Tombrapade Broderick Asikpi, also known as Payper Corleone, is a rap artiste, songwriter, and sound engineer. He is also a graduate of English and Literary Studies from Niger Delta University, Bayelsa State, and Mass Communications from ISCOM University, Cotonou, Benin Republic.
On the list of his most significant achievements are multiple nominations at The Headies, Nigeria’s leading music award, for ‘Rap Song of the Year 2019’ with his song ‘Sacrifice’ and ‘Lyricist on the Roll 2022’ with his song ‘In Don We Trust’.
True to form, Tombra connects us to his lyrical skills and personality right from his stage name, and on The Big Showcase today, we explore the different sides of Payper Corleone, the artiste and the man.
Who is Payper Corleone?
“My love for respect and, of course, money inspired my stage name Payper Corleone. So, Payper means ‘paper’ or money, while I adapted Corleone from the respected character Don Vito Corleone in the legendary movie ‘The Godfather’. I know that money and respect are essential things to have before one is considered important. So, anytime I hear my name, I get enough ginger to work harder and earn more respect.”
One would think that with such a notable stage name as Payper Corleone that Tombra would be a showy showman, but the case is otherwise.
“I like to keep to myself, but the nature of my career means I have to be out there building and maintaining relationships or promoting my music.”
While Tombra had always loved music, he didn’t take it up professionally until a few years ago.
“I first fell in love with music when I lived with my uncle who loved hip-hop. Then, I entered the music scene about 13 years ago when I was in secondary school, and continued to master my craft throughout my undergraduate education at Niger Delta University. But professionally, I have been an established artiste for five years or so.”
Creating Good Music, Collaboration and Sources of Inspiration
Payper Corleone writes most of his songs but admits to hiring songwriters, although rarely.
“I’m not against hiring songwriters, but I write most of my songs. For example, somebody just wrote a song for me that I’m yet to release. So, even though I enjoy writing my songs, I’m open to bouncing ideas off other people or in the studio.”
Rap is one of the most complex types of music to write or make, and it takes the most consistently creative and talented people to stay relevant in this music genre. One of the leading forces behind remaining at the pinnacle of success as a rapper is sources of inspiration. Payper disclosed his various sources of inspiration.
“For the most part, my rap is inspired by real life, and whatever I rap or sing about has happened to other people or me. For instance, to write a sad song, I must mentally lock myself in one of my sad phases or that of loved ones and paint pictures of that phase with words and sounds.”
French artist Henri Matisse rightly sums up the backstory of every creative person with the quote, “Creativity takes courage.” Like any creative person worth their salt, Payper Corleone immerses himself in each work to produce music that transcends his generation.
“Writing or recording a song is like acting; I have to get into character. So, my duration of creating good music can take 10-20 minutes or weeks, depending on different things; my mood and the readiness of the lyrics or the instrumentals for a song. My mood has to match the nature of the song. Let’s say it’s a calm song; I need an ambient or cool environment to create the best verses. If the atmosphere at the time doesn’t correspond with the mood I need to set, I mentally create a conducive atmosphere for myself to create.”
Payper advises creative people that another critical source of inspiration is interacting with various people and situations. He also asks creatives a compelling question.“I think it’s essential to live a little, go out and experience life in all its shades to have something to talk about. You can’t use the excuse of being an introvert and avoid going out. If you do that, what is going to inspire you to create? So, take a few trips, and connect with random people from different parts of the world.”
Speaking on collaborating with others, he also admits that it feels great to rub minds with other creative people.
“I love collaborating with artistes because I have been a solo artist for so long, and I know there’s strength in collaboration. Collaboration for me is like giving other artistes the driver’s seat while I ride shotgun – it’s an exhilarating feeling. I also love writing from their perspective, so it’s a mutually good collaborative effort that allows both parties to tap into each other’s fanbases.”
Beyond his current reality as an award-winning artiste, Payper expects his career experiences going forward to be better and bigger than his current position.
“Winning and being nominated for major awards feels good and has been encouraging. But as much as I’m thankful for where I am and what I have, I know there’s still a very long way to go. There are certainly bigger plaques I’m going for, and this goal helps me to stay focused on improving my craft.”
Although born and bred in Lagos, Tombra ‘Payper Corleone’ had the privilege to study in his home state of Bayelsa and is familiar with the entertainment scene in the state. He has also invested in bringing exposure and the attention of national and international entertainment stars to the growing Bayelsa entertainment space.
“In terms of skill and talent, I’ll say that the Bayelsa entertainment industry is eighth, but regarding structure, I’ll say five because we’re just now trying to shape up the entertainment scene by bringing our colleagues and other big names in Nigeria to the state. People like MC Ijawpikin, MC Monica, YawngBoss and Quiries have collaborated with me to improve the standard of events organised in the state.”
Managing Pressures, and Biggest Fears
Successful creative people usually come close to hitting the breaking point in their career, and Payper Corleone is no exception.
“I’m always under pressure to give my best, especially when working with another artiste for the first time or when there’s a deadline for a music project. But I believe in being prepared for the pressure because it’s what I signed up for as a creative artiste – I have to keep putting out new and interesting stuff. For instance, I’ve been working with Peruzzi, who’s very talented and always coming up with crazy lines per minute. I can’t be the one holding such a person back, so I always bring my A-game as soon as expected.”
However, successful people also know how to avoid breaking apart or losing their creativity. Tombra shares how he does this.
“If you disappear, they’ll take your spot because everyone is replaceable. Yes, you can take a break if you’re overwhelmed or tired, but the industry is wired so that within six months, people can easily forget you. Dey fit don share your fanbase before you return to the scene. So, to avoid unnecessary pressure that can lead to feeling overwhelmed, I’m my own biggest critic. I mock, scrutinise and judge my work before putting it out there for others to judge.”
As someone who grew up with separated parents, Tombra had to become wiser faster and assume responsibilities beyond his young age. Becoming independent and self-aware at such a young age gave rise to his fear of not achieving his main goals in life.
“My biggest fear is not being able to finish what I’ve started in my career and life. And so, my biggest achievement will be having a fulfilling career, leaving a good legacy to my children and being remembered as someone very influential by those coming after me.”
Present Successes and Future Expectations
In 2022, Payper Corleone’s single, ‘Fly Talk Only’ debuted on Spotify Nigeria at number 52, and topped the charts on streaming platforms and media stations in Nigeria and beyond. Tombra enlightens us about his album title selection processes and why ‘Fly Talk Only’ is one of his most successful projects ever.
“My album titles are reflections of my feelings per time. So I don’t struggle to create album or song titles. For example, when I made ‘In Don We Trust’, I just woke up one day feeling in charge like Don Vito Corleone himself, and when I recorded ‘Fly Talk Only’, the feeling was similar but even better because I was in one of the best shapes I’d ever been in my life. Hence, the title ‘Fly Talk Only’.
Payper Corleone has more lofty dreams and aspirations to achieve and is motivated enough to achieve them.
“I intend to build a music school in Bayelsa State, and I will use some of the proceeds from making music to do this. Another major goal is to be able to take care of my loved ones and make time to enjoy my successes with them. It’s hard for artistes to find somebody willing to walk the tough path of the entertainment industry with them, so being able to balance my career and carving time for my loved ones will be a dream come true for me.”
Life is a bottle of pressure, shake it a little, and you might just be borrowing trouble, and even if you avoid it, it can roll towards you. Payper Corleone understands this and admits his favourite quote is, “No pressure. Even when there’s pressure, no pressure.”
Having this outlook on life can help creatives, and anyone, stay calm in the face of the toughest challenges.
Tombra has come far from the young boy who was influenced and introduced to music by his hip-hop-loving uncle and winning awards in secondary school for singing other people’s rap songs to becoming the award-winning Payper Corleone, a remarkable rapper and songwriter determined to reach some of the biggest stages in the global music industry.
We admire his passion and hard work towards achieving his goals, including building a music school in Bayelsa State. We wish him the best as he leaves a positive footprint for upcoming artistes to follow.