Tari’s Introduction I have always been curious about rapper, Ikechukwu Onanaku; curious about him as a human being, as well as about his musical history, identity and future. So when 360Nobs and I were trying to decide who our second guest on 360Chat with Tari should be, I immediately suggested him. The date was confirmed, the venue confirmed, and then changed; I finally had an opportunity to put this curiosity to rest once and for all.
On the d-day, Ikechukwu set up chairs in the garden terrace behind rapper, Sauce Kid’s apartment in Victoria Island, the venue of our meeting. We were soon seated comfortably, in anticipation of the interesting conversation we were about to have. I have this radar for identifying people I know I will enjoy speaking with, and as usual, it was spot-on with Ikechukwu! We spoke for about an hour and a half!! I was intrigued, as well as impressed, by Ikechukwu’s openness and willingness to make himself vulnerable, during our conversation. I found him to be a deeply passionate and sensitive guy who is courageous enough to embark on the rather difficult journey of Self-discovery. Please sit back and enjoy my conversation with Ikechukwu…
Brief Bio: Ikechekwu Onunaku was born in Mannassa, Virginia, U.S.A. to a Nigerian family. He is an Entertainer, Songwriter, Producer, Actor, C.E.O. and an Award winner.
TARI: Tell me about Ikechukwu before ‘Life and Times of Killz – Vol. 1’
IKECHUKWU: Before Life and Times of Killz (hmm) there was Ikechukwu who was still living in the United States, working his regular jobs…
TARI: Wall Street?!
IKECHUKWU: (continues)…Wall Street, TD Waterhouse, those were just some of the many jobs I had because I could be working in an office one time and the next thing I’d be working behind the bar in a club or something!! I was doing both (chuckles) at the same time you know. Around 2002, I kind of got fed up of working for ‘The Man’; that’s what we call it in America ‘’working for the man’’ (jokes around that with Tari). You gotta get that job and work for him and you go “yes sir” to him no matter what he says because you got to get your check at the end of the day. ‘The Man’ is also in that check that you get at the end of the day, because if you are making $300 gross, net is really like $180 or $210. Taxes, Social Security, Medicare, ‘The Man’ takes it all!!
TARI: That’s ‘The Man’!!
IKECHUKWU: So I got tired working for ‘The Man’ and decided I had garnered enough knowledge of self and enough knowledge of what exactly it is I wanted to do which was, you know, pretty much get into the Entertainment business. I had gone through a process of realization of self in America; it was kind of because (in a Naija accent) I grew up in Naija and I went to Yankee for University and even though I was in and out of University (pauses), I was still learning a whole lot of real life experiences. Whether from being in the street or working a job, hustling (chuckles) or you know in class, on campus and what have you. So I decided to start travelling around Europe…
TARI: Yes you did a tour around Europe what was that about?
IKECHUKWU: I wouldn’t really call it a tour because it was pretty much like, just a whole bunch of performances, left and right over a couple of years. It was in the Christmas of 2002 that I decided I was not gonna work for nobody no more, THAT’S IT! Come 2003, Christmas, New Year period, I met this girl I started dating, who was pretty much like an international Top model working with a couple of New York agencies and European agencies. We started dating; it was love you know, it was blissful love, (smiles nostalgically) so I used that as a justification to run around Europe. Wherever she was, I was there! I had been well versed in relationships and dealing with women so I knew that a long distance relationship wasn’t going to work, talk less of one with (together) a MODEL!!! (both laugh). So I was like for it to actually even have a chance, I had to be around her all the time, you know. (laughs) She gets a job in Italy I would be in Italy; she got a job in Germany I would be In Germany; she got a job in London I would be in London.
TARI: How come you were so willing to put yourself and what you wanted on the line to make the relationship work?
IKECHUKWU: Because I was sick and tired, I mean it was so many things!! I was sick and tired of being in America and being this guy that knows that he has everything that it takes to be that superstar that America loves, but knowing the system in America and having the truest realization to self that there is a one in a million, five million chance of actually making it through the system, because there is a clique that is running the system and under that clique that is running the system, they have their little cliques that they use to control the system and if you’re not in either one of those cliques directly, then you don’t really have a chance, you hear me?! You see this one young dude who just comes out of nowhere and has a huge hit and you don’t know the history behind him until like ten years later when you find out that he is one of those guys who has been in the industry for 30 years and they just decided to bring this guy out, train him and give him all the opportunities he needs, in terms of networking and BOOM!! All of a sudden, you have this cooked thing, you get me? After I realized all that, there were other pressures like actually not being able to progress in personal growth; you know, you work certain types of jobs and making certain kinds of salaries and you wanna see growth in that. When that is stagnant for a while, you actually begin to question yourself and your capabilities and even all the belief that you have in yourself begins to have some kind of doubts. So just being the guy that I am, I got tired of so many pressures upon me and I was just like “you know what (excuse my language) but F**K IT!! I gotta do something…something’s gotta give!!” One of the excuses that a lot of people kept on giving me in the music industry in the United States for non acceptance was , ‘’what you are doing is real different men I don’t know if the American people are gonna click with this, this is more like international s**t!!” That s**t used to boggle me ‘cos I was like international money, that’s BIG money…
TARI: Yeah exactly, any business person you would wanna tap into that…
IKECHUKWU: That’s it (laughs); that actually helps you understand the average American mentality. They only wanna sit in America, and have not even travelled out of their state talk less of out of the United States. Whereas the average African that you see anywhere in the world, has pretty much travelled the world. That just kinda like motivated me to do the whole international thing, so I was like maybe there’s even something in that and I could do it myself. Whenever I got back into town, I’d get a job here and here…and that was another thing I couldn’t understand because Americans, most especially African-Americans always complain (in accent) “there a’int no jobs out there for the black man” and all that kinda stuff and am like c’mon; I could be chilling with my boys because I used to live with a lot of ni**as, a lot of guys (apologises), and we were all Alpha males, all Nigerians except for one white boy. We were always sitting on our asses, because we knew how easy it is here in America, the land of opportunity!! It’s really the land of opportunity; don’t get it twisted every time people say (in Pidgin English) “men that place that they say is flowing with milk and honey…na lie!!” It’s because when they got there they didn’t actually…
TARI: Isn’t that a contradiction though, because on one hand you say there was no opportunity for you trying to get up in what you were trying to do?
IKECHUKWU: Actually it’s not a contradiction, because if you think about it, everything that is just like that is a total contradiction. Everything out there will make you think “Men…it CAN actually happen!!” But then…it’s NOT happening!!
TARI: So it’s the access to the opportunity that’s the problem?!
IKECHUKWU: There you go!! So Ikechukwu was now at the point where he was tired of all that and he was now running around Europe. Everywhere he went around Europe from the very beginning, it was mad love!! They are feeling this guy. I was like “really?!” So I started working; started recording songs left and right, selling some of my beats because I was a Producer also so I was making beats too. I produced my first album ‘Son of the Soil’…I don’t know if you heard the album…
TARI: Oh no, but I know the song ‘IKECHUKWU’ (singing)
IKECHUKWU: You see that? (calls out) Noble, you see? That was the problem; nobody listened to that album because of…’I-KE-CHUKWU’… (singing)
NOBLE IGWE: (chips in) ‘Son of the Soil’ was actually one of the first albums that had a proper launch party.
TARI: Yeah I remember; the launch was at 11:45 or something!! I just never got the album…
IKECHUKWU: (laughs) So I started running around Europe recording songs and selling beats here and there, justifying again, the whole European movement. It was actually quite justifiable because I was getting some kind of response and it was very, very positive.
TARI: So it was encouraging for you…
IKECHUKWU: Thank you very much…psychologically. Then I would always go back to the States and be like “Yo! Look what I did!!” Then the dudes that used to tell me “that stuff’s international”, they’d be like “Yeah, yeah…you do that!!” being very sarcastic like “it still a’int there”. I kept on going and going until Christmas of 2004, when I came home for the first time in about fourteen years! It was funny because when I got here everything was still the same…just worse (laughs)…than when I left it.
TARI: Why did you come back?
IKECHUKWU: Because I heard…(thinks deeply) in fact let me keep it real as hell!! Part of the reason for beginning to look at Nigeria was out of seeing a special on TV in America on TimeWarner cable. At that time, MTV 3 was the new station; they had this special on African music and THEY PROMOTED IT even before they actually showed it. It was not even like a documentary or a 30mins skit of an update on what’s going on in Africa but it was like a promotion of top artists out of Nigeria.
TARI: This was in 2004?
IKECHUKWU: This was in (thinking and singing TuFace’s ‘As you see me so’) there was one video he had and he was wearing black on black and I was like who is this TuFace guy; Nigerian guy, bald hair with small goatee. He looked like me and that was kinda what tripped me. African music was now stepping up; ok he is Nigerian, next stop I would be representing. Then ching-ching…it hit me!!
TARI: You woke up!! (laughs)
IKECHUKWU: Ohhhhhhh….so then I started looking at these guys analytically, and I’m like I can do this too. Then I called Naeto C and am like (in thick Igbo accent) “Yo Naeto, omo…Naija is making music now and their music is making noise ooo” Naeto’s like, “Men leave that thing joor…I no send that thing abeg abeg…are you trying to say we should now move back to Nigeria?!” I say “No I’m just that saying we should start sending music back there and whatever…” It seemed like it was just one of those passing conversations, but before I knew it, Naeto’s calling me back talking about “Yo that our song ‘Jump up Nigeria’ is being played all over stations in the East” I was like “Are you serious?!” Naeto also said that his older cousin in Naija owned a Record label – Storm Records and I was like okay. Then in Christmas of 2004 I came back home for the first time and I go to see this man with ALL my compilation of tracks I’d done with Naeto C and my younger brother, Uzikwendu, under the World Famous Academy (WFA) group, under the WFA records.
TARI: Did you go to meet him with an expectation of the same reaction you received from Label executives in the States?
IKECHUKWU: I went with open expectations because I knew this was a different market, a different game altogether; but when I got the SAME reaction…
TARI: (cuts in) You did?
IKECHUKWU: Yeah (mimics Obi Asika…simulates frustration) I spent about three to four days in Lagos and about ten days in the village because my Dad was in the village. It was because of Obi Asika I told my Dad in the darkness in the village, sitting on the porch with the crickets in the background that “I know I didn’t finish College, and I’m not even thinking about finishing College!! I have garnered enough knowledge for myself from college (chuckles) to do whatever I want to do in the world and I understand that you would appreciate that I graduate with a Bachelor’s degree in whatever and at the end of the day I don’t need that to do what I want to do and THIS is what I want to do” and he agreed. The first song I took to him to listen to, he listened and said there was no KICK (laughs hard with Tari)!! He said, “When you people make music don’t you use base?” I looked at my dad with a different eye like what do you know about base? The treble was too low, your fidelity was too high at the end of the day after like three and half hours of arguing, my mum even fell asleep, he said “You are a man. From just having this conversation with you, I just realized that I actually did not know you; I know you better now and you are right you do not need that paper to do what you want because I have seen with my eyes people that have gone far and successful with not even half of what you have presented to me in yourself. Not even your music; the way you have spoken, articulated yourself, with the knowledge and presence of mind”
TARI: Have you ever regret the decision of not graduating?
IKECHUKWU: Regretted? NO…but I have been in situations that have reminded me of the necessity to go back to school.
TARI: Has anyone ever tried to make you feel inferior based on that?
IKECHUKWU: People don’t even know…and I can honestly say that those who do know it’s kinda pushed into their sub-consciousness and they just acknowledge me as a well educated individual because Education is like forever. But at the same time they acknowledge the fact that this guy is educated to some level…
TARI: In Medicine?
IKECHUKWU: No, not really, everybody thinks so because I was studying Microbiology…I was going in that direction. It was the only direction for me at that time because my father graduated as a double major in Computer science and Electrical Engineering from Howard University. So there was a lot of pressure on me to do this, and that but I soon realized that my Father never actually told me I had to do anything like that, it was me who felt pressure within myself that it’s what he wanted.
TARI: So back to when you approached Obi Asika…
IKECHUKWU: I came back to Obi and that didn’t happen so I went back to the States. When I went back I got all my work together and even did a mix tape and I was like “wait what do I even need this guy for?” I had some experience behind the scenes in the music Industry in the States, so I knew the formula for making music. Even though I was a Yankee boy not fully acclimatized to the scene here…
TARI: Did you see that as a disadvantage?
IKECHUKWU: Yeah, I looked at it as a disadvantage and that was because I thrive on disadvantaged situations; I was like these people like a lot of nonsense and they’d be looking at Rap as though it’s nothing!! Then I figured we’d have to teach the people to appreciate it!! So I went back to Obi and I’m spitting the verses from ‘Ikechukwu’ for him, and he’s nonchalant until we get to the third verse and I have added (singing), ‘Obi Asika, asikan gwagi imena imena’…
TARI: That got his attention a little?! (giggling)
IKECHUKWU: A LOT!! That was how that song ended up being the first single. I had already produced about thirty-something songs, for the album, that I was gonna skim through and come down to something like twenty-six. So I was pushing to Obi that we should release it as a double CD. He laughed and was like do you know how much a CD goes for here in Nigeria? However, somewhere deep inside I knew that we could change this. I was willing to take the risk; it was my first album and it’s not like I’m going to make crazy money, I just wanna make a name so that we could use that as a vehicle for the future. That’s how the album ended up having about seventeen tracks. But just because of (singing ‘I-KE-CHUKWU’) nobody listened to the album…
TARI: (laughing) But it was a great intro…what better way to launch a career than with people singing your name…
IKECHUKWU: Yeah… (singing) ‘Snoop-Doggy-Dogg’, Eminem…’My name is…’ and then my guy himself (mimicking DMX) ‘What’s my name?!’
TARI: Exactly!! What do you say about a lot of people saying you’re a DMX…
IKECHUKWU: It used to PISS ME OFF a lot!! But at the end of the day, the honest truth is that DMX influenced me a whole lot. I use to always give up most of my influences to Busta Rhymes, Biggie Smalls and a whole bunch of secondary people; but DMX did a lot to Ikechukwu ooo!! He made Ikechukwu not give a (!!) about nothing when it came to rapping, because after a while, like I told you earlier about the ‘being too International’, people will begin to get me to try to conform to the norm. But I’ve always experimented with different styles (shows some of those styles)
TARI: (laughing) You are actually very animated…
IKECHUKWU: I used to be so animated that people used to try to calm me down like guy are you on drugs? (sighs) I would say my life is filled with a lot of trials and tribulation and I see too much when I talk about it. It taught me a lot and it did a lot of breaking me down; coming back to Nigeria and experiencing the exact same thing with Storm Records initially. Even though it helped, it didn’t do that much for my sanity. So when we dropped ‘SON OF THE SOIL’, it made me sit back and realize that it wasn’t so much about Ikechukwu, but more about the brand ‘World Famous Academy’. I needed to focus a lot more on that. So I focused a lot more on pushing Naeto even though Naeto was also pushing me!! And that was the beginning of Nigeria’s recognition of WFA. It became a full blast reality when that guy whom they used to see on my side, dropped his first single ‘SITTING ON TOP’. Then they saw the video and there I was as his ‘side guy’.
TARI: Do you have any problem with being the ‘side guy’?
IKECHUKWU: Oh no, I love it because then, there is no pressure on me; I could just sit back and enjoy myself.
TARI: What about when you become completely side-lined; does it bother you then, knowing what you may have invested in the person?
IKECHUKWU: I have seen it happen a lot and every time I see it I’m like ‘wetin de worry this guy now?’ I swear I’ve NEVER felt that s**t before!! I’ve always been that guy whose telling the other guy “put the camera on you”…it’s just the kind of guy I am.
TARI: Where is WFA now?
IKECHUKWU: WFA right now is the main koko!! I’ve spent most of the time I’ve spent in Nigeria focusing on many other stuff but my own brand, WFA. It’s actually been built up to a point, and because of the success that God has blessed me with, and the secondary attention I was giving to it, it grew to be recognized. Everybody that knows Ikechukwu knows WFA. People keep on hollering on Facebook and everywhere else “Whats up with WFA?!”
TARI: Why did you leave Storm Records?
IKECHUKWU: I left Storm Records because I needed to grow. I had gotten to a point when I thought I could be a good decision maker. I didn’t feel like I was being a decision-maker, and I wanted to be one, so I left.
TARI: Then you went to Mo’ Hits and have now also left Mo’ Hits…
IKECHUKWU: Yeah, the reason why I went to Mo’ Hits was because these are my boys and they are like my family too. They gave me a cushion; to leave where I was and deliberate on what’s gonna happen and an opportunity to make do with my own thoughts and make my decisions and do what I wanted to do. My entire focus right now is on WFA, it’s about building the WFA brand exactly the way I’ve gone over it over and over in my head.
TARI: Do you think you understand the Nigerian market enough right now?
IKECHUKWU: Not only do I understand the Nigerian market enough, but I understand the logistics of operation as far as record label and its necessity in the music industry; the lack of infrastructure, the possibility of building that infrastructure and being part of the build, part of history. Also in the Corporates and the Government and in the way they are now beginning to recognize the necessity of the Industry and the youth-oriented nature of the Music, and its accessibility to regions that they have pondered for possibly a very long time on how to reach. So all of a sudden, there are more opportunities than I actually even acknowledged, when I was acknowledging before and made the decision to do it, anyway.
TARI: Back to my original question, what is your relationship with NAETO C like now?
IKECHUKWU: Naeto C – that’s my boy, that’s my younger brother. I’ve known Naeto for about (calculating) eleven years, even though it seems so much longer. I’ve been very close to Naeto and Uzi who introduced Naeto to me in the first place.
Recently, with him being off at school and me departing from Storm Records, lack of communication between him and I on whatever personal issues we might have had with each other over a period of time; the relationship kinda got strained and it’s not really what it used to be but at the end of the day, I consider him family and I’m sure he considers me family. We might not be working together as much as we used to; actually I don’t even remember the last time we actually worked together, but that’s because he’s always away and I’m on my own agenda too…
TARI: Do you miss him?
IKECHUKWU: (gently) Of course…of course I do, but you have to recognize in life as you grow older, that sometimes things aren’t exactly as you expect them to be or even want them to be or see them to be. At a point in time in this game I realized that everyone is not like me because I deal with people with the assumption that…which is a flaw….that people are like me; think like me, or feel the same way about something…
TARI: (raising hand) Guilty!!
IKECHUKWU: (laughing)…and it’s not like that at all!! You are an individual for that fact right there: that you are an Individual. Which makes you totally different from me!! Individuality; so why am I sitting there imagining that someone would respond the same way to situations just as I would. So the relationship with Naeto isn’t what it used to be, and I’m sure it’ll get back to what it was, but even if it doesn’t get back to what it used to be, it might be better!! We are both grown men now and I’m sure part of the reason why the relationship isn’t the way it used to be is because he at some point might have felt the need to get his Self-affirmation or be his own man. He might have felt like he was in my shadow; I can see how that could have happened because I’ve been in that position too over the years. But as I said as you grow older and things become clearer to you…I’ve said already that I really love him as a Brother.
TARI: So this new WFA is without NAETO C?
IKECHUKWU: I don’t know (laughs)
TARI: Do you have him in your plans?
IKECHUKWU: Of course!! But in the event that he reneges on that, even though I don’t expect him to, but in the event that it does happen, it doesn’t mean that’s the end of WFA. World Famous Academy was derived from DA ACADEMY. The group of guys called Da Academy used to live together in the States (he lists them). We always lived together regardless of if it was a one, two or three bedroom apartment. We were all alpha males and we were all Nigerian, except for the white boy. We were also all intellectual individuals, so every day, in any way, there was always some kind of battle going on. It was always about who was better; if anyone entered our apartment, you had to prove yourself by doing push-ups or something…it was just how we lived. So we dubbed our cribs: Da Academy. There was no-one who came to our group that didn’t ‘shape-up’; not only physically, but also intellectually. Naeto and Uzikwendu (my younger brother) also came through and started coming more often to where I lived. It was fun growing with those kids and that was how WFA was formed. I was like we could actually become a group; this could be my support system – my boy and my younger brother and I- the TEAM. I always knew back then in America, that you needed a Team; because if you had a Team, it showed there were already people who believed in you. I had already registered WFA with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) of the United States in 1999. (thoughtfully pauses) Travelling to Europe kind of distorted the relationships between Naeto and I as well as Uzikwendu and I in the beginning. It kinda created a distance and they might have felt I was off doing my thing. I was out trying to build a name for WFA, not Ikechukwu, because Ikechukwu didn’t exist unless it was WFA.
TARI: Which is truer to YOU between the personal story-sharing which was your style in Life & Times of Killz and the commercially valid records you are now producing, like ‘Critical’ for instance, which is a huge hit?
IKECHUKWU: (thoughtfully) What’s truer to me? You listened to the Life and Times of Killz?
IKECHUKWU: The Intro? That’s truer to me than anything else on the record.
TARI: Really? That you have ever done, not just that album I’m talking generally?
IKECHUKWU: In that Intro, I was actually telling you my life story and up to that point, that might have been the realest record I have recorded.
TARI: Is your comfort zone in a place where you are telling your story, sharing your experience?
IKECHUKWU: Yeah my comfort zone is telling my story or telling stories that are exact replicas of my story. Then they don’t become stories, but actually scenarios. They are always emotionally driven and that’s my comfort zone, my emotions – expressing them.
TARI: Do you get any job satisfaction when you have to make commercial tracks…
TARI: (laughing) Really? Not even the paper?
IKECHUKWU: Zero; but I have formulated a way to get satisfaction, which is in interacting with the crowd and me being this… but even now because of P, where we’re posing for the crowd …I hate that stuff I swear…
TARI: Then why do you it?
IKECHUKWU: Because the Nigerian society dictates that it’s the necessity.
TARI: There you were rebelling the United States, and then conforming here…
IKECHUKWU: If you listened to ‘Son of the Soil’, you would realize how much rebellion I brought here!! Go and listen to the album (singing and demonstrating from the album) I was deep on that album ooo!! So I came with the rebellion, but omo men…we were broke through that whole walk oooo!! (they both laugh)I had to start walking my way into the whole Naija Boy, Igbo boy thing, saying “I’m a Yankee boy ooo but ahudi naya oo ama su Igbo”
TARI: Brand yourself in a single sentence
IKECHUKWU: Ikechukwu TARI: Really? IKECHUKWU: Now you have to go find out what that’s about by yourself…
TARI: God is…God’s power?!
IKECHUKWU: Power of God; which I’m still trying to figure out in so many ways… and that’s what my music is about!! If you actually listened to Life & Times of Killz (Vol. 1) from beginning to end, you’d recognize that this boy is versatile.
TARI: You’ve obviously done a lot of searching through your life; what have you found?
IKECHUKWU: I’m still finding out (laughs); the more I think I know about life the more I recognize that I have got more to learn!! There is so much out there to learn; there are so many people out there who have already acquired all this stuff you now want to go and learn and they are still learning.
TARI: Ultimately, where do you see yourself? Where would you be happy?
IKECHUKWU: I’ve thought about this so much!! There are so many things I wanna do; I’m an actor, naturally an actor, so I need discovery and success in that field globally, as well. I also feel at this stage I’m a very creative individual; I could write, direct; I’ve tested my hands in those skills and concluded to myself that I’m capable. So with the right amount of Education and field experience I could be really good at it. Also the creation of media, media houses, distribution of media…I will love to do all that stuff but, where would I be happy?! (pauses) As long as I have my wife, my kids and I can do so much more for them than my father did for me, which is the crux.
TARI: So you are a family man?
IKECHUKWU: Very much so. I have deprived myself of that for so long and at this point that’s all that really matters to me but then that creates more pressure because I’m like “Okay, you don’t really have a family right now”. But you have to set yourself solid for you to actually be presentable to be worthy of being her family guy material. So you’ve got to assert your financial status, the future…so that’s why there’s some pressure right now and then it’s the next level. I’m not a greedy guy; whatever God blesses me with…I just want my success and as long as I can feed my family and give my kids the best opportunities they can have in this world. Whatever they want to do, let them do, but I’ll support and I can take care of my wife, whether she wants to work or be independent, but at least I’m there and I’m capable. Yes, and I have to have homes across the world because I’m very nomadic and need bases all over. I have one in London, just gave up the one in New York, which I hope to get again and that’s what I wanna do. The London one is renting now, but eventually, it’ll become a buy outright situation, same as in New York because you never know what success there might be in the next few months. So, that’s where the happiness lies.
TARI: I noticed a trend in your music; you sing when you speak about Women…
IKECHUKWU: Oh that’s E. The soft guy, the GQ guy, the cool guy…
TARI: Is he easily manipulated?
IKECHUKWU: Yes. And he can easily manipulate, even though he chooses not to. Most of my close friends call me E and that’s how I can distinguish who is who in a crowd.
TARI: (laughing) Hope you know a lot of people are going to start calling you ‘E’ now…
IKECHUKWU: Yeah but you also have your brain locked on Voice recognition, so let them go and shout now…
TARI: Paint me the picture of your ideal woman
IKECHUKWU: (quietly) Sarah Ofili
TARI: Sarah Ofili?
IKECHUKWU: Define a ‘Sarah Ofili’…
IKECHUKWU: A woman who is capable of being strong enough to take a lot of s**t from her man and still love him as much as she did before she took the s**t. Anyone who says there is a kind of woman you want to be with is bulls**ting because you only know that when you find someone and you don’t want to let go and you find yourself changing yourself, if that’s what necessary, to keep a hold of that person. So not only about being an intellectual person and of course, physically good to look at, it’s also about being an understanding person; about the heart, the mind, the drive, the aspirations, family orientation and the Love.
TARI: And you have found all this in Sarah Ofili?
TARI: Congratulations!! Who, in your opinion, has the crown in the Nigerian Rap game?
IKECHUKWU: Sauce Kid might have that crown now but that crown changes and that’s good ‘cos it shows that the game evolving. When I came back to Nigeria my M.O. was to ‘eat rappers’!! And I went from Mode 9… (laughs) let’s get this on record…Mode 9, who stepped right in, shout-out to Mode. Hollered Ruggedman, who said, he doesn’t do that freestyle s**t; I told him he must ooo (laughing)!! Ela Joe rhymed with me 24/7 everything!! I went after everybody and it was not that I wanted to destroy people it was more like I wanted to get my reputation quick!! In New York as a Rapper, it’s not just about “I make good records” NO! Go and make the streets buzz about you!! They weren’t doing that here till I came and did it. Then you have all these young bucks coming to try and battle you every now and then and I’m like “No men, what if I now go and have an off day and you now beat me in public, are you mad? Get out…” (laughs) Thank God for Sauce Kid, one of the American returnees who not only have the street cred, but also the heart of that hip-hop, rap kid. There are actually no Naija boys here that are Yankee boys with that real essence.
TARI: You think those who do it here force it?
IKECHUKWU: It’s forced; it’s borrowed a little bit; imitated a little bit, but not the real essence. Naeto C is here and Naeto actually lived the grind; I can tell you stories about Naeto that you won’t believe!! Sauce? Let’s not even go there!! MI? Yeah, he lived in the States for a good period of time so it’s definitely embedded in him. But there are a bunch of cats out here who haven’t even seen the airport, and are throwing up blood and crypt signs not knowing what a blood sign or crypt sign is, but doing it because they saw it in a video or two and they think it’s cool. I’m grateful for Sauce because he’s always here ‘gingering my ginger’; he’s like a poking rod going “Yo!! C’mon n**ga, RAP, RAP…okay you want to add Naija inside? jooor ooo?!” (does imitation of Sauce Kid’s ‘e don de madt’)
TARI: What about Da Grin?
IKECHUKWU: From what I heard about Da Grin, he experienced the United States a bit. I met him about two times, he made a heavy impression and we kinda connected. May his gentle soul rest in peace. I did not get the kind of opportunity to build the kind of relationship I would have wanted with him. At the same time, all his music is 80% in Yoruba –the feeling is global– but the language is not. It can only go so far; for someone like me who loves Da Grin to pieces, I still don’t understand what he was saying, but I’m feeling him!! I try to get people to interpret, but because they too are so into the music, they’ll be like “later, later”; Lost in Transition.
TARI: And you see that as a limitation?
IKECHUKWU: Yes, it is.
TARI: But there are global artists whom we do not understand what they are saying, but we have embraced their music all the same; like Latin music is big here…
IKECHUKWU: …and it gets classified or categorized as ‘Latin’ music. Youssou N’dor (imitates N’dor) can only go so far. He is global because of the amount of years he’s put in the game and when he started, so he became historical somewhat in ‘African’ music.
TARI: Well said; thank you, Ikechukwu.
Interviewer: Tari Ekiyor (www.tariere.blogspot.com)
Photos, Videos & Music: Oye AKD
Producer: Noble Igwe
Editor: Tari Ekiyor