– Ahmedu Augustine Obiabo
Known by his stage name, Blackface Naija, he is a dancehall artist and song writer best known as one third of the defunct boy group, Plantashun boys and the co-writer of the hit single, African Queen with 2face Idibia, a song made famous by the latter after it appeared on his debut solo album, Face 2 Face in 2004. The Festac town based singer who has been AWOL from the music industry opens up about his musical career and what he has been up to these past few years.
You suddenly went on AWOL from the music scene without notice. What has been happening to you?
The reason why I have not been on the mainstream music scene like every other musician is because I have been trying to get all my songs ready. I just wanted to take sometime out to see the direction the industry is going. And I’ve been doing that quietly. The album I want to put out now is titled The Defender and I have a video out there called Ikebe Super. I also have some singles like, Love2love U, Mr DJ and Big Pale. In the album, there will be variety of songs to listen to. In fact, by the time I stage a proper come back, my fans won’t even remember that there was a time that there was no Blackface.
A lot has changed while you were away. Judging by what is now obtainable in the industry, how do you intend to fit in?
If you remember, I came into this game when the industry had no face or vision, so to speak. I know what the game was and I know what the game is like now. The difference right now is that, when I wanted to change the game back then, I was doing it with a couple of friends. But now, I’m doing it alone.
After your solo album, everyone had expected you to come up with something bigger than your debut album but it has not been forthcoming. What actually happened?
When I dropped my debut album, Getto Child, everybody was like, “oh this is a new style” and all that. After that, I dropped Evergreen and everyone was still feeling it. My third album was titled Jungle Fever which was also a huge success. And the reason why people don’t get to hear my song these days like every other artists is that, there is a lot of politics going on and I cannot control the politics. First, my songs are like freedom fighting songs besides, you don’t expect radio stations to play most those tunes because they will tell you it is against the government.
I don’t sing about Hennessy so naturally, you will expect me to be at the receiving end of those kind of marginalization. It is the system but if the system is well structured that they appreciate the artists for their art and play the songs regardless of who he or she is, the industry will move forward. Another thing is that, some of the artistes have the money to pay for airtime, and with that, they get to play their songs whether the songs are good or not. I’m not that kind of person that is going to say, “Oh DJ, I have some money to give you, play my song on the radio. My own is DJ, this is my song, if you like the song, play it. That is how it should be. If everybody starts giving money to DJs, Nigerians will listen to anything and I can’t be part of that. This is also one of the reasons why I had to sit back and watch.
There is this belief that, you are full of yourself and that is the reason why you have gone under musically
No, that is not true but then, everybody is entitled to his or her own opinion. But you have to know one thing, since I started this game, I’ve never been dependent on anyone. I’ve always been independent from the beginning till date. Some of them get favours by being under someone who is more or less like their cash cow, who helps to push them but I never had that. I’m even more popular than most of them and people still value my music more than them. So, I don’t want to worry about that. I know my position and I know what the game is like. People can say whatever they like about me to make me look bad but that doesn’t have anything to do with why I am not too active in the music industry. I know I am still myself and when you meet me one-on-one, you will get to know my kind of person. I’m not as arrogant as they have tried to paint me. I’m a humble person anytime, any day. You’ve tasted both the good and the bad of the industry.
What have you learnt so far from it?
Well, I’ve learnt to keep my enemies close. In this game, the person whom you feel is going to have your back is the one person who doesn’t want you to see you get to the top at all. So, it is better for you to just have an open mind and pray to God to give you the insight to see what they don’t want you to see, that’s just the game. And always practice your craft because they can’t take away the talent that God has given to you but they can pay the media to write false propaganda about you.
Is adding Naija to your stage name part of your re-branding effort?
No, I’ve always been Blackfacenaija. If you search on the internet, there are several Blackfaces and I don’t want people to mistake me for another person. But Blackfacenaija is just one if you search from now till tomorrow. I’m from Nigeria and the best way for people to know me is to know that my name is Blackfacenaija
Do you regret not doing anything with Kenny Ogungbe of Kennis Music when your partners teamed up with them?
No, I can’t regret that. They actually wanted to signed me on but I told them, I was with the boys and I couldn’t leave them. I’m so glad that I’ve been independent from time. I can beat my chest that I am a self made dude. I made it despite all odds. Anybody who wants to put my name down because they want to sell somebody else, is just wasting this or her time because once I catch them on stage, their career is over.
What is your relationship like with your former group mates, Faze and Tuface?
We’re just there. They are cool. And they are doing their own music and I’m doing mine. I don’t have any problem with them and I don’t think they have any problem with me.
You guys once teamed up together to release Plan B album, but the album failed to make an impression. What happened?
I think, it had to do with the structure and the planning of the album. Ego was also part of the problem because ego is the worst thing that can creep into a group. But you were being accused of breaking up the group because you felt you were the only one writing most of the songs.
Why would they say that? Is it because of the propaganda thing they put out. It is still all about the propaganda because that’s what they want people to hear. How will I be the one to break up the group when I’m the one telling them what to do and what not to do? They just want to put me in bad light. I told them, I’m black already they can’t change me to another colour.
Compared to when you were trending, would you say we have a well structured entertainment industry now?
We’re improving with the photography, the cinematography and some of the artistes are highly creative. Some artistes are trying to create real music while some are still copycats. The industry is growing at its own pace. I want to commend those artistes that are doing good music and those who are trying to create a style for themselves but all those ones that always want to copy other people songs, I say, everyday for the thief, one day for the owner.
Do you intend to change your genre of song or you do you prefer to stick with your old style?
I’m never going to deviate from my old style because people don’t want to see you succeed. Anything you’re doing they would always say, “We hope he doesn’t continue in that light. But it’s a joke, many are called but few are chosen, I know I am one of the chosen few that God has said to go speak to my people. Use your music to talk to them. Try to give them some education with your music. I know that’s my calling but that doesn’t mean, I’m not going to be doing my love song, dancehall, R&B and other genre of music.
What’s your relationship with Eedris Abdulkareem?
Abdukareem is my friend and he has been my friend from way back.