Friday, July 9, 2010

"Why the Boys are not Smiling" - Terry Tha Rapman

Terry Tha Rapman is a familiar name to everybody connected with the music industry in Nigeria and even outside. He dropped his first album, The Rapman Begins, in 2007 and established himself as a genuine rap talent in the country. His colleagues have enormous respect for him, but commercially, his album didn’t go very far. He won the Best Rap Single at the HIP HOP WORLD AWARDS 2010 and is almost ready with a new body of work entitled Boys Are Not Smiling which would hopefully launch him into commercial success. I had this interview with the rapper whose real name is Terry Madaki sometime last year and he took time to explain the idea behind the title of the album and some of his other plans for his career…

How much success did you record with your first album?
My first album The Rapman Begins, was released under November Records, I had a one album deal with them. The album did fairly well, but it was not really promoted well. We only managed to shoot two videos of it – Only 4 Naija and Na Beans and a lot of people never even know the album was out because there wasn’t enough promo for it. When I parted ways with November Records, I formed my own record label called Megaphunk with my friend, Jay. The arrangement was that he comes up with the money and I will do the music.
How far with the new album?
It is almost ready. It is called Boys Are Not Smiling and it is going to be pushed by Okosonic Ventures. They were the ones that pushed Wande Coal and Lagbaja’s album. I am 80 percent done on the album. it is just remains two tracks. I am supposed to do a song with Terry G.
How many songs do you have on the album?
One thing with me is that I record a whole bunch of songs and then select. I am going to select at least 12 songs excluding the intros and skits. Right now, I have over 20 songs plus the two more I am about recording, but I will still prune it down to 12. I don’t want an album where only one song will be a hit and the rest would be trash. I want an album that ten years from now, people would still listen to.
Are you working with a particular theme in mind?
The album revolves around a concept, it is not just a bunch of recordings. All the tracks are going to be more or less linked. It is going to be about my story. Boys Are Not Smiling centres around the fact that today’s youth don’t really depend on the government to offer them jobs, they are self sufficient. The album would encourage youths to go out there and work. Boys Are Not Smiling in the sense that there would be joy till success is achieved. Boys Are Not Smiling while working; there is no smile or fun in labour; there will be no smiles while work is going; thee will be no play while we are working towards success. Boys Are Not Smiling yet, we will only smile when success is achieved. We will only smile to the bank.
Tell us about some of the songs in the album?
I am happy that "Sample" which I did with Stereoman has been giving it a lot of hype. It was just a song I wanted to put on air and then wait for a while before anything else, but it has become a runaway success. I didn’t know that Stereoman had that kind of followership. He has simply increased my fan base. I am trying to pick another good single that would knock that one off. There’s another song called Get Up which features Mo’Cheddah, How Far featuring Sound Sultan and so many others.
Contemporary Nigerian music seems to be titled towards part and dancehall lines, was that what drew you to Terry G?
No matter the type of song or who I work with, I always make sure I put some amount of sense into what I am doing. I always inject a message into my song. I am featuring the people I do in y music because people appreciate them and they would definitely add something to my music. When you are selling something to somebody, you package in a way that the person would appreciate it. Rap music is now selling well in Nigeria courtesy of M.I and Naeto C and in a few years from now, rap would be the main thing in Nigeria.
It’s been three years since your first album, what were you doing during that period?
I did some shows up north, where I have my main fan base – Kaduna, Jos, Benue and Abuja. I took part in Zain tour with Eedris Abdulkareem, Kel, Konga and some other artistes. I also went on tour to Singapore with Mode 9. That was my first time abroad and I was surprised to meet some of my fans in Asia. It was massive. I used that time to access my level of acceptance to people and it has guided me in this album – I am giving my fans more of what they want from me. I am more experienced in my album recording.
You said you have more of your fans in the north, what really is the reception of the popular hip hop and secular music in the north?
I will tell anybody that cares to listen. The north has the biggest market for Nigerian music, ask any marketer. An artiste needs a lot of publicity and promotion to sell in Lagos and people also have preferences as per artistes and types of music. Up north, people buy CDs unbiased because they hardly see them. They don’t really need to know the artiste or the music before buying the CD.
You are fully based in Lagos now, when did you make Lagos your permanent home?
I moved to Lagos in 2005. I came into Lagos with only N10,000 in my pocket, without any idea of where I was going to stay. I just had favours from my friends who invited me to come and stay with them but I thank God today, 2009, I have my own place now, I pay my own bills and I take care of my family from rap music.
How many are you in the family?
I have a brother and a sister and my dad. I lost my mum three years ago. They are all based in `Jos. My brother just graduated from school and my sister is still a student.
How did you manage the N10,000 you had when you got to Lagos?
I used part of the money to cut CDs for my track Na Beans, then I started taking the CD around. DJ Jimmy Jatt was one of the first persons I went to, I just wanted him to hear the CDs so I would know what tracks to push and he suggested we promote Na Beans. The success of Na Beans was largely due to DJ Jimmy Jatt.
Do you know any regrets with the music path you have taken?
I have no regrets at all, but music is not the beginning and end for me. I have other ambitions; I don’t intend to rap forever. I studied Mass Communication in school, I have plans to go into T.V – have my own TV show but since music is a good platform, I am going to build on it.
Have there been times when you felt like quitting music?
Yes. There were moments that I really worried about the success of my music, but just at the point I would want to quit, something would happen to give me hope- I would get a call from a fan encouraging me and that would make me stay. People call me from all around the world telling e that they love my music. Even people from the older generation call to tell me they appreciate my music.
Your name, Terry Tha Rapman sounds kind of gangsterish, did you have those influences?
I have never really seen myself as a gangster but I did have those influences. I am not a violent person but I grew up admiring Snoop Dogg and Ice Cube. One thing about hip hop music is that it is sometimes aggressive, especially rap and people begin to imagine that we are violent people. Most people who get to meet me are usually very surprised. That’s how it is. As a musician, you are an actor and the image you portray in your songs is different from your person. All rappers are not bad guys.
Can you also produce?
No. I am not a producer but I play a very active role in the production of my songs. I don’t just sit back and let the producer do all the job, I co-produce my songs. These days, with so much computer softwares, it is not really hard to be a producer and I intend to delve into that very soon.
What else are you working on currently?
My mixtape which I have been working on with DJ Jimmy Jatt. I don’t think people do mixtapes correctly, they do mixtapes like albums that’s why I want to set a standard with my mixtape. A mixtape is something an MC and a DJ come together to do and it is supposed to be a precursor to an album. It is used to announce an album and it’s supposed to be given out free. It is kind of advertisement.
How do you do your songs, how do you get your inspiration?
Some of my best songs were written in the shortest period of time. Sometimes I just hear a beat and the next thing I am wiring. Other times it takes me longer especially when it is centered around a concept. Maybe a couple of days and when I feel creatively blocked I just rest and continue later.

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