Rapper, Jah Bless, who started out from the Coded Tunes clique, is, along with his colleague, Lord of Ajasa, one of the pioneers of rapping in local languages in Nigeria.
The Yoruba language rapper talks to PREMIUM TIMES about the trend of spitting rhymes in local languages, how bright the future is for “indigenous” rappers and his upcoming album.
PT: You have two singles buzzing right now, what’s the inspiration behind these songs?
Jah Bless: In the last one year and eight months I have been in and out of the country and didn’t have any hit songs. I was dropping songs but wasn’t on ground to promote them. When I finished what I was doing and came back, I needed a song that could blend in with the current sound. Owanmbe is a concept I just thought about and felt let me come in from this angle. I didn’t want to do the same “shoki,” shake y*nsh that everybody is doing. That’s one thing about my brand, I love to standout. So the idea came, did the song, a video shot by Clarence Peters and the song got that buzz.
69 Missed Calls is based on my biggest hit, Jor. I didn’t want to lose that connection, so I thought, ok, this is 2015, let me do a new version of something close to that. I decided to do this with the new generation of artistes, my home boys, Olamide and Remi (Reminisce) and every other person jumped on it and that was it.
PT: I just saw you rehearse with a live band, are you moving towards live performances?
Jah Bless: I have always been about live performances. It’s the best way to perform. The reasons so many artistes don’t do it is because of the sound problem. There is a way you can actually control it but you can’t get 100 per cent, just close. I think that’s what really shows you as an artiste; if you are an artiste and you can’t do live, I don’t think you have the substance. Live performance is what I grew up with, what I love doing. So at my album listening party, which is what we are rehearsing for, I will be performing for two hours.
PT: What should we expect from your upcoming album?
Jah Bless: It’s a super star album, mad album, trust me; best of 2015. The album is going to be in two phases. There is the deluxe version and the regular version. The deluxe version has 22 songs and would be sold for N1, 500 online while the regular version has 15 songs and would go on the streets for 150, regular CD price.
I have some fantastic artistes on it – Ice Prince, Olamide, Reminisce, Oritsefemi, Jozi. I worked with some fantastic producers too, TY Mix and so many others.
PT: You moved from Edge Records to JE Records, why?
Jah Bless: Edge Records is actually my company. I own Edge Records with Ibrahim Okulaja. We have artistes signed to the label including me; so, it’s still my family. But the kind of business I run, I don’t tend to cover everything.
If I’m doing something and I think that I see somebody who could actually come in and take it to the next level, I will always do that.
At some point, Yes Record came into the business. They wanted me and we sat down with Edge Records management and I went out on loan, like in football business. Right now, JE records is there; fantastic label, doing very well. It’s a one year contract. After one year, if we think we should go on, we go on. If we think we are done, I will go back to Edge Records.
PT: How do you feel about the growth of indigenous rap?
Jah Bless: Fantastic, I am happy. I wasn’t the one that started it. Lord of Ajasa started it and he was the person that put me in that line. Being one of the people that started it, it’s a privilege. It’s an opportunity that I think if it was in another country, I will be getting royalty from all these boys – I’m actually joking. We enjoy the buzz, the respect is there. Anywhere I go I am given the respect like, “Baba, e file fun awon eleyi, ko she mate won.”
PT: Some critics feel those who rap in indigenous Nigerian languages cannot get international recognition, what is your opinion on that?
Jah Bless: Baba, it will o, at the rate it’s growing. Ok, let me give you an example; see Awilo, when the song came out, it was international. Nobody understood what Awilo sang but the sound and rhythm got everyone moving. Music is a universal message and I don’t under estimate the strength of indigenous rap. As a matter of fact, when Dagrin was alive, his songs were already getting international attention but now, I don’t think anyone is close to that. Still, we are still doing fantastic.