Ayra Starr FAULT Magazine Covershoot and Interview

Ayra Starr is going all the way and there is no stopping her.

ayra starr
Coat, Gloves and trousers by MITHRIDATE

Photography: Jack Alexander
Styling: Anastasia Busch
Make-Up: Hila Karmand @ Arch the Agency
Hair: Tania Sambou
Fashion assistant: Lily Hobman
Makeup assistant: Elina Balint

Words: Fabio Magnocavallo

Setting herself apart from her peers, the West African singer’s mix of afropop and R&B has proven to be the perfect blend for listeners and gained her a growing legion of listeners from across the pond. In under two years, Starr has acclimated over 316 million streams and more than 135 million views on YouTube. Stats aside, however, it’s her flair that also has forces drooling over her talent and wanting a slice of the pie.

In August 2021, less than a year after she made her music debut, Starr was invited by fellow African giant Burna Boy to perform at his O2 Arena show in London. That same month, she released her debut studio album, 19 & Dangerous, which was not only met with critical acclaim but featured hot collabs with CKay and Fousheé. Over a year later, Starr unleashed a deluxe edition with more features, one of which included Destiny’s Child icon Kelly Rowland on the remix of “Bloody Samaritan.” 

That said, Starr’s impressive resume has yet to peak and just keeps getting better. Over the past few weeks, she has featured on Wizkid’s latest single, “2 Sugar,” appeared on Stormzy’s new album, and is now the newest addition to Spotify’s RADAR Global artist program. 

At 20 years old, Starr, quite literally, has the world at her feet. In a cover story interview with FAULT, we learn about her biggest highlights from the past year, where she hopes to take her sound, and her what she considers to be one of her flaws.

ayra starr
Coat, Gloves and trousers by MITHRIDATE

We’re gearing up for the end of the year and you’ve done a whole lot! How has 2022 been for you? Has everything gone the way you hoped?

To be honest, it has. I don’t live in the moment. I’m always looking for the next thing when I’m working. After a milestone, I’m always like, ‘Okay, what’s next?’ You know? But now, I feel as if I’m very conscious of that and I’m just trying to live in the moment and just appreciate everything. So yes, 2022 has just been simply amazing.

What has been the biggest pinch-me moment?

There has been too many, to be honest. So much has happened this year, I can’t even keep track of everything! The “Bloody Samaritan” remix, performing at Coachella, having four number one songs in Nigeria, the song with Wiz as well as releasing “Rush.” “Rush” is about to be so big. It already is but it’s about to be even bigger than what it is.

You’ve done a lot and achieved so much in under two years. Have you felt the journey to where you are has been an easier ride than expected or one that has been more challenging?

I think it has been a very educational journey, I wouldn’t say it’s been easy. I wouldn’t say it’s been hard, either. Everything I have done has just taught me a lot, you know, it has been very educational, even when it’s hard. I’ve learned so much on patience and how to move past whatever hardship I’m facing. And even when it’s easy, I learn to just appreciate the moment. 

Last month, you released the deluxe edition of your debut album, “19 & Dangerous.” How have you felt about the overall reception of the record?

Definitely. It’s still exceeding my expectations to be honest because I released the deluxe a year after the album was originally put out. I’ve never seen anybody do that. The love has been crazy and intense. New people are finding me from different parts of the world, I have fans from far places. It’s crazy!

Is there a particular song that is an obvious favourite?

They’re all my babies. I can’t, I’m a good mother. I love all of them equally.

Good answer! One of the more popular tracks, “Bloody Samaritan,” featured a remix with Kelly Rowland. How did this fire collaboration come to life?

I remember Kelly did a video of “Fashion Killer” for an Instagram video. My mum is always the one sending me every single video, every single thing that is happening concerning my career. When I hit number one, everything, my mom is the one telling me, ‘Oh, you just hit number one.’ She sent me the Kelly video and I was so excited. I think I was ready following Kelly on Instagram actually and I reposted it and sent her a message telling her, ‘Thank you so much for using my song and everything.’ Two weeks after, she said she wanted to be on the remix of “Bloody Samaritan” and I was shocked she even knew the song. She recorded her verse and sent it to me a week after. I’ve had other remixes, but that one was just crazy ‘cause she went IN. It’s just the best remix I’ve ever had in my entire life.

How did you feel when you heard Kelly’s verse back for the first time?

My mouth was just open. I was like, ‘What?!’ And it just kept getting better, like how she came in, how she continued. I was really shocked, but I was amazed. I was like, she’s so good!

ayra starr
Rings by DOSISG6C

You feature on Wizkid’s new album on “2 Sugar.” How was the creative process for that song?

We were in LA and DJ Tunez, who is Wizkid’s official DJ, sent me a message to pull up to the studio, telling me that Wizkid wants to record with me. I was so nervous before I went to this session but when I got there it was so easy. There was nothing to be worried about, he just made me feel so comfortable. I remember going to record the song and I only did my bit once, it was like a freestyle. I didn’t know he was going to like it. But Wizkid is the type of person that when he makes something, he makes you believes that the first time you do it is the best time because you’re not thinking, you’re just making music. After I recorded, I remember asking to correct my mistakes but he was like, ‘Nope, it’s perfect.’

You also make an appearance on Stormzy’s new album on the track “Need You.” How did you feel when you were approached to be a part of his project and how would you describe the song?

When I was told Stormzy wanted me on his album, I was like… ‘Stormzy wants me on his album?!’ I’m the most confident person but sometimes I’m always shocked that people know who I am. They sent over the song and asked me to record the chorus and I did. The song is very beautiful, I’ve never heard Stormzy make that type of music before. I know him for his rapping but on this,he was kind of like singing and also rapping and it was just so amazing. Everybody’s going to love it.

What do you look for in artists when choosing to collaborate with them?

I like to work with people that I actually admire and love their music. It must be a song I love. Some people get paid for features and that, but me, I have to literally love the song to be on the song. I’m such a musical person and I literally have to enjoy the music to see myself being on it. Every single song I’ve jumped on, I’m already a big fan of the artist or I just love the music. 

What is it about the afrobeat / afropop sound that you believe is resonating with listeners globally?

I think afrobeats is just very raw. You know, Africa is the motherland and music from Africa I feel like it’s so close to God because like everything we do here is just so raw. It’s just so intentional. It’s just raw talent. The music is good vibration, it’s happy vibration. Even the sad afrobeat songs make you feel happy in a way. Like when you sing, it makes you feel happy because everything we do here in Africa, it has to be intense to make people happy, to make people want to dance, to make people feel relatable and accepted. And I feel that’s why the world can relate so much and want people to listen to afrobeats because right now, I feel like the world isin a very like low vibrational like state and afrobeats is a positive vibration. Everybody just feels drawn to that.

With the industry being so quick-paced, have you already started working on what’s next?

Definitely! I’m currently working on something, I don’t know if it’s a project or anything but mentally, I already know what I want to make. I’m going to try to be very intentional with that with the next songs I release or the next project. 

ayra starr
Rings by DOSISG6C

How do you hope to see your sound evolve?

I just want my sound to be a representation of me and where I am at in life or where I want to be in life. I remember growing up, I used to love a lot of music for birthday parties and I used to do a lots of dance competitions. I want my sound to evolve into that type of music that just makes people happy. Even when I’m thinking about heartbreak or whatever, I just want people when they hear Ayra Starr, when they hear the beat drops, everybody’s just smiling and everybody’s excited. I don’t know what words to use to describe this specifically for now, but when it’s time, it’s time.

What is your FAULT?

I like to sleep. I don’t know if that’s a flaw, but like I’d rather just be asleep than do anything. I don’t wanna go anywhere, I just wanna be asleep every time. Everybody thinks it’s bad, but you know, I’ll take it. That’s my flaw. I’ll take it anytime.