Dola Billz (Dola) has a deeply passionate and almost restless energy about him, an energy that is at once rebellious as it is creative. This energy insists on being free to communicate his ideas and creativity ranging from political to just plain pop culture, to the world. Indeed Dola’s need to freely express himself to the world permeates every aspect of his life including his style sense. Dola’s style sense is as intriguing as his creative music videos (most of which he directs and styles), numerous tattoos, the ring he occasionally wears on his lips and his overall personality.
Born Mayowa Dolapo Bello in the United Kingdom (UK) South East London, Dola spent time in his youth between Nigeria and London. He attended Geofrey Chauncer Primary School Bermondsey, had a little stint at Apata High School in Isolo, Lagos until his refusal to follow school rules got him kicked out of Apata. Yes we all know that guy or girl, growing up, that got suspended or expelled from school. Dola was, however, not one of those “bad apples” that would never find his way. In fact, he later completed high school (Secondary School) at Olivet Baptist High School in Oyo and in 1999 returned to the UK for what he explained to LadybrilleNigeria was “for more life opportunities, University and generally for a change”
The UK indeed provided Dola Billz more life opportunities, focus and a change, a huge outlet for his creative and arguably anti-conformist style and energy. In 2005, Dola completed college receiving his degree in Business Economics and Marketing from the University of Dundee. Today, he is the CEO of his own independent record label called 166 Family Records. Dola who has been spending years in the “music trenches” so to speak building and refining his skills, is now en route to Lagos to lay his claim to a piece of the Nigerian music industry pie; with some of his musical works that are fast becoming hits. Songs like “Pu’Yanga,” “Sing 4 Me” and the really creative “Jembe” music video directed and styled by Dola are already causing consternation in the UK and on social media networks like You Tube.
We were impressed with Dola’s style sense which, for us, can best be described as a convergence of the styles of Lenny Kravitz, 50cents and Kanye West to produce a unique Dola Billz signature style complete with layered meanings, we knew he had to be one of our features on LadybrilleNigeria Style Star. Get to know Dola Billz our “Pu Yanga” LadybrilleNigeria Style Star.
LADYBRILLENigeria.com: Mr. Dola Billz aka Pu’Yanga. How you dey?
Dola Billz: I just dey like dey dey Miss, how are you?
LADYBRILLENigeria.com: (I am fine. Thanks for asking.) Before we really get into your style, let’s talk a bit about your music background. First, how did the Dola Billz name come about?
Dola Billz: I get called “Dola” by my family, and the “Billz” is as simple as the fact that bills always come so one needs to make some P’z (money) in order to sort ‘em out.
LADYBRILLENigeria.com: I hear you on making the P’z. How long have you been making music?
Dola Billz: As far back as I can remember. I used to mime songs with Tilla (friend, musician and member of 166 Record Family) in High School, but I only started recording music in 2005 after I graduated (University).
LADYBRILLENigeria.com: Why did you start the 166 company?
Dola Billz: I believe in my creative edge so I wanted to start an Independent Label to keep my creativity and sound the way I want, as well as being able to give other people the opportunity to do their thing as well.
LADYBRILLENigeria.com: “Sing 4 Me.” The beats on that is sick! Who is the producer?
Dola Billz: Yung-Kurt. He is my compatriot and like my younger brother but also a sick producer.
LADYBRILLENigeria.com: You are about to do the Pu’Yanga promo in Naija but let us know what Pu’ Yanga means and how to get our Pu’Yanga on?
Dola Billz: Pu’Yanga simply means “Put Yanga.” We just slanged it because we wanted to write it out the way we would say it (Tilla’s idea). I gather “Yanga” is an Hausa word for “pose.” So together it means “throw a pose,” just feel free to put some flair into whatever you are doing and that’s how you F’akosi (put yanga into it) . . .
LADYBRILLENigeria.com: Got it. Back to the 166 name. What does that stand for?
Dola Billz: 166 Chiltern Estate Portland Street is my best friend’s Flat (apartment) that I moved back to at the start of January 2006. [I]t’s where my music making became very serious, it’s also the place where every other member of the 166 family used to come chill out, make music and hang-out.
LADYBRILLENigeria.com: Wow! To see it all come together, very cool! Dola, let’s get into your style. You know I look at your style and see so much you are communicating. I see political statements (The tee-shirt with the person dumping the swastika in the garbage can), restlessness, funk, hip-hop, rock n roll, preppy/conservative, razzness “ati gbo gbo e” (and everything). It’s like you’ve got so many personalities all lumped in one body. How would you describe yourself?
Dola Billz: Someone that you can’t put in a box. So like you said, I am a man of different personalities that doesn’t wanna be perceived in one way or the other. Thanks for noticing that tee-shirt. I was thinking about how I can make an anti-racist statement with just a glance, and a coca-cola can was where I got the idea from (the symbol bin it) got changed to Bin-racism in one glance, without having to be vocal. I must say I am very political because I tattooed “Make Poverty History” on my back as well. I went to the G8 Summit in Edinburgh.
LADYBRILLENigeria: (I could glean that from observing you and your style). I also noticed the tattoos on your neck and arms. What do they mean and why did you get them?
Dola Billz: All my tattoos have a significant meaning to me. The musical notes on my neck are followed by my signature which signifies when 166 family got registered as a label. In a nut-shell it makes me feel like I am signed to my music. I also have a 1960s mic tattooed on my arm, an ace of spades, and some words from one of the most intense tracks I have ever written called “Time.” You can kinda figure out what all that stands for. My back is covered in tattoos but I am sure you don’t want me to keep going on.
LADYBRILLENigeria: (LOL! No, because it would become a LadybrilleNigeria Tattoo Style Star Feature. Not exactly what we planned. Lol!) For many who might never have heard of you who is Dola Billz and what is the Dola Blilz brand about?
Dola Billz: Dola Billz is about expressing myself in my own style to the world in (m)usical, visual, and artistic ways, and hope people like and can relate to my Dola way of doing things.
LADYBRILLENigeria: Let’s talk about your “Dola way of doing things.” I know you have heard “Swag” or “Swagger so much in the music biz. How are you positioning yourself to be more about the music than the “Swag” or a healthy balance of both?
Dola Billz: I completely agree with you that the word Swag has been out-played so I don’t tend to use it, and it is a conscious decision to make myself more about my music than what people perceive as swag. But, if people say I’ve got swagger then I simply say “thank you” and get on with it.
LADYBRILLENigeria.com: You are in Dubai now on your way to Naija soon. How is Dubai? What hot spots have you checked out?
Dola Billz: Dubai is an amazing place, and I reckon everyone should come here at least once. The spots I have checked out are JBR, Cavali bar, Budha Bar, bike riding in the desert, and going shopping in the Dubai mall. . .there are a lot of malls I must add so if you enjoy shopping Dubai is the place to be.
LADYBRILLENigeria.com: (Awesome! I am sure our readers would love that bit of information!) Having said there is an overuse of “Swag” and it is “wahala,” allow me to still use it here because it applies. (Lol!) You get swag. You really do. (Lol!) By the way, “whassup” with the Isolo and Mushin shout outs you keep giving? (Lol!) “Whatcha” know about Isolo or Mushin for that matter? (Lol!) I was (also) cracking up when I heard you do a shoutout to Okota. (Lol)! It is nice.
Dola Billz: Thanks Miss (on) the swag thing and trust me I know every thing I need to know about Isolo, Mushin, Ejigbo all the way to Ikotun. (Smiles) Basically my grand-dad’s house is in Balogun in Mushin. We live in Ire-Akari Estate in Isolo and my dad’s older brother’s house is in Okota. If you know the geography of these places you will know that they all lead to the other and I grew up in all these places, so every time I am in Naija, I can spend any night in any of these places. They are all home. As to Okota, of course. I spent a lot of time in DT in Okota, got suspended from Apata High school in Okota and Da Boss Yusuf (my cousin) stays in Okota so that’s where I tend to stay when [I] am in Lagos.
LADYBRILLENigeria.com: (I grew up first in Ikeja and then Ejigbo went to school in Isolo so very familiar with the area. I used to hear those Danfo drivers and Molue conductors yell destinations. I no remember Okota, although I know where Okota dey. So Okota get swag now? Na wa. (Lol!) I had friends who attended Apata and yes I do know Ire-Akari Estate well well.(Lol!) Way to put Isolo, Mushin and the rest on the music map!)
Let’s get into style. I saw you styled the “Sing4Me” video. Is that accurate? Did you style yourself and Saffie? The interior decor?
Dola Billz: Yes I styled the “Sing4me” shoot,” me and my very close associate Esther Areola styled Saffie and the rest of the models. I (also) styled the shoot itself in terms of myself and the decor, which I was very hands-on with because I figure it had to portray a complete visual that I had in my head, so all the decor was pre-1960.
LADYBRILLENigeria.com: Kudos and highly impressive. Do your other side hustles include styling or it was just for the video?
Dola Billz: Right now, I style my own projects. For example, I styled Yung-Kurt’s “Jembe” video which I directed as well but I think some Naija artist’s can do with my styling help. It would just give them a better visual look I reckon, so you can pass on my number and we’ll arrange a fee . . . I lie?
LADYBRILLENigeria.com: (You no lie. Lol!) Still on the Sing4Me video, what were you thinking conceptually when it came to styling for Sing 4 me?
Dola Billz: I thought I’d make it look like a old school movie, so in other words, I can get away all the other scenes like the underground which I used to incorporate light horror.
LADYBRILLENigeria.com: How would you describe your personal style?
Dola Billz: All-over the place . . . and not easily duplicated. I simply wear anything that I think looks good on me and reflects how I am feeling.
LADYBRILLENigeria.com: What influences your style?
Dola Billz: I travel a lot, around Europe. I live in London which I feel is the fashion capital of the world. I don’t limit myself to a certain look and I like to experiment with clothes. I am also a market boy and I don’t necessarily have to rock a designer garment just because it’s a brand. Basically I throw things on without being too serious about my actual look, and if it looks good then am out. It’s as simple as that.
LADYBRILLENigeria.com: “Efere bodi dey” rock Mohawk these days. You also are rocking your own Mohawk. What’s up with that?
Dola Billz: Point of correction I rock a Dola Mohawk. . . it’s with a lean to the left. I cut my hair myself so in order to be different I cut mine like some Bobby Brown thing slightly to the left and no tail.
LADYBRILLENigeria.com: I see! Good for you. What are your rules when it comes to accessories?
Dola Billz: Simple, neat and use it to customize your look.
LADYBRILLENigeria.com: I love your colorful scarves. What is your rule on shopping for scarves?
Dola Billz: Buy the ones you like, and don’t be afraid to mix colors. Sometimes I just wear scarves because I don’t like being cold, so scarves always come in handy.
LADYBRILLENigeria.com: What about shoes? (Tell us) your favorites and tips for shopping for shoes?
Dola Billz: Kicks. I own a lot of kicks: Nikes, Bapes, DC’s, Duffs. [I] also like old school shoes like Moccassins, Boat shoes etc. My tip on shopping for shoes is to buy the right shoes for the right look.
LADYBRILLENigeria.com: I see you love the shades, lots of colorful ones too. What’s the deal on how you select your shades?
Dola Billz: The more different the better as I like looking different from other people, and I wear shades all the time so they are like the god of accessories as far as I am concerned. Plus, I don’t restrict shades to just a sunny day, you could see me rocking some at night. Brands like Charles Jourdan, Ray Ban, and Diesel make real nice ones.
LADYBRILENigeria.com: I think what I enjoy most about your style are your tees. You wear some really interesting tees. Where do you shop for most of your tees?
Dola Billz: H&M, Uniclo, Bathing Ape, Diesel, and Pull n Bear do good tees. I like to customize my own tees. I come up with an idea for a print and pass it on to a printer to put it on a plain tee as well.
LADYBRILLENigeria.com: Okay. You ’bout to hit Naija. Can the Oyo boy tell us the happening spots in Naija you will touch? (Lol!)
Dola Billz: Insomia, Caliente, Grotto, News Cafe, and just chilling in DT in my ends.
LADYBRILLENigeria.com: LadybrilleNigeria is about connecting and promoting Nigeria’s Fashion Industry. Who is your favorite Nigerian fashion designer and why?
Dola Billz: Wale Adeyemi. He was the first designer to actually incorporate graffiti style writing to Tees and not echo like the world is being told. Another Nigerian designer I like is Hade2 (he is based in London); and I really like a Ghanian designer from South-East London called Forreduci, watch out for this guy’s collection. It’s sick.
LADYBRILLENigeria.com: Any favorite Nigerian shoe designer?
Dola Billz: I don’t know any Nigerian Shoe designer, so maybe you can send me some contacts. Besides that, my cousin Aro makes me flip-flops when I am in Nigeria.
LADYBRILLENigeria.com: (I got you). If you were not doing music or still doing music and had the chance to be a designer, what would you be designing?
Dola Billz: Everything. Tee-shirts, jackets, couture, shirts, and even female dresses, and I will get on to my designs in a bit. I already have a few sketches. . .
LADYBRILLENigeria.com: Very ambitious and creative! For any of our readers who finds themselves in the limelight (giving a speech, performing etc.), what is your number one tip on how to make sure they look well put together so they project confidence?
Dola Billz: Just stay cool, calm and collected and enjoy yourself because my number one rule is when I enjoy myself everyone seems to as well. . . trust me try this it always works.
~by Uduak Oduok
~Photocredit: Dola Billz/166 Family Records, Brian Would
LadybrilleNigeria Style Star is a fun feature on Nigerian celebrity designers, actors, artists and other personalities, worldwide, who from our research, have a strong style sense. We track these stars down and in a really relaxed, fun and straightforward way, learn all we can about their style sense and of course get tips on how to look and stay “fly” just like them! For a possible feature or to suggest a Style Star, send an e-mail to (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Young Kurt JEMBE
Sing 4 Me