By Ogbonna Amadi, Entertainment Editor
What else is there to know about one of the nationâ€™s leading Hip Hop and R&B stars, Innocent ( 2Face) Idibia, one may be tempted to ask? So much has been said and written about the Benue State-born musician whom, alongside two other friends, Black-Face and Faze, took the music industry by storm as the Plaintainsion Bois. Well, Saturday Vanguard brings to you the story of 2Face Idibia as never told. Enjoy it.
Is this the first time youâ€™d be getting money from the Music and Copyrights Society of Nigeria (MCSN)?
Itâ€™s not the first time MCSN will pay me royalty. But this time, itâ€™s really getting bigger and better.
How does this make you feel?
Itâ€™s a very welcome development, and I think MCSN should be encouraged by other members of the copyright community. They should be empowered by government to enforce the rights of Nigerian artistes.
Has government done enough?
Sometimes, one cannot help but wonder at the attitude of government toward important issues, especially copyright matters. I think the problem is that government doesnâ€™t understand the magnitude of the music industry when it comes to the economic development of a nation.
The people in government, I should think are ignorant of the economic gains of the entertainment industry. It is in their own interest to have a change of mind and look inwards and understand that the mirror to any nation is the entertainment industry. They need to organise the industry and ensure that the right laws are put in place, and that the laws are obeyed and respected.
Some people blame the poor level of awareness amongst artistes as bane of the industry. Could this be true?
There are many artistes in America who are into music and who donâ€™t understand anything about copyright and the associating laws.
But they have people with the technical know how to handle their affairs. They have lawyers that handle all the details and who would explain areas that concern the artistes to the musician.
So, here in Nigeria, you cannot blame the artistes for not having knowledge about what his rights are.
There is no school in Nigeria that teaches copyright and the laws protecting the rights of the artistes.
We need more entertainment lawyers, more artistesâ€™ managers and management companies, individuals and corporate bodies that will say to the artist, â€œHey, you just concentrate on your talent, and weâ€™ll take care of the rest.â€
Talking about management and managers, what happened to Hypertek, your company?
Hypertek is still a baby company trying to take a stand in the industry. And right now, we are looking for more efficient hands to run the daily affairs of the company. But by the special grace of God, â€œWe go make things happen at Hypertek.â€
First, you were with Now Muzik. You left to run your own show. Now, you are back at Now Muzik. Why?
Let me put things right. I have not said we do not have efficient people at Hypertek. We do have. But the issue is that the work load at Hypertek is massive.
Itâ€™s not a childâ€™s play. So, I need more people. Itâ€™s more like we are trying to restructure things and get more experienced hands into the company.
My involvement in the running of the company conflicted with my career as an artiste. And as you know, I cannot be the artiste, and at the same time be a manager. Thatâ€™s why I returned to the safe hands of my friend, Efe Omoregbe, and his Now Muzik management.
In spite of your collaborations with international artistes like R. Kelly, Chaka Demus and Pliers, the album doesnâ€™t seem to have risen to the height your other albums achieved.What happened?
It may not be as popular as the other albums. But itâ€™s gaining a lot respect outside the shores of Nigeria. In Nigeria, I may not be able to say to you, â€œThis is how well the album is doing in the market, because the kind of deal I had with the marketers gives him the power to say if the album is doing well or not in the market.
You got paid outright for the album?
Yes. I got paid in a block payment deal. But Iâ€™m still concerned about the album doing well.
Why should you give out your album to a marketer for a fee?
My brother, there is no way you will not be told stories, when it comes to wanting to know figures of your album sold by the marketer. No matter how much pressure you put on the guy, all you will get will be stories. So, the best thing to do is to sell the album right to a market. They know themselves. And if the album is pirated, heâ€™ll know those responsible.
And who is responsible for the video?
Yeah, I handle the video production.
Whatever happened to a video featuring R. Kelly?
We are still working on it. Itâ€™s not easy to get people like that.
How were you able to get R. Kelly and Chaka Demus and Pliers to feature in the album?
The R. Kelly deal was made possible by Mr. Toyin Subair, the CEO of HiTV. Chaka Demus and Pliers were made possible by a friend of ours who lives in Chicago. The truth is that they actually featured me in their album but allowed me to also use the track in my own album.
A lot of people have complained that all he did was the chorus and nothing more…
One thing about R. Kelly is that Iâ€™m lucky. In most cases, he produces just the beat for some people without his voice, and yet he takes credit for producing such track. Even at that, the owner of the album is happy and shows respect. But in Nigeria here, we always like to put sentiments into issues.
They want to see me jumping around the stage with R. Kelly before they believe that truly R. Kelly was involved in the production. Itâ€™s not easy to get R. Kelly to produce a beat and do other stuffs for one.
For me, itâ€™s a huge deal, and a huge achievement to have featured R. Kelly in my album. I donâ€™t really care what people say because they try to belittle you by saying why didnâ€™t he do a verse or whatever. But my brother, Iâ€™m cool with his level of involvement. I wrote my lyrics. He produced and provided the hook.
Sex? I thought I heard that line somewhere before?
Yeah. It was originally done by Mad Cobra. But R. Kelly did his magic on the song.
These days, you seem to be more popular outside the country. Could the new album be responsible for it?
Not really. Itâ€™s just that Iâ€™m trying to cross over to the other continents, especially America and Europe. I need people out there to understand my kind of music. I donâ€™t want to call this new album an abstract. But you have to be really deep in music to understand what I did in the new album. Itâ€™s really deep.
And how has the collabo helped your dream?
A lot of people who have heard the song are like, â€œwho is this guy? Heâ€™s good and all that.â€ Itâ€™s generating a lot of interest and people want to see me in a concert. They really want to know and feel me.
What has the experience been like since you debuted as a solo artiste?
Itâ€™s been a story of growth, the ups and the downs. Good and bad times. But itâ€™s not been easy. So many things have come my way, and I thank God. In all, I have really grown and matured in 10 years as a solo artiste.
Would you have prevented the break up of the Plantasion Bois if you had the chance?
No, I would still have left. Iâ€™d still have gone solo. I wanted a life of mine. There is always that quest, that zeal to achieve something on your own without a crowd.
It must have been tough setting out on your own in the beginning?
It was tension all the way. Will the fans be angry with me for going solo? So many thoughts passed my minds. But I kept my fingers crossed and prayed that God took control. Thank God I was accepted.
The success of the song, African Queen, took you to new levels. Did you ever imagine this could happen?
When you do certain things, you expect people to respond to it. You fast and pray that the response is positive. When I and Black Face wrote the song, it was years before I could make use of it. When it did come out, there was tension.
You co-wrote the song with Black Face?
Yeah. The song was there all the time Plantainsion Bois held sway. But we didnâ€™t use it. It was when I started compiling my songs for my debut album that Black Face said to me. â€œOld boy, make we put this African woman for this your album.â€ I hesitated initially but succumbed to his prodding.
Is he earning royalty from the song?
Definitely, he does. I thank him for his support during the period.
How did your relationship with Black Face start?
It started in the secondary school in Makurdi, and we lived in the same town, Oturkpo in Benue State. Saint Gabriel Secondary School was where we met and started hanging out as friends. Our love for music started growing and we hooked up together to do small shows until 1996 when we decided to come together to form the group called Plantainsion Bois.
In 1997, we came to Lagos and worked together, playing small time shows to help us survive. We didnâ€™t do any other jobs outside music.
When you arrived Lagos, where were you staying?
In Festac, in Black Faceâ€™s uncleâ€™s house. It wasnâ€™t easy. But the man was a kind man. He let us stay. If he had money to give us for one or two things, he did without complaints. It was an experience that when one looks back, we cannot help but laugh.
And Faze …?
Faze joined us in the year 2000. Faze was to feature as guest on the album initially. We met Faze in 1998. He was doing his own thing then. But we became friends and when we started our recording, we featured him in some of the songs. But some months before we released the album, we now decided to include him in the group.
Was the money sharing formula 50-50?
We had no such problem. We were just cool together. We just believed everyone had an equal role to play.
What led to the crack in the wall?
Crack in the wall for me was my desire to grow up personally. I had put in eight years in the group and I wanted fresh grounds to explore my talents.
The several attacks on you.What went through your mind?
I was like, â€˜na so like dis, e go just happen.â€ But I thank God that it wasnâ€™t worse than it did happen. It made me realise that â€œold boy, anything can happen at any point in timeâ€.
And after the first attack, two more happened. Did you ever ask, why me?
Sometimes, things just keep happening to you and it reminds you of Job in the Bible. There are some people that have been robbed like eight times in their lives but it didnâ€™t happen in the same period and so they may not think of any coincidence.
For me, it happened within a space of two years. Now, there are some people out there whoâ€™ve experienced similar situations, and because they are not known, nobody says anything about that.
You never suspected anyone?
It was a possibility then. But I didnâ€™t want to suspect anything like that. The first one happened in my house. The second one on the road, and the third also on the road. On the two occasions it happened, it did at locations far from my house.
With success came the women …
And plenty of wahala
Annie Macaulay was your girlfriend. Why did you use her in the â€˜African Queenâ€™ video?
Sheâ€™s beautiful and was qualified to be in the video. Her appearance was not on the grounds of sentiments.
As a role model, you couldnâ€™t â€œhold bodyâ€ and use condoms when you had affairs with these women. Didnâ€™t you care?
Itâ€™s not like I didnâ€™t feel bothered about contacting HIV or getting the girls pregnant. I did. â€œBut na so I take do am, na so e take happen and I didnâ€™t run from my responsibilities. Maybe, I wanted it to happen like that.
And you didnâ€™t care about the ladiesâ€™ HIV status?
We knew our status before the pregnancies. These ladies were my girlfriends and my relationship with them wasnâ€™t like a one night stand stuff. You mentioned Annie. I have known Annie for a long time. We were already comfortable with each other.
It meant you were not faithful to them …?
â€œEhe, the time wen I dey with this one, I faithful to am. The time I dey with the other, I faithful to am too.â€
How many kids do you have by these women?
Oh, there are five of them.
And how do they relate?
They know each other. But right now, they live with their different mothers because Iâ€™m not always around. But once in a while, I bring them together, go out with them, so at least they will know each other.
And what is it like as a father?
Itâ€™s fun but hectic.
Itâ€™s fun in the sense that when you just look at them, they are tiny things whoâ€™d grow up to become grown ups one day. It excites me when I think of my person as a father. It gives me a huge sense of responsibility, because I have to do virtually everything for them. At every second I spend with them, I have to be alert because anything can happen at anytime.
They need attention and can get injured at the slightest mistake. Everything about fatherhood has been in the positive direction. It gives me more sense of responsibility and it makes me conscious of life now more than ever.
Growing up with your parent, did they know youâ€™d become a musician?
They knew that right from my childhood, my love for music was obvious. When I was a little boy, my love for music was very obvious, since the day I learnt to talk. At birthday parties, I was reputed for my dance. There is no how I hear music that I will not respond to it. But they didnâ€™t know that the love music would transcend everything in my life.
You had a show with the Benue State government in Makurdi…?
No, no! I celebrated my 10th anniversary and the Benue State government was chief host of the show.
When Plantainsion Bois came on board, Hip Hop was not as popular as it is today. To crown your effort, you won the maiden MTV video award (Africa category) as the best Hip Hop artiste. Will you say that was the climax of your effort as a Hip Hop musician?
It certainly is not the climax but one of the highlights because many Nigerian youths didnâ€™t believe in the music industry, didnâ€™t believe that a son of the soil could from the inside of Nigeria, achieve that level of success. So, once that started happening, many other people started coming on board.
The belief that they can achieve greatness from within spurred them into action. In the industry such as ours, there are people who will thrive to better whatever records that may have been achieved in the past.
People who were afraid to sing in pidgin English, their native languages, woke up from their slumber. My first and second albums combined English, pidgin and my native tongue and yet it was a big hit. So, today the youths are stepping up the tempo.
Today, more endorsements are coming up, the pay level has also risen. This is because of the little effort some of us put into the business. Iâ€™m grateful to God to be classed as one of the pioneers that stood for the new era music and respect for artistes and level that artistes can achieve today.
It was the first time an African would win an MTV awards…
Yes, it was the first time and it was by merit.
At the time before and after your name was mentioned as winner, what went through your mind?
My feeling was God, I hope I win. I was confident because amongst all the other artistes selected from Africa, I could say that I was the best. For that year alone, I had toured all over Africa and the response I got from all these African countries that I went to, I knew I had no rival.
At their different night clubs, my music was everywhere. I was confident. But my fears were that since a winner must emerge by votes, I was somehow sceptical. So, I was surprisingly voted by these other African countries that voted for me.
The margin between me and the first runner-up was unimaginably wide. But the situation is different today. The people seem to have learnt their lessons. They vote for their own. But in my case, they were very honest.