our Father?

Azekel: I’ve definitely experimented more with different kinds of sounds, and with my songwriting. I’ve grown in terms of my understanding of my voice and how to use it as a vocalist. Ultimately, when making Analyze Love, I started to go back to a lot of the records I grew up listening to as a kid. That really inspired a lot of what I’ve been doing recently and it shows on Analyze Love on songs like “Chocolati” with Nao.

“I was in a long-term relationship that ended, and I also lost a friend of mine. Shit happened to me and I had to find myself again” – Azekel

You self-directed the music video for your song Dupé – can you talk us through the process?

Azekel: I had a director while I was [in Ghana] but she dropped out last minute because she had difficulties with her visa. I wanted the video to get shot so I just had to just do it basically! It was difficult and it took a lot of logistics because it was pretty last minute, but we made it work. That was my first time directing.

Have you caught the directing bug?

Azekel: Yeah, definitely. I’ve actually been shooting whilst I’ve been out here in Ghana and I want to shoot some more when I go to Nigeria. It's cool to capture stuff visually that can link with the music on the tape.

How would you describe your artistic journey?

Azekel: I first started making music when I was in my teens. I went to the [Camden] Roundhouse and they had a youth course on, where young people could come to make music. I gained some friends from there and I started producing and singing. After uni I started releasing my music online and it got into some blogs and then Massive Attack heard it, got in contact and I worked with them. That was my first ever offer. I ended up featuring on the title track of the record, an EP called Ritual Spirit.

I put out my first tapes Raw Vol. 1 and 2 in 2015 and 2016. That was like R&B, electronic, bedroom music kind of vibes. I went on tour with Massive Attack but had a bit of a hiatus after that. I stopped releasing for a bit and I just started focusing on other things in my life. I was in a long-term relationship that ended and I also lost a friend of mine. Shit happened to me and I had to find myself again. I took a while off music and this is me back with Analyze Love.

Would you record the soundtrack for Rishi Sunak’s next campaign for £10,000?

Azekel: No.

What’s your ghost outfit?

Azekel: A face mask.

The worst advice you’ve ever been given?

Azekel: Get a home studio!

Pettiest thing you’ve ever done?

Azekel: Taking a gift back from an ex.

What’s your star sign and are you a typical one of that star sign?

Azekel: I'm an Aries. I don’t think I’m typical, no, but at the same time I’m not that up on astrology.

What’s your weirdest internet obsession?

Azekel: Esoteric symbology.

What’s your love language?

Azekel: Touch.

Who is your nemesis?

Azekel: My own self. I am my own nemesis.

If you could only listen to one musician for the rest of your life who would it be?

Azekel: I don’t even know, there’s too much good music! I know I’m listening to a lot of Morrisey right now, but I’m not sure if I could listen to him for the rest of my life.

What adjective would you least like to be described as?

Azekel: Weak, because I’m strong-willed and I have a strong mind.

What do you put on your rider?

Azekel: DJ decks, Chardonnay and chocolate.

Analyze Love is out now on Thunderlightning Recordings

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