After previous attempts to hit the musical limelight had ended in futility, Mc Loph (Nwaozor Obiajulu) finally drew attention to himself with the remix of the highlife hit of late Chief Stephen Osita Osadebe. The song which he infused with Igbo rap really caught the attention of the Nigerian music loving public, both old and young and even across the tribes. It also won him a couple of awards, including the Best Highlife Music Video at the Nigerian Music Video Awards 2009. We talked about that and the issues he is having with the late Osadebe's family as well as his plans for the future…
What were your earlier efforts and attempts to break even and enter the mainstream of Nigerian music?
I had been into music right from my university days. Before the release of my latest album, Hands Up, which has “Osondi Owendi” inside, I had released an album entitled, Wreckognize, and it featured artists like Nigga Raw, Blackface and a number of other artists. I shot two videos from the album for the songs “Cry For Naija” and “Bend Down Low”.
The videos were directed by DJ Tee and Soundcity. We did a lot of promotion for the album, but I don't know what happened. Maybe it wasn't my time yet. But the album refused to fly. So, I started working on another album and that came out with Hands Up and it had “Osondi Owendi” as the hit track. While recording the song in the studio, I already knew it was going to be a hit and I thank God that it has finally started me off on the mainstream of Nigerian music, but I haven't got there yet.
How did the whole music thing start for you?
I was a popular performer during my university days. I performed in almost all the higher institutions in the east then, but I only took music as a hobby then. I never planned to go professional because when I graduated from school, I came into Lagos and searched for a job. It was only when I found it very hard to get a job that I reverted to music and since the industry was really exploding then, I stayed and here we are today.
How has your life changed since the release of Osondi Owendi?
I have started going to shows and earning some little money for my upkeep. I can now buy most of the things I need and have always desired to have. I have become more popular than I used to be and there are a lot of people interested in what I do and who want to associate with me. I just thank God for everything.
What were some of the challenges you faced while trying to come up?
Basically, the same challenge every other upcoming musician faces: finance. You need money to do everything you want to do: promotion, recording, printing of CDs, among other things. Then, piracy comes in, because immediately you bring something out, the pirates will first feast on it.
Was piracy part of the problems of your first album?
Nigerians don't really have any room for upcoming artists. They only celebrate stars. So, if you are an upcoming artist, nothing for you until you arrive and then they would welcome you with open arms. Everything we did in that first album was to make a way for the coming of the second album. If I had done “Osondi Owendi” in my first album, it would have been seen as the work of an upcoming artist and it might never have got the publicity this second one is getting. The first album paved the way for this second one.
But some artists still make it in their first album?
It is the grace of God. Some also have second, third and fourth albums and they still haven't made it. Everything is by the favour of God and when it's your time, it is your time. When it is your time to shine, nothing can stop you.
Why do you rap in Igbo?
Because I want to be a Nigerian. I want to do music the Nigerian way. When I was in school, I used to rap in English like the Westerners, but when I was about graduating, I switched over to Igbo. A lot of people are in the normal field of rapping in English and that is now crowded. People like Ruggedman, M.I, Naeto C and so many other people are there already, so I wanted to separate myself and make myself unique so that I can be heard. The Igbo area is not yet crowded. So, one is easily noticed when doing rap in vernacular. Hip hop is not our culture and I don't want to stress people and make them suffer while trying to understand what I am saying.
How far has rapping in Igbo helped your career?
Igbos are everywhere and anywhere you don't find an Igbo person, leave that place. I am sure of 60 percent of the Nigerian audience and the fact that I separated myself from the crowd has helped me a lot. Any day I stop rapping in Igbo, then I would seek out another career.
How do you think the non-Igbo section of the Nigerian audience takes your music?
Everybody is doing their own thing in their own way and with their own style. Everyone is just trying to be Nigerian. There are people doing their music in other languages, but we are all promoting the Nigerian brand. Most people, if they don't understand the lyrics, they would love the rhythm of the song and I also mix my music with English and pidgin. So, anyone that doesn't understand the Igbo part of the song would definitely hear the English and pidgin parts of the song.
How did you come about the hit track, “Osondi Owendi”?
It's a tribute song. When Osadebe died, I wanted to do something for him because he is my hero. I grew up listening to his songs, because my father played a lot of it. So, I decided to remix the song with Osadebe's son, Obiajulu, but he died. We had already gone far in the project. So, I went ahead to do it with Flavour (Nabania). We did it and today it is a success.
But the story around is that you are having some issues with Osadebe's family because of the song, what are those issues?
That song is meant to be a tribute song and if you watch the video, you will see everybody wearing T-shirts with the inscription, “Osadebe, Rest In Peace”. Some months after the release of the song, I received a call from Premier Music, inviting me to their office. They asked me why I did the song without their permission and other stuffs and we are still trying to negotiate over it. Then, I started receiving calls from media people who said that Osadebe's family members are asking that my song should not be played again. They had been writing letters to radio and TV stations that my song should be withdrawn from air. So, I got their number and called them and they are trying to sort it out with my lawyer. But the problem now is that I don't even know who to deal with on the matter because Osadebe's family and Premier Music are also at loggerheads over the ownership of the song. If I talk to Premier Music, they will ask me not to talk to Osadebe's family and Osadebe's family would also warn me not to talk to Premier Music. So, I want them to sort out their issues first. The MCSN is also claiming rights to that music and they are the only people that have shown us proof of their claims. So, the Osadebe family and Premier Music should also show us proof of their ownership of song.
“Osondi Owendi” was a good experiment. Are we going to see other similar experiences in your next album?
“Osondi Owendi” is a single. I have 18 tracks in my album. There are other good hip hop-highlife songs in the album. My style is hip hop mixed with highlife and that fact that I did “Osondi Owendi remix” does not mean I will go about remixing other people's songs. I just did it because of my love for Osadebe. My next album would still have the same hip hop-highlife flavour.
Would you say you are where you want to be in music?
We have just started. “Osondi Owendi” just paved way for where we are going to. I have to go higher and conquer other grounds. I don't rest on my oars.
What are your plans for the future?
I am working on other songs at the moment. I am working on new videos and gathering materials for the next step.