Friday, April 24, 2009

Meet Dj Zeez "O4Kasibe"

DJ Zeez’s hit song O4kasibe threw up as much controversy as it fetched him instant fame among millions of lovers of Nigerian hip hop music. He tells ‘NONYE IWUAGWU the real meaning of 04Kasibe and why he has been dogged by scandals.

Most people don’t know your real name
My name is Kingsley Elikpo. I am from Mbano in Imo State. Actually, I would call myself a ‘mixed breed’. My mum is Yoruba and my dad is Igbo. But I was born and brought up in Lagos. That is basically why I can speak Yoruba very fluently. There was a time when I had to attend school in Owerri because my parents wanted me to understand Igbo language.

You are called DJ Zeez. Were you a disc jockey?
Yes. I started in the industry as a disc jockey when I was about 17 years.

How come you were doing that at such an age?
I liked it. I was a science student when I was in secondary school. I was attracted to the technical part of music. I wanted to know about the engineering part and the whole connection thing.That was what prompted me to become a disc jockey. It wasn’t because I didn’t have any other thing to do. My parents didn’t frown at what I was doing because I was doing well in school. 

I didn’t start it for commercial purposes, at first. I was just doing it in the house; I would get songs and mix them together. But, in time, my friends got to know that I was good at it and they kept encouraging me. That was when I decided to get bigger equipment and turned it into a business.

So your parents didn’t mind when you finally turned it into a business?
No, they didn’t mind.

At what point did you decide to leave disc jockeying for music?
Some friends of mine formed a group called Xzist. At the time, I was still a DJ. I would always DJ for them back then whenever they had small shows around. With time, I started listening to songs and I started miming songs as well. They felt I should join the group. I joined the group and that made me the fourth member of the group.

You guys eventually broke up?
Yes. You know, musical groups in Nigeria hardly last. One person may be having one problem or the other and another person would be having a different problem. As a result, in 2004 I decided to go solo. I started doing my own thing.

Was that when you released O4Kasibe?
No. That was not my first single. My first single was title Orin.

But it was not successful.
No, it wasn’t. Remember that I just started then. I didn’t know anybody in the industry. I just did it on my own. By 2005, I came out with Same Ni, which was successful. In terms of profits, it wasn’t really successful. But it brought me popularity. If you mention DJ Zeez today, people would relate me with the guy that did Same Ni. The song was nominated for Channel O Music award in 2007.
The song made me popular, but it didn’t get me the money I wanted.

Finally you came out with O4kasibe.
Yes. That was towards the end of last year. I released it as a single. But the album dropped early this year.

What is O4kasibe?
It is a slang that was common among my neighbourhood pals in Bariga in those days. They used it to show respect to the people they honoured. They use the slang when they want to hail the person. The concept is that the ‘4’ in the word represents the four cardinal points- north, east, west and south. When you say O4kasibe, it means that you are making a positive impact on people globally, not just where you are.

But some people say the song literally means, ‘You have lost your head’
That is the controversy around the song. But it is the artiste that should say what he means in his song and defend that meaning. But I don’t think it is a good idea for me to come up and decide that the song I want to do for my fans is to start cursing them.

Those who understand the actual meaning of the song like it so much and you see them go crazy when it is playing. The meaning of the song is affecting it and that is why it is felt everywhere. We get all sorts of calls from different parts of the world. You can ask my manager, Tunde. They keep inviting us for shows and events.

We learnt the song was banned by Nigeria Broadcasting Commission?
That is a big lie. I even heard the song on two different radio stations when I was coming now. I believe if you ban a song on air, no radio or TV station plays it. It is just a rumour. I believe people are saying this because they are yet to understand the real meaning of O4kasibe.

What would you call yourself, a disc jockey or a musician?
Right now, I am just a music producer. I am also a writer and a performing artiste. I have left the disc jockey aspect because it requires daily practice. You get called up for shows and events in different towns. Then again, I am being called to perform in another town as a musician and all that. I simply had to reduce stress by just sticking to production and singing alone.

So I can say I am a producer right now. I have produced several songs like Party Rider by 9ice. Recently, I am working on a couple of songs in Weird MC’s forthcoming album.

Is it true that O4kasibe fetched you a Cadillac?
That is true. It was courtesy of the record label, Edlyne Records. It is a foreign record label owned by a Nigerian. He heard my song over the internet. That was even before O4kasibe was formally released. We started communicating even before we met for the first time. It was just recently that we met each other. He had bought the car for me before we met
At first, he thought we were just Nigerian scammers that put songs on the internet. By the time he felt the impact of the song, he was tripped.

Your profile is rising and you are being linked with many scandals.
Yes. What more can I say. A lot of things are actually attached to success. The best thing is to hear from the horse’s mouth. A lot of people who write things about me are not even opportune to see me one-on-one or to ask me for my own side of the story. They don’t even bother to confirm their stories before publishing them.

Is it true that you had an accident while driving home half-drunk in the cadillac?
I wasn’t involved in any accident at all. There is nothing like that. No such thing will ever happen by His grace. 

We also learnt that you are involved in internet fraud...
I have never been involved in anything that is close to ‘yahoo yahoo’ in my life. This Yahoo thing is not like today’s issue. The problem is that people who are spreading this rumour are finding it difficult to believe that I could make so much impact in such a short time. Some of them wonder when I released this song that I should be this successful. Some say they hear I have so much money in my account and I wear good clothes and they fail to relate it with the success of my music only. They don’t want to believe because a lot of artistes out there have great songs and are not making money.
But my case is different because we are working and walking very closely with God. We are applying both international and the local marketing strategy to sell the songs. People are finding it difficult to believe that this guy is making such an impact from only one song.

Did you have a quarrel with Konga? 
I did not have any quarrel with him. They say Konga is claiming he is the owner of O4kasibe. He is not the owner. I spoke to him and he said he never mentioned anything like that to anybody. There has never been any misunderstanding between myself and any musician.

We learnt you claimed you were a student of Leeds City University and some people said it was not true
Leeds City University is a private university in Ibadan. To start with, I have many friends in that school. Most of them are not people that I just met. They are all childhood friends. For example, in the school where I have my strongest fan base the students there see me as one of their own.

At a point, I started thinking of going to the university to further my education. I felt that since I have a good relationship with the students, may be I should try to get an admission into the school.

I told some of my friends that I might be getting admission into the school considering the relationship I have got with most of the students there. I never said I was a bona fide student of the school. I am an artiste and I understand how far one word you say could make or mar you.

Then again, if I am not in the school and I claim I am there, I would be giving free publicity to the school. Please, I didn’t tell anybody that I was a student of Leeds City University. I have just got a very strong fan base over there. I don’t think I would even want to disclose any school I would enrol to anybody.

It is amazing that you are not a university undergraduate. Was it by choice that you have not aquired higher education?
That aspect is quite complicated. When I finished secondary school, I ventured into digital film animation with the Nigerian Institution of Information Technology. I later went to the University of Abuja for a diploma programme.

It was that time that I did Same Ni. I found out that music was not something you would do part time and get what you want. I decided to ease off on the school thing and face my musical career for a couple of years. I thank God that the result is positive. I don’t think it is a bad idea if I decide to pursue higher education now. I still have a love for science. I still have a love for whatever course I intend to study. I am not going to sing forever.

Don’t you think your musical career would suffer if you get into the university?
I think so. It is difficult to find a prominent artiste who is making so much waves and studying in the university at the same time.

There are various institutions that are designed not just to help artistes, but to help people who are in different professions and studying.

A lot of people may not consider going back to school, since they are already successful in their chosen careers
I am not thinking in that direction. The foundation I had before getting to this point will not allow me to ignore education. I started as a disc jockey. A disc jockey plays different kinds of songs in a party. He understands the crowd and tries to give them the very best of music.

From that point, I ventured into rapping. I didn’t start as a singer, I was a rapper. Then, I started producing beats that would fit into songs. Then last year, I started singing. It is just that I have been following the normal procedure way back.

I understand that most of the big problems that most artiste have is that of orientation and education. Education and wealth are two different things. In today’s world, you find a lot of literate people working so hard and under the payroll of illiterates who are very wealthy. That is the situation that I do not want to experience in my own life time. I want to study something that I have always loved and then do music as well.

What about your female fans?
Coping with them is not as hard as people think. One of the things that have helped me is that before I got into this career, I had friends who were stars. Most times I was always with them. I would say I have been learning from their mistakes. Just as I made my research very well before I ventured into music, I know the dos and don’ts. I am not a total saint but at the same time, I am not the Devil with horns.

But when you see a female fan that once to get closer, it is basically because of what she has seen around you. If not for your stardom, that person would not give a damn about you. That person would not see you and like you. The moment you start disrespecting one fan by getting closer than you should, you are disrespecting the rest as well.

What is your girlfriend saying about your relationship with your female fans?
I don’t have a girlfriend.

For real?
Anyway, it is like this: I used to have a girlfriend before the whole stardom stuff blew up like this.

She didn’t wnt you to be a star?
At first, she was okay with the fact that I was singing. She likes singing as well. But she didn’t expect it to get this big. She didn’t like the fact that everybody wants to see me and all that. She just wasn’t comfortable with that and she was looking at the future and she kept asking if I would have time for the family. It came to a point where I had to choose between my career and the relationship.

So you chose your career?
I didn’t say I was going to choose my career over her. At a point, the music thing required a lot of attention from me. I didn’t have time for food, let alone for anybody. Getting a girlfriend now who would be somewhere nagging and saying I am not giving her attention would distract me from where I am going to. O4kasibe might have got me to a good height, but it has not got me to where I would really want to be. It might be difficult to settle down later. It might be difficult to get a girl who would love you for who you are and not what you are, but there is nothing I can do now.

What do you hope to achieve in future?
When I get to the height where I want to be, I would definitely give back to the society. I am not saying I would be giving beggars money, but I would invest in NGOs and companies that would reduce unemployment.