Considered one of the top five music producers on the African continent, Eric Isaac Utere—a.k.a. LeriQ—curates an eclectic sound that reels in African rhythms and combines them with the pulse of EDM.
Growing up one of five brothers in Port Harcourt, Nigeria, LeriQ began his musical journey at a young age when he met a producer friend of his father’s. “I didn’t know that you could record and overlay, keep recording and overlay, and create music. That’s when I fell in love with music,” he recalls.
Currently signed to Burna Boy’s Spaceship Entertainment label, LeriQ is responsible for some of Burna’s biggest hits, from “Like To Party’’ and “Say You Love Me” featuring Wizkid to four songs on the album Twice As Tall—for which LeriQ won a 2021 Grammy award.
LeriQ released a producer album, The Lost Souls, in 2015, featuring artists such as Illbliss, Chidimma, Burna Boy, Dammy Krane, Cassper Nyovest, Wande Coal, Seyi Shay, Wizkid, Phyno, Nneka, 2face Idibia, Efya, Bez, Naeto C, and Timaya. Other artists he has worked with include global superstars Justin Bieber and Coldplay.
A firsthand witness to how technology has benefited the music sector in Africa, LeriQ views the future of web3 as the foundation for a creative renaissance in nations with emerging economies. This led him to launch the African Valuables Collective (AVC), enabling African creators to generate and sell NFTs securely.
In a gathering of NFT experts from all over Africa, the USA, and Europe, at the CCX Lounge in Victoria Island, Lagos, the Grammy award-winning producer (who won for his work on Burna Boy’s Twice as Tall album) gave a welcome speech stating that he and his team had set up a platform where they could assist African creatives with curating their art into the metaverse. He also said that collaborations with fintech platforms like Luno, Bundle, and Cent would bridge the gap between the Metaverse/ NFTs and the African creative space. In a live interview with Lehle Balde, he shared the exclusive.
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How did you come about the platform, and why did you see this need?
Take Kanye West, for instance; I’m a big fan of West’s music, he created a platform to lease his music, and I think that is a genius thing to do as an artist. He has control over his work. In Africa, most of these companies just come in to take advantage of the art, the artist, and the creative force. So after my conversation with my business partner Essien, we realized that we have to be at the forefront of the NFT space and create platforms that help the artist with their NFT journey. That way, we can reach people who are not exposed to that information. So AVC was born to bridge that gap.
What does your NFT represent/ symbolize?
My NFT collection is called ‘“Rough Diamonds” because we, as Africans here, are diamonds in the rough. If you give every African the same opportunity you give everybody else, they excel. The NFT collection Rough Diamonds’, a piece of art, will give holders exclusive access to extended play (EP) of three tracks featuring BNXN, Tomi Thomas, and myself. Holders of the NFT will get the music, and more utilities will be added to the NFT as we grow our ecosystem. This is a can’t-miss opportunity to be part of the historic event that will transform the ecosystem.
Can you give us a few more tips on the EP? When is it dropping?
The EP is dropping in June, so we have started ramping up activity on social media and inviting all interested in joining the African Valuables discord to learn more about the project and future projects.
What is the one thing you want people to take away from the event?
I’ll say anything can be an NFT; you only need to understand how it works, how to maximize the utilities,
Businessday asked Leriq about the steps AVC is taking to make sure more fans join in and benefit from the NFT project.
In a response, Leriq said, “ at the moment, the NFT will be appreciated by those who love music; the collection will give you access to studio sessions to tap into the live feed of what I am producing at that moment; that gives a sense of some of the future utilities at the moment, and this will be upgraded periodically as time goes on.
Shawn, an NFT expert – with many new techs, it seems like it only benefits 1 percent of the principal element of people. Do you have a way to make it kind of drill down to the bottom end of the pyramid?
We are partnering with top exchanges to improve visibility and awareness of projects. AVC co-signs; if you list with AVC, your NFT will be on their display, like header or feeds, and promoted heavily to subscribers to reach the right clientele. It is tough to find buyers as new up-and-coming creative people cause if you just post on the open sea, you are hoping for someone to see you and buy your artwork. So we have ties with exchanges such as Cent (the platform that sold Jack Dorsey’s first tweet for USD 3M), where they can promote the artist or the NFTs that are coming from AVC on their platform, and that way, you are given more exposure and a better chance to succeed.
Reiterating the question, Balde cited an example of a photographer who took a picture of a trader on the street and sold the image as an NFT and shared the profit of his NFT with the man with whom he took a concept stating that if he had not done that, the man would probably not have seen that kind of amount of money in his life. She further said that as these digital assets are more understood, thought should be focused on people outside of the pyramid as well.
Collins from blog vests asked how one can check rarity to ensure people get the quality of NFTs.
We are trying to have little camps and seminars in universities and schools with our partners and pass this information on to them. One of the significant problems AVC is trying to counter is the originality of the NFT. The fact that the artist is coming through AVC authenticates the owner. Without this check, anyone can screenshot or copy an NFT and post it on any decentralized marketplace when it is not theirs. AVC vets the authenticity of the work and the actual owner. This assures the buyer that he is attaining the NFT from the original artist.
According to representatives from Bundle, the reason why they chose to be on the NFT project was to make crypto accessible to everybody, “we run the bundle academy where we try to bridge the knowledge gap not just from a trading perspective but through NFT and anything around the space in general,” Pascal said.
Chinedu, a representative from Luno, also spoke at the event, saying, “ we are trying to ensure that everybody gets to experience or leverage the power of crypto, blockchain, and everything it offers.