Michael Okolie, who goes by the stage name RushKlan, won Third Place in the International Songwriting Competition for the R&B/Hip-Hop category with his song “GodSpeed.” Michael merges his cultural backgrounds and environmental influences to create a unique sound that is RushKlan. I had the chance to interview Michael about his music and his career thus far.
Where are you originally from? Where are you located now?
I was born in Nigeria, currently located in New Rochelle, New York, I was raised in Japan, Nigeria, Burkina Faso, based on my mum’s work we would always travel to different locations for a certain period of time.
When did you decide that you wanted to pursue a career as a musician?
I’d say 2017 was when I decided to make it official and go after music as a career, prior to that it was more of me just testing out sounds and trying to recreate the music I would listen to.
Who is your biggest influence/inspiration to become a musician?
Its funny how it started, so one of my long time friend had this girl he was trying to impress back in 2015 but he was in a class below her and there was this guy in her class that liked her too, he use to make music at that time and I remember a lot of students would go crazy whenever he released new music but me and my friend being the music junkies we were, we’d already been listening to the likes of Travis Scott, Young thug, Lil Wayne, Kid Cudi and we just couldn’t relate to the way people reacted to his tracks and we felt we could make better tracks than he did and that was it. I ended up falling in love with the process of making music, I would stay up countless nights writing to beats I’d downloaded online, I started learning how to manipulate my vocals and the rest was history. That competitive spark was what made me realize the passion I’ve always had for music was beyond just listening.
What genre of music do you consider yourself to be?
It’s always hard for me to give one specific answer when it comes to genres based on the fact that I’m very experimental with sounds but I’d say I make Alternative, Modern-HipHop, Pop, R&BSoul, to name a few.
What was your inspiration for writing the song that you submitted for the International Songwriting Competition?
“GodSpeed” started off as an attempt to spark creativity. Before making “GodSpeed” I hadn’t recorded or done anything music related for a while and the need to create was constantly on my mind except the inspiration just was not there for reasons that were beyond me. I remember saying to myself “okay you have two choices, wait until you feel it or get on that laptop and try” of course I went with the second option and as soon as I played the first chords I instantly knew I got something. Everything kept falling into place, It felt like an out of body experience especially when writing the lyrics. It felt like I was being told what to write next and it couldn’t have come in a more perfect timing.
What do you hope for listeners to take away after listening to your song/music?
What I try to portray in my music and hope that people take out of it, is that sense of ease. For that 2, 3 minutes they listen to a song, I hope their mind lets go of all thoughts and just simply focuses on the sound.
What is your favorite song that you’ve released and why?
Yikes, this is hard to answer because at some point in time I’ve had each song I’ve released on repeat for weeks before they went live, but if I had to pick one then I’d say “GodSpeed” because of how everything came together.
Who were your favorite musicians growing up? Do you feel that they played a role in influencing your music today?
100%, I grew up listening to Asap Rocky, Kid Cudi, Kanye West, Travis Scott, Young Thug and many more. I’d say my music consists of different aspects from them.
If you could collaborate with any musician throughout history, who would you choose and why?
Bon Iver, mostly Justin Vernon, simply because the sound I've heard that group and that man create changed my perspective on what’s possible sound wise.
Do you have any new projects that you are working on?
Yes! After years of practice and learning I am officially releasing my debut album. It will be a two part album (Part A and Part B) which showcases my versatility in sound, from Modern-HipHop to Alternative, Pop and even R&B soul. It will have it all.
Are you planning on touring/performing any shows in the near future?
Yes. After the release of the album, I will be hosting and performing at venues.
Follow Michael on Spotify to keep up with RushKlan's musical journey!