Weeks ago, a CNN interview with a Nigerian producer who had made an entire album with the power of AI went viral across social media. A while later, Eclipse Nkasiobi (born Nkasiobi Chukwu), the man behind the music, spoke with PiggyVest about his early days making money and the big AI-powered business he is setting up for the future.
You were on CNN recently.
Yes. That started with a documentary we did on the AI-powered album project. I think the BBC first reached out after the documentary came out. Then there was a cascade of media attention. Reuters, CNN, others.
Great. Let’s go back. What was it like when you were a kid?
Not bad. We lived in Lagos, but I went to secondary school in Abuja. FGC Kwali. Then I went to the University of Nigeria in Nsukka. My dad is a pharmacist and my mum became a reverend in the Methodist Church of Nigeria.
What did you get up to?
Music and tech. Both of them were inspired by my brother, a computer engineer. I listened to hip-hop because he listened to hip-hop. I listened to rock because he listened to rock. And my dad bought a computer, maybe a Pentium II, when I was in secondary school. I was just exploring stuff.
Did you do any big thing with your hobbies?
Yes. I recorded a song with my pocket money. I decided to go to a studio with money meant for garri and sugar. It was a nerve-wracking experience.
How was it received?
Quite well. There were a bunch of us interested in music at the time. But I was the first person with an actual recorded song. I think we printed a hundred CDs and started selling. We sold it for ₦100, and that was the first time I made money from music.
Wonderful entrepreneurship. What was your stage name then?
It was Nuzon.
Let me not probe the origins. Was it clear what you wanted to study?
Not really. But it would appear like I knew when I tell you what I studied…
[Laughs] I studied Mass Communication.
I see. It does feel predestined.
Yeah. But I promise you it wasn’t that deep. I think I chose it just because it didn’t involve maths. [Laughs]
You didn’t like maths?
I wasn’t a fan at all. Anyway, while in school, I took up a gig at the school radio station and became the only student getting paid for it.
How did you manage that?
Honestly, I don’t know why they paid. But I guess it’s because I was brave enough to ask.
Must have been sweet.
It was. At some point, UNN had an anniversary celebration. I performed during the event and that was how I became one of the most popular students in school. That went hand in hand with me having my own radio show.
Did you do anything else?
I did graphic design. Posters and album covers. Photoshop was a big part of my thing.
How was it like managing all of these with studying?
Not too easy. But as I grew, my focus narrowed. Music became the main thing. I was making beats for people at some point.
₦5k per beat. I was making more money from that than from the radio gig at the end.
What happened next?
I was in battle rap mode for a while, so I entered into a contest and ended up in the finals.
What about a job?
It was a tough time. A few things happened, and then I started my own event at certain venues. After the event, I’d share revenue with the venue. At some point, I met MI Abaga and he offered me a job at Chocolate City.
I also had a job as a blogger, but that didn’t last too long. I was still doing beats, and I started producing jingles for brands.
Sounds like a lot of money…
To some extent. But that is because I didn’t know the jingle I was making was for a big company until later. So I got paid better than I was used to but not quite what I should have gotten.
What did you dabble into?
I also acted. That was in Tinsel.
How did that happen?
Someone heard me speak and introduced me to a director.
How much did it pay?
About ₦10k per episode.
Let’s talk about AI. How did it enter your life?
I have always been curious. I just consume information. And by the time AI turned up, it wasn’t far-fetched that I would consider it. That was in 2022.
How much did the album cost?
I had a cap of $500, and I forced myself to make the album in three days. The cost went mainly to subscriptions for tools for songwriting, production and voice creation.
How satisfied are you with the product?
On the subject of intention, 10/10. I did what I set out to do. On the music itself, 7.5 or 8/10. It is good but not great music.
What is next?
Two words: double down. We are doubling down on digital content creation. We are leveraging AI to change how people will consume video content. Brands have reached out, but I can’t tell you which brands yet.
What is next for you and Nigerian music?
Some interesting collaborations. We might be working with artists who have passed on.
Oh? What about the legal implications?
[Laughs] I am working with the actual rights holders, so that is taken care of. It is going to be very interesting over the next few months. Very soon, we’ll release a song from a particular artist and it may feature a new verse and my AI act, Mya Blue.
[Laughs] Let’s just wait.
Do you think AI is going to be big business in Nigeria?
Yes, I think so. It has value especially because it is the buzz now. Also, there is a lot of access that is possible. Imagine what we can do with animation or with events. Imagine a new interpretation of a song so that people can experience the song anew. There are many brand partnerships possible. It is definitely a lucrative business.
All of my experiences from working with brands, working at a record label and being creative will come together with the next series of projects. Everything I have been up to culminates in this moment, where I have the chance to change the way content is created and consumed out of Africa.
Is there a timeline?
Yes. In the next six months. We are working towards the music part of the business. After that, we will go into film. We are creating non-linear videos that users can interact with. It is a game-changer for brands.
What does “interactive” in that statement mean?
It means movies and video projects will end in different ways. Just make different choices and you’ll see it happen. That’s all I can say for now. [Laughs] You just wait.