Growing up during military tyranny in Nigeria left AYo feeling powerless, unable to improve the plight of his people. Similar feelings ensued when he arrived in the depressed economic climate of Flint, Michigan, a city still reeling in the aftershocks of General Motor’s abandonment. In both places, however, he found strength in words that would ultimately radiate through his music. Somewhat of an outsider at school, he worked to close the gap between himself and fellow classmates, resolving ignorance about Africa with education and understanding. Finally discovering a love for hip hop during a brief stay in Japan, he returned to the U.S. and enrolled at the University of Michigan (U of M) at the age of sixteen. Musically, it’s been onward since then.
The passion and energy embedded in AYo’s lyrical content and performance presence commands attention and has captured the eyes and ears of both the hip-hop and spoken-word poetry communities. He’s served on a panel with the likes of Lupe Fiasco, Byron Hurt, Mahbod Mogodam (Rap Genius) and Toni Blackman, interviewed Russell Simmons for MTV, and toured nationally; performing at legendary venues like the Nuyorican Poet’s Café, Stanford University, and Mendelssohn Theater at the University of Michigan. A campus favorite at the U of M, he also earned high praise from Patrick Stewart of the Royal Shakespeare Company/X-Men series during a Rackham Auditorium performance.
Based in New York City, Ayo’s sound reeks of influences from the Afrobeat, hip-hop, soul and jazz present in the music of Fela Kuti, Kanye West, Lupe Fiasco, Tracy Chapman, Bob Marley, Goapele and more. His 6-piece band features a back-up vocalist, bass, guitar, keyboard, drums(djembe and traditional) and an occasional horn section. Being a spoken-word artist as well, Ayo’s ambidextrous live show alternates between acoustic and a mainly highly energetic sound, making him a favorite among a diverse array of New York City music venues.
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