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By Vivien WEHWEH

Getting eleven of Nigeria’s hip-hop stars under one roof wasn’t going to be an easy task. But I thought because they were all under Storm Records management, we could route them in for a photo shoot and feature. How wrong! It was a Herculean task! If it’s not South Africa today for one, it would be New York tomorrow for another. In the end, we decided to make do with the six stars available for our shoot. In my book, this is definitely a success story.

The photo-shoot turned out to be one great shoot I will not forget in a hurry. It was a lot fun. The stress and pain of waiting for five hours for the artistes to arrive for the shoot was soon forgotten as Nigeria’s brimming talents let their hairs down for a rousing time.

In this interview, we bring you Nigeria’s top five hip-hop artistes as they tell their story on the good, the bad and ugly sides of the music industry. Enjoy!

Naeto C: Being good has nothing to do with good performance

Naetochukwu Chikwe, popularly known as “Naeto C” was born on December 17th in Houston, Texas, United States of America. He spent his growing up years in England and Nigeria in a household hugely influenced by music. As a growing boy, Naeto C fell in love with poetry which took him to various competitions and earned him accolades. Naeto attended the prestigious Atlantic Hall Secondary School, Lagos and later moved to the United States of America to further his education. Naeto graduated in 2004 with a B. Sc. in Biology.

His original intention was to pursue a professional career in the medical field but rather than that, Naeto C opted to follow his true love — music; a choice which has proven to be right. But even with all his success in music, Naeto still wanted more education and last year, he earned his masters degree. Enjoy!

During the shoot, you were very quiet. You even admitted to the make-up artist that you are quiet by nature. Considering the kind of industry you are in, especially with stage performances, don’t you think being quiet is a disadvantage?

Not at all. That I was quiet during the shoot doesn’t mean that I’m always quiet. Besides, I don’t think being the opposite of quiet, let’s say being loud, has anything to do with delivering good stage performance. Everyone is different in his or her own way but when it’s show time, it’s show time.

You seem to have become a trend setter; people seem to copy whatever outfit you wear, either in your video or on the red carpet. Have you ever thought of coming out with your own clothing line?

Yeah, I have. Let’s see what happens in the future.

Your first album was a huge hit. One minute, you were just a regular guy and the next, you had become a big star and a trend setter. What was the transformation like for you?

It wasn’t an extreme transformation because, I was lucky to have already been exposed and privileged to experience a lot, prior to becoming famous. I guess that’s why it hasn’t been a challenge for me to stay level-headed.

Aside hip-hop, what influences the way you dress?

I just like to feel comfortable. I like to keep up with fashion in general.

Which designer do you like to wear? Who is your style icon, male or female, local and international?

I’m not really a designer person. Like I said earlier, I like to keep it simple… I still do designers but it’s probably a belt or shoes. I try to keep it subtle. I don’t really have a style icon but I like what Kanye West does with fashion. My friends, the Okunoren twins, who are Nigerian designers, are my favourite though I think they’ll grow to being huge style icons eventually.

Which perfume do you wear and why? Is your perfume preference a reflection of your personality?

I wear different perfumes but I don’t know if I should say what I wear because I don’t want people smelling as good as I do. It’s important to smell good and create an impression when you step into a room. I don’t think my personality has anything to do with what I wear, though.

You are currently working on your new album. When’s this much awaited album due to be released and what are your fans to expect from it?

It’s my best work to date but that’s my opinion. But yeah, to be modest, they should expect great music.

Talking about fans, I am sure you have a lot of them, especially female fans, how have you been able to manage your fan base?

I’m just nice and respectful to my fans and i never have any problems doing that.

Tosin Martins: Creativity is tough

Tosin Martins, popular for the hit song ‘Olo Mi’, came into the Nigerian music industry a few years ago and since then, there has been no stopping him. Tosin, who comes from a family of six, was educated in Lagos and Abuja. He attended Baptist Primary School, Obanikoro, Lagos but completed his primary education in Abuja and went on to Federal Government College, Abuja. He later studied Law at the University of Lagos (Unilag). Immediately after his youth service, Martins who was a resident judge at the just-concluded Glo Naija Sings, went into the studio to start work on his first album. Here’s what he had to say.

You have been in the entertainment industry for some time now. What are the challenges you have faced and how have you been able to manage them to get to this point in your career?

I had quite a number of challenges. First, was finding the outfit to work with for the management and promotion of my music — largely because of the peculiarity of my style.

Then, there’s also been the challenge of keeping up with the pace in the industry; with music and music videos being released practically everyday, especially as a means of sustaining attention and building repertoire in order to contend for events which sadly is the major source of artiste’s income. The pressure, creatively and even financially, can be something for the feeble hearted.

Apart from these, I guess balancing public life with family and, with God’s grace over a supportive wife, it’s been good so far. I guess that answers the question as to how I’ve been able to cope. Maybe, I should add that the love of faithful fans and my sincere love for music have also helped me to stay for the long haul.

You were a resident judge at the Glo Naija Sings project. What was it like to go round Nigeria looking for acts and having to say ‘no’ to so many hopefuls. I am sure it was a very difficult task. How did you clinch the deal?

Interesting experience; going from region to region in the country, the purpose being to discover breath-taking talents; especially, when one feels one has heard and seen them all at home and abroad. Then, you hear these voices that blow everything away.

As for having to say ‘no’ to people; yes, it’s not fun but I console myself knowing that I offer more than that in the tips and advice I give those who didn’t make it. I believe if they take those in good faith, they might turn their disappointment around and come on strong into the mainstream of the industry where doors are always open.

I got the call to be resident judge based on the show owners’ and producers’ assessment of my analysis during Lagos regionals in the first season of the show. They liked my appreciation and understanding of the basics of vocal performance and felt I could do the job so, here we are. I hope I’m doing a good job.

Of all your albums and songs, which would you say made you very popular and which one made the most money for you?

Definitely, my first album ‘Happy Day’ and the song ‘Olo Mi’. I guess, they are also the same suspects that have gotten me the most opportunities financially or otherwise. I prefer opportunities, not necessarily money. Lol!

A lot of Nigerian musicians think all there is to a song is the beat and they are so fixated with the woman’s anatomy? What do you think is responsible for this?

Well, it’s largely the trend. The thinking is that ‘if it’s working’, I might as well ‘work it’. You must understand that creativity is tough because, it’s meant for people. At the end of the day, it’s either they like it or they don’t so, the average artiste would rather do what they feel the people already like. That stifles real, creative music and keeps it stagnant and boring because you have one and the same sound but it takes creative purists who are in it also for the name and love of music to worry about that, not your regular ‘hit-minded artiste’. Plus, radio doesn’t help that much either, giving preference to artistes who make dance music strictly. Since it’s still the major medium for pushing music, every artiste feels pressured to do the same thing. Sad? I know.

How would you describe the Nigerian entertainment industry over the last five years? Do you think that it can be compared to what you have in South Africa and maybe America?

I’d say yes, to a certain degree. Talent is content and that’s the life of every creative expression, I believe. In that regard, we have more than enough that can hold their own anywhere in the world. From singers to musicians, to producers, to video directors — you can count many and I think we’ve even grown. From the awards in recent times, you’d see the world is taking note.

Production value, especially quality control and support, with more corporate and government funding; even legal support with enabling laws, lack of distribution structures, which is responsible for piracy and strong, representative media that can compete with the BETs and MTVs to push purely local content to the world. These are the areas the countries you’ve mentioned have the advantage.

What should your fans expect from you? Any new album or project in the pipeline?

Two brand new albums have just been released. ‘Higher’ (the expression and the confession) featuring Rooftop MCs, MI, Naeto C, Banky W, Jesse Jagz, Ice Prince, Ego, and Sage. We are releasing new videos soon and some of the earlier videos — ‘Kosigi’ and ‘Ololufe’ are on Youtube and other social media platforms. Proper promotion of the albums will start as soon as I get off this season of Naija Sings.

Tell us about your dress sense. Who is your favourite designer and how much would you dare to spend on an outfit you like?

I’d say simple, classy and nicely fitted. My favourite designers in Naija are David Wej, Ouch, James Johnson and Charles Toye. Apart from these, I’m a regular Hawes n Curtis, TM Lewin shirts, Banana Republic and Next t-shirts guy. If it’s good, I’d do up to N100,000 on a complete outfit.

What is the most expensive item you have ever bought?

A number of things; I can’t cross check right now and some I can’t disclose. But let me say one of them is an Alba wristwatch I got in Dubai which cost a hustling, young man like me — then in 2006 — more than half a thousand dollars. I know, it’s not that plenty but ol’ boy, I endured buying that thing o! I’ve rocked life out of it self. E go better. Lol!

General Pype: I never envisage champion song to the truely brake

Olayiwola Majekodunmi, popularly known as General Pype, needs no introduction as this talented dance-hall artiste has been making waves with his song: ‘Born Champion’, a song which has won him different awards, including the Chanell O Award.

The talented young man developed his passion for music in the late 1980s. He started out with a private choir named Triumphant Coral Voices headed by Mike Ohiri. There, he learnt the rudiments of music and the act of singing, specifically bass.

After a few years with the Triumphants, Pype decided to withdraw from the choir in order to discover other sides of music besides classical music, which he was used to. This led him to discover different genres of music which, fortunately, he could fit into. Even though he wears dreadlocks, Pype is not a Rastafarian. The stage name Pype was given to him by his manager due to his versatility in music and arts in general.

Your song, ‘Born Champion’ topped the charts. When you were recording, did you imagine that it would get to the top-ten charts?

We made the song with the mind set of reaching everyone: the rich, the poor, people on the verge of giving up on their dreams, strugglers thinking they are out of winning options… Basically, to remind every one that we are all special and unique in our little, different ways! I never envisioned this Champion song to truly break the chains its breaking or cross such boundaries. At least, not now!

So far that seems to be your only work. When are we expecting another album? You did a remix of that song with some of your Storm crew and the late Dagrin. What was it like working with him?

My album is going to drop soon but I can’t say when exactly. It’s up to my label and management, Podium Vybez, and Storm to say. Blessed love to my late colleague, friend, brother, supporter and personal person, champion-minded Olaitan Olanipekun a.k.a. Lyrical Prophet, Champion Barrack O Grin, Akogun, Omo Ogun1, Ipade di Oju Ala!

It was on a rainy Wednesday night (9:9:2009). He came into the studio that night. He saw and conquered the moment. Just like he left a striking footprint on the sands of the Nigeria hip-hop scene! It was a night to remember; an experience that makes me shed tears each time I hear champion remix being played or listen to the song. Working with him was awesome. I will forever live to cherish the times we worked together.

Your lock is very long. How long did it take to grow it to this level? When you decided to wear locks, was it based on the fact that you wanted to be a Raga artiste or you just felt like wearing it. How do you maintain it?

I have been grooming my locks for five years and some months now. I started grooming them shortly after my first few recordings. I treated it myself for the first three years. I started going to the salon afterwards. ‘Big up’ to SD Jatto for the nice look! I started grooming my locks because of the positivism it attracts; as an outward sign of what I preach and promote with my music: POSITIVE LIVING!

Your manager said that you shot your video in Obalende, Lagos because you grew up there. What was it like growing up in Obalende? Has stardom changed you?

Growing up in Obalende is one of the most significant parts of my childhood because I had the opportunity to come face to face with some harsh realities of life. I tell you, growing up in Obalende is one of my strongest driving forces; it’s difficult to forget. I am still the same person; my friends can attest to that fact.

As a child, did you ever dream of becoming a musician? How has the experience been like and what would you say inspires you?

When I was a boy, my mum had a shop close to a beer parlour, where all sorts of music played non-stop; different genres, so it gave me opportunity to listen to various brands of music from a tender age. The only joy I have is music; the only thing that has and will not change in me is my love for music! Every one around me knew that music would definitely be my hustle one day.

You seem to have a signature dressing style. Tell us what you will not be caught dead in. Do you always wear this or it’s just for appearances?

When I dress up, I want to always look and feel good; especially given the fact that some people look up to me. But my signature look is mainly for concerts, shows, performances or occasions that have to do with my alter ego, General Pype. So, just like bankers wear suits to work or soldiers wear uniforms to work, I wear mine when it has to do with my work (music). I will never be seen wearing a lady’s dress or a gown! My ceremonial outfits are kept in my archive after appearing in them (at special occasions).

You just won Channel O Award. How does it feel and do you think that the award will open more doors of opportunities for you?

It feels good to be recognized and rewarded by some people away from home! The fact that we, in this part of the world, don’t reward hard work on merit but look at faces or how it will benefit us – is what makes this award special! The fact that lovers of my work from around Africa and the world, not only Nigeria, voted me to win this makes it unique. It’s also my first continental award. Thanks to the Most High, we didn’t buy the awards! Obviously, this is a channel of blessing. God is the owner of my inspiration! I want to thank Ayo Rotimi for seeing something in me early. My management team, my friends, my fans (and) all those who love my work and support my music — their support and unbiased love are my biggest motivation and driving force.

Sauce Kid : Working with storm has given me many platforms

Moneylong was the work that introduced Sauce Kid into the Nigerian hip-hop industry. His smash hit single ‘Yebariba Samboribobo’ was a chart popper which also featured on MTN’s caller tunes. The video also propelled the single and since then, Sauce Kid has gained national acclaim. Sauce Kid is also responsible for coining the term Yebariba Samboribobo which is, as he put it, the “Ghetto Halleluyah”.

Born in Lagos as Babalola Falemi, Sauce Kid is another talented rapper on the music scene. The rapper completed high school education in Nigeria after which he moved to the United States where he cultivated the habit of rhyming; although it would not show forth until 2005. In December 2005, Sauce Kid headed back to Nigeria with a video for the hit “Omoge Wa Jo” which featured legendary Afro-pop singer Mike Okri.

You used to live in America and you played music there. It might not have been main stream; how would you compare the Nigerian entertainment industry and that of America?

The American industry is structured. Ours isn’t. I didn’t play music there. I started out there in 2005. And since then, I have been frequenting Nigeria, promoting my brand and awareness.

Would you say that leaving America to come to Nigeria to do music has been worth your while? How has it been like working with the Storm group?

I’d say leaving America showed me that I can make something out of nothing. It also showed me that the people in my immediate demographics in America can believe in me if I prove myself elsewhere; which has been the case since my emergence in the industry. It has not been worth my while because I have not enjoyed a steady flow of income for my efforts thus far, plus it has taken me away from my daughter, brother, sister, father, mother etc. So yeah, it’s got to translate into income. Holler at me on the shows; you know how to reach me.

Working with Storm has given me many platforms to showcase what I bring to the table, plus it makes me more visible to my audience even when I’m not around.

You seem to be the comedian of the group, always making people laugh. Do you ever see yourself branching off into comedy?

Ha-ha! I’m a clown, I know. Even my daughter says that. I find it great that people can listen to me and have a good time. Comedy is something I turned to in order to help me deal with my temper, anger issues etc. Also, things don’t go as you plan in Nigeria all the time so, comedy helps me deal with mishaps etc.

Who and what inspired you to go into music and why rap? As a child, did you ever dream of becoming a singer? You recently released an album. How is it doing in the market so far?

I never knew I’d do music. Music chose me in a way because, it was never my dream. As as child, I never dreamt of being a star of nothing. I actually wanted to be a pharmacist but that changed in 2005 when I recorded a song with Mike Okri. Then, I realised I could be a force to reckon with in Nigerian hip-hop world. My album is titled ‘African American’. It’s currently in the market. Pick it up and my core hip-hop lovers can look forward to the mix tape titled “DaRipOff”. It features many heavy hitters in the hip-hop industry. That’s what I represent. Naija hip-hop. I want be referred to as the “Best that ever did it” and that ever came out of Naija.

What’s with the tattoo; how many of it do you have overall? Is it part of your trade mark or just a past time? Do you plan on having more. Is the tattoo the reason why you are bare-chested all the time?

I remember, I was the only one with tattoos in the Naija entertainment industry for many years, then Tuface surprised me in Amsterdam when I saw a tattoo on his neck just like mine. Mine says “It’s Naija”, his says “One Love”.

After Tuface, I noticed one of the P-Square twins got tattoos and then Bigiano came around my neighborhood once and ended up sleeving his arms that day — just from looking at me. Next was Morachi, Terry G, they got the arms done. Recently, Wande Coal and I were in New York and he went to get a tattoo as well. Most recent customer is YQ, with one on his forearm. I guess, I’ve managed to influence the industry in that sense. But realistically, I got most of my tattoos before music — when I used to run the streets of L.A. It was a lifestyle thing. Now, I’m starting to see it as fashion, art etc. I like being bare-chested because I’m lucky enough to have a ripped body although I don’t work out.

How do you see the Nigerian youth? Are you sending a message with your music?

I’m educating them on many aspects of life: Reality, culture, tradition, seeing things from many points of view. Yes, pick up the album, download some music online. You’ll get the message.

Do you have a girl friend? What’s your opinion of Nigerian girls? How do they compare with American girls?

Girls like me. Let’s leave it at that. The moment I start discussing my personal life, I expect the media to focus on it. It’s unimportant. I do what I do. I’m me.

When you are not dressing the hip-hop way, what kind of outfit do you wear and who is your favourite designer? I noticed the LV bag. Is it your favourite?

I like LV, Gucci. D&G shoes, Hugo Boss shoes. I also like belts, nice tees, fitted and seamless jeans, etc. You can get a vibe from how I dress. It’s my sense of style.

Slick P: Rapping has always been my style

Your firm, Onpoint Consultancy, is doing well and you are also a successful rapper and lyrics writer. How do you combine all these and still come out looking sane?

“Luckily, rapping and working with computers are the two things, I believe, I was born to do so, the passion keeps me driven in both areas. At Onpoint Consultancy, my very talented partners and our staff are fully committed to keeping the business successful. With Storm 360, I am lucky to have the backing of one of Nigeria’s foremost entertainment company. This gives me freedom to focus on the creative and performing aspects of music. These strong support systems are the reason I remain sane.

You have done music in most parts of the world. You used to be a member of a German band and even went on tour with them. Why did you decide to finally settle here in Nigeria to do music?

Well, I was more like a guest artiste than a full member of Radio Road West. We made some great songs and won many fans on tour. Germany and all other travels were fantastic but as my dad always said: “East or West, home is

best”. I think after so many years abroad, I was ready to come back home. Actually, I started planning my return home about four years ago.

As a recording artiste, what has been the reception from Nigerians? You have played at some gigs since you got back. You were at the recent ‘Felabration’ and Independence Day celebration in Kwara State. How would you describe Nigerian fans? Are they like fans in any other parts of the world?

Nigerian fans are very lively. As long as your music is moving, you get plenty of love and support. I think fans anywhere in the world respond well if the music is true and they can relate to it. It is more about energy on stage and also selection of songs to perform. Performing at ‘Felabration’ was an honour because Fela is the greatest musician I know. He lives forever and we thank him for his inspiration.

Your style and looks reminds me of the American rapper and businessman, Jay Z, and he is listed as one of your inspirations. What are the qualities that you admire in him?

Jay Z sums up the hip-hop entrepreneur. His flow is cool. His business dealings are astute. He is the most successful recording hip-hop artiste and is forever young. He does not know yet but he is my long lost senior brother!

You have practically done all forms of music but in the end chose to be a rapper. Why did you settle for rapping? A lot of people are of the opinion that rap music promotes violence. Is it true?

Actually, right through all the genres of music I have done, rapping has always been my style. Be it a rock song, drum and bass, funky house, afro beat or traditional hip-hop rhythm, I have always laid down poetry in rhymes which is essentially rapping.

Any music can express violence, love or whatever. Rock and country songs can be equally violent or peaceful in their messages. It depends on the song, the artiste and the listener’s own interpretation. Personally, rap music has always inspired me positively to achieve my goals. I woke up every morning to Notorious B.I.G. albums during my final year in university and this fired me up for lectures. Even the so-called ‘gangsta’ rappers have a lot of positive messages like self help and determination if you listen beyond the glamour raps.

You are the great grandchild of the legendary Herbert Macaulay. How was it like growing up as his grand son and are there some philosophies of his that have helped make you the man that you are today?

It was during history lessons in secondary school that I really started to understand the impact he had on Nigeria. As the father of Nigerian nationalism, I think his philosophy was basically for Nigerians to do things ourselves (and) properly. That explains why he founded West Africa’s first indigenous political party. Teaming up with like-minded people and staying committed to your goals are qualities I have learnt from Herbert Macaulay; the independent spirit as part of a collective.

Your great grandfather was one of those who fought for Nigeria’s

Independence. Do you think that their dreams, hopes and philosophies have come to play in today’s Nigeria? If he were to be alive now, what do you think he would say about the way Nigeria has turned out?

I think he would want us to be more unified as a people. His nationalist philosophies mean he would have liked to see all Nigerians behaving first as patriotic Nigerians with less emphasis on tribes or individuals. For example, one day an Igbo man can become governor of a Hausa state because first, he is a Nigerian and all his fellow Nigerians accept it.

I also believe he would like to see more internal efforts in developing ourselves and our country. We have to develop Nigeria ourselves because it belongs to us but first, we should all believe in Nigeria.

What would say influences your style of dressing and what would you not be caught dead in?

I am influenced by both Western and African styles. I wear mainly suits, casual smarts, hip-hop, street and West African native clothing. I do not like leather trousers.

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