AYDOTCOM released his hit song, Pass Me Your Love, in 2009.
After dropping the hit single, Pass Me Your Love, in 2009, AYDOTCOM (real names Ayoola Johnson) has struggled to replicate the same song that kept heads ringing in clubs.
In this interview with PREMIUM TIMES, the 27-year-old Mass Communication graduate talks about his adventure in the industry; rumoured fisticuffs with co-star, Terry G, weeks ago; and challenges in the Nigerian music industry.
What has AYDOTCOM been up to all these years?
Pass Me Your Love was a very big song. Africans have this mentality that if you drop a very big song, what they want you to sing next is another big song immediately. They forget that the hit song grew. It’s not the day I dropped it that it became a hit. I’ve been taking time out to study my fans and all. I’m done with recording now. I’m just releasing songs, trying to shoot videos.
I released a song three days ago and it has like 200,000 downloads on one site alone.
The song is All Day. It is on about 50 sites.
Are we getting a hit that would be bigger than Pass Me Your Love?
At what point did you start making music?
I could remember my first time in the studio, 1996. I was in a group in Primary Six then, I was with a group called Little Superstar. We were six in number. That was the first time in the studio. I just noticed it’s what I love doing, it’s fun. But professionally I will say 2004, the first time when I shot my first single video, when I went solo and started and started building music myself. Fast Money featuring 2Shot was the song that actually introduced me to the industry. And after that, Pass Me Your Love in 2009. That was my breakthrough song. I was a just a Nigerian artiste but Pass Me Your Love introduced me to the world. I travelled to the UK, South Africa, Malaysia, Ghana, other African countries. The song was so big over there. The first time in London when I was performing, and I saw the crowd dancing to the song I was like ‘Wow! How did it get here?’
Have you always wanted to do music?
I never knew I was gonna be an artiste. I’ve always wanted to be a soldier. My teenage age then I used to be in Man O’ War, Cadet, Boys Brigade, I used to terrorize all the children in my hood. But I just noticed, when it comes to music, I find joy in it. It is what I love doing. Anytime I am not in the presence of music I am not too happy. I can just be in the studio for a full day and I will not mind, and I have not eaten. Anything you find yourself doing and you find joy there, I believe that is your field. So I didn’t really plan to go into music, I just found myself there.
There is this guy, Nomoreloss. He’s been there before me. I worked under him for a while. You know, go to studio with him, go to shows with him, back him up at times. I watched him perform on stage, I watched him record in the studio and I began to develop myself from there.
Do you write your own music?
Yeah. I write my music. There is this thing about African music, once they write a song for you, they believe you don’t know how to sing. You need to write your music yourself. At times, you produce yourself, your video you direct it yourself, you finance yourself as well. Nigeria, we are too talented. I write my music myself, I write music for other people. But most times if I’m in the studio, if I wanna ease the stress, I will just make sure my friend, like AB 1, is in the studio with me too. We’d just join heads together, join ideas together and come up with a song…
(Cuts in) Have you ever performed a song written by someone else?
No. I’ve not.
Which producers have you worked with?
I’ve worked with Young D. He is the guy that did Timaya’s recent full album. I’ve worked with Phyno. I’ve worked with a lot of producers. Even the recent guy that did my latest single, Just Beats…. Once your beat is good, I work with you.
Who has more influence on the song? The artist or the producer?
The artist; the producer should have more influence on his beat.
A lot of artistes start very simple, and you have to basically sponsor yourself because labels and record companies cannot pick you up. What was your experience like?
My own experience, I give God the glory because it is not easy to do music in this country. It’s about N2 million, N3 million to shoot a standard video. And I’m not from a wealthy home that my parents… I can’t even tell them, I can’t bring up the idea that I want to shoot video. I just thank God, God sent someone to me, Mr. Stanley Otovo. He is a blessing because he invested in me without waiting for any income or trying to get anything back. So I would say my own case was a bit easy because I got sponsors along the way before I now stand on my own now.
Who is Mr. Otovo?
He is a businessman. He owns hotels, into telecommunications.
How did you meet him?
We are from the same hood. We grew up together here in Maryland. When I noticed he’s big I had to go and meet him and share my dreams with him and I thank God he encouraged me.
What would you say characterizes the new music coming out of Lagos?
Right now, what is trending in Lagos is party songs. People don’t wanna think anymore. You don’t need to give them songs that will add to their thinking. They wanna dance over their sorrows and all that, so most of the songs that are making waves in Lagos now are party songs. Just give them nice beat, nice song, nice hook let them dance and be happy.
My first album, the Pass Me Your Love album, had about four inspirational songs. Believe me those songs didn’t go anywhere. If you were in that shoe what would do? Do what makes you happy and puts food on your table, isn’t it?
You talked about the group you started out with when you were younger. Where are the rest?
Funny enough none of them is into music anymore right now. It’s just me. I believe anywhere there are now they are doing fine. We were six in number then. I’m just still close to only one.
When you were in that group, did you make records? How far did you go?
We were very young then. All we did then was demo. I gained a lot of experience there because we hosted shows, organized our own shows, street jams, carnivals. As little as we were then we would join money together to organize shows, rent speakers just to get a stage together and all that to perform. I gained my stage balance from there.
How old were you then?
All I could remember is I was in Primary Six. And I’m 27 now, calculate am, no scatter my head.
When you started out, what inspired it?
What really inspired me into the entertainment industry, I never knew it was gonna be the singing part. I was thinking it’s gonna be acting, because there was this girl I love so much. Any time I’m watching her movie and any man is beating her in that movie, I’ll be feeling sad. I’ll be feeling very bad. Mostly, if any guy is kissing her, I’ll be like ‘I need to act.’ That really directed my mind towards entertainment. I don’t want to mention her name because we are friends now.
Can you recall any experience on stage that stood out for you?
When they called my name on stage, that was my first time in London, it was like ‘Give it up for AYDOTCOM’… My sister was in the middle of the crowd and she was trying to snap me and all that. I was backstage and when they called my name, the buzz was so much because they don’t really know my name but they know my song. So from the backstage, when I did my intro ‘Pass Me Your Love’, the whole crowd was like…. The camera fell down from my sister, she was amazed and was like ‘Wow!’ And I was looking at the crowd dancing and screaming and I was like ‘Eeh! Just like that?’ It was awesome. After stage, a couple of girls and guys that came backstage, that they wanna take pictures with me and all that. I was highly appreciated. From then, it became a normal life.
What do you think of the use of auto tunes in Nigerian music?
Auto tunes doesn’t really work for us here. Because it’s computer, they must add auto tune to it, but not like much auto tune. At times they use auto tune to get the key while mixing. So it’s not a must that Nigerian artistes depend on auto tune or anything.
Because of piracy and all that, investing in music is not really considered a good investment. What do you think?
One of the reasons foreign artistes are doing better is because their foundation is solid. They get money from TV stations, radio stations pay them royalty, even iTunes, YouTube and all that. As I said, in Nigeria we are just growing. It’s just now that we started getting money from YouTube. For so many years we didn’t even have the idea. Our people going abroad to be enlightened, those are the ones coming back here to put things in order. So now we are getting paid for videos on YouTube, endorsements and others. Radio stations and TV stations, those ones we are still working on that. The pirate aspect, very soon there won’t be piracy in this country again. We are seriously working on it.
Do you think artists from wealthy families have more advantage in the industry?
Yes. They have more advantage because money goes a long way. In music, once you have a good song, you need to shoot a standard video to push it. All those ones is money. Like Davido, Davido’s father is very rich that if Davido drops 10 singles, he can afford to shoot 10 videos. You won’t compare that with artistes that will have to gather money to shoot one video. It just takes the grace of God. But one thing is certain: originality is originality.
What kind of music did you listen to while growing up?
Fela mostly. My daddy used to play Ebenezer Obey so I listened to that a lot too. I listened to Plantashun Boiz a lot, Eedris Abdulkareem. Those are the guys that paved way for the music industry.
What happened with you and Terry G?
Me and Terry G, we were childhood friends. It’s just part of the music hustle. He’s just trying to get a stand of his own, so any means he feels he can get it is what he would do then. But I thank God he has his own stand and I have my own stand and we are both successful. I don’t think I have anything against Terry G.
But how’s your relationship with him now?
We are not best of friends now…
Because of the Pass Me Your Love incident and every other thing that happened afterwards?
Yeah, that is one. Secondly, he had his own family and I’m married also, I have my own family. So the attention is divided now. But we are friends, just not close as before.
The story about Terry G attacking you at his birthday party, how true is that?
That was just a press hype and all.
What really happened?
I didn’t go to Terry G’s party.