Sometimes, it takes a leap of faith in oneself to have a dream career as you achieve your goals. For rapper Leslie Carl Leslie - who is famously known as ‘Yeyo the Miracle Child’ - his music journey unfolded right after he believed in his abilities to write and produce music when he was only a secondary school student.
At first, he would criticise other people’s works of art, and thought of what to do to improve them.
Despite the fact that Yeyo first did this as a hobby, he wanted to truly understand the whole process of music-making from the initial stages of writing to rapping. And, he wanted to compose his own songs.
“At 16 years of age, listening to different rappers like Lil Wayne made me question what could have been done better to improve the quality of their work.
As time sped by, I was intrigued to take part and actually see the music-making processes through, from when the song is being written to the when you have the complete product. For one to consider oneself an accomplished artiste, one must indulge in different creativity processes, and understand how it all works out,” explains Yeyo.
After Yeyo composed his first song ‘Omen’, he started to perform it at talent shows in front of his fellow students at the Academic International Secondary School in Dar es Salaam. School performances played a part in making Yeyo the seasoned rapper that he is today.
“I was happy I got the chance to perform in front of the whole school - and, when my teachers and fellow students heartily applauded, I felt they were only doing it as a special favour to me because they knew me. So I wanted a different audience outside of the school confinement to see and hear me rap - and react accordingly to the way I performed,” Yeyo recalls.
On March 27, 2016, he took part in a rap show titled ‘Alternative Nights’ around Masaki streets in the city’s suburbs where he displayed his talent - and the crowds cheered on him on a way that made him start to trust in his own rapping skills as the days passed on.
Dressed in a denim long sleeves, Yeyo performed ‘Omen’ live in front of a live audience that cheered as he dropped bars and rhythms during the one-minute-and-forty-seconds event.
Years went by as Yeyo kept “skilling-up” his talent. In February 2019, he released his very first solo album titled ‘Holy VI’ (Holy Six) containing six songs, including ‘Mood,’ ‘Omen,’ ‘Let Go,’ ‘Halle’ and ‘Believe.’
“I was more than grateful when my album caught the attention of Mr Eazi, thereby leading me to become a Tanzanian representative on Empawa, a project that is devoted to uplifting upcoming African artistes. That project earned me my first music video for ‘Mood’, one of the songs in ‘Holy Mix’,” he bubbles with confidence.
Throughout his career, Yeyo explains that he has mentally noted multiple things that keep defining him as an artiste since he began his music career.
“Being an artiste means setting goals and limits in a way that you automatically push yourself towards greatness. Personally, I have listed some things that define my creativity, namely: quality, time, professionalism and humbleness. These things have already proved to be the building blocks for my career,” he says.
One afternoon in August 2020, Yeyo came across a WhatsApp group text in a diverse artistes’ group that detailed a five-month contest titled ‘Take back the Mic,’ and that was taking place in Mauritius.
In that contest, 10 upcoming African creatives were given an opportunity to showcase their talents and the winner with the highest points was to be awarded Sh58 million.
“Right after I saw that message, I applied and uploaded several of my songs onto the platform. It was a contest that involved ten African countries: Tanzania, Ghana, Mauritius, South Africa, Nigeria, Kenya, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal and Morocco - with every country sending out three contestants who were given a five day window through which to earn points for their contents. The person with the most points got to represent their country,” Yeyo narrates.
‘Take Back the Mic’ was finalised in early January this year, with Yeyo as a winner after he finalised the competition with the highest score: 1,800,000 points.
“I would not have made it without my fans. They are the ones who made it possible as they kept voting for me from the very beginning of the contest. I will forever be thankful to them,” he says - wearing a broad grin.
Yeyo reveals that he is now working with multiple artistes in the making of several projects that will be released later this year.
“Although I cannot reveal the names of these artistes, I find pride in the fact that they are among the most talented individuals in the Tanzanian music industry - and these projects will reflect their talents and creativity,” he says.
As he advises upcoming artistes in the music industry yearning for success and achieve their goals, Yeyo says they have to believe in what they do, be devoted and work hard enough to realise their goals.
“To have a dream and achieve it takes a while - and they should be patient. Every time they are told ‘NO’ should make them work twice as hard for their goals. They should explore their visions, for it is in them that success lies,” Yeyo says - encouraging up-and-coming artistes whose road in their music journey has developed potholes that impede their journey to not give up no matter how hard it gets.
“It is only a rough patch in the beginning with a beautiful ending that comes sooner or later. Upcoming artistes should sometimes embrace change as long as it promises better results in their visions,” he pontificates - adding that it is important to seek advice from well-established players in the industry,
“Whenever they face a bittersweet moment of it all, they must open up and share their experiences that can act as guidance to other up-and-coming artistes by following in their footsteps, ” he explains.