Papi Ojo who is also known as the “Blue Man” from Beyonce’s Black Is King sat down with me exclusively to discuss his personal life, music, working with Beyoncé, and more.
Who is Papi Ojo?
Stephen Ojo, who goes by the name Papi Ojo, is a singer, dancer, songwriter, and choreographer. How did you come up with that name? “It came from a performance that I had in Brooklyn and someone yelled it out. The name chose me”.
Papi Ojo is 23 years old born and raised in Nigeria but currently resides in Brooklyn, NY, where he has been for 12 years. He started doing music in February of 2019.
Papi Ojo had his rise to fame with his breakout role in Black Is King as “the blue man”. According to Ojo, his role was the subconscious of Simba. He was in charge of guiding Simba through different stages of life.
Black Is King was not Papi Ojo first time working with Beyoncé. He actually had the opportunity to help with the choreography and dance in ‘Spirit’, one of the singles from the motion picture “The Lion King”.
Papi Ojo started his dance career in late 2014 early 2015. Ojo started a dance group the A.V.O. Boyz, with his older brother Emmanuel and friend Caleb Bonney. They started training and dancing together, and they got bigger and bigger as the years went by, Ojo said.
In 2016, Ojo and his brother Emmanuel were in Pennsylvania for a church convention. Papi Ojo started drowning in the deep end of a hotel pool. Emmanuel jumped in to save him but ended up drowning in the process. This experience was traumatic to Papi Ojo and it even led him to stop dancing. When I asked what motivated him to pick his craft back up he said:
Just the love I have for the craft dancing, it made me feel closer to my older brother. That was something we did together so, stopping it I felt like there was a disconnect. So getting back into dancing just made me feel connected and to get closer to him too. Its a way of rememberance and respect, he continued.
Papi Ojo is not new to the industry when it comes to working with celebrities. He has done work in the industry bringing African dance to American stages. He worked with Rihanna at the 2018 Grammys with the gwara gwara dance from South Africa. Rihanna was his first big industry job.
OMG Rihanna is doing the gwara gwara a South African dance step ???
— Eilani ? (@EilaniWhyte) January 29, 2018
He also taught Janet Jackson the Kupe (from Ghana) for her music video “Made For Now,”. Now add Queen B to his growing resume. He described Janet as an icon, and he was honored to have such an experience.
Papi Ojo expresses that this opportunity has opened up the door for him. He is currently working on his music more and preparing himself for future roles. He said he plans to one day act and star in his own film.
Working on Black Is King
Papi Ojo stated that working on this film was an experience of a lifetime. He got to travel parts of South Africa that he never imagined he would see. This was a dream come true for Papi Ojo.
— PAPI_OJO (@PAPI_OJO) July 31, 2020
He assisted with a lot of the choreography along with his dance partner and head choreographer JaQuel Knight. He revealed that his favorite scene to shoot was ‘Already’.
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It was revealed that Beyoncé heel actually broke during this filming, Papi Ojo said everything happened so fast so he doesn’t even remember it happening.
Working with someone like Beyoncé would make anyone super nervous, but not Papi Ojo! He wasn’t nervous at all, in fact, he said he had laser vision and was focused on knowing he had a job to do.
During the interview, I asked Papi Ojo, how he felt about seeing himself and his culture represented in such a beautiful classy way by the world’s largest star on a platform like Disney.
Its amazing, because its like you know personally Im tired of my culture and my people being depicted as poor and people without food or water.
This project showed the beauty of my culture and the beauty of Africa, and It was definetly amazing for me. This is going to go from generations to generations. Kids from other generations will get to see the beauty of Africa and not the bad parts or the parts that the news want to portray.
When Black Is King first premiered, a lot of spectators accused Beyoncé of cultural appropriation. She was getting slammed on Twitter.
#Beyoncé is getting slammed on #Twitter for Culture Appropriation. #SwipeLeft let us know your thoughts.
When I asked Papi Ojo his thoughts about when people say Beyoncé is appropriating African culture, here is what he had to say:
People can feel the way they want to feel about that but um, Africa is such a huge place for her to try and pick and include every single culture into a 2 hr movie. She did the best she could with the amount she had. It was a win for Africa as a whole, so people need to stop looking at it in a negative light and just appreciate the culture and the art for what it is and people need to respect it as that.
Check out the full interview below to hear more about Papi Ojo and where he is headed with his career.