UK up-and-comer Enitan Adepitan, known simply by stage name ENNY, is a self-professed introvert. It’s an attribute unidentifiable in her discography, yet evidenced halfway through our 20-minute interview, ‘Sorry, I’m not very good at speaking,’ she says while in the middle of answering a question surrounding the sometimes disingenuous nature of artist branding in the music industry. This hardly matters. What ENNY is good at surpasses any need to be articulate when explaining her process to nosey press (though she’s definitely not bad at this either). Her music, which depicts a well-established talent for lyricism and poetics, does that for her.
Though still fairly fresh on the musical circuit, having released her first single ‘He’s Not That Into You’ in April of 2020, ENNY’s eloquently worded and fresh take on the identity-shaping points of our early 20’s pricked the ears of various top-tier industry producers and artists. One of those being Jorja Smith, and another, producer Paya. Both of which were instrumental in ENNY’s early and ongoing success, and collaborators on the artist’s first viral hit ‘Peng Black Girls’. A single whose success drove a remixed performance, viewed by 12-million, on revered music platform COLORS, and rallied a reinterpretation of beauty standards the world over.
Her latest release and debut EP Under 25 is yet again an ode to her lyrical talent, never faltering from the first second on intro track ‘Same Old’, to the last, ‘Revision (2011)’. What we get is an open window into ENNY’s conscientious mind as she explores important life moments leading up to her 25th year; a time filled with pressure to succeed, frustrations with the 9-5, and the uncovering of beauty in herself and her community.
Now at 26, and marinating in the recent release, ENNY zooms in to chat with ACCLAIM as she prepares to take a musical career that was born in the confines of COVID lockdowns, out into the slowly opening world. And though it’s a somewhat precarious time for those in the creative industries she proves as prepared as any.
So starting in a bit of a random place, I know that you finished film school a couple of years ago. How did you go from film school to working in a bank?
(laughs) Yeah, so when I came out of uni it was hard to get my foot in the creative door and I struggled for a bit. So I’d do a couple of odd jobs here and there, but I started to get to a point where I was actually like I have to make a steady income, so I wanted to get a job in a bank to buy a camera. And my uncle worked in a bank and he said there was a vacancy in the customer service department, so he hooked me up.
Was it always going to be a short-term thing?
Well, it was meant to be three months and then I ended up there for two years (laughs).
It was a great experience. I’ve always liked creative stuff, so that was the first time I had to sit down and do something that wasn’t in any capacity something I imagined myself doing, and culturally it was good as well because it was a Nigerian bank, so it was nice to be surrounded by that.
Was there a crucial point where you were like “No, I have to pursue music now”. Was there a light bulb moment, or was it a gradual realization?
I think it was always there that I didn’t want to work and I wanted to do creative stuff, but it was like the longer I stayed the heavier it got walking into the same place every day. You’re not happy. It was like a gradual building.
So now we have your debut EP Under 25, it tells the story of working in a 9-5, to manifesting success, to highlighting injustices, to celebrating diversity. What I interpreted from it is that it was a discovery of finding yourself in your early 20s. Do you think you could give us a short walkthrough of how you constructed the EP?
Yeah sure. I think it was just the journey of not being scared to turn 25, cause that’s what inspired it. I was just like “Oh my gosh”, I’m going to be 25 in two years and panicked because I was not doing what I wanted to do. So a lot of the songs were written when I was working [at the bank]. ‘Peng Black Girl’ and ‘I Want’ and ‘Keisha’s and Brenda’s’ were from the year where I was like, “yeah, I’m gonna start music”, and then when I started working with my producer Paya and we made ‘Same Old’ on the last day, the same day I quit my job, and that was from my first studio session. And so it was just like capturing moments, important moments in your early 20’s. Even ‘Malibu’, it was the last song I wrote during the pandemic and that was during my 25th year.
I think the last couple of bars on ‘Under 25’ you say Over 25 tryna find the light/ tryna get it right/ but if that’s not tonight/ ima be alright, it’s as if you realize that there’s no age cap on when you need to achieve certain things.
Yeah, I actually had to change it cause I had written it when I was still under 25 (laughs). So by the time the EP came out, it would make more sense if I adapted it to real life, and I’m kinda still in the same space. I don’t have it together and I’m still figuring out what I want to do, and that’s okay.
Now that you’re 26, how do you reflect on some of those messages on Under 25?
I think it’s still kind of the same story, still has the same essences. I feel like you never stop evolving and I feel like that’s what people need to realize. You can’t put an age on evolution, and so even if I was 55 and I wanted to be a rapper, although it might not go the way it’s going now, I should still have that drive and have the freedom to pursue it, cause it’s just something I want to do. The constricts of age just shouldn’t be as important as they are, you literally just have one life and you should just be able to live it to the fullest no matter what age you are.
There’s definitely a focus on age in the music industry.
Yeah, there definitely is and yeah, I think that’s also what the evolution of the project is about; not being boxed in by other people’s opinions. That’s one of the things that made me start doing music cause it was like, “What would people say, you’re gonna quit your job to do music?” but you kind of have to not care otherwise you’re gonna be stuck in the spot you’re in, just like ‘I Want’ is about breaking out of the box.
Do you think you’ve changed much from when you first started writing the EP to now?
Yeah 100%, I think the last year, or even the last 6 months I’ve had a growth. I guess I feel like I’ve graduated in life a little bit. And so yeah, I do feel a bit more responsible and a bit more in tune with who I am.
What would you say is your favourite bar from the entire EP?
I think my favourite bar is from ‘Malibu’, I think the first verse is my favourite.
How does it go?
I’m a mess, can I share that with you? /Or should I just recluse myself?/ Tuck myself right back into that shell?/Enjoy a little kick back /An idle mind is easier to own, you should get that/The call of life is ringin’ out my phone/ I might hit back
(laughs) Thank you.
Across the entire EP I noticed there’s this pervading message in your lyrics, there’s a sense of realness or genuineness that’s important to you, and when you look at something like your Instagram handle as well, which is called EnnyIntegrity, you get that too. Do you think coming into the industry with a genuine character is important to you?
I think we’re in an industry that is built on creating characters in general and I feel like we’re in a space in a world that is really fake, but we’ve become so accustomed to it that I Don’t think we know if it’s real or if it’s not real. So it’s just this warped sense of authenticity. So the only person I can be is me. It took me a long time to be comfortable with who I am and so to even be like quote-unquote “accepted” or whatever, is just an important message, and it’s nice, it’s cool to see that realness can still connect with people.
An artist that has that same kind of integrity is Jorja Smith and obviously, you collaborated with Jorja in ‘Peng Black Girls’ but I’m really interested to know what it was like meeting her, and whether you guys did share a lot of the same perspectives when it comes to music?
Yeah, she’s just a really nice person. She’s really talented as well and that’s something that I really appreciate of an artist when I see people proper take their craft seriously and they’re really in love with the art. Yeah, I think we have a similar musical background and I was a fan of her music prior.
What was it like collaborating on ‘Peng Black Girls’?
Oh, it was a sick experience. She brought her verse and the hook to the studio and she was just like “Oh, I’ve done this but you don’t have to use it”, and then I heard it and I was like “Nah, this is sick”, ‘cause she was really saying something and I was just really excited and gassed that she even wanted to be on the record.
It must have been a pretty surreal moment.
Oh, 100%, cause that was literally like a year ago now, and that was literally after just releasing one song. So it was like going 0 to 100.
What was the best thing that came out of the release of ‘Peng Black Girls’ for you, do you think?
I think just the message of the song and how far it travelled. I think that was the craziest thing to see and just getting messages from young black women, and older black women as well across the world, just saying thank you and saying that they needed this and that they haven’t been loving themselves the way they should have. So I think that was the most important element of watching the words ‘Peng Black Girl’ travel.
You performed that track on COLORS. How did that experience make you feel, because you were a pretty new artist at that point, was it quite validating?
Not validating but it felt like “wow”, it felt surreal especially during the pandemic and such when I know a lot of creatives and the creative industry was put at a standstill. To just be flown out to Berlin to do a COLORS in the pandemic was a bizarre moment. So I think all the stuff surrounding it was just mind-blowing then. So by the time it came out and to see the response of it that was even doubly as crazy. So last year just felt like a whirlwind of, “wow wow wow”.
When I was doing a little bit of research on you, I found that it was your producer Paya who organized that show. How did you two find each other?
So I’d had a song that I uploaded to Instagram in 2019 and when he heard it he was like, “This is sick, we’ve got to make this into a song”. So I was like cool, I’m gonna make this into a song and I thought this is gonna be the song that helps me proper break into the industry. So I had a song, and so one of my friends who is also an artist, R.A.E, had a tape of a show on Reprezent Radio in London and brought me along as a guest and I got to play some songs and the producer of that show heard the song ‘He’s Not That Into You’ and went “Wow, this is sick” and passed it onto the guy that makes the playlist at the station who happened to be Paya. He hit me up, sent me a message that he loved the music and that he wanted to support it and that he’s also a producer, and he sent me some of his stuff and then when I heard it, I was like “Wow, this is sick.” And then we had a session and I met him and he played me more stuff and I was like, “Nah this guy is super talented, this is what I’ve been looking for”, and we’ve been working together since then.
Is there something special about your relationship that makes you work so well together, do you think, or are you just on the same page music-wise?
I think actually it transcends more than that. I think I was in such a new space when I met him and he believed more than anyone did. He literally dedicated a lot into making the music and coming along to manage me as well, so it was just having someone else with that drive for you is what makes the relationship special.
Yeah, he seems like he’s been a big support through your journey.
So before you were saying COLORS flew you out to Berlin during the pandemic, that seems pretty crazy, but really most of your discography and the build-up of your fanbase has been during COVID lockdowns. What are you most excited for, or even apprehensive about, coming out of lockdown and then being fully thrown into the industry?
I think I’m just excited to do shows to be fair, and I’m not apprehensive but I’m just trying to gauge who I am. I feel like a lot happened but it happened at home because it was during the pandemic so it’ll be interesting to see and experience all of this quote on quote, “back to normal”.
Are you excited to branch out and collaborate with artists overseas?
Yeah I Think it’ll be sick. I think that’s also what keeps the beauty of music evolving, and evolving sound, just collaborating with other people, and coming from a community of artists that are big on collaborating, and just making good music, so I’m excited to see what’s out there.
One more question and I’ll let you go but I was watching an interview you did with R.A.E and you were saying your dream as a kid was to be on Disney channel and have your own show called, ‘That’s so Enny’, what’s your dream now do you think?
(Laughs) I hope to achieve greatness whatever that means and wherever that takes me. Do what I’m doing and do it to the best of my ability and take it as far as I can. I wanna let the EP sit for a little bit. It’s not a slow burner but I’ll let people spend more time with it and then we’ll go from there. I’m excited to make more music!
Follow ENNY here for more and stream her debut EP ‘Under Twenty Five’ here.