Miss Anthonia Yetunde Alabi who we all know as Sash is the First Lady of Storm Records. Her first album, also entitled, First Lady entrenched her into discerning Nigerian musical minds as a gifted rapper.
In this chat she took time out to address some general and personal issues ranging from music, fashion and style and her personal relationship with other artists...
What are you up to at the moment?
I am currently working on my second album which should be out by the last quarter of the year. I am not giving out dates yet.
What are you titling it, Second Lady?
(Laughs) No, never! I am the second to none. But I have a working title, but that may change anytime I have a theme I am working on. It is about a woman’s life in Lagos and the different experiences she passes through in her daily life. I am putting work together based on that concept and when everything is complete a title would definitely pop out.
How many tracks are you thinking about?
You know a standard album is about 14 tracks and my last album had 13, so you never know I am not restricting myself to any number. I will keep recording songs and continue picking the ones that fit into what I am trying to do. Whatever number I finally come up with, I will work with it.
Which producers are you working with?
I have worked with Tee Y Mix, a new producer who is absolutely amazing name icon, Frenzy and I did a couple of collabos with the Mozambican hip hop star, Dama Do Bling. She was around in March, and we did the song then. On my birthday, May 21, I went into the studio and recorded Gidi Babe. It is a song that still deals on Lagos life. You know Gidi means Lagos and I am a real Gidi babe so, I used the song to talk about how and how not real Gidi Babe should be. I was also recently in South Africa for the opening of ThisDay Music and Fashion Festival. I also used the opportunity to do a remix of one of my songs, Making Money, and also shoot the video.
What do you think is the position of the female artiste in the current structure of things in Nigeria?
The men usually own every turf you try to play but we are giving them a run for their money now. In the past one year, women have started proving themselves and have become more visible. A lot of women are also coming up too. But the truth is that there are a lot of things we can do and got away with but women are more restricted but I will always believe that if you do quality music, you can never be ignored whether you are male or female. Just look at Asa, her music speaks for her. Women are not really at a disadvantage, but it takes a little bit more for a woman to be recognized than the men.
How many awards have you won so far?
I won the Women in Entertainment Award sometime ago and have been nominated in a lot of categories of different awards but I think the recognition is more important. If I say I don’t feel bad when I don’t win an award, I will be lying but I think it is important to put into perspective the reason that I am doing this and the reason is to make a difference in my generation. I want to be someone that in ten years time, when you talk about my generation, you will mention my name because I am not just there to come and sing, dance and go. Awards are testaments of one’s efforts. Awards are just an icing on the cake.
How do you make your fashion choices?
I am a very eclectic person which is why fashion label is called Eclectic by Sasha. I go with how I am feeling, It is a jumble of everything. I wear what fits me whether it is in vogue or not. I stick to wearing whatever makes me feel comfortable. I make a lot of my clothes. Sometimes, I buy and I just sew them together. So, if you see me in anything and I am outside wearing it, just know that I am comfortable wearing it, comfort is what determines my fashion choices.
You are one of the very decently dressed female artistes in Nigeria, what do you think about the amount of body exposure in most of our music videos?
That has been happening for years now but I think the defining factor is being set apart and knowing who you are. I don’t think I need to unnecessarily and indecently expose any part of my body for anybody to like my music. People have different orientations and that I am not that kind of person does not mean that I am going to knock anybody for it but it is my opinion. I simply believe that a woman needs to always show a certain amount of decency in her dressing.
What’s your creative mode while composing your music?
A lot of the times when I write, I am usually pushed by a particular issue or experience. I usually write with a theme in mind but sometimes I could just go into the studio and make a beat with a producer and make music with it. Sometimes I write in my house but you can’t really put it in a box or give it a formular. It just comes.
But you influence your beats?
Yes, but it is not all them. I usually have an opinion about what I want and when working with a producer, I let him know them. But sometimes, you find out that a producer has taken care of whatever you are thinking and that reflects in the beats he has for you. Sometimes you write according to the beats you have. A beat could inspire a song.
Who are your closest friends in the industry at the moment?
I really like to keep my personal life private but at Storm Records, we are a family.
What about your love life, who is your man?
I won’t tell you that either.
But which kind of man attract you, what kind of man can you fall for?
My man has to be tall because I am a tall woman. He has to be taller than I am. I wear high heel shoes, so he has to be taller than those as well. He has to be good looking. I have to find him attractive. He has to be God-fearing and very confident. For the kind of woman I am, a man has to be able to hold his own. So, definitely he has to be a kind of man I am look up to and learn from. He also needs to have a very good sense of humour.
You are signed on to Storm Records which is one of the biggest labels in Nigeria, could you please the position of a record label to the artistes?
The label is the guarantor of the artiste. They are the ones to protect the rights of the artistes. They are an artiste’s family unit and are in charge of the distribution, publicity and image of the artiste. The label at times is the executive producers of the artiste’s works. It is a partnership business and there are different dimension to it.
Who are the artistes on Storm Records at the moment?
They are Naeto C, Sauce Kid, Tosin Martins, GT, The Guitarman General Pype, YQ and myself. We also have some other people we are partnering with.
What major challenges have you faced so far in your career?
It is not necessarily a challenge but of most importance to me is the need to be consistent. Consistency is not just a matter of releasing an album every six months but it is important to be a functioning artiste. Even when I don’t have a new album out, I am busy and working all the time. Io work hard at what I do and I enjoy doing what I do. I can’t be the same person everyday. I have to keep improving everyday. Making hits is not just the challenge, but remaining at the top of your game is the most important thing.
When did you decide to become an artiste?
I never really decided it just sort of happened. Being a professional artiste sort of fell into my lap. I just started school and met Eldee through a friend of mine. I used to rap for fun and my friend who knew him gave me his number and I called him. He asked me to come over to the studio. I went with a couple of my friends. Eldee asked me to freestyle but I told him I don’t freestyle but I could free write. He asked me what that was and I told him I could write as fast he could think if I had a beat. He played a beat and I wrote something and rapped it for him. In less than two weeks, I had a record contract with Trybe Records. That was in 2002. It was a very beautiful experience because I was going to shows and traveling with the Trybesmen.
Why did you leave Trybe Records?
My contract with them expired and Eldee travelled out of the country. Storm Record offered me a contract and here I am today.
Your first album entitled, First Lady and Eve, is the first lady of the Ruff Ryders, does she influence you?
I wouldn’t say that now but I grew up listening to a lot of artistes and a lot of them influenced me. Most of the female rappers at the time of my development influenced me. I am a fan of Eve and when I met her I cried. I can truly say that hen I met Eve was the first time I was ever star struck in my life.
So, how did the title of your album, First Lady come about?
It was Obi Asika that came up with the title. We were deliberating on the title to give the album when he came up with First Lady. And I have been the first lady in many places when I was rapping with my family friends, I was the only female, when I was with Trybe Records, I was the only female and at Storm Records, I was also the first ever female hip hop artiste to be nominated at the KORA. The title of the album also came from the theme of the album. I was trying to create a good female image that other women could identify with, a woman of substance. And when you think of such a woman, she should naturally be the first lady.
Apart from music, what other things do you enjoy doing?
I love writing. I write for Hip Hop World and I have been doing that for four years now. I love reading but these days, it is almost limited to magazines because of my fashion interests. But I love books a lot and I have a mini-library of my book collections. I also love shopping.
What about your legal career, are you ever going to practice Law?
I studied Law because I wanted to have a voice to speak out. I wanted to command respect but I am doing both with music, but Law is still part of me.