BY CHUKS NWANNE
When Ahmed Tawati Ojeikere jumped from the crowd into the basketball court, requesting for the microphone to freestyle at the Face Off show held last year at the Expo Hall, Eko Hotel, Victoria Island, Lagos, many didn’t take him serious.
Aside that the contestants had all taken their turn before his sudden appearance, to many, especially those, who never saw him on stage before, Lil H, as he’s popularly known, is still a minor as far as the freestyle contest is concerned.
“Ah, what’s this small boy doing here,” one of the guests quipped.
Having seen Lil H on stage once and knowing the stuff he’s made of, I initially wanted to play his attorney, but on a second thought, I resolved to let the ‘poor’ boy prove his worth.
As Lil H clutched the microphone in his hand and let loose his tongue, the crowd went wild in excitement. Artistes such as Tuface, D’Banj, P-Square, Sound Sultan, Banky W and others, who were part of the gig, all jumped from their seats to lift Little H up. With that resounding applause from music stars themselves, it’s natural for other contestants to throw in the towel; for sure they all did and Lil H carried the day.
At the Committee for Relevant Art, CORA-organized Hip Hop Conference held recently at the National Theater, Iganmu, Lagos, Lil H was offered another impromptu opportunity to showcase his stuff. As usual, he delivered; he even got a warm embrace from the Rub-A-Dub Master, Ras Kimono, who was part of that event. From all indications, this Lil H boy is a star.
“That was just a quick background arrangement,” he reveals during his recent visit to The Guardian Life. “I just decided to step out and do something for the crowd. I’ve done over 50 gigs in about four to five months, so, I don’t think there’s any upcoming artiste in my status that has had the opportunity to do such,” he boasts.
Don’t you think your age is an advantage?
“Yea, I think it’s part of the advantage, but again, it’s about my brand; it’s about what I have; it’s about my management; they got my back any day.”
The first child of his parents, Lil H unconsciously started listening to music at a very tender age. Before long, the spirit of music had arrested him.
“I woke up one morning and started singing around the house; I was singing to Joe’s I wanna Know what’s on your mind… I was just dancing all over the house. In those days, very early in the morning, my Mum used to play music while we got ready for school. That was my first encounter with music.”
From listening to slow jams, Ahmed delved into rap, with the late Tupac Shakur as one of his favourites.
“Where you are and things around you are big influences; Joe influenced me positively because then, we were only listening to slow jams when we were growing up. But the first time I heard rap music on our radio, it changed my point of view of music; I resolved to become a rap artiste,” he says smiling.
What was the reaction of your parents when you opted to play music?
“Oh, my Mum was 100 percent against it,” he exclaims. “My mother never wanted a rapper son; she wanted me to be a much different person than that.”
Like a doctor, lawyer… somebody that will make a great impact in the society,” he notes. “But I just wanted to be who I’m destined to be.”
… And your Dad?
“Of course, he toed my Mum’s line. It took me a very long time to convince them that, ‘look, this is who I am, let me pursue it.’ But over the years, they’ve come to give me their support. I’m happy today to say that I have their 100 percent support,” he enthuses.
Asked how he combines playing music and his academic works at Orchard College, Lagos, Lil H, who had just finished his JSS 3 exams says, “It’s a simple timetable; I always try to separate my music from academics. I put aside reasons to differentiate them so they don’t clash into each other. Music is entirely different from academics and they don’t mix up; I don’t really want them to clash; so, I space them up,” he sings.
To be honest, will you say you do well in school academically?
“Honestly, yes; I think I do very well to my own satisfaction.”
Lil H recalls his first major performance on a big stage.
“Ah, that was Sony Ericsson show in 2007, at Planet One (Maryland, Ikeja, Lagos); that show brought me to limelight. Thanks to my record label, Laface Entertainment for that opportunity.”
How did you manage to pull that one?
“That day, I took the whole thing as fun; I was just dancing and enjoying what I was doing. Finally, it all came out fine. To me, it was all that really matters to me; that was where I started building my confidence.”
With his single, Naija, on air, plans are afoot for the release of his full album later this year.
“Naija is a remix of a song by TI and Rihanna, but my album is coming out as soon as possible; it’s not how long but how well. For now, we are still looking at different ideas on what we can build around the title.
“I want to positively influence people with my music; I will love my music to be a means of inspiration. Let them listen to me and think of doing what I’m doing more and better, that’s the goal I want to score.”
For Lil H, Naeto C, MI and Mode 9 are the best around.
“These are the three hottest rappers you can find in our industry; I listen to them from my ipod every time. I pay attention to the content of their lyrics and they inspired me a lot.”
You believe in lyrics?
“Yes, I strongly believe in lyrics; the content of the lyrics is the song itself,” he quips. “Most people nowadays listen to the beats, allowing the sweet melody to take over their minds. But they forget that the original thing is the lyrics. That’s why I try as much as possible to make my lyrics audible so that people will hear what I’m trying to say.”
Though Lil H seems to have lost count of his perfromance, his gig with Wyclef Jean remains memorable.
“He was in Port Harcourt for a show, but had to come down to Lagos to catch a flight back home; that day was Sound Sultan’s album launch and both of them have close relationship. So, he was at the event. That day, he, Sound Sultan and I performed together; it was a moment of joy for me. Mims was here for the Soundcity Music Video Award recently and we performed together also,” he muses.
Are you wondering how Lil H manages his fame among his peers in school? Well, for him, it’s no big deal.
“The thing I love about my friends is that, whatever happens is nothing out of the blues for them. For instance, if I come back and say I went for this show or that show, which might be one of the hottest shows in town, it doesn’t jingle a bell for them,” he declares. “To me, I’m a kid, they are kids; they can do what I do.”
He adds: “But they respect me a lot, which I really appreciate. They never wanted whatever they are saying to get into my head. They try as much as possible to sound normal with me; that’s the characteristics that makes me want to be with them.”
How are you parents feeling now?
“My father shows more interest in what I’m doing musically and my mum checks on me; they are really taking me serious now.”
Aside music, Lil H has plans of becoming a broadcaster.
“That’s what fits my personality now,” he says.
Asked how he feels about the applause, screaming and cheers that usually come with his performance, Lil H says, “there are three things that come to my mind; happiness, enjoyment and fun. I’m just happy for everything. You see people who are much older than me, cheering at me and loving what I’m doing; it just puts me on the high note.”
What’s your target as a musician?
“I want to be the youngest Nigerian artiste to attain the Grammy award.”
How do you want to achieve that?
“By hard work and motivation.”
For Rite Angle, highlife is the way
Having successfully released their debut album, Arise & Shine, last year, the duo of Chika Onwukwe and Sunny Ojeanya of the Rite Angle International Band of Nigeria, have thought it wise to re-brand their music with a new work titled Ezinwanne Amaka.
Though their first album, a highlife gyration, enjoyed airplay on radio and TV stations, especially in the Eastern part of the country, the group believes it’s time to go back to the roots.
“It actually took us a very long time to come up with the first work because we wanted to experiment with a lot of things; if you look at the album, we fused highlife and gyration music together. But from the beginning, we knew the direction we wanted to toe. In this second album, we’ve decided to be natural,” Chika said in a recent chat.
The official release slated for December 3, in Awka, Anambra State capital, will see the band perform live for their teaming audience. It featured songs such as Ewgu Si Na Chi, Happy Home, Ofu Obi, Na So Life Be and the title track, Ezinwanne Amaka.
On their decision to go highlife fully, Chika explained that, “it’s high time we started promoting what we have. No matter how well you sing hip-hop today, the truth is that, hip-hop is American; you can never be more American than the Americans. I think it’s time we look at highlife music and see a way of promoting it internationally. Our mission is to sell the culture and tradition of our people to the whole world through our music.”
For those, who see highlife as a brand of music for the old, Chika has a different opinion.
“I’ve heard a lot of people say that, but I consider that shallow thinking. It’s unfortunate that the Americans and Europeans pay so much to see highlife and Afrobeat musicians perform, and here we are talking of highlife being for the old. I think we need cultural re-orientation for our youths; everybody is crazy about hip-hop, yet, we cannot develop our own. Rite Angel has come to bridge the gap.”
Chika observed that the country is on the verge of losing its highlife tradition with the demise of highlife greats, who promoted the music in the past.
“Osadebe is no longer here, Oliver De Coque, Sir Warrior of the Oriental Brothers, Captain Mudi Ibeh…a good number of them are no more. Today, how many young people are still interested in continuing the tradition? We can’t let that die.”
He continues: “We need to drop this idea of running after foreign brands. When makossa music came, Nigerians went crazy over it, even when we barely understood what they were singing. The likes of Awilo and Kofi were very popular here, yet, when you talk of our own music, people say ‘it’s for the old; I don’t even know where they got that idea from.”
Meanwhile, Rite Angle is planning for a music tour of Ghana to promote the new album.
“That’s the next step for us; we are still making contacts with our people over there and by God’s grace, it will come to pass. For now, we want to get the album into the Nigerian market before we start thinking across the boarders.”
With most of their songs in Igbo language, one wonders how the group intends to market their music in Ghana for instance?
“You have to understand that music is a universal language. Ghana music was very popular here some years back, even when we don’t understand their language, so, ours will not be different. It’s all about making good music that could attract attention.”
So, what happens to highlife gyration?
“Sure, we will still play that depending on what our fans want. But now, we want to concentrate more on highlife,” Chika hinted.
There are indications that the band will soon commence monthly highlife show in Lagos, with Surulere tipped as the ideal location.