By Benjamin Njoku
Remember “I Wan Finish Timaya?” The controversial song that launched Paul Nnamdi Okpara popularly known as Nico Gravity into the mainstream Nigerian music scene. The ghetto singer disappeared into thin air, after releasing the song in 2009. But the good news is that he has reappeared again.
This time, he’s not planning to attack another top Nigerian musician through his forthcoming album. Rather, he wants to relaunch his musical career in grand style. In this engaging encounter, the Imo State-born ghetto singer takes us through his difficult times, revealing how his record label then kept him stranded after they reneged on the deal he had with them. He also talks about the Ajegunle music, his encounter with Timaya among other things…
Your fans have missed you for ages, what actually happened?
I’m just like every other musician who has not been heard for a long time. But I’m in the studio working on my new songs and fine-tuning plans towards releasing the video. I have also been going to shows.
But you disappeared from the scene?
When I released my first album, “I Wan Finish Timaya”, I had a contract with a record label which included plans to promote my brand, videos, and doing collabos with other artistes. But somewhere along the line, the label did not live up to its responsibilities. So, I was kept stranded in terms of funding. But the truth is that I have been trying my best to gather resources to relaunch myself properly. In the music of today, it’s more push-oriented than song-oriented. Everything depends on how much you can push your brand, and come out with a very good video that would be played on air. And whether you like it or not, promo has become more expensive than what it used to be during our time.
Are you signed to any record label now?
No, I am working independently. I am also grooming some young artistes. It has not been easy for me.
Do you agree that Nigerian music of today is quite a departure from what it used to be in the past?
Yes, it’s different from what it used to be during our time. It’s better in terms of instrumentation and performance than before. But in terms of social relevance, today’s music is nowhere. The artistes are just entertaining their audiences and catching their fun.
Is your forthcoming album going to be a blend of Ajegunle music?
Some songs in the album will have the Ajegunle beat, while others will be pop songs. We have to move with the trend. If I do a song that has purely AJ beat, it may not be accepted by all because AJ music is no longer in vogue.
Was your debut song, “I Wan Finish Timaya” a deliberate attempt to take on the Bayelsa State -born singer?
The song was to create fun and entertain my fans. But on a serious note, most of the things I said in that song was what Timaya was doing then. He was boastful and all his songs were about the things he had acquired materially. The purpose of the song was not to destroy Timaya, or exhibit the hatred I have for him. But I wanted to correct an impression so that the future artiste would not follow his footsteps. It’s allowed in music that if you have 10 tracks, you can use about two tracks to talk about yourself. But the truth is that Timaya was busy talking about how he had made money and acquired material things of life in every song he released then. I thought it wasn’t the right way to go, so I made that song to keep him on his toes. Again, I also needed people to hear me as well as to entertain my fans.
Were you apologetic for attacking him in that song?
I wasn’t, because I can’t be apologetic for having spoken the truth. I’m glad I did the song. I know Timaya might have felt offended or hurt . To that extend, I’m sorry I might have hurt a fellow man. But I’m not sorry for speaking the truth.
Did Timaya react in any way after you released the song?
I remember that he once called me on the phone and I told him that it wasn’t an attack on his personality, adding that I didn’t hate or have any beef with you. But it’s just that I wanted to entertain my fans. It happens in the western world. He replied that he was wondering who was attacking him. That was it, since then he never contacted me again.
After releasing the song, you went underground. What happened?
After releasing “I Wan Finish Timaya , I aslo released two more songs that made waves in the eastern part of the country. But I have not released another song that was a big hit as “I Wan Finish Timaya.” This is as a result of lack of resources to do promos for my songs. The present day Nigerian music scene has been taken over by sons of the rich people. If you are not ‘a yahoo yahoo boy’ or your parents are not rich enough to support you, you are bound to struggle till eternity.
But you made money from your previous albums?
I did, but it wasn’t as much as people expected. There was a plan for my record label to follow up on my next effort. But the management of the label backed out and kept me stranded. There was a plan for somebody to handle my promotion while I engaged myself in other things. But in a situation where the person failed to live up to his responsibilities, there is nothing one can do. That’s what happened to me.
Are you worried that Ajegunle music is going into extinction?
The up and coming musicians should take care of it. We have done our own bit. It’s now left for the young ones to continue from where we stopped. For me, whichever direction the young musicians push us, that we will go. It doesn’t bother me. Ajegunle music is already dead. I don’t get to hear it any more. The reason AJ music stopped being the rave of the moment had to do with funding. For any AJ artiste to release a song that would be acceptable and celebrated by the people, you have to spend a lot of money for shooting of the video and promotion. It’s not because the creativity or enthusiasm has died in Ajegunle but it’s about the issue of funding.
How soon are you planning to drop your new album?
I’m working towards the middle of the year. Probably in June, to drop teh album. That’s my focus now.