Runtown- photo by Alexander Black
Douglas Jack Agu, better known as Runtown, is already a superstar whether you've heard of him or not. With a 100+ million views on Youtube, and numerous collaborations, Runtown is moving forward with his sights set on global success. We caught up with him before the release of his latest song 'Unleash' and after the launch of his new record label Soundgod Music Group.
What was your early life in Nigeria like?
Early life in Nigeria was great. I had an interesting childhood in Enugu, Eastern Nigeria, where I went to school, soaked up the culture, and was exposed to numerous sound influences. Much of the time, apart from schooling, I and my friends spent long hours making singing along to records and remaking some of the popular records that were on the radio. It was a great time, one that sometimes I truly miss, because times were simpler then and our needs were fewer as kids. The cultural influence of the music was deeper, with Highlife, Reggae, and Afrobeat being the major sounds of the time. What's life been like since you released 'Mad Over You'? Before ‘Mad Over You,’ I was already a superstar in Africa. My debut album had been released, and I had continental hit songs that carried the brand through much of the 54 countries in Africa. But ‘Mad over you,’ took me to another level. The record blew internationally, expanding my influence, to non-traditional African music listeners and markets. It was an explosion of my brand and my music, which has had me conduct business and played at concerts in various countries in Europe, the Americas, and Asia. It’s a blessing to perform in these packed venues and receive so much love and positive energy from the fans. I still regard that record as a key marker for when I analyze my career.
What do you think Afrobeats does for Africa?
Afrobeats which is the classification of African pop sound is a way of life. The music is inspired by everything around us; diverse cultures, traditions, styles, and influences. We have fused all of these together with the characteristic of African drums to create an influential movement that has pushed the continent further in the music business, and opened up new frontiers for the music to penetrate. On the continent, it is our way of life. The world is just beginning to catch on to a tiny part of it. Stay tuned, there’s more coming, and the creative spectrum of the sound will blow your minds.
Who are your major musical influences?
For me, I tap into numerous greats, each of them possessing key elements that I find inspiring. Take Fela Kuti for example, who is the father of Afrobeats. His abstract understanding of sounds and his ability to weave different elements and instruments into one record is magical. I learned a lot from his music. There’s also the energy of James Brown, the explosiveness of Prince, (God bless his soul). The list is limitless. As long as you make music in a unique way, chances are that you are my influence already.
Tell us about your philanthropic work.
“WANA - We Are New Africa” is a movement I started alongside a few of my creative business partners to represent everyone who is ready to take control of the African narrative by empowering our people, giving a voice to the less fortunate and by creating infrastructure and programs to educate. After just recently launching, we’ve built water access for local schools and communities, supplied schools with computer laboratories, remodeled local schools and curated toy/book drives and countless donations for orphanages in Nigeria.
What's your favorite city/country to perform?
Lagos of course. Apart from it being my home city, Lasgidi (as we call it), possesses a raw energy that cannot be explained but only felt. There’s a certain electricity that powers the crowd, which feeds me onstage, while I play my sets. That feeling is priceless, and I regard it as a blessing.
Tell us about your coming projects after leaving your former label?
The plan is to keep raising the bar higher. In June, I would be launching my music company, SoundGod, which would handle all of my projects and more. We are planning new releases, festivals, documentaries, tours, and a new album. These are exciting times, and I can’t wait to share these with the world.
Get 'UNLEASH' here
Words : Teneshia Carr
Photographer: Alexander Black
Styling: Ifeanyi Nwune and Ugo Mozie
Suit Calvin Klein / Boots: New Republic