Mr. Raw NwanneNigga Raw has changed names. He is now officially known as Mr. Raw Nwanne and wishes that his fans and everyone else take notice. But that’s not all about the artist who was born Okechukwu Ukeje. His marriage to Ewere would be a year on October 31 this year. He also recently returned from his first ever visit and mini-tour of the United States of America. His latest album, the third after Right or Wrong and Everything Remains Raw entitled End of Discussion dropped on Independence Day, Friday, October 1, 2010.
He talks about all these and his relationship with comedian Klint Da Drunk who featured on what is arguably his biggest hit so far, Obodo and so many other issues on his mind. Please read through…
How many years have you been in the industry?
I have been into music since 1992 while I was in school. In 1999, I took part in a musical competition but only came third. In 2002, I participated in the Benson and Hedges Grab the Mic competition which I won but I see 1999 as my start of year even if I didn’t win the competition. It was also in 2002 that I and Klint Da Drunk competed in the first ever Star Quest and came second behind KCPresh. We went with the name of the comedians then. So, I could also say started professionally in 2002 because hat was when I got fully introduced into the industry.
Since the release of your debut album Right or Wrung in 2005, how well do you think you have done?
I think I have done well. I don’t need to be everybody’s favourite or the number one but I know being relevant and consistent in what you are doing matters a lot. Since I released my first album in 2006, it has been lots of blessings from God. I have seen a lot of people come and go. Without being able to replicate the success of their first album and I thank God for keeping me there till now.
What are some of the challenges you have faced so far?
The major challenge is piracy and secondly people complain a lot about me not having media presence and I believe that is actually my own fault. I am on the quiet side and love my privacy and have not really put in much energy in my media profile. People are surprised to know that I have been in Lagos since 2005 because I don’t always come out to the clubs or events.
Those have been my challenges because in this business, visibility matters a lot. If I were to be as visible as I ought to be, I would have been bigger than I am today.
What prompted the recent change of nomenclature?
I was using Nigga Raw – an acronym for that Nig Guy Anakpo Raw but I never knew that this music would take me to where I am today. Because years back when I started it was just for fun and since then I have been facing embarrassing moments trying to explain the meaning to different people who ask me everyday. Most people see the ‘nigger’ as a swear word which it’s not but I just felt its time to drop it and change to something else. Also after getting married, I gave it serious though and ended up deciding to drop it. Because in the near future, I won’t want to attend and event with my family and they would feel embarrassed when my name is mentioned. It is also a form of rebranding.
Your marriage would be one year old on October 31, how has it been so far?
Marriage is not an easy thing because you really have to cut off a lot of excesses. I now have to balance my career, my fans and my wife and make everyone happy and it has not been very simple. I plan ahead a lot now and prioritize. For example, if my just released album makes it as big as I expect it to, then I will be moving around playing shows and looking for means to maintain my family.
I have also been making a lot of explanations because while I was a bachelor, I could get a call to come play a show and take off from there but now I can do such I must get home and explain to my wife before anything else. I make plans unlike before and I am more responsible than I used to be.
How has your wife taken to your profession?
It’s not an easy thing but she’s handling it well. Even though I have more work to do as per explaining things to her and keeping up with my fans and I take her along to most places but all in all, she is handling it well.
You recently returned from a tour of the USA, how was it and how many times have you been on such tours?
I have been to different countries but never to the United States. Going there to perform is like going to a seminar because they brought rap to us. So there’s this thing about going there but I learnt a lot, there and it was also fun because lots of Nigerian and Igbos came out and showed me much love. I really didn’t regret travelling to the States and I enjoyed myself.
Travelling to the States was a kind of fulfillment the prophecy I made in my song, Obodo, because when I sang it, I didn’t even have any plans to getting a visa. I just sang and today I have actually been there.
The trip was actually supposed to be a guest appearance thing for the Umuigbo Unite, an organization of the Igbos in the United States. They were having their convention and just wanted me to come and grace the occasion but when I got there it turned out to be a different ball game because I didn’t know I had loads of people looking forward to seeing me and when they heard that I was in town, it turned to a tour. I now had to move from one city to another, playing shows which wasn’t in my initial plans. But I couldn’t turn their request down and it ended up being a very memorable experience.
Back home now, you have just dropped a new album, what is in it and why the name you gave it?
I picked the title, End of Discussion because there’s this story that people spread around that I am just one lucky chap who is not actually talented. The discussion has been on since my first album that I was lucky people accepted my music, the way it was. I rapped in Igbo and that people accepted my music because it was just a different kind of music and not as a result of me being a genuine musician, so I did this album and entitled it End of Discussion. All gifts are from God and there’s no need to keep talking about it, so let’s end the discussion.
We are all humans and it’s not everyone that take nicely to criticism. But I see every criticism whether positive or negative as constructive and as something that can help me grow so I always try to blend it into what I am doing. I do music for people to listen to and they cannot all think the way I do and may not accept all that is acceptable to me. So, that’s how I took up that title. I am still the same old me but I am better than I used to be.
What are the things you have in the album?
I have a lot of songs in the album. But the album is just out and I am looking forward to the feedbacks and the criticisms. I featured a lot of unknown acts who are really good and I am excited about their prospects. Nobody did it for me as in featuring me and introducing me to the public and I wish someone did so I am doing it for others. The few known ones are J.Martins, Ruffman and Flavour.
I have a song entitled, O Chukwu, which means that It’s God. The one with J.Martins is Alleluyah and the one with Flavour is Adama. With Ruffman is Nutty Nutty and most of my songs are produced by Pheeno, an Enugu-based producer.
In the past there has been stories about you having problems with Klint Da Drunk which is why you guys broke up as a group and you haven’t done anything else with him…
I and Klint were never a group. Klint was already an established comedian when I was still coming up. We attended the same school and he was already well known as a comedian before Star Quest came up in 2002. He registered for the competition before me but we had done one or two songs together before then and performed at few shows.
At the registration, they demanded for two original songs and one copyright. Klint was more versed performing other people’s songs for his shows and I didn’t know any copyright songs. I was trying to bring out my own songs. So, we decided to pull together as The Comedians which came about because of the fact that they saw my music as funny and Klint is a comedian.
Then when we excelled in the competition, people began to see us as a group from Enugu. But Klint continued with his comedy and I went on with my music and I featured him on Obodo which was in the first album. While I was recording my second album, Klint was very busy with shows outside the country and I had a deadline which I was working with and I couldn’t bring him on the album. Even on this third album, I still didn’t feature him because he is very busy. We are not having any issues and Klint remains my brother till tomorrow.
Even there are so many other artists I could have featured on the album but they were either out of the country or very busy and that’s why we are praying for. If you call me and I am always available, it’s no good news. It means I am idle or lazy or that business is not coming my way and that’s not good. If my song is good, there will be need for me to perform and for me to make money, I have to travel and perform. So, if you call me and I am not available to you, don’t see it as bad thing. If there’s any artist that drops an album and is at home every weekend, it’s not god news and I don’t see it as a big deal if I call an artist and he’s not available to me.
What are you final words?
I am grateful to everyone that has supported me and the entire Nigerian music industry. God bless you all and please look out for my new album, End of Discussion and get back to me with your thoughts on it. Thank you.