By Adrienne Tingba, FPA Contributor
In true Millennial fashion, our story starts with a Direct Message on Instagram.
Normally, I am not one to start professional conversations via the DMs, but lets just say, the star of our story requires that I bend my own rules a bit.
Over the past year of living in Liberia, I’ve grown quite fond of Liberian music, to the point where I almost listen to nothing else. In that year, I’ve grown to love a wide variety of what the industry and its stars have to offer – from the rebellious and raw Trapco genre, to the smooth and frisky Hipco. Although all the Artists and music are all really exciting in their own right, no other Artist and their music has been able to transcend what we are used to in Liberian music quite as remarkably as the industry’s latest hit maker, and the star of our story, the Official Stunna Baby.
Born as Lourell Andymark George, Stunna is a hard-working young man, whose talents are a breath of fresh air to Liberian Stardom, a role he is admittedly still adjusting to. I, on the other hand, adjusting to my new role as a shameless Hipco fangirl, began paying attention to Stunna since hearing his hit single, Daddy, released early 2017.
Like a true Millennial, I decided to reach our star through a direct message to his official Instagram account (@Official_Stunna6), commending his music and further requesting an interview. In our brief interaction, he was very pleasant and welcoming, which encouraged me even further as a fan and journalist. His genuine charm, coupled with his music and lyrics, solidified to me that he was definitely the ingenuity missing from the growing Liberian Entertainment Industry.
Excited for an opportunity to sit and talk with Lourell, I did what any fangirl would do in that moment and listened to more of his music while stalking his Instagram page, for research purposes of course. And so, it was the day of our scheduled interview, which we had to conduct via phone since our guy IS a Superstar, and hardworking Superstars are quite busy after-all. We started our discussion, and there he goes with that charm again. He started talking and I forgot everything I practiced for the interview, even though the questions were on my laptop directly in front of me. Still, he remained calm, taking lead of the discussion while carrying me right along with him.
Currently studying Economics at the African Methodist Episcopal University (AMEU) in the center of Monrovia, Lourell is just your average college student, carrying bookbags full of dreams bigger than himself. One of those dreams particularly, started years ago in his youth choir when he discovered he had a talent with music. Unfortunately, as some stories go, Lourell’s dream was not initially supported with open arms, as he was discouraged by his then Choir Director to let go of his musical dreams. Call it a blessing or luck, he just happens to be part of a musically talented family, so he was then encouraged by his cousin, internationally recognized Liberian Musician, DenG, to consider pursuing music as a hustle while he pursues his college degree. With the security of DenG as a mentor, and his Manager, Victor George by his side, he obliged and entered the Liberian music scene as the industry’s official Stunna, signed with Amplified ENT.
Since being signed to Amplified ENT. every song or feature released by Stunna has been a hit in Liberia, including his latest single which also doubles as his favorite song, Baby O. The inspiration behind Baby O, as with most songs written by Stunna, came from his desire to highlight and showcase what he loves about Liberian women. Before entering the music industry, he thoroughly studied the Artists before him and their style of music to understand what was missing from the industry. From what he gathered, he felt that before him and the current wave of Liberian Musicians, Liberian music was mostly degrading to Liberian women, and so the only logical thing to do, from his purview, was to re-present the Liberian woman to the public by focusing his music on her positive attributes, with a genius blend of Afrobeats and an influence of Reggae. Stunna has since been featured on popular tracks like Nobody, by Jaredo, and LIB Jue (Check Mark), by Kobazzie, as well as released featured singles like the recent chart topper, Cold Feelings, featuring Chilla Coolnanee.
Although Stunna is humbly enjoying the popularity and social perks of being a Musician, he is also falling heed to the pressures and challenges it comes with – challenges like the many distractions from fans in school, as well the lack of financial support to the industry. While he remains utterly grateful to his fans for their support in playing his music and getting him the attention he currently enjoys, he urges those same fans not to shy away from financially supporting him and other Liberian Artists because it is those finances that will enable them better their craft. He says, it is difficult to keep using personal funds to make music and finance shows for the fans, which sometimes costs as little as LD200 (US1.40) for entry, only for the fans to not show up because they don’t want to spend money on the show. It is important, according to Stunna, that the fans and investors acknowledge the immense potential of Liberian music, and financially support the growth of the Artists, and ultimately, the industry.
At this point in the interview, I already felt like I was talking to a long-lost friend. We both agreed on many things, one major one being that God, the Creator, is an Artist. With his musical background starting in the church, Stunna attributes his life as an Artist — a Painter and Musician — to his likeness of God. He accepts that his talent is a favor from God and believes that through this God-given talent coupled with his humility, he can and will achieve his dreams of success, while continuing to revolutionize the Liberian music industry.
The industry, on the other hand, isn’t as full of brotherly love as it might be perceived from the outside. According to Stunna, there exists unspoken jealousy, which only proves to be a detriment to the Artists themselves. He believes the best approach that would be benefiting to all the Artists is to scratch each other’s back, so to speak, and share their networks with one another, so as to open the field of opportunities for one another; instead of taking the “me myself and I” approach, which limits each Artist to their own networks alone. While he understands that the Industry is indeed competitive, it is important that each player focuses on friendly, rather than spiteful competition, because after-all, there is enough room for each Artist to win. Keeping in mind these industry politics, Stunna’s approach to his newfound fame is to remain accessible to his fans, while taking it all one day at a time, focusing on his music, family, studies, and God.
Stunna has not released new singles since Baby O, however, as the Artist gears up for the next phase of his career, the single, along with his features, continues to top the charts of local radio stations, and Liberia’s premier music downloading platform, tunesLiberia.com.
At this point, I, rather cheesily, asked Stunna what his next moves are. He remained mysteriously smooth as usual and responded shyly with two simple, but weighty words – “big things”. “Big things like what?” I asked eagerly. Keeping the same smooth cheery voice, he kept his stance. “Big BIG things”, he said. Of course, I knew that’s just Celebrity talk for “My manager advised me not to disclose yet”, but I’m a persistent lady, and so I continued to probe. Finally, I got from him that he has an upcoming track featuring an international Artist, as well as one featuring a female Liberian Artist which he is excited to have finally found the perfect voice for.
Big things indeed are coming up for our favorite new Playboy on the scene. Except, he doesn’t think of himself as a playboy, and holds that his mother, Mama Stunna Baby, Madam Yvonne Oghogho, is the leading lady currently in his life. Hmmm… Whatever the case is, playboy or not, our boy Stunna Baby is definitely the charming, smooth, and mysterious addition we needed in an industry of loverboys, hardhead boys, and cralorboys. All love to all our Superstars, of course, but we remain excited for where next they all can take Hipco and Trapco.