by Tutu Akinlabi
MAVIN boss Don Jazzy has always tried to keep a low profile and maintain some semblance of a private life.
He has not been totally successful but he has managed to remain an enigma of sorts.
The don gives some insight into his life in this interview with Yes! international magazine.
How does it feel to be rated by Forbes as one of Africa’s most influential personalities?
It feels good. It’s funny because up until that time when they did the Most Influential List, I didn’t see myself as that. I don’t know why that is; maybe because deep down, I really don’t see the difference between the Ajegunle Michael Collins Ajere and the one that is here now.
Apart from my bank balance, I still see myself as the same guy that loves making music. People know me now and they greet me on the road, on the internet, blah! blah! But it’s not like I was calculating statistics to know that oh! You’re influential now. But then, from that point, I was like ‘okay’, this thing is real; people have now come to respect your hustle and recognize your craft. Yeah! It’s feels good and we thank God.
Who was the first person you called when you saw the rating?
I didn’t call anybody o. I saw it on the internet and I had to go and check if it’s not fake news (General laughter). You have to check o! Because sometimes it might be fake; because all these blogs, nowadays, can come with different kinds of lists or different kinds of stories.
What are some of the pains of being a celebrity?
One of my greatest regrets is actually that I’m not Lagbaja. Different people have different priorities. I like being Don Jazzy; I like to have a successful career, but I want people to know my work and love my work.
I don’t like the fact that I can’t go outside and be what I want to be. For instance, the period I started wearing pyjamas; I don’t know why it’s a problem that I’m wearing pyjamas on my own body and people are complaining that it is not nice (Smiles). There are a lot of things that you want to do or you feel is right to do. You know it’s human rights! So, I don’t think that I should reduce my own rights.
A lot of people have that freedom to come on twitter and say whatever they feel they want to yarn, but I cannot come on twitter and say good morning when it’s afternoon, without them killing me. If a thief should attack your own house now, you’d go outside and shout ole! ole! ole! But me, they expect me to stay in my room and whisper ole! ole! ole! (General laughter).
So, it’s not good. They say what is good for the goose is good for the gander; live and let live; as you lay your bed, so you lie on it. So, I think the best idea ever is Lagbaja. When he’s wearing his mask, he’s Lagbaja and when he’s not wearing his mask, you don’t know who he is.
That’s the best thing ever. So, it’s paining me that I did not think of that concept first, so I can come outside and do whatever I please. Now, I have split personalities; there is Michael Collins and there is Don Jazzy. If you don’t see the walking stick around, then it’s Michael Collins you’re seeing. If you see the walking stick, then it’s Don Jazzy you’re seeing. I wish I could cover my face.
Is it too late to rebrand?
I should go and wear mask? (General laughter). They know my face already. At some point, I used to wear face caps and glasses a lot with my walking stick; D’Banj was now telling me that if I remove my cap and my glasses, people would not recognize me. It did not work o. I just tried it once and now my face is known, so it’s too late. I can’t do anything about it.
Where do you think up and coming artistes get it wrong; where do you think they miss the point?
Nowadays, their eyes are too big (Laughs). They have big eyes; they don’t want to crawl before they start running. They want to jump straight from birth to university; they don’t want to go to nursery school, primary school, secondary school, they just want to graduate instantly and it doesn’t work like that.
All fingers are not equal. Some people might get it right from the word go, but almost everybody they see, they think that oh! They just came into the industry and they made it. They don’t know how much struggle they’ve done behind the scene before they made it.
They just assume, and it’s not that easy. So, they should try as much as possible to study the entertainment industry a bit more before they jump in and they should also perfect their craft; don’t try to copy people, don’t be a follower, reinvent yourself – be somebody that is going to start a trend, don’t just jump on another person’s trend. You’d just be second best. What else?
They believe the hype too quick. Just because you put your download link on twitter and the people in your estate download your music and they hail you in the morning when you come outside doesn’t mean the person in Surulere knows who you are and you expect to go to the club and fight the bouncer because he doesn’t not recognize you – you no know me? I’m the person that put this download link yesterday (General laughter).
Nowadays, when anybody wants to release their song on twitter or facebook, they always put “the new brand hit single chart buster; No. 1 record, million downloads” (General laughter). They lie to themselves and that is one of the biggest problems ever – to lie to yourself. That’s the worst thing you can do to yourself.
What motivates you to give?
I think I got that from my mum. She’s that kind of person that if she has N10 and you ask her for N11, she’ll probably go and borrow N1 to also dash you. It’s good and it’s not good at the same time. She just has that giving heart. And you should always give o! It’s the biggest investment that you could ever make because you don’t know who is going to help you tomorrow.
Today, you might have and tomorrow you might not have. Sh**t happens. But other than that, it’s just logic – you have, this person does not have; they ask you and you help out. That’s all. I don’t need any motivation other than the fact that you asked me. Nothing needs to motivate me; it’s just that you don’t have it, I have it, you ask me, I give you, if I have it.
What’s the greatest thing that music has done for you?
Well, it has changed my family life.
It’s not just me. Changing my family’s life is also changing my life. It has generally changed my life and the life of my generation. There is no way that we envisaged or saw this coming or things being this perfect from when I was a child. That boy selling akara in Ajegunle and doing agidi and stuff.
There’s no way I would have thought things would be like this; there’s no time I saw myself flying out of the country and now I have like four passports with stamps. So, I think it’s just God. God has done it; He has done it.
Three reasons why you love Nigeria?
One, we’re genuine, good people. So, that means we’re good people, great nation. Two, we have a fighting spirit. I don’t mean violence. You know we suffer, but we still persevere and believe that one day ‘e go beta’.
I’ve not seen any other nation that believes in that ‘e go beta’ philosophy as much as Nigerians. We’re very optimistic people. Three, I like entertainment in Nigeria. I can’t trade it for doing music anywhere else. I like my country’s music, I like my country’s movies.
I’ve been to America – e no dey even sweet me like dat sef. I like to be a part of this growth. Our music is sweet. My best genre is highlife actually. I love highlife, it’s just beautiful. You know that kind of music that you can use to cruise your babe – drinking and eating nkwobi (Smiles). Not all the pakuru pakuru ones that we do nowadays. Highlife; correct highlife. Yeah! I like that. The entertainment industry generally, I like.
When was your most trying period as an entertainer?
(Pauses for a moment) I would say the first year of Mavin Records. The transition from Mo’hits to Mavin Records was quite trying because the fans were heartbroken just as we were heartbroken, so they were not even giving us a chance at that period. It took a while for them to heal, so it kind of slowed a lot of things down. Even though we churned out a lot of music then, they didn’t want to hear us because they were upset.
We churned out like 45 songs in a year. That’s a lot of work, but they just zoomed out. Well, I knew that it wasn’t going to be that easy, but then I was like okay! I’m just going to keep on making music, I don’t care if I make hundred and you guys don’t listen to them. I like them, I listen to them in my house, so I will just keep making (more); even if it’s just one person that is listening to it, that’s good enough for me.
I‘ll continue making it. Whether the music that I’m making now is going to give me money or not, I’ll keep making it because I like making music. There are some people that complain that I like to sing now – I’ve been singing from day one. I like to sing and I’ll keep singing, so they should not disturb themselves. I’m not quitting anytime soon and there’s nothing that would make me stop except they come and kidnap the computer in my house that I use to make music with my keyboard too (General laughter).
Other than that, I will keep making it, keep posting it on the internet (Laughs). E no dey hard me now to promote, you understand. It’s not different anymore, so I’m having fun doing what I do now. But that first year was very trying. Now, everything is beautiful o! Life is beautiful with MTN. Everywhere we go, they show us love; MTN love.
Who is Don Jazzy’s favourite musician of all time?
2Face Idibia. I can answer that in my sleep. And he’s going to be my favourite musician for a very long time.
What’s Don Jazzy’s favourite food?
Ah! Me like food o! I like different types of food. I don’t have a particular kind of food that I like. I like food and I can eat heaven and earth (General laughter). I dey eat well well.
I don’t like oyinbo food, I like African dishes. Talk of rice, pounded yam, eba, okro, banga soup, plantain, fried egg, fried in the Nigerian way o! With all those pepper, tomatoes and all those things……potential wifey take note.
When are we meeting Onome? When is Don Jazzy getting married?
That one, I don’t know o! You people are going to ask God. When God gives me the liver to be able to propose. I have trust issues, I’m scared of relationships. I have been scared of relationships for a long time, until Onome came o.
See, I’m very very dangerous in the sense that my mind can change sometimes. For instance, a lot of people used to think that I like people with big hips and big n____h – big–figured people. But I woke up one morning and everything changed. I’m a totally different person now and I like my women straight up from the runway – Lepa to bad (Smiles).
Some of my friends say I’m having midlife crisis, but that’s what I like now. So, I might just be saying I don’t know when I’m going to get married, but all of the sudden you’ll hear that I’ve gotten married.
I like my privacy, so I might just get married and you’d hear that I got married three months ago or something like that. It’s not like I don’t want people to come for my wedding o! It’s just that I don’t like the story. You people can do the party after the wedding (Laughs). I believe in jinxing. I don’t want a situation where I will tell you people “oh! This is Onome and this is when I want to get married”.
I have done that in the past, introducing my girlfriend, but people would just jinx it for us because they will just put their eyes on our thing and it might just spoil things. So much pressure. So, let me just bone all these…
What’s your favourite accessory?
I’m not a vain person, so all those things don’t really matter. If I’m wearing a wrist watch, I’ll wear it until the watch goes bad, then I will now change it to another one. It’s not like I would have five, six, ten wristwatches when all of them are still going to tell me the same time. So, I have one quality wristwatch at a time.
How many cars does Don Jazzy have?
I don’t know now o! I have plenty, but I only drive one at a time.
Does Don Jazzy go to church?
Didn’t I tell you that I used to pray more than most of you? Yes, I do go to church.
What’s Don Jazzy message to his fans?
I love you all. Thank you very much for the support that you have given us and we’re very sorry if we have broken your heart in anyway.
It happens; things happen. Just as you fall out of relationships with different people in your lives, that’s how we too fall out of relationships. It’s just because of who we are, so if there is anything that we have said out of context or taken out of context that has offended you, our beloved fans, we are sorry.
It’s the same love that we have for you guys that we still have and we’ll keep on giving you people good music. We love doing this music for you guys, for ourselves and you guys as well. So, please, continue giving us the support that you have been giving us for over ten years now.
We appreciate it and we pray that the unwise things that we’ve done in the past 10 years, God would make us wiser in the next 10 years and beyond in Jesus’ name. Amen!