- 22 Jun 22
Ahead of his highly anticipated Sunday slot at Longitude, Drogheda rapper Offica discusses his remarkable rise and his goals as an artist.
With streams in their millions, Top 40 chart success, and an ever-growing profile on both sides of the Irish Sea, Drogheda’s Offica has brought Irish rap to places that few would have even thought possible a few years ago – and he’s bypassed all the traditional industry avenues to get there.
Alongside his hometown collective, A92, the rapper’s hard-hitting drill sound – littered with anime references, Yoruba, and Irish slang – has resonated powerfully with a generation of young music fans who no longer need major labels or radio to tell them what to listen to. Within the online realm, Offica has established himself as one of the most hotly tipped talents to have emerged from Ireland in years, with over one million monthly listeners on Spotify, and 1.8 million likes on TikTok. Having booked a 3Olympia Theatre headliner later this year, as well as a slot at Longitude in July, it’s clear that his virtual popularity has translated into real-world success too.
Since first landing on our radar in 2019, with his viral hit ‘Naruto Drillings’, he’s scored collaborations with major UK names like KSI, Harlem Spartans’ Blanco, and Skengdo & AM, and was recently among the stars of Terms & Conditions: Deeper Than Drill – a YouTube Originals documentary, narrated by Academy Award-winning actor and rapper Riz Ahmed, about rap “transcending regional borders and providing an invaluable outlet of creative expression for young people as they fight to survive and thrive.”
Offica and A92’s ‘Plugged In Freestyle’ with Fumez The Engineer, meanwhile, has clocked up over 90 million Spotify streams, and a further 45 million views on YouTube, as well as breaking into the Top 40 on both the Irish and UK charts.
Clearly, without even a solo mixtape, let alone an album, to his name yet, the young rapper’s potential is immeasurable. Particularly now, given that our conversation coincides with the end of his studies at Maynooth University.
“It was all good,” he says of his final exams. “I’m confident, I’ll back myself on that! College wasn’t really a distraction for me – but now I can be fully focused.”
The last time we spoke was in December 2020, when he was selected as one of our ‘Hot For 2021’ Irish Acts.
“Nobody’s doing what we’re doing,” he told me back then, speaking with a calm but steadfast confidence. “Anything that we do is going to go down in history.”
That unwavering trust in his vision has served him well – as his appearance on the Terms & Conditions: Deeper Than Drill documentary, released last month, attests.
“People told me that they got to know me a bit deeper,” he says of the YouTube Originals documentary, which finds him opening up about his journey from his birthplace of Lagos to Co. Louth. He and his family spent time in direct provision, in Mosney Accommodation Centre, following their arrival in Ireland.
“I was really young,” he tells me. “I think I was three or four at that time, so I didn’t really know much.”
His real memories, he says, begin in Drogheda. The town is where he first began making music with fellow A92 member BT – and it’s still intrinsically wrapped up in his vision of success.
“I want to be the biggest to ever come from Ireland, and take the city to new heights,” he asserts. “I didn’t really start music to make money, or income, or any of that. I was just doing it for fun. So to be doing it, and doing really well at it, at such a fast rate – I’m just enjoying it! I’m taking in every moment. Anything else is a bonus.”
Offica – who also previously represented his town with Drogheda United Under-19s – isn’t the only talent in his family either. His younger sister, Victoria Adeyinka, is the most popular TikTok star in the country, with nearly 15 million followers, and over 613 million likes on the platform. They both did their family proud at the inaugural Black & Irish Awards back in December, when Victoria took home Personality of the Year, and her brother was named Male Artist of the Year: “My mum was impressed,” Offica grins.
Victoria’s also starting to make her mark as a recording artist, releasing her debut single, ‘This Abandoned’, earlier this year.
“She was actually into music way before me,” Offica reveals. “Not recording, but singing and stuff. She’d know a lot more about music than even I would. There’s even times when I’ve asked for advice from her while I was making music.”
Despite the rapper’s accomplishments so far, he’s been outspoken in the past about the lack of mainstream media support for Irish drill artists like himself and A92.
“If people in the UK are interested, I don’t see why Irish people can’t be,” he told me during our last conversation. “I don’t just mean the Irish audience, but the big labels in Ireland, and stuff like that.”
Since then, there has been some progress – most notably, Irish rap label Trust It Entertainment partnering up with Atlantic Records in the UK last year. Together with the team at Warner Music Ireland, they’ve set out to sign and develop artists, and to help “drive the Irish Black music scene forward to new heights,” according to Austin Daboh, the Executive Vice President of Atlantic Records UK.
Still, Offica tells me that most of the media interest in his work continues to come from platforms in the UK.
“I’ve tried to figure it out,” he says of the lack of Irish media attention. “But honestly, I just don’t understand it, so I’ve stopped thinking about it. By God’s grace, if I reach a certain stage, they’re going to have to pay attention. They’ll have no choice but to. So we’ll just keep working hard. And eventually – hopefully – my hard work will have paid off.”
And the hard work doesn’t end with the music. Offica and A92 have been active in their community through their support of Drogheda Homeless Aid, as well as the protests calling for justice for George Nkencho – who was shot to death by Gardaí outside his home in Clonee in December 2020. That social activism is something Offica intends to keep up alongside his music, he tells me.
“I want people to be aware of what’s going on,” he says. “I want to try and get things out there. People say I’m the voice of Ireland – but I don’t want to be that in a cocky way. If I don’t know enough about a certain topic, I won’t speak on it. And I won’t be stupid, and say stuff that I don’t agree with, just to look good.”
While Offica’s career trajectory has been steadily rising over these last few years, it’s easy to forget that much of his rise has taken place under the shadow of the pandemic. In fact, his eagerly anticipated Longitude appearance will also mark his very first festival season.
“Literally,” he laughs. “I’ve never been to Longitude in my life – and the first time I’m going, I’m going to be performing. It’s crazy.
“But we’re feeling good,” he continues. “We’ve already started preparing for it. We have really special things planned – but I can’t say anything! Just in case we have to tweak a few things, and you’re like, ‘Ah, where did that go?!’ I really want to perfect the time I have onstage, so I’m just going to be practising, practising, practising. Those two days before it will be mad with all the preparing – so I don’t know if I’ll get the time to even go and see the festival at all!
“A lot goes into it,” he adds. “For me, it’s not just a performance – it’s a whole show. Hopefully what we do surprises a few people…”
“I’m really happy for him,” Offica says of the Dublin artist, who recently signed to Warner Music Ireland and Trust It Entertainment/Atlantic Records in the UK. “And I’m happy to see him getting called up. There’s a good few Irish acts on the line-up – and we’re all going to kill it.
“There’s loads of American artists as well, and so many I’d love to work with!” he adds. “I couldn’t even start naming them, there’s so many.”
Reaching the same level as some of those American artists – and seeing other Irish artists rise to that standard – remains one of Offica’s central ambitions.
“It’s mad to think that I got the call for Longitude,” he reflects. “But my goal is to be called up for Longitude not just as an Irish artist – I want to be called up because I deserve to be there, as one of the biggest artists there. That’s what I’m working towards.”
Expanding beyond drill is another goal. It’s something that “everybody’s going to see soon enough,” he reveals, with the release of his debut mixtape this year.
“Hopefully that raises a few eyebrows and reaches new fans,” he smiles. “I just want to keep growing and keep releasing more music. I have personal goals too, but I have to keep some of them to myself! I feel like it’s not good to tell people what I want, or what I want to do, until I’m there.”
His aspirations might be lofty, but if we’ve learned anything from Offica’s remarkable rise, it’s that he and his team should not be underestimated. Whether he’s looking forwards or backwards, he’s always got the bigger picture in mind.
“I don’t know if I’m able to really measure my success now,” he tells me. “Maybe five years from now, I’ll be able to look back and decide if I’ve had a successful run. Right now, I’m just trying to work hard – and keep pushing.”
Offica plays Longitude on Sunday, July 3. He also plays 3Olympia Theatre, Dublin on October 25.
Read the full Longitude special feature in the current issue of Hot Press: