How Ogi Scored a Record Deal Thanks to a PJ Morton Cover
Growing up in Madison, Wisconsin, the artist born Ogi Ifediora never expected to make music her career. But after posting covers of songs on Instagram as a senior at Northwestern University (where she was studying slightly less creative subjects), her future began to take a new shape.
After one cover in particular took off, Ogi, now 25, soon scored a record deal and, earlier this year, released her celebrated debut EP on ARTium Recordings/Atlantic Records. Now, having toured with Snoh Aalegra and with more live dates ahead, the artist is nothing but excited for what’s still to come.
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Growing up, R&B singer Ogi was often woken up at sunrise by her grandmother singing Nigerian hymns. “Those are the first songs I can remember memorizing, because we heard them every day,” she recalls. Raised in Wisconsin, Ogi says there weren’t many people of color around, so her mother made it a point to bring the family to Nigerian prayer meetings, where everyone would sing. It was there that Ogi developed a fascination with harmony and recognized the power of layered voices. And in her high school’s jazz choir, she discovered her gift of perfect pitch.
Despite her passion for music, Ogi majored in political science and minored in legal studies at Northwestern University. “Being Nigerian, there are really three paths that you can go on in terms of careers: doctor, lawyer and engineer,” she says. Still, she made time to perform in an a cappella group, and during her senior year started an Instagram account dedicated to cover songs, including tracks like PJ Morton’s “Alright.” “I would post these videos just harmonizing with myself with covers of songs that I liked,” she says. Morton was so taken with her rendition that he reposted the song; that caught the attention of producer No. I.D., who quickly signed her to his Def Jam imprint ARTium in 2021.
Ogi, who relocated to Los Angeles after graduating, describes her debut EP, Monologues, which arrived in May, as her tryout for the music industry. “When you go into an audition, you have monologues to show the breadth of what you could do,” she says. The six-track project arrived alongside the bouncy single “Bitter,” which stemmed from a demo she made in college after a bad date. In June, Ogi performed at her first festival (Pharrell Williams’ Something in the Water) after spending her spring on tour with Snoh Aalegra. As for whether she thinks her “audition” was a success, Ogi says, “Even if the answer was ‘no’ to the audition, I’m here.”
This story originally appeared in the June 25, 2022 issue of Billboard.