Creative Soccer Culture

L.A.X Talks His Footballing Roots & The Links The Game Has With Music

Football has the unique power of connecting people. Stretching right across the globe, it doesn’t matter where or who you are, you can have a conversation about the beautiful game. It’s a power that Nigerian rapper, Damilola Afolabi, better known as L.A.X is only too aware of.

L.A.X is a man of the world, born and raised in Nigeria, but ready to embrace anything life has to throw at him. Crossing cultures is something he lives for, and his passion for football is conduit for this experience, not least through the way the game can mix with his other passion and the way he makes his living, music. From his early days on the streets of his homeland, to his time in Manchester and beyond to award-winning collaborations, it’s already been a journey to envy. But sitting and speaking with him, getting to know the man a bit better, it really feels like this is just the beginning of much bigger things to come...

Straight into it, tell us about your connection to football?

I first fell in love with football in my high school years. Everyone in my class had a team except me so it was then that I had to decide who to support. It didn’t take long for me to fall in love with Man Utd. Growing up I used to watch football on TV, stood in the street, trying to see it on TV. I remember watching Nigeria at a World Cup and everyone was just so excited. Everyone poured onto the street and it was all genuine support for our country purely for the love of the game.

Can you set the scene some more? It’s fascinating for you to paint that picture for us…

It was a crazy level of support. Everyone in my area would come outside, come together, watch the games together, celebrate together – everyone is there for the same reason. It’s a mutual feeling. Imagine Nigeria are playing a game…everyone will go out onto the streets to support the team. If we don’t win there’s sadness, if we win it’s pure excitement – you see all sorts happening. People are going to buy goats after a win to celebrate with a big meal. Everyone is sharing food and it’s all about unity. That’s what I love about football most. It’s all about unity and it creates such a good environment in the community.

Music has the power to do the same thing – can you see that?

Yeah for sure. We always have this argument in my house about which is a more passionate industry – football or music. We always end up landing on football. The game is so universal and so accessible. It’s a unique language of it’s own but it has no barrier. Everyone knows the game. It’s pass, pass, score. I can see so many similarities between football and music but I think football just has so many dimensions in the way it binds people from all over the world. 

lax 2-min.jpg
lax 5-min.jpg
Everyone in my class had a team except me so when it was then when I had to decide who to support. It didn’t take long for me to fall in love with Man Utd."

Touching on your house and home, how deep rooted is football in your family?

Yeah everyone loves it. I like it the most. My dad doesn’t really watch it but my brothers watch a lot. I grew up with a football loving family generally.

On the subject of growing up, which players grabbed you and caught your attention and ultimately made you fall in love with the game?

I really liked the OG Ronaldo as well as the new Ronaldo. They are completely different but both incredible. Supporting Man Utd, it was Giggs and Scholes that I liked most. Another who I had a lot of respect for, even though he played for Liverpool, was Gerrard. The way he influenced those around him and how he carried his team was incredible. His charisma on the pitch was something I liked. Rooney too – he had it all. He was fierce but ruthless and offered so much flair. You couldn’t not love Ronaldinho too. I loved him. Being from Nigeria, players like Okocha and Kanu were so incredible for us.

While you’ve been in the UK have you been able to get a flavour for football culture over here?

I did my university and a masters in Manchester. I was there for six or seven years and I used to go to quite a few games. When I’m over here now I try to get to whatever games I can. We have a big one coming up with Chelsea. Living in Manchester was cool. It’s chilled and everyone is so nice there.

At what point could you see that music was going to become your career?

I knew that I wanted to do music professionally around 2012. I was making music and lots of people were telling me they liked it so I felt like I had found something I was passionate about and good at. So it was then when I thought, “Ok, I’ve got to keep making music”. I’m somebody who likes to make people happy and makes people excited. When I saw that reaction to my music, I knew then it was something I had to pursue. It’s just happy vibes.

lax 3-min.jpg
lax 6-min.jpg

You have to go out and perform on a stage, footballer’s have to do the same thing to a certain extent – can you see why people make that comparison between what you do and what they do?

I can, but I think footballers have more pressure. Everything they do has a knock on effect and a big impact. Everything they do is being commented about and commented on. So much relies on their results. Fans and the game can be so fickle so if there’s one bad game they can be out of favour, meanwhile everyone has off days. It takes so much energy and mental strength to be a football player I think.

You’ve had a successful few years… the level you’ve got to now, when you go back to Nigeria now, are you treated like a king?

It is crazy when I think about it. When I’m in Nigeria I do try to live like I would normally and do things casually like go to the supermarket but it is tricky. I wouldn’t say it’s hard but there’s so much love everywhere. People get excited to see me. It’s quite amazing. I remember the first time I felt that feeling of fame. I was in the UK and I had just released a track which went big. I went back to Nigeria for a short holiday and I did a show out there. It was the first show I did after releasing a track and people were going crazy. I was leaving the show and the fans blocked the gate. It was crazy. I didn’t even know that I had that kind of following.

That’s got to make your family proud – what’s their response been?

Yeah they are. They’re enjoying seeing where my music is taking me. Everyone in my family is excited, most of all because they know where I started. They know where I’ve come from. When I first went for it with music, I did everything myself, from my music videos to everything else. There was a lot of graft. It’s so hard in Africa if you tell someone you want to be a musician. Everyone looks at you as if you’re dreaming and that it’s not something that can actually happen. People used to think I was joking when I told them what I wanted to do. Now I’m here and it’s my living.

lax 7-min.jpg
lax 8-min.jpg
We always have this argument in my house about which is a more passionate industry – football or music. We always end up landing on football."

Did that doubt spur you on?

I’m not going to lie, I didn’t listen when people told me I couldn’t do things. I didn’t listen to the negativity. For me, it was just about my own personal ambitions. I haven’t tried to impress anybody or do things to suit others -– I just make the music I want to make. This is what I love to do and I’ll do it regardless of what people say. This is how I express myself. There’s no competition in my mind, I’m not trying to compare myself with others, I just stay focused on what I want to achieve, not what others are doing. I’m not here to impress people.

The last few years have been crazy. How fired up are you to get new music out there?

Even during the pandemic, it gave me a chance to get my head down and focus on the process of making music once more. I’ve had a really productive time when it comes to making music and recording. Previously, when releasing music, you go straight from recording to hitting the road with shows and tours. This gave me the chance to not rush what I was doing. I feel like I’ve been in training, doing what I love in anticipation for when the pandemic is over.

What do you want to make out of 2022. What's the ambition?

For me, I always think someone else, the creator, has a plan for me. I put my faith and trust that it’s going to be a good year. Regardless, I’ll make plans and I want to get my album out there along with singles and more collaborations. My first headline UK show is what I’m aiming towards. That show will be incredible, that’s something I’ve been dreaming about. I’ll be fulfilled when I can headline a show in the UK. From there, it’s all about doing bigger and bigger things.

What’s your equivalent to a World Cup final in musical terms?

My World Cup Final would be a hugely successful album that I’ve brought people in on from all kinds of cultures. Right now, my mind is very focused on bringing cultures together. The world is so big and there’s so many sounds, so much beauty and so much energy to tap into. Imagine a Nigerian artist having a collaboration with a Japanese artist, that power to bring two cultures together and fusing them together would be amazing. That’s what I want to do.

lax 9-min.jpg
lax 4-min.jpg

Shop Manchester United 21/22 replica at

Daniel Jones

The Creative Soccer Culture Brief

Sign up to our newsletter and we'll keep you in the loop with everything good going on in the world of Creative Soccer Culture.