Jesse Abaga Garba popularly known by his stage name Jesse Jagz, is a rapper, singer, songwriter, and producer. He was born on the 10th of August,1984, formerly signed to Chocolate city he parted ways with the music group in 2013 and started his own label Jagz nation in 2014.
Oluwadunni of 360nobs had the opportunity to chat with Jesse. The 29 year old ‘bad girl’ crooner dishes on everything from his daughter, to his girlfriend, his relationship with Audu Maikori, the books he is reading, to the legalization of marijuana.
How did you get into the industry and how long have you been in the industry for?
Is there an industry? I wasn’t aware(laughs). Well I have been doing music for a while but professionally since 2001. I have gone through different phases from Jos, to Abuja and then Lagos. MI and I started inner hub studios, loopy records and Rytchus Era Productions (REP). I got signed to chocolate city in 2007. However, by then I had probably made like 5 albums-hopefully no one gets to hear them- and had music on the radio round the country. My first mainstream album (Jag of All Trades) came out in 2010. So I would say I have been around for quite some time.
Has your progress rate accelerated since you parted ways with Chocolate City?
I think my progress rate has accelerated, period. It has nothing to do with chocolate city. I am just harder working now, it has nothing to do with what record label I am on. I just work harder and pay more attention to details.
Due to the fact that you do not shy away from experimenting with different genres, you have been described as Nigeria’s Kanye West. Which genre do you enjoy working on/with the most?
Well every genre. Hip Hop is a collage of all genres. That’s really all it is. So I experiment with everything, it might come out sounding like one genre at the end, but I infuse almost all genres to make one.
In the past, you have often talked about not signing other artistes. Do you still have no intentions of signing anyone to Jagz Nation?
No. I am still not signing any one. I am an artiste myself so I am not really into the “artistes signing artistes” thing. I am focused on me. I have production contracts with a few artistes but that’s it. Let every man earn what they work for, I am not a businessman, I am a musician.
Do you know when a track is going to be bigger than the previous one?-If yes, how do you know?
Well you can literally feel it when you hear a song. Songs make people feel a certain way. Whether it’s mushy, sad, or happy. It has to do with how much feeling a song has. You can’t over-do it too, there has to be a balance so it’s just right. It hits ‘em in the right spot when they hear it.
Do you write all your songs by yourself? Which have you written? What songwriters have you worked with? Yeah I write everything myself. I let artistes who work with me write themselves so they sound original too. I spend hours and sometimes months just thinking about the right phrase or concept to match a beat I have done or vice versa. I have had people write for me a few times. For instance, “Sex and Scotch” was written by Aycee, he is Zimbabwean, she wrote the original draft and sent it to me then I tweaked it. Afterwhich, I still had to find a melody and beat. On every project I write at least 99.5% of it. Songs like “Pedal to the Floor” and “God on the Mic” I really didn’t write them. I just sit and stack the lines in my head till I have like 64bars. Sometimes I just have a line left to complete, so I have a list of rappers to call when in need, (chuckles).
My favorite video from you is ‘Sex and Scotch’. Which song would you say was the most difficult to translate into a video? Which video was the most energy zapping?
Energy zapping would definitely be redemption. Redemption was hard cause of the direction and we knew nothing like that had ever been done. It was emotionally and physically straining. I even got arrested on my way home that morning. Everything went wrong during “Murder Dem” shoot, the key to the handcuffs fell into a hole in the floor,we eventually got it out though. Redemption has definitely been the most problematic.
Why do you make music?
I make music because that’s what I know how to do. It makes me happy, it is challenging and it is a beautiful feeling to create something from nothing.
What inspires you? If you were not in music, what will you be doing?
Everything inspires me. Whenever I am making an album I take out time to talk with everyday people, you sometimes hear the most amazing stories and you can use it as a song. People inspire me. If I wasn’t into music I would probably be a scientist. Science is fascinating.
Late Fela Kuti was quoted saying “Music is a spiritual thing. You do not play with music, if you play with music you will die young. Because when the higher forces give you the gift of music, it must be well used” Any comment on that?
Well it is as true as it sounds. Note, it is not necessarily a physical death. It is more of a spiritual death. The musician loses touch with his spirit. That’s how people like Fela knew they would live forever through their music. A musician is ‘a mouthpiece for the gods’ we are given the gift to touch, inspire, change, and alter peoples lives through music. It’s the language of the angels. It must be respected. Music is something you must do everyday or it fades away. You love it and one day it will love you.
So you believe the ‘higher forces’ exist?
Yes I do, but I am not religious.
Do you smoke marijuana?
I have stopped answering that question
Do you think it should be legalized in Nigeria? I think a lot of other things need to be in place before we have a discussion about legalizing marijuana. That is a plant. The Nigerian people haven’t seen steady light, security, clean water, good roads and justice for ages. I think bringing up marijuana is a bit insensitive on their (government) part. When we have those things and we as a people can sleep at night peacefully, then we can now discuss marijuana and other things. They should put their priorities in order. My whole people (Jukun) in Taraba state have been displaced recently. My relatives are in camps in Wukari LGC, all the villages have either been destroyed or evacuated and they want to talk about marijuana?
You have stated that your dreads are not real. Is there a certain reason you choose to wear them?
Where I come from it is customary for men to braid their hair. Many other tribes do that. It’s a cultural thing.
Would you be open to your daughter wanting to become an artiste like her dad? Would you support her?
That is my only job. She is a lot more talented than I can ever dream of being. However, whatever she chooses to do she has to do it right.
Do you have a close relationship with her mother?
We have been friends for over a decade. We respect that we have separate lives, she is always going to be my friend.
How did you handle having a child at such a young age?
Honestly, looking back now I don’t know. There is no manual for men concerning that, lol. However the greatest thing I learnt was responsibility and that shame doesn’t kill. Nothing is a mistake unless you make it so. Everything happens for a reason. Jade was meant to be my daughter in this life. One look at her and you can just tell.
Stories surfaced late last year that you were in a relationship with Tesh Carter. Allegations which you denied. Are you saying there was no atom of truth in any of those allegations?
(Laughs) you want the truth? Well, when the stories came out, we weren’t dating. I was working on RNC then but then the stories (and thanks to the media) sort of brought us closer. (Laughs) It was like double jeopardy, so yes I am in a relationship with Tesh Carter.
What do you look for in a woman?
Just understanding. If she understands me that’s all. And confidence,if you have a confident woman you can trust her.
In previous interviews, you have constantly stated that you read during your leisure time. What type of books do you read? Are you reading a book now? Which one?
This year alone I have read ‘The Art Of War’ (again), Chinua Achebe’s ‘There Was A Country’, Chimamanda Adichie’s ‘Half Of A Yellow Sun’, ‘Hunting Eichmann’, 4 of Ted Dekker’s books, and ‘The Holy Quran’.
M.I is your brother so I assume your relationship with him is fine. What is the current state of your relationship with Brymo , Ice prince, and Audu Maikori?
I am good with everyone. I am that guy you can’t hate(Laughs) I am good with everyone.
Who is your female celebrity crush?
She is no longer a crush.
What is the most embarrassing thing that has happened to you?
Mehn, there’s a long list of that. I’ve had many embarrassing moments. There was one time I fell off the stage because I didn’t know were the stage ended.
What are the top 3 songs on your playlist right now?
Djing Djing – Angelique Kidjo; Adorn you – Migue ;l Freak in me – Adina Howards
What collaborations do you look forward to both internationally & locally?
I am not really into collaborations, I am focused on my music. Everyone is my competition.
What should we expect from your concert?
The best music, period. It is going to be an experience. It is something you have to feel. It is going to be a statement of hard work, and skill.
It was a pleasure chatting with Jesses Jagz, 360nobs wishes Jesse Jagz all the best in his career. Ensure you make space on your calendar for his concert which comes up in August.
Instagram & Twitter: @JesseJagz
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