By Jerome Stuart Nichols
Tunde Olaniran makes it hard to not like him. Equal parts David Bowie and Aaliyah, with a splash of Lauryn Hill and a sprinkling of Kanye West, he’s an intoxicating mixture. Known for his wild shows and even wilder style, this Flint-based newcomer is as electric as a live wire.
He promises that same energy during his performance at 3 p.m. June 9 on the Pride Stage at Motor City Pride.
“We might be scooping people up onstage to show off their skills, too; so if you’re ready to break it down, we want you there,” he says.
After the release of his sophomore album, “The Second Transgression,” to critical success and local acclaim, he’s been stretching his legs and touring outside of Michigan, too. Thus far, the response has been exciting.
“I’ve gotten to play sold-out shows in Detroit, Brooklyn and Chicago with Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr,” Olaniran says. “The response has been phenomenal, which is kind of a relief knowing the success isn’t just some anomaly within my home state or with people who know me.”
And it gives him even more reason to work on another album.
“I’m working on a project that has more trap influence, more hip-hop, harder bass kicks,” he says. “I do a lot more rapping, which always makes me nervous because I am friends with so many incredible emcees. I’m always embarrassed to rap in front of them or have them hear me rap on a record.”
He’s also planning for a few new music videos to go along with this new project and a remix EP for his 2012 alt-hip-hop single “Brown Boy.”
Olaniran’s look can best be described as urban glam-punk with a slightly androgynous twist. The look began out of his admiration of powerful women.
“It developed over time because all of my artist role models are women,” he says. “Even reading comics as a kid, I loved the female characters. I liked Supergirl more than Superman. I think I identify with feminine energy. To be honest, having an androgynous look developed because, as an overweight male, I never could find clothing that I liked and looked interesting. So, I started making my own stuff to wear onstage.”
Although admittedly chic and slightly feminine in dress, he blames most of his androgyny on his Aaliyah-meets-early-’90s-Snoop Lion coif.
“I think if my head were shaved I wouldn’t come across as ‘androgynous’ as I do,” he says.
Regardless, what he’s got to offer has been garnering tons of new fans. Among his growing following, he’s developed quite a large gay fan base.
“Most people assume I’m gay,” he admits. “I feel like even heterosexual folks approach me from that perspective. I like that, because it lets me weed out the bigots. In terms of LGBTQ fans, I think they connect with me for the same reasons everyone else does: It’s a fun show with memorable moments and music that sticks.”
You might not know he’s straight based on his self-described “valley girl” voice and his infatuation for a pair of veteran divas … but he is.
“Oh my god, Charo! I love her so much for really obscure reasons, but I think Madonna is the boss. Even though her music is terrible now, I still love watching her perform. She’s just crispy, chaotic and emotional perfectionism. I identify with that.”
Moreover, he’s all about marriage equality.
“If one adult wants to marry another adult, there’s no reason why they shouldn’t,” Olaniran says. “People very close to me are being denied rights and that’s bullshit.”
An ally who loves Charo? We’re sold.
By Jerome Stuart Nichols