KSI is here to prove he can make fire music, just like his peers. With over 21.5 million subscribers on Youtube alone, the London native has an incredibly large online presence, which he’s been putting work into relentlessly for over a decade. From posting commentary videos on various FIFA video games to creating comedic-style vlogs, KSI has accumulated over 5 billion views altogether.
Real name Olajide Olatunji is a lot of things: a musician, a Youtuber, a boxer, and an anomaly. He states, “I don’t really do what many people do, I’m very different to everyone else.”
In addition to his out-of-the-box creativity and endless pool of ideas, he loves music down to the core. In May of this year, he unleashed his debut studio album titled Dissimulation, spearheaded by lead single “Cap” featuring Offset. The song’s official music video currently hails over 8.5 million views within just one month of its release. While the numbers speak for itself, KSI brings a unique blend of his African roots with the UK grime sound. Regardless, each song is a certified banger.
Flaunt caught up with KSI via Zoom to discuss growing up with African parents, how he accidentally ended up boxing, connecting with Offset and Trippie Redd in the States, his relentless work ethic, goals, and more!
How have you been holding up in quarantine?
I’ve been chill. I’ve been posting more Youtube videos, staying active with my training, going on runs, playing Warzone with the boys, it’s been pretty chill. I’ve actually not minded by the lockdown, if anything I thrive because of it. It’s my domain where I’m able to really do well compared to other people.
Do you have a studio at your crib since you create at home?
Yeah, I’ve got a studio at my place where I work on music. I’ve been working on my next project.
Being from the UK, what was the household like growing up?
I had African parents so they’re quite strict. I didn’t really go out, hardly went to any parties, hardly did sleepovers. I was always an indoor person. My parents were quite strict so I wasn’t able to do a lot of things kids were doing. I stayed at home and enjoyed my time there.
When did music come into play?
I actually listened to a lot of American music, I’d use Limewire to download a lot of music illegally. It was quite intriguing. There’s UK music, but it wasn’t how it is now. The UK would copy what Americans were doing back in the day whereas now, the UK have their own sound. I listened to a lot of people: Kanye West, Drake obviously, Lil Wayne, Rick Ross, a lot of people.
Bring us back to when you formed Youtube group Sidemen.
The Sidemen is a group of YouTubers, 7 including me. We make random content for YouTube. We do Tinder videos, football videos, holiday videos, all types of videos. It’s friends who have fun on YouTube, making entertaining content. We have a very strong fanbase that watches us.
What would you say drew people in?
What drew people in was how normal we were. We didn’t try to be something we weren’t, we were ourselves. We’d have fun playing games. At the start, we played GTA V and had fun with that. Ventured onto real life stuff. We’re all mates so we enjoy it, it’s fun. We show that through our videos and our audience responds well. Our content is entertaining and it’s consistent. We consistently post on both channels: a main channel and a second channel. The main channel is content we’re very happy with, more pristine and high-quality. The second channel is a lot more chill, laidback. We’re playing games or doing little YouTube challenges, things that wouldn’t be big enough for a main channel video.
How long have you been boxing?
That started off as a joke. I called out a YouTuber, Joe Weller, who’s fighting his mate Theo Baker. I jokingly sent an Instagram message saying “I’ll fight the winner.” [laughs] Joe Weller beat Theo Baker and took me up on my message. Obviously I was joking, I didn’t want to seriously fight him but he started making videos saying “yo, let’s go. Let’s do this.” It pigeonholed me into a place where I actually had to fight him. We both trained and I beat him, From there I thought “hmm, let me take this opportunity to grow myself even bigger. Go branch my audience into America,” that’s why I called out Jake and Logan. I fought Logan twice and beat him the second time, we drew the first time.
How was that whole experience?
Tough, one of the hardest things I’ve ever done in my life. Boxing is tough, it’s a very tough sport. You have to train a lot, there’s no shortcuts. It’s relentless, you get in the ring and you get punched in the face repeatedly. You have to spar and you have to get better through getting punched. It’s hard to think when you’re getting punched in the face but over time, you get used to it. You start to get better and learn things in boxing. Eventually you start enjoying it and start becoming obsessed with it, that’s what happened to me.
Who were you bumping as you train?
Meek Mill’s “I’m a Boss” with Rick Ross, that always got me going. A little bit of rock as well, Breaking Benjamin’s “Red Cross River.” They helped me quite a bit. All types of music. I listened to Skepta, Jme, I have a whole playlist full of people. It helped me get through it.
At what point did you realize music could be a career for you?
When I released a song called “Lamborghini,” it did insane numbers. It was a song I didn’t take too seriously, I was just gassed I was able to afford a Lamborghini. I bought a lamborghini and made a song about it, it got millions and millions of hits. Made me think you know what, maybe I can take this seriously. I decided to really work on my craft, get better as an artist. Got to a point where I’m able to release Dissimulation, my first solo album.
How did you afford the Lambo? Was it YouTube money?
A bit of YouTube money, a bit of FIFA coins. I’ve always been a nerd back in the day. If you did a couple things, you’d be able to get a bit of money that’s legal. [laughs]
Talk about linking with Offset on “Cap.”
It was in the studio in America. Diego had the beat, played it, and I fucked with it a lot. Jumped on it, did my thing. Asked Offset, he said yes. We did the song and linked up in LA for the music video.
How was that whole experience?
It was quite surreal he said yes to me in the first place, because obviously I’m a YouTuber. I didn’t think he’d say yes, I thought he’d say “I’m not sure this is a good thing for me.” He heard the music and he fucked with it, he thought it was sick. He wanted to be a part of this. He sees my hype, he sees I’m taking this seriously.
Best memory from the video shoot?
Me and him going HAM on the chorus, no cap. It’s so annoying, even me performing there was so sick. I love performing. Not being able to perform because of lockdown and Coronavirus has was a bummer for me, especially for this year because I had a lot of festivals booked. I want to make sure by next year when I do perform, I have more music and they’re still hyped. I know this is the start, I have a lot of work to do. Even now I’m working on the music and still trying to improve my craft.
Congrats on your new album Dissimulation! How’s it feel to have this out?
Good. It’s crazy I was able to be #2, twice in a row in the official charts. Obviously I was up against The 1975 and Lady Gaga, but the idea I was even still in the top 5 is ridiculous as a YouTuber. As a person, I’m always trying to break boundaries with everything I do. This is another boundary I’ve broken. I changed people’s perception of what a YouTuber can do, proved that YouTubers can make good music. I need to keep showing that.
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THE ALBUM IS OUT!! On a real, I can’t thank you guys enough. From the beginning when I only had 0 subscribers you’ve all stuck with me through my highs and lows. I’ve worked so hard on this album and it’s so sick to finally have you all hear it. Legit I can’t thank you all enough. The support you’ve given me through the years has been insane. Can’t wait to perform these songs. Thanks to everyone that helped make this album possible 🙌🏿🙌🏿 LET’S GOOOO FAM!!!
What’s one thing you want fans to get from the project?
I want people to be inspired by my whole journey, from where I started with zero subscribers. I didn’t have a famous person to boost me, didn’t have rich parents. I started from zero and I worked my way up to 20 billion subscribers on my main channel, almost 10 million subscribers on the other channel, almost 10 million subscribers on the Sidemen group channel. Billions of streams on my Spotify, billions of streams on my Apple Music, billions of views on YouTube. Anyone can do this, you have to work hard and believe in yourself. Not give a fuck about what anyone says. Now I’m in this position and I want people to be inspired, think to themselves “I can do that as well.”
How was linking with Trippie on “Wake Up Call”?
Pretty standard, we asked him to jump on the track. He fucked with it, he said yes. We linked up on the music video actually, that’s when we first met. He’s a cool guy, we’re chatting away. We said we’ll go to the studio one day, he’s very tight.
How do you create a vibe in the studio?
I like being on my own when it comes to music, which is quite weird. Every now or then, I’ll go to the studio to link up with people. I work on beats, I like writing on my own because I can stay focused. A lot of time can be wasted in the studio with people either smoking or drinking, not focusing on the real task of why we’re at the studio. I like to write and get everything sorted before we go into the studio. In the studio, we do what we need to do. [snaps] We work and get the results, then we can chill after.
What are some goals for yourself at this point of your career?
I want to obviously perform. I want to one day headline a show at a festival. I want to get a #1 album, have a sold-out tour. I want to tour all across the world, there’s a lot. To get to that point, it’s all building blocks. I need to make sure the music’s there before I get to those places, I’m putting in the work.