UK-born rapper Uzikwendu is the third part of the Hip Hop Trio “World Famous Akademy” comprising him; Ikechukwu (his elder brother) and Naeto C. Reputed to being the fastest rapper in Africa; Uzi, as he is fondly called is also a fitness instructor, with clientele covering high profiled Nigerian celebrities. In this interview with out correspondence, FRANCIS OGBONNA, he speaks on why he returned home; his love for athletics which led him into martial arts and other issues. Excerpts
Can we meet you?
My name is Uzikwendu, known as “U.Z.I. the fire-spitter. People call me the fire-spitter.
Can you tell a little bit more about your self?
I am known to be a very fast rapper, I am also known as the fitness guy. I am into a lot of fast music, not that I don’t rap slowly, the first I released a song out here last year (2012) the title of the song was “Osiso” and that means fast in Igbo language. So people tend to stick to one thing when you put it in their faces, that why they call me the fastest rapper here and there, but I am also known for my prowess in fitness, because I have been a fitness instructor for close to 20 years. So when I came out here, I decided to actually show people the other part of me which is the fitness side. I train a lot of artistes and celebrities; I also promote health living too.
Would you say you are more of a fitness instructor than an artist?
For me it’s the music. I am known for my music, that is what I love doing, I only recently introduced the fitness part of me to them. I believe though they go hand in hand, if you are a musician, there’s nothing wrong with being fit or healthy. There is nothing wrong with working out or running or doing your crunchies. You don’t have to separate the two both of them; music and fitness are two sides of a coin for instance if you go on stage and you are not fit; when your are performing, you could run out of breath. But if you work out everyday, you will always be in shape all the time, whether on stage or rapping fast or just singing. I go to the gym everyday; I work out and eat healthy. What I am trying to do is to introduce fitness to them, so I would say that I am a musician and as well a fitness buff, fitness is my life too.
You are the third part of the group “World Famous Akademy” comprising Naeto C and your older brother Ikechukwu?
Yeah it was Me; Naeto C and Ikechukwu that put that up. It’s been on for many years, but it was Ikechukwu and Naeto C, that brought it here to Nigeria, I wasn’t with them when they came back home, but we were all together in the States. Though the first set of songs they put out were done by all of us. We have done a lot of songs together.
But did you do anything with them while in the United States of America?
That was our group, we were did things together. We did things in New York; all we ever did was music…
Do you intend doing anything with them here?
Sure it’s possible, but it all depends…for example Ikechukwu and Naeto C just did something together last week. For now though I am focusing on putting out singles now, but you never know. It just depends on a whole lot of stuff and what my focus is…
Is it that you don’t so much as hang out with them?
I am the one that introduced Naeto to Ikechukwu, that’s the thing that you don’t know. Naeto and I have known each other for years. We went to school together. I was the one that introduced them to each other. We are all brothers; Ikechukwu is my blood brother and Naeto is my brother from another mother, so we are all brothers. There is nothing about who is closer or who gels well with whom, we are all brothers and we will remain brothers for ever.
Which was you first single?
My first single in Nigeria was “Osiso” and that was put up in the map as the fastest rapper. I got nominated for that too in the NMVA and that was a good thing, coming down here doing something and being recognized for it. That was last year (2012).
You also did Superman?
Yeah! I released superman two months ago, I didn’t shoot the video though, but it did very good…
Was that your latest effort?
Yeah, but this year I was featured a lot by some artistes, for instance DJ Neptune did a song “Emi ni Oba” featuring “Da Grin”; Phyno; Rugged Man and Reminisce, I was on that one. Then he released another one “Flow so hard” featuring me. A couple of people also have released a few songs featuring me. “Godwon the Rapper” released two songs featuring me, then I have a new song coming “Don’t Be Lazy” featuring Banky W and that’s a smatch hit. I have another coming soon and it’s with Burna boy this year. I have a lot of things I have been working on, which takes my time. I don’t rush and throw things out there I take my time. I want to make sure I am releasing the right music and I am on the right track. I did my fitness thing and made sure everybody got to know about my “Uzi Burn-out”, now everybody is trying to come work out with “Uzi Burn-Out”. Now that I am done with that, I have made a return, so I would be releasing a few new songs this year.
Why hip-hop and not other genre of music?
I do everything and not just hip-hop alone. When you here my new song, Don’t be Lazy, you would know that as a matter of fact and not just a rapper. I used to tell people that I am an entertainer, because I sing; rap fast and rap slowly, I do everything in one, like I said people try to latch on to something…some people try to latch on to the fact that I am a fast rapper; to other its that I am a great lyricist etc, but not too many people know the singing part of me.
What was growing up like?
Crazy! That’s the best word to describe my childhood. I was born in London, finished high school out here, and then left to the States; I am actually a citizen of the United States and also of London. I went to College in New York and that’s it. I am known to be an energetic person, doing crazy things as a kid. You can imagine a young kid feeling like he is Superman, you know that’s how I felt. I used to jump around doing back-flips; I have done martial arts all my life, so when I was younger I did Taekwondo; Karate. For the past years now I have been doing Mui Tai and Jui Jitsu and those two things that I have just mentioned are probably two of the most dangerous martial arts out there. I actually participated in the Jui Jitsu world championship, many people didn’t know that and I do teach self defense, but most people don’t know that as well. People sometimes ask how come you are artistes and yet you do martial arts and instruct on fitness? And I answer why not? Why not do all you can do instead of locking yourself up in a box? If you don’t show people that it’s possible, people who want to do it will never be motivated to do more. There is no limit to what you can do as a human being. So why do I emphasize physical fitness or basic knowledge of self defense for artistes? It is because sometime as musicians you could get mobbed or attacked as female artistes, if you are alone and you get mobbed and you can’t defend yourself you become a victim. Now the one thing I do not want people to get confused with is that do not promote violence. I promote self-defense; I promote living a healthy life; I promote balancing your life, your physical side your mental side; your spiritual side and everything in one.
Was it your ability to multi-talks that informed the title of your song “Superman”?
No actually. People that have known me for at least 20n years have always known that I have always believed that I was a super hero. I used to be a kid that would jump off a balcony and break a leg and before the leg was healed, I jumped off another balcony. I would usually run in front of a car and try to stop it….
Do you still do that?
No I don’t do that anymore, because as you get older you learn and realize that maybe I am not superman after all. I actually wrote that song with the intention of letting my fans know that they can actually be their own superman. You could be your kids or your wife’s superman.
How did you learn how to rap so fast?
To tell you the truth, I don’t know! I was rapping one day and the more I rap the faster I got and before you know it, it stuck. I also used to have a thing for listening to fast rapper while I was young. I was also the faster runner in my school. Also my name is Uzi and people relate to Uzi as a gun. So I think my whole life revolves around speed; strength; power and that’s about it. Speed has always been a part of me. I run fast; rap fast I think the only thing I do is eat fast. I don’t want to chock. Speed has always been a natural thing with me.
When are we expecting your first album?
Everyone keeps asking me that, but I think I have a couple of more singles to release before my first album. I will tell you this though; I have enough songs to release about 5 albums if I want…
All recorded and ready to go. But what I am focusing on right now is releasing hot singles that will go far and when the demand increases for this album, though people have been asking me for an album since last year, I take my time. I don’t like doing things in a hurry, so I take my time when it comes to decision making. I am a chess player basically so I think; strategize and execute. So if you really love my music and want an album, then please wait so you could get the best.
Do you see yourself starting a record label sometime in future?
Of course! It may be happening very soon; I have been taking my time with that and working on it for over a year. It’s coming soon. Just look out for more songs; more videos and more everything…
How soon will that be?
Very soon…it could be a month; a year or a couple of years, but very soon. I never throw out a date. I just space everything out; build baby steps and when I am ready I put it out.
Is Uzi married?
No I am not married…
Naeto seem to be faster than you in that one?
Yeah…he beat me to that one and I am proud of him. I like when people progress in life and achieve their goals. That was what Naeto wanted; he found the love of his life and he is happy. That is one of the most important thing in life, because who is going to share your life and wealth with you. You can’t be alone for ever?
But are you in a relationship?
I try as best as possible to keep my private life private, because once it goes public it’s forever public.
Who is your greatest competition in the rap scene in Nigeria?
We are all on the same thing, my only competition is me.
How far do you plan on taking your music career?
I plan on taking my music career as possible as I can take it…
If you weren’t doing fitness and music what would you be doing?
I probably will be somewhere volunteering or helping children or people that need s to be helped.
I have always loved children and hate seeing people suffer. It hurts me to see people going through what they shouldn’t be going through at their age. There are people that need help everyday and what is the best way to do it. It’s to volunteer, because what goes around always comes around. There’s poverty everywhere on earth. Living actually begins when you realize that everything you have can actually be lost in the twinkle of an eye. So we’ve got to be grateful for life and be happy for what we’ve got. But I am not saying you shouldn’t chase your dreams, but it is actually easier to chase you dreams when you are grateful for what you’ve got.
Why did you come back home?
Like they say, everything always come back home. I have lived outside of Nigeria for over 15 years. I did a lot of things over there, went on tour with my music; did fitness training and organized boot camp, so it was like why not go check out Nigeria. Now when I came out here I realized there were so many things I could do and achieve out here in a shorter period of time than in the US. Out there everyone works out and knows about fitness, but not here. So why not do something down here to help people realize the importance of fitness and healthy living. I am not saying that they are not aware here, don’t get me wrong, the truth is that it is no a culture with us here. Son I am contributing in my own way to help many more people realize that. And for the music, a lot of people tell me that I am unique and say not so many people sound like me down here, so why not use it here. That’s why I came back and I am still here.
So you don’t have any regret?
No I don’t do regrets…when you do regrets; it eats into your soul. I take everything that happens to me as a learning process, so I don’t regret I learn.
What has been your lowest moment in life?
I really can’t say all because I have had many, but I can tell you my lowest moment. It was when my father passed on. He was my Superman; my best friend; he was my everything basically and I didn’t see that happening any time soon, but it happened and that brought me back to reality. I could stay all day asking why, but I am not going to get an answer. So I sat back and asked what have I learnt from his passing?
Would you say Uzi is rich?
I will say Amen to that. There are different types of riches. I am rich in life, so I will say thank you to God for making me rich in life, material things don’t mean much to me.
Any parting shot?
Live life to the fullest…
Thank you very much for your time
Thank you too.