The Name Nigga Raw Was Bad For Business-Mr. Raw

Multiple award winning Rapper, Ukeje Okechukwu Edwards, popularly known as Mr. Raw gained critical acclaim with the release of his hit Single “Obodo” and have since evolved into an international star, headlining major concerts across the globe. In this Interview with our Correspondent, FRANCIS OGBONNA, he talks about his journey to fame; relationship with his fans and other matters. Excerpt…

What informed the change from “Dat Nigga Raw” to “Mr. Raw”?

I would say the press; my fans and the OAPs (On-Air-Personalities); because a lot of people were complaining about the word “Nigga”, saying it sounded more like a “swear” word, even though it’s an acronym for something. But I felt like if these guys are not cool with it, It’s not a big deal, why should I stick to it I should just yank it off. I also noticed that my online sales were being affected, I would drop some materials and people would say they can’t find my songs or CDs online, so I went to one of the sites that usually sell CDs online and searched but didn’t find my song. Then I decided to search for it by the title of the song and saw my name alright, but the word “Nigga” was censored, they replaced each letter with the star (*), so for Nigga Raw, you would see, 5(*) Raw. So I felt like, this is affecting my business, that was what really prompted my switch from Nigga Raw to Mr. Raw and I kind of prefer the Mr. Raw now than Nigga Raw because I never thought that I was going to be as popular as I am now. For me then because I was just having fun…

Why did you think that you were not going to be as popular as you are now?

Nigga-RawThen in the Eastern part of Nigeria, we were just playing, it wasn’t really like I set out to do this. Initially, while we were doing our thing on stage and at shows; we were rapping and writing my songs in English and people would walk up to us and say men I like that your song, you know then in actual sense they thought it wasn’t our songs, they thought we were miming to other people’s songs, probably some artistes they didn’t know, but when I switched from English to Pidgin, I noticed that they were showing me some kind of love like “Ah-Ah, na this guy write this song o”. They were able to relate with the language. Then I added a little Ibo and that drove them gaga; all my Igbo brothers and sisters were really happy. People then started advising me “why not give it a try and pursue music professionally. It was then I started feeling like I could really progress as a musician doing this as against just having fun. I decided to give it a try and started recording, got into a few competitions with Klint “da drunk” e.g. the Benson & Hedges Competition, that was how “Obodo” with Klint “da Drunk” and other hits came to be and like they say “the rest is history”.

Why didn’t your music alliance with Klint”da drunk” continue, it was obvious from that track “Obodo” that he could sing?

Before the competition, Klint was already an established comedian, you understand? So for him comedy was primary. Even when I dropped Obodo, a lot of people were like saying are you sure that was Klint “da drunk” singing or you just wanted to use the song to promote your friend, but it was actually Klint that did the singing. In fact if you are really a Klint fan, you would know that most of his comedy centered on singing. It’s just that he hasn’t really taken it as his core offering, but if you really listen you will know that he has a great voice. It’s just that he has got his own comedy fans to attend to. So what we did was just come together do a few songs, did a few competitions (we actually excelled in those competitions), but he is more of a comedian and so decided to focus on his comedy, while I went on with my music business.

You have done a lot of concerts, within and outside the country, which would you say is your biggest platform till date?

Till date, the one that is the biggest for me is Calabar Festival, you can’t imagine the crowd. I was like, does that really mean that all these people appreciate what I am doing, and somehow they just sing your song with you. Next is the “Star Trek”, because with Star Trek they take you to places and you connect with your fans, but if I am to talk like a businessman, which I am, I would say Star Trek, because Calabar Festival takes place in Calabar, you have to come to Calabar to watch me play, but with Star Trek they take you to where the people are, so I think it’s Star Trek..They take us to our fans.

Have you had any regrets doing music?

Mr.-RawNo, I have not and I don’t think I am ever going to. Sometimes, even when I am low, just the thought of my fans smiling while I play; the sync between you and the fans while you are playing. You know? The power you wield while holding the Mic; sometimes at shows, you have problems with crowd control and the military personnel are asking or even flogging them so they could move back but they don’t and you the musician then ask everybody to stop and they stop and then you ask them to move back so that they don’t step on the wires and they listen to you. You feel like with music you can change a lot of things…I go to shows and I see people that even when they have issues or sometimes you see the military men flogging them and they want to react and when I ask them to relax they listen, some of them are older people, but musically they just want to listen to you and connect with you because you are saying things that they can relate to. You have so much influence that sometimes they just belief what you are saying without a doubt, as long as it is coming from you. I have no regrets, musically; I think if I come to this world again, I will still do music.

What is the craziest thing a fan has ever done for or to you?

The craziest was (I don’t know if I am supposed to say this). I have seen quite a lot. I have seen people roll in muddy waters just to take pictures. There was this particular guy who in order to avoid the military men around me decided to roll under a truck, on a muddy ground. He rolled under and got to where I was, took a shot and left very happy…

How did that make you feel?

In fact, even though I was overwhelmed with love, I felt like did this person really have to go through all of this to get to take a shot with me? These people are just like me; we are all humans. Sometimes you reply somebody’s Twitter message and it’s like you have done something great for them…who am I? I no be God. Then in Sapele; a girl has actually pulled down her dress and ask me to sign my autograph on her mammary glands….

Did you sign?

I did not…I was overwhelmed…then I was in South Africa, one guy came and he was crying like a child just because he finally had an audience with me and I was like why? There was another occasion, still in South Africa where part of the programme planners walked up to me after a show and said one of my friends from Nigeria wanted to see me and showed me a picture with me; Ekwe and the guy (it was actually a picture I had taken with one of my fans in Benin City when I had a show with Ekwe-another artist) but I didn’t really remember until I talked with the guy, however since I saw the picture I just said he should be allowed to come in. Can you imagine that the guy came to South Africa with all those pictures? Who I be na, wey person go they do that kind thing for. The guy was allowed to come in and he was like “eh-eh-eh my guys” and I was just nodding my head, because I didn’t want to embarrass him and he left very happy. So you can imagine the kind of smiles that our music put on people’s face. I was in Kano, my Hausa brothers were just singing my songs, rapping along with me and calling me “Mega Raw” (he laughs). So I decided to put the Microphone to the mouth of one Hausa Chic to rap along and she was just saying wetin no concern me, but it was all fun. You can’t imagine somebody learning the songs you put out and trying to sound like you? At times I see people and you can’t even tell what they must have gone through just to come close and have a handshake with you. I have actually been robbed (no I wont say robbed), I have actually been dispossessed of some of my valuables by fans in the name of showing love…

On stage?

Not just upstage; everywhere in the name of wanting to take pictures and they collect your chains or wristwatch. I was in Markudi sometime and someone collected my chains and came back to me later and said “Bros, na me hold your chain o”…

Did she give it back to you?

No, you won’t believe this; she came to snap with it. You know like, “this is your phone, na me hold am, I no rob you I just wanted more like a souvenir from you”. Funny enough in that show, there was supposed to be some MOPOL people, who were supposed to escort me until I get into the car, but you see MOPOL people sef wan take pictures, they posed and asked someone else to snap with their phones too. Those were various ways of showing love; I really appreciate these people, because sometime you may not know what people may have gone through. Do you know that after my first recording, it was people who bought and took my CD to Radio stations to be played in some cities; cities that I have never been to? And some of those people I may not ever meet them in this life. You can’t even imagine that kind of support, somebody buys your CD because he loves tract 2, takes it to a Radio station and the presenter plays it and like it, a couple of other people listening to his programme hear it and then buy your CD. Then eventually you are called for a show in that same city and you won’t even recognize these people. So when you get to these shows and they want to take pictures, you just open up, because you don’t know who amongst these people that might have been instrumental to you coming to that city in the first instance…all in support of your hustle.

What did your folks (parents) say when you told them you wanted to do music? Did they object?

No from day one, they were supportive. I can remember my Dad saying “is this what you really want to do?” Because after school, I like performed somewhere and the first money I got was One hundred thousand Naira (N100,000), I it was Benson & Hedges competition, when I won the Enugu Zonal competition; the prize was, no it was actually a Keyboard. That was the keyboard that made me what I am today, (I don’t joke with that keyboard-Yamaha PRS 740) from there I excelled to winning the final prize, that is the Grand Finale, which had people from all over the country participating. That came with the Hundred Thousand Naira and a Premier drum set. I didn’t know that I was going to do music…so I sold the drums to late Geraldo Pino then in Port Harcourt. It was only the Yamaha that I kept because I needed it to do a few things on my own, but I never ever thought I was going to do music professionally, but God had His plans for me and I noticed that my music was making people laugh. I was playing in a lot of shows and a lot of people started asking me that Bros when is your album coming out, so I felt like let me just do it because the people were asking for it.

Do you see yourself someday dropping music for something else, say business?

Hmmm, it’s not as if I have not been using what I studied in school in my music…

What did you study in school?

I studied Business Management at Institute of Management and Technology (IMT), Enugu, Now I am doing my business and I am managing it (he laughs again), what I think is that someday in the future I will still do some other things (I have some other businesses that I put my hands in), I don’t just do music, I do some other stuff, but music gave birth to every other thing I do.

You have been away for a while now, what informed your absence?

I have always had reasons to travel, however this time around I traveled for business (both musical business and non-musical business).

Are you coming out with a new album?

raw 7Ehmmmmm, I actually came out with a new album last year, the title of the Album was “The Greatest”, and it had in it a song titled “The Greatest”. Right now I am recording a couple of songs. This is what I love doing. When I started it wasn’t about the money. I was actually blessed by God with this. People walked up to me and said why don’t you do this professionally? More so, when I was doing this Ibo thing, I was just doing it for my people. I wasn’t like then I wanted to conquer Nigeria or Africa, the whole world. My mind set was centered on my Ibo sister and brothers in my first effort, you know? I used my number, so I got a lot of calls from people abroad and they were asking is the album out? I didn’t know it was going to get this big, I forgot that I had my people scattered all over Nigeria and beyond. I was in Spain and I saw this Spanish lady (a white lady) rapping and speaking Igbo with me. She stepped up to me and said “Nna Kedu” (in local Igbo parlance “My Brother how are you”), then she started singing my song, she was married to an Igbo man from Abia State who played my music at home; in their car and everywhere they went saying I was his brother. From what I gathered, initially they said she was complaining about the song but after a while started liking it and started singing it herself. She was pregnant when I met her… and you know what? She spoke to me in Igbo saying “Nna, nwa mbu na fo bu nwa afo Igbo” which means “the child I am carrying is a Igbo Child” and I was like this guy you have done a lot of jobs on this girl o. So sometimes you can’t really tell how your song has affected people and are making people happy.

Is Mr. Raw in a relationship?

That I would want to avoid…

Why?

I like to keep my family away from my business.

You have a record label right?

I have a record label… (Raw Records)

 Do you have artistes signed up to your label?

Yes, I do. I have always been supporting upcoming artistes. I have been instrumental to the success of a lot of artistes; I don’t want to start mentioning names now, so that it doesn’t sound like I am blowing my trumpet, but I have my name linked to a lot of artistes and more are coming. But one of the artistes I am trying to promote now is my younger brother “Hype MC”.

Has music made you rich?

Yeah, do I look hungry? (He laughs). Yea it has, but it depends on what you mean by being rich. What matters is not how much you have, but what you are able to do with what you have.

Have you at one time or the other been a victim of these rifts between artistes in the music industry?

Yeah, I have seen a couple of people who sometimes think that you took their spots or that you are the reason why they are not selling, but I am a very private person so you won’t even hear my voice. I am all about entertainment, so if you like say A or B, it doesn’t concern me. I will just keep doing what I know how to do best. If nobody is talking about you that means you have not made any impact. Whether positive or negative, the only people they talk about are the people doing things.

What has been you greatest challenge doing music?

Trying to live your life. I usually say that most of us live fake lives. Sometimes as an artist, you want to eat “Boli” (Roasted Plantain) and you send someone to go and buy it, just because you are an artist and have an album. You know, you go somewhere, for example, something happened one evening, I went somewhere and was coming in a little late and I didn’t want to eat heavy that night so as I drove by my area, I saw one woman frying “Akara” (beans balls), na so I clear, then I asked if they had “Agidi” (“Eko” as the Yoruba will call it), and the little girl said, “bros, Agidi never ready, na around 8pm them go bring am”, so I said ok and while I was winding up my glasses, the next thing I heard was that “Nigga Raw wan chop Agidi” and she started laughing with her friend. You see when I packed the car; I didn’t know that that little girl even recognized me. Can you imagine that? Since then that has not left my head, as far as she was concerned Nigga Raw, don pass that level to chop Agidi.  A lot of artistes drive around now with tinted glassed cars, they can’t even live their lives any more. They have issues but are not allowed to, while it is ok for others to have theirs. Any little thing, people blow it out of proportion. Sometimes those people blowing it out of proportions live worse lives, but I don’t blame them because this is the profession that I chose and we are models and we should have it at the back of our minds that there are a lot of Kids out there who are watching our every move and want to make that move, because their role model made that move. Sometime you do a thing and people would like say, bro you no know say you be artist? And my reply would be like, you no know say artistes na human being? You can’t tell somebody something that will be painful and not expect him to react. He is not a superman na; even robot after you charge am go react. For example, one business goes bad and you are angry and ranting, then one fan comes along and say “bros, we love your songs, please can I take a picture with you? Then you would be expected to smile as if nothing happened because you want to take a picture. The pressure dey, I no go lie. Person wey first buy car, na him dey drive old model, just chill, when you own time come you will be celebrated.

Any parting shot?

Yeah, we are in the Christmas season, so don’t drink and drive, if you must drink and drive, then drink water. Don’t practice unsafe sex; AIDS is real, so protect yourself. Don’t do drugs and always pray. Whatever profession you chose, just pray, because prayer, it worked for me.

About Francis Ogbonna

francis.ogbonna@nationalweekender.net

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