Nigerian singer Simi alongside her husband, while pregnant went to the US for holidays. There they were when the COVID-19 lockdown measures hit the world and borders were shut as she was about to give birth to her newborn daughter, Adejare – affectionately called “Deja.”
“We didn’t know there was going to be a lockdown. We went for holidays… We were there enjoying our lives [laughs] when the lockdown hit,” she says. “Omo, there was a lot of paranoia from me o. See even on a good day without COVID, I’m very paranoid and always careful hmmmm…[laughs hard].”
“I’m the paranoid one in the family and I think I was getting on everyone’s nerves at one point [laughs],” she continues. “I was also pregnant, so I knew my immunity was down and that I had to be careful. But largely, I wasn’t really going anywhere except checkups and stuff. so the risks were sort of limited. But then, I didn’t really want to take those chances at the time [laughs].”
In between all that, she released ‘Duduke,’ a song that has since developed into a smash hit. After a relatively lowkey release for the song, it blew up after Simi released a video for it while wearing a flowing yellow gown to reveal her baby bump. Simi and Adekunle Gold are Nigeria’s heartthrob and that video was always going to break the internet.
Upon its release, TikTok launched a #DudukeChallenge which spilled over onto Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. As the song gained love on air, it heat up on social media. Simi’s lifestyle brand then kicked in as mainstream Nigeria lapped it up like a cat to milk. This song was recorded when Simi was three months pregnant with Deja.
“I didn’t think it was going to be that big! And it’s funny because I believe in most of my songs. I feel that if a song is good, it will do well,” she says. “I think this is because I think I’m really good at what I do and I believe in God. So my confidence is up there… But for [Duduke], I made it to express myself. I knew the video would be big though...”
The video for the song was shot in January, but the TikTok challenge and all that were not planned at all. “I was just going with the flow because I wasn’t really in planning mode at the time,” Simi says.
“I love being a mom,” she gushed as she followed it up with a quirky scoff. “As soon as you know you want a child, you have baby fever when you see a cute baby. I said a few ‘I want ones’ sha… [laughs].”
“I love being a mom to Deja because she lights up my entire existence and I genuinely look at her and my heart melts. I love staying up through the night and taking care of her and playing with her…” She continues. “I mean it also means I don’t have as much time for maybe music at this time, but who wouldn’t want to spend time with this bundle of joy? Just look at her…”
But then, Simi acknowledges that motherhood is a unique experience because everybody experiences it differently even though there will always be shared similarities.
She says, “It can be crazy sometimes. Some women go through post-partum depression and that’s not funny. There are lots of hormonal changes involved in this process. Some women have even had to miss or quit their jobs. I’m just lucky enough that I’m my own boss, but there are mothers who are also models and their livelihood depends on how they look. There are lots of complexities.”
“I imagine that there will be similarities to every experience of motherhood, but each experience is unique,” she continues. “For me, I tend to manage my time between creating and motherhood, but the latter is my world and I love it so much.”
“You have days when you remember how your body used to be, but I always tell my husband that I will do this again – 200 times over for her. But then, it’s different for everybody. It’s not easy o, my brother. It’s not easy at all.” She says. “Oh men [laughs], I don’t have enough time to record because my baby is a mummy’s girl and that’s that upon that… But being a studio rat, I try to find some minutes [laughs].”
She then says that Deja would get bigger and that she would have more time to record, but at this time, she’s simply savouring the moment because kids grow so big so fast.
Restless II: Duduke
Simi started recording the EP in 2019. The first song she recorded for the EP was ‘There For You.’ However, ‘There For You’ was recorded for another project entirely – not ‘Restless II.’ When ‘Restless II’ actually became an idea worth pursuing, the first song Simi recorded for the EP was ‘Undeserving.’
She doesn’t totally agree with suggestions that she switched sounds though. She says, “I would say I’m just exploring, you know. Tomorrow I might make a project that’s filled with something new or what people might deem familiar. This EP was me exploring R&B because I had never really explored R&B.”
“A lot of people tend to feel like all low-tempo records are R&B, but that’s not always the case. I wanted to explore the genre while infusing it with my usual Afro elements and inflections so people would still be able to recognize me, you know,” she continues. “I think the ‘Simi brand’ is always evolving. I write what I feel like – even if it’s rubbish [laughs].”
Restless II: The Simi Brand
The ‘Simi brand’ is one of resonance and relatability. Simi is loved because the average person can channel themselves through her and how she carries herself. That’s why she’s gone from the ‘Girl next door’ to the ‘beloved mom.’ Her marriage is the ‘goal’ for many and the delivery of Deja was celebrated across Nigerian social media channels.
“[Laughs] I think that part [of our lives] can be very flattering and it’s definitely about God’s favour. Everyday I’m thankful for the energy me and my family get,” she enthused. “I know that God is looking out for us… We notice the love and we appreciate it.”
On most days, Simi feels the brand is there because her life and her music reflect who she actually is – not anything else. That’s why she feels her music always agrees with her brand. She then feels like ‘Restless II’ is another shade of who Simi is.
“I think this is the first time I would say explicit stuff in my music. But it’s not like I had the intention to curse before writing it, it’s just about me expressing my truth and inner fabric,” Simi says. “It’s just like having a conversation with a friend and spilling the ‘F’ word because that’s what comes to your head. I wanted to censor myself less in the context of certain songs.”
“A song like ‘No Longer Beneficial’ isn’t something I would normally write – it’s not even my story. But as it entered my head, I thought it would be a nice story to tell and I just started writing,” she continues. “The ‘Simi brand’ also encompasses me being a creative and creatives create things to paint pictures, tell stories or just to satisfy things.”
Before Simi released ‘Restless II,’ she felt it was not going to be for everybody because some people would deem it a departure from what they know and have come to expect. Simi gets it, but she also hears people say that Simi is “too clean, prim and proper and stuff.”
She didn’t make the EP to prove any point, but she understands that the EP might end up doing just that. She says this EP is about going outside to see what’s outside.
But in the end she says that as much as people are invested [in the ‘Simi brand’], she still has to protect her personal space because when you put something out there, you can’t take it back.
“Sometimes, you also just want to be in your personal space and it doesn’t mean you don’t love [your fans] or anything. It just means you want your space,” she says. “I wouldn’t exactly call it intrusive – that word could connote some very extreme scenarios [laughs] – but you’re in the public eye and you must watch what you put out.”
Compartmentalizing and a strong sense of self
Simi has had to learn how to deal with these moments by compartmentalizing. As a person, it’s also hard to get to Simi as a person because she realizes that everybody can’t like [Simi] because [Simi] doesn’t like everybody. She also understands that you can’t always be right and that it’s impossible that everybody loves you. A strong sense of self has also helped her.
“Even Jesus – as good as he was – he had critics! [laughs],” she says. “So how much less for me as a human being with all my mistakes? Even when I used to clapback, I used to do it because it was funny. But then, I had to stop. I’m just happy that only a few people can access my emotions.”
“Recently, I did like an IG live session to promote my EP and I was taking questions. Someone then asked me when I was going to show my baby’s face and I replied, ‘Hmmm, I don’t know. You know how I am with social media.’” She reminisces. “By the time a publication put that story out, it seemed like something else. Those moments can be very frustrating because a lot of people tend to see things in either black or white when a lot of life exists in the grey.”
Simi gets it though – it comes with being a celebrity. She also says, “I’d rather not even address it because going back and forth can complicate things. Nonetheless, it’s love most of the time and I absolutely appreciate it and I don’t take that love for granted because if people don’t love you, they wouldn’t express it.”
The recent public apology
Recently, Simi had to apologize because of some comments she made on her show, Stoopid Sessions. The Nigerian LGBTQ community reacted to it with chagrin and Simi got some backlash for it. She then had to apologize and explain her side of the story.
“If I apologize, it’s genuine because I’m not a phoney and I don’t know how to pretend. If I mess up, I will apologize because I like to say what I mean and I mean what I say,” she says. “I apologized for that momentary lapse in judgement because I feel like I have to be responsible with my platform and that I should always take responsibility.”
Quality of music
Simi goes ahead to say that if she will release any song, she has to feel like the song is top quality. If she doesn’t feel like it’s good enough then the song won’t go out – no matter the opinion of other people. She feels like there’s a difference between rubbish and questionable and rubbish will never go out on her watch.
She quips, “Fam, an artist always knows. Forget all that one [laughs]. I have also released some songs that made me end up thinking, ‘Urgh, you shouldn’t have done that…’ I have a team, but I have to like what goes out.”
Simi was heavily pregnant and tuned out. She was also done with recording and mixing ‘Restless II EP’ but she wanted a new approach to marketing it and projecting it because it’s a new sound. Alongside her team, she was then shopping for new distribution when a friend linked her with someone in the platoon team.
“From the get go, their energy was 100. There’s nothing like having people who believe in you and your vision from the get go,” Simi enthused. “They matched my energy and even surpassed it. ‘Restless II’ was a passion project and everyone on my team – except Bella – was like, ‘Okay, sis. Alright…’ [laughs]. So, Kunle really gingered me to do it and Platoon has been amazing so far.”
“We spoke to a lot of companies, but I told my team that I love Platoon’s energy, so we locked it down.,” she said. “I knew I wouldn’t have to beg them to fight for me because even before they had the contract, they already were. It was easy and fun…”
In the end, Simi should know that ‘Restless II’ is actually for everybody below 35. They just have to listen…