John Asiemo, aka, Daddy Showkey, in this interview with our Entertainment Editor, Ogbonna Amadi, tells the story of his life in the ghetto.Â Itâ€™s as explosive as youâ€™d soon find out. Enjoy it.
You said you failed woefully in school?
Yes O!Â I fail for class three.Â They asked me to go home.
But when my school was about going for a competition, I was not only brought back to help them, I was given double promotion to class five.
Did you fail all your subjects?
Yes, F-parallel. They brought me back to lead the school at a singing and dancing competition at Agboju.
Were you not supposed to repeat class three?
Yes, but I got promoted so that I could join the class fiveÂ students to represent the school. The school knew Iâ€™m good in dancing and singing competition and they did everything to have me back.
So many stars like you have abandoned their neighbourhood to seek a new life because of fame and so on . . . ?
They did that because they didnâ€™t realise themselves from the beginning.Â They allowed their dreams to overshadow them. As for me, I was sleeping in Ajegunle and dreaming to become somebody in life. I slept with these people and my prayer was that God should not take me away from this neighbourhood.
So, what was the dream about?
The dream was about everything I went through in Ajegunle. I dreamt that one day, this neighbourhood would have somebody that could speak and fight for it;Â someone that could turn their sorrow into joy and thatÂ is what God is using me to do today, though there are some things I did wrong.
Have you actualised this dream?
In way, Iâ€™d say yes. But financially Iâ€™m trying. When I say yes, I mean that at least, people in my neighbourhood can beat their chests and use me as an example.
No be this Showkey wey dey fight fight for Ajegunle come become somebody wey people dey talk about? Iâ€™m not accomplished.
You said there were things you did wrong in the course of your dream. What were they?
As a young lad growing up, I couldnâ€™t harnessÂ my vision. And I call that youthful exuberance. But today, God directed me on the path to follow.
Iâ€™ll say it was youthful exuberance that made me live the way I did in the past. And that is why Iâ€™m moving forward.
I wouldnâ€™t say I had a bad upbringing because my mother gave me the best. I lost my dad when I was nine but my mum did her best to bring me up in the right way. But I went into the streets and I decided to study the streets.
Today, Iâ€™m a teacher because Iâ€™m the son of a teacher. The teacher taught me how to protect and express myself. But the street gave me the will power and the heart I needed to help the child of the common man realise himself.
Can you share some of your experiences as a growing child on the streets of Ajegunle?
After my father died, my mother and grandmother took good care of me. But I left them when I was about 11Â to go and liveÂ with my friends.
And we were doing what we called scavenging, which is going to waste dumps to pick bottles and aluminum sheets to sell to the multinational companies. I went through a lot of violence during this time. But Iâ€™m sorry I canâ€™t disclose anything to you.
But we need to share some of these experiences . . .
I was a very gifted lad physically, spiritually and otherwise. The spiritual gift is what eventually saved my life because I was really in the street. And I can tell you today that Iâ€™m one of those people who overcame the streets of Ajegunle.
Tell me some of those things you did on the streets that made people think youâ€™d never become something in life…
I was a very stubborn lad. As a 13-year-old boy,Â I once punched and boxed my way out of danger when some group of boys tried to steal from…
You said you were not brilliant in school . . . ?
I was not brilliant and was expelled because I was supposed to repeat a class which I couldnâ€™t do but was called back. Our principal then was Mrs. Omotiga who was like a mother to us (better mama wey money no fit buy) at Dr. Lucas Memorial Grammar School. When they called me back, she sat me down and talked sense into me.
That woman saw my talent and my ability as an entertainer and made me believe in myself. She gave me the opportunity to entertain the school at every event.
She also gave me the opportunity to represent the school as a boxer. When the Village Headmaster crew of NTA came to my school to pick me, she didnâ€™t object because she knew Iâ€™m gifted.
She made me understand that I can become something from making people to be happy, which is what I still survive on.
And after secondary school . . . ?
I became a bus conductor.
A son of a teacher?
My mother never knew what I did after I left the house.
She didnâ€™t hear stories?
I no know whether she hear sha o. But I knew that my grandmother was intelligent enough to suspect all I did, although my maternal grandmother knew all I did and she stood by me through thin and thick.
If your mother heard your stories then, what would she have done to you?
Ah! My mama, she go come there beat me.Â Â Sheâ€™s remained the most important thing that happened to my life. Iâ€™m not her only child but Iâ€™m the last. She was doing her best with the little salary she had to bring us up. I left home because I had to learn from the street which I call Youth Service.
In fact, every Nigerian child should go through that Youth Service, not the university own â€“ O. Iâ€™ll like every Nigerian child between the ages of 16-17 to go through this youth service Iâ€™m talking about. In the end, weâ€™ll have great men and women.
Why would you recommend such for every Nigerian child?
Youâ€™ll not understand it. If you grew up in a place like Ajegunle where a 13-year-old child is already a matured man, youâ€™ll understand it better.
Between fighting on the street, boxing and being a bus conductor, where did music come in?
Music has been with me from my childhood. My father was a show promoter and I started entertaining people even before my father died.
I donâ€™t want to say I was doing comedy because doing that will mean restricting my gift.
How far did you go with boxing skill?
I went through amateur boxing and represented the different arms of theÂ force. I won some medals too.
But God knew I was the key to the show and thatâ€™s how I came back to music and galala came to reality.
Daddy Showkey is the key to the show because boxing is sports and sports is show, music and drama are equally show. So, I was able to combine everything and thatâ€™s how I came about the name Show kid.
Did you say Showkid?
Yes, my grandmotherâ€™s elder sisterâ€™s son was known as Showboy and he brought me up. So, I had to adoptÂ Showkid as a child. But as I was growing up, my friends changed it to Showkey.
How did you becomeÂ a musician?
Yes, I played with so many groups. From Royal All Star Band to Bajasca which was formed when I was in secondary school with Benneth Ogbukole, Daniel Young, Sarah Uzoagwa, John Asiemu (me).
And from there, I formed another band with my friend Tallman called JTom (John and Tallman).
After Tallmanâ€™s father took him away to go and learn trading, I got in touchÂ with one other guy called Innocent Onyemauwa called Daddy Fresh and that was when the group Rap warriors was formed in 1996. Before then, I had been established already.
One day, I went to NTA Channel 10 and to meet Dejumo Lewis whom Iâ€™d known since 1982-83 when I used to perform acrobatics in The New Village Headmaster.
While I was with him, I met Danladi Bako who auditioned me. After the auditioning, he asked for my group and I went back to call them. (Labasta, Obanla and Innocent Onyemauwa, aka Daddy Fresh).
I took them to NTA but when Danladi Bako saw us, we were very dirty, especially me. So, he gave us money to dress up and come for Morning Ride the following day. We came and performed onÂ the same day members of the Golden Eaglets returned whoâ€™d from China also performed.
Danladi Bako commended us and said we were gifted. That some day, we had a problem among ourselves. One guy called Prince Grino Momoh who saw us on the screen that same day asked us to come and perform in a naming ceremony at Queens Barracks after which he gave us money.
That was how our problem started. The second day, we went to a literary and debating competition and came back with Rowland Okafor. I brought him and David Onohusofe (a.k.a. Cashman David) to the group because I saw their singing talent in that school (Adeolu Secondary School Ajegunle).
The same night I brought them, we went to Wazobia night club in Apapa only to discover that one of us, Daddy Fresh was already there with two other boys in our neighbourhood. And they were posing as rap warriors.
The DJ there Rowlingstone whoâ€™s late now was the person who settled our case that night. But there was no way we could drive away David Onuhusofe and Rowland Okafor a.k.a. Pretty.
From there we changed our name to the â€œPretty Busy Boys.â€ Danladi Bako was still assisting us financially.
He was standing for us as if we were members of his family. Later, he took us to a competition called â€œChildren of Africaâ€ before Onwuka Kalu did his own and we saw some children from Apapa that came from Switzerland perform.
That day, we also saw Mustapha Amigo in his office and the MC of that occasion was Segun Awolowo.
Then people saw them as children of the rich but me I know send them message to all.
Danladi Bako gave us money to polish ourselves and perform in the occasion with them. My brother, I eat all the food wey dey there that day.
If thereâ€™s any person that made the â€œPretty Busy Boysâ€ what they are, itâ€™s Danladi Bako because he was a father. In the same week, Rowland Okafor told us that his elder brother said he should go to the University.
After that Jerry and Junior joined our group after winning a talent hunt organised by Grand master Lee. There we saw our friend who said his brother asked him to go to college in â€œPretty and Junior.â€ By then, weâ€™d released our first album in 1991. I went to him and asked him say Omo, na University be this one?
I was the one taking Junior and Pretty album to marketers. Along the line, I couldnâ€™t stand the tension anymore. So, I went into Nigerian Army.
You went to join the army?
Yes. I went to NDA in 1992 to see if I could make it because I didnâ€™t know that itâ€™s music that would bring me this far. The people of Ajegunle really saw the music talent even while I was doing my bus conductor job.
So when members of â€œPretty Busy Boysâ€ decided to go solo, I went to Kaduna and tried my best.
I spent about a year and six months in the NDA.
And you went on awol . . .
Yes na, no be Daddy Fresh write letter give me say in wan do Follow me, Follow me.. and both of us had agreed to be a group.
And you abandoned your career in the army?
Itâ€™s not like I abandon my career but I came back so that we could do some recording. Then came DJ Jimmy Jatt, with his street Jamz in Odo Obalende.
When I arrived from Kaduna in a military uniform and immediately I started singing, people were happy and decided that I wouldnâ€™t go back to the army.
People started calling me Ghetto Soldier onÂ stage.
Meanwhile, abeg make God dey bless Jimmy Jatt because without him, I wouldnâ€™t be anything, Jimmy encouraged me and I started again.
In the old Pretty Busy Boys, it was Daddy Fresh that had the voice. That is why till today, they find it difficult to believe that itâ€™s me who had no voice that God suddenly gave a voice.
I and Cashman David were the rappers in the group. In fact, weâ€™re the originators of broken English raps. Pretty was rapping in English language. Then Tolu Gay came and advised us to convert ourselves to singers in EMI.
Morgan Okonuga can bear me witness. Before the group, Emphasis, weâ€™d startedÂ because Morgan and Tolu Gay advised us to sing in Pidgin . . .
â€œYou never marry, big beleâ€ but we never knew it was going to give us a break. Iâ€™m not better than Daddy Fresh, Pretty nor Cashman David or even Sexy Pretty and Labasto.
Iâ€™m here because God had a purpose for me. I might have been dead from my dangerous lifestyle on the streets.
Just take it the way I said it. I used to be very strong in those days. Now that I have children, them don take all my power.Â God wanted to use me as an example forÂ other children. If he could make me what I am today, every child in my neighbourhood can be useful.
How did your mother see you as a stubborn child?
She changed her name as Mama Daddy Showkey.
How did she cope with your stubbornness?
Ah! My mother never knew that I was stubborn. I always hide myself when Iâ€™m in her presence. Even if I go to jail today, it will not be because I robbed anybody.
I never robbed because I knew that if I was arrested, my mother would not come to my rescue. Everybody in my neighbourhood knew her as Holy Mary pikin and a teacher.
How did you react to money and fame?
I never saw the money but I saw the fame.
How did your fame affect your people in the ghetto?
The day I knew I would be famous was the day Chief Raymond Dokpesi presented an award to me and the day you put me on the pages of the Vanguard Newspaper. It was you and Smart of the Champion that first put me on the pages of newspapers.
When I entered the hall of that Fame Award at Museum Centre, I never knew I could sit around such magnitude of persons.
That day, I saw Obey Commander, King Sunny Ade, Wasiu Ayinde, and there was this my friend who was with Wasiu Ayinde.
So I gave him N50 then to introduce me to his boss. And there was this photo journalist (Tunde Thomas) who took me to Wasiu Ayinde. I never knew that Iâ€™ll be who I am today.
I know you have a lot of respect for Dr. â€˜Felinâ€™ Obiefuna. Why did you leave him?
I left Dr. Obiefuna because I didnâ€™t want to fight with him. He picked me from the street, from nothing to something.
But as a young man who had wants and needs, I had to leave.Â I had my mother, and my girlfriend (now my wife ) whom I was seriously in love with to cater for, and my child. I didnâ€™t even leave him at that point.
I went to Germany in 1996 and released a record for Steven Records. But I went back to him (Dr. Obiefuna) because I saw him as God sent.
Was that record made for your mother?
No, not for her. Itâ€™s a true life story of a family in Ajegunle where Iâ€™d prayed for Diana and she had a child. So, I told the family Iâ€™d like to put it in my music and they allowed me.
Dianaâ€™s mother-in-law was always troubling her because they didnâ€™t have a child and after that, the trouble stopped. That song was also linked to my mother because she believed in me.
What was it like when you were travelling all over the world?
Youâ€™ll never understand what I want to tell you if you didnâ€™t grow up in a place like Ajegunle where you donâ€™t have a father and your mother is not financially buoyant.
In Ajegunle then, there were some parents who sold off their belongings to send their children abroad so that they could come back to build house and buy cars for them.
But my mother tried all she could but didnâ€™t meet up. When I went abroad, my mother didnâ€™t believe Iâ€™d come back to Nigeria. This same abroad that she dreamt and hustledÂ to see how she could send me.
While I was in Germany, I had a dream where I and my elder brother Jeff were sleeping in one room and I woke up to see my hair coiling.
So when I woke up, I started growing deadlocks. In that same dream, all my dancers were leaving me and my elder brother asked me to come, letâ€™s go home.
So when my mother saw me, she asked Jeff if he was the one who asked me to come back and he said no, that it was my dream that made me come back. Most people have failed to understand and follow their dream, which is wrong.
I didnâ€™t start growing dreads because I wanted it. I started it after that dream.