Monday, 14 December 2009

‘Nigeria is not as bad as it’s being painted abroad’

For over three hours, entertainment reporters waited patiently at the Southern Sun Hotel, Ikoyi, Lagos, hoping to have a chat with Ron Brownz and Maino, two American artistes, who were in the country for the launch of Big Dreams Entertainment. But as it turned out, the Americans got fagged out having traveled for hours. We were on the verge of retiring to our offices, when message came that Ron Brownz had agreed to cut short his sleep to meet the press. Brownz, who started his music career as a producer, has been behind successful hits by top rated US artistes including Nas, DMX, 50 Cents, Lil Kim, Keri Hilson and others. Following his intuition, he became a performing artiste with a single, Arab Money, featuring Busta Rhymes. His track, Pop Champagne, is also making waves all over the world, with the video enjoying airplay on MTV Base and Channel O. In this chart, Brownz tells CHUKS NWANNE about his career and his first hand experiences about Nigeria as against the usual negative reports about the country in foreign media.

How has it been since you arrived Nigeria?

It’s been beautiful, the weather is nice and the food is great. I heard a lot of negative stories about Nigeria –– lots of stories. They told us ‘don’t do this, don’t eat that.’ But since we arrived here, we’ve discovered that things are not really the way we thought; Nigeria is totally a different experience. People here are respectful and hospitable.

What attracted you to Nigeria?
Immediately Big Dreams contacted me to play in Nigeria, I accepted the offer, but requested for more time to get prepared. I agreed to play in Nigeria because I knew it would be a whole new experience for me. As a matter of fact, this is an opportunity for me to learn about the country and I love experiences more than anything. You see things on TV, but sometimes, you need to be on ground to see things for yourself. I’m already learning and seeing things for myself here.
What was your perception of Nigeria before now?
I really didn’t have a specific perception about Nigeria. It’s not as if I have not heard people say a lot of things about the country, but when I got here, it has been welcoming. This is my first time in the country and I’m enjoying every moment of it.

How much of Nigerian music do you know?
Actually, I don’t have an idea of the kind of music played here. I’m really looking forward to the show; that’s an opportunity to hear Nigerian songs and meet with the artistes.
How prepared are you for the concert?
My plan is to shower Nigerians with fun. I’m a party guy; my songs are basically club songs. I will be partying with the fans and hopes to give them a whole lot of fun, which is what Ron Brownz is all about.
Have you ever tried to trace your African roots?
Not really, but when I arrived Nigeria, people told me I look like an Igbo. So, I’m going to do some research when I get back to the US; I need to confirm if I’m really a Nigerian from the Igbo tribe.
How did you get into music?
My mother enrolled me in an after school programme, where I learnt how to play some instruments. Then from what I saw on the TV, I told myself I wanted to become a rapper, so, I started writing lyrics when I was 12 years old. At 15, I was already a professional instrumentalist. I first started out as a producer before I became a rapper.
What informed your choice of music (hip-hop)?
I grew up with hip-hop all over; at parties in Harlem, you hear hip-hop; when cars drive pass, you hear hip-hop. We watch it on the TV and hear it on the radio. I didn’t care about all the bad blood that comes with this kind of genre of music because one has to take the good with the bad. It’s like a relationship; everything can’t be good all the time. So, with hip-hop, there are good and bad times.
How was it growing up in Harlem?
It helped me to be who I am today, because Harlem is very diverse; there are lots of people with mixed cultures, good people and bad people, but you learn from both the good and bad. I have a strong mother, who kept me on the right path and made sure I did the right things because I grew up without my father.
How was it like growing up without your father?
It wasn’t that growing up without a father was unheard of in Harlem; a lot of my friends grew up without a father. But it wasn’t something I wanted, but my mum always make sure we never felt his absence. On Father’s Day, we celebrate with her and she played that role for us very well.

What else do you do aside music?
I’m a producer and I’ve just finished writing a movie script, which will be shot in Harlem, New York. The movie is about me, how I started in the music business.
How has life been over the years as an artiste?
I always try to be creative and to do different things from what other people are doing. If somebody is doing something, I try to do it better or create something from what they are doing. I pretty much try to be different and write music that people want to sing. At the time when I felt Harlem was going down, I wrote Pop Champagne, so that when people go to the club, they can dance and feel good.
The challenges so far?
Everybody will never like you, so you need to have tough skin. People will always say things about you; not everybody will like the kind of music you do. When I first started, a lot of record companies didn’t see my vision, so, I had to make them see my vision; I developed tough skin.
Was there any time you felt music wasn’t good for you?
When I was producing for other people, there was this big artiste in Harlem, who was murdered. With the murder, I became depressed, but I told myself that I need to keep going and not go back because, there are two sides to everything.

How do you cope with bad press in the US?
At first, I didn’t understand it; I felt like everybody was attacking me. But then, I looked at it that other artistes such as Jay Z, NAS, 2Pac were all criticised in the press and they still kept on doing their music. So, I just told myself they would do the same thing to me, which makes me different from them. I decided to stay focused on my music.
Your influence in music?
That’s my mother; she raised my sister and I alone. She was working in the army, so, seeing my mum in the army, which is a man’s thing, really got to me. She was taking care of us the best way she could. Even when she hurt herself or she is sick, she would still go to work just to take care of us. I see her as my warrior.
Is it going to be music all the way for you?
Well, right now yes, because it pays the bills and that’s what I love to do. I want to own some businesses, invest my money into real estate and stocks to keep me going, so that in case the music stops, I will still be covered financially.
Any plans to collaborate with Nigerian artistes in future?
That’s why I’m here. I will listen to the ones I can listen to and see if I can take it up from there.
Are you married?
No, I am not. Hopefully, I will get married soon. I can’t keep doing this alone. As for the Nigerian ladies I met when I came in, they look really nice, but I guess I will have to stay here a bit longer to really determine if I will take a Nigerian lady. I’ve got a girl as in girlfriend.

Darey serves fresh beat
By Tony Nwanne
HAVING successfully released his album, unDareyted, which has earned him several awards within a short period, RnB singer/songwriter Darey Art Alade has returned with yet another single titled Stroke Me, a track he plans to include in his next recording.
Produced by the CEO of Mo Hits Records, Don Jazzy, with support from the Soul Muzik duo of Del B and Password, the song was recently premiered in Lagos, where the singer thanked his fans and the media for their role in his career, starting from his days in the Project Fame Africa house. The event also featured the unveiling of the winner of his TV project, The Most Undareyted Show.
Now moving into a new phase, Darey and his team are hoping to keep fans busy this Xmas, with the new track, which is already generating discourse among music lovers. The full album is billed to be released next year, after an international release scheduled for February 2010.
Meanwhile, the VCD compilation for Darey’s award-winning videos is set for release. To be marketed by Okeysonic, the compilation will include the award-winning videos, Not The Girl, More, Carry Dey Go and others.
With big-budget videos, breath-taking performances and chart-topping singles, Darey has finally won the hearts of music lovers, playing at gigs and winning both local and international awards.

Celebrity Takes 2
Faze, Zakky, Fathia, Kel on probation

Four of the 10 contestants in the ongoing Celebrity Takes 2, a dance TV reality show sponsored by Skye Bank, have been placed on probation, as voting started on the 13-week. Affected dancers are Kolomental crooner Faze, Fathia Balogun, Zaccky Azzay, and Kel.
Out of the total mark of 30 available for grabs, Faze and Zaccky scored 15, while Fathia and Kel earned 13. Their performances, based on the assessment of judges, fell below expectation to guarantee automatic continuation of the celebrities on the programme. As a result, the celebrities need their fans to vote to retain them on the dance show.
Meanwhile, Yemi Blaq, Stella Damascus, and Yinka Davies scored 23, 21, and 20, respectively in their performances for the week, when they treated viewers and fans to the rhythm of the Argentine Tango/Samba Routine. Similarly, Dakore, Obione, and Fred Amata automatically remained on the show with 18, 17 and 16 points, in that order.
Obviously, one of these celebrities and his or her dancing partner will be eased out at the end of the voting. This means just nine will remain in contest when the show resumes next week.
To save your favourite dancer, fans are expected to text SAVE (Name of Celebrity) to 34210.

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