From basketball to hip-hop

Laurier student and independent hip-hop artist, Joey Onabolu (Photo by Ryan Hueglin)
Laurier student and independent hip-hop artist, Joey Onabolu (Photo by Ryan Hueglin)

When you think of Wilfrid Laurier University, a few things come to mind: the business program, athletics or even the tight-knit community feel. What may not come to mind is hip-hop music.
Hip-hop music has become extremely popular these days with more and more people taking up rapping not only as a hobby, but as a passion. Someone who is taking hip-hop music seriously is Laurier’s own Joey Onabolu, a first-year BBA student.

Despite the recent interest in rap, music wasn’t always his main focus. “I was into basketball at the time,” he said, reflecting on his grade school days. At that point, music was definitely a part of his life but was left on the backburner. “I used to rap a lot in high school and in the eighth grade. People used to love it but I never really took it seriously,” said Onabolu.

Even though Joey is finding his own path with rap music, the hip-hop roots seem to run in the family. His older brother, Michael Onabolu, found a deep fascination with the genre and had a big influence on Joey’s music taste.

“A lot of my style is based off what he had me listening to as a kid. I listened to a ton of Papoose and Dipset, really lyrical guys,” said Onabolu. This  lyric-based type of rap music had a major influence on Onabolu’s up-and-coming style and served as a guide for him to follow. “I think that’s why I really have bars and know how to rap,” he said.

For those who are unaware, “bars” are the clever sentences that make up rap music, something Joey and other rappers strive to perfect.

Joey remembers Michael flexing his lyrical abilities when they were kids. “It was more of just me listening to him. Mike has bars. I would just listen.”

If you ask Joey to describe his sound he’ll tell you like he sees it. “My music is the greatest ever. Some people can see it right now, but it’s going to take a little bit of time for others to see it,” he said.

But if you check the statistics, there are quite a few people who can see his talent now. In the past year and a half, his sixteen YouTube videos have amassed over 138,000 views.

“Some of my old music was a mix of hip hop and R&B but now I’m just trying to make stadium music. I’m trying to go on world tours and now I’m making the sound that’s going to get me there,” reflected Onabolu.

Even with this overwhelming positive feedback, everyone knows that making it in music isn’t something you can do overnight. However, the Canadian music scene is getting bigger and there is more room for rappers like Joey to find their place and make some noise.

“It’s actually pretty good. I haven’t heard a lot of rappers, but as far as singers/songwriters, I’ve heard some good stuff. The music scene in Canada is starting to get bigger overall. It’s all pretty dope,” he reflected.

So what’s next for Joey Onabolu and his rapping capabilities? Other than finishing his BBA degree, Joey plans to keep making the type of music that’s going to get him packing stadiums. For now, he is working on an album entitled Overnight with a March release date. Making it as a rapper in Canada is hard and even harder when you are balancing a full-time school schedule, but by the looks of things, Joey is making all the right moves.

Leave a Reply