by Akan Ido
The Plantashun Boys were the pre-eminent boy-band in the country some years ago, the group which was made up of 2Face, Blackface, and Faze rocked the music scene in a successful run which lasted for years.
After their separation and 2Face’s release of the chart-busting song, African Queen which Blackface claims was co-written by him, there has been a noticeable friction which has seemingly refused to go away.
In this interview with Entertainment Express, Blackface, also known as Augustine Garuba Ahmedu, bares it all on the relationship, if any, that exists between the former partners.
Please read excerpts below:
It has been a while now, what has been happening to you lately?
Nothing much, I have been in the studio working, writing and recording new songs. That is basically what has been happening to me.
Why did it take you so long to release your own album?
You don’t expect me to just come up with an album without doing my homework very well. My kind of music is not just for the moment, my music is the type you buy and you keep for a lifetime. But right now, my album, Defender is ready and it is expected to hit my fans any moment from now.
Your last album, Dancehall Business didn’t make waves like your first and second albums, what happened?
Not that it didn’t make waves like my other albums, that you don’t have it does not mean another person doesn’t have it. I don’t sing just because others are singing. I sing reality and I address burning issues in the society. As I speak to you now, my Ghetto Child album is still selling in the market till today. Also Evergreen, Jungle Fever, Me, Music And I are still in the market. I make my music for my fans and that is why they can’t wait for the next album.
Normally, I’m supposed to release album once in every year but this time it took me about two years to do that. My last album, Dancehall Business came out in 2010. I prefer it that way than to come up with what my fans won’t appreciate. I think it has given me the chance and time to prepare very well and as well create the room for other artistes to showcase their works.
Tell us more about your new album
My new album is entitled Defender. This is the first time I will have a song that is the title of my album. I was thinking of the name to call the album and I have no other better name than Defender and the song happens to be one of my best tracks in the album.
Does the song Defender has anything to do with your present predicament?
Not really. “Defender” is a love song. It is a reggae calypso mixed song. A lovely song. It has nothing to do with my personal life or condition.
What is wrong with Tribunal?
Tribunal is very much alive. We are still very much together. As you are aware, Rocksteady is a bona fide member of Tribunal but he is doing some contract jobs with Hypertek. That doesn’t make any difference. Mallam Spicey is working on his new album right now. All of them are ready to do the kind of music they want to do. I’ve been in the game for a while and they are just starting so they really want to take their time to know what they want.
Who are the top artistes you featured in your new album?
I don’t see anybody as a top artiste. A singer is always a singer. I love working with people who are not well known because it brings more rooms for new people to come into the industry. Like in my new album, I have a song called Ota mi Leyin Mi and a lot of people told me that I should feature someone like 9ice and I thought about it and said let me feature him. I tried to reach him to talk to him about it but I found out that it was a waste of time. When my efforts were not yielding any positive results I had to get someone else to do it. I don’t care whether you have a big name before I start working with you, as far as you have that element of music that I like, then we can as well work together. Like this album, I featured artistes like my former band mate, Faze, Bruce, Omega, Mona and BUK. These are guys that when you listen to them you will wonder, where are these ones coming from? I also featured Emperor Martins in “Defender.” He’s an artiste that people will get to know very soon.
Why the song Ota Mi Leyin Mi, who do you think are the enemies behind your back?
Ota Mi Leyin Mi is one of those songs. All of a sudden I discovered that people started avoiding me. You all heard about the fight I had with my former landlord. But I think everything happened for good because I’ve learnt a lot from it. It was a bad experience that I will not forget in a hurry. I was in a hostile environment in the midst of Yoruba people. I was just caught up with so many ideologies. So, Otami Leyin Mi is for those who claimed they are friends and they are not really friends. Those kinds of friends should get out of my back. Some people are actually out there and they claim to be your friends while they are not. They need to leave you alone so you can move on with your life.
Since your landlord ejected you, you’ve not really come out to state what actually transpired between both of you. What really happened?
Like I always say, something that happened to someone else, don’t be surprised when it happens to you, that is my major philosophy of life. Because all these Lagos landlords are wicked and I’m just happy that Governor Fashola is stepping in. Now some things have been reduced to a considerable limit.
Then I was living at Lakeview Estate in Festac Town, I had a landlord who always wanted you to pay money and did not want to put anything in place in the house. Basic things in the house were not there and he demanded for money all the time. And I was like, “I can’t be paying while you are not doing anything, so let me use the money to do those things.” But he insisted I pay the money that he’d do it; but after paying, he wouldn’t do anything.
For almost a year, he kept on doing that. Until I was like, “I’m not going to pay you any money again until put those things in place.”
So he went to court behind my back to get an injunction to evict me from the house on the excuse that I refused to pay him his money. Before then, I had already discussed with my lawyer. The landlord got the injunction when I was not in the country. Before I returned into the country, he had done his worst.
Actually there was even a particular song I did with the late MC Loph, I featured him and the Beatmaker. My eviction happened two days after I sang that song. As I was singing I was like, if no be you where I for dey? My landlord for use me play. But see me today, I’ve gat my own house, I’ve gat my private plane. Not knowing that was going to happen. Two days later I was ejected from my house.
After he threw you out of his house, where did you go?
That one was just normal. I’m a street guy so I hit the street back again. From there I inspired myself and found my music again. That was what really happened to me. The street welcomed me and showed me love because I came in from the street. They embraced me. They all know that the downfall of a man is not the end of his life. I was not bothered because I know what I have inside of me. I always put my mind to work. Today, I’m happy. I’m living in a comfortable house even bigger than the one I used to have before. I think everything that happen in life is to teach you a lesson. And when it teaches you, try and learn from it.
What lesson did you learn?
I must confess I have learnt a lot of lessons. That incident gave me the opportunity to know who my real friends are. At times when you have a problem, you’d expect that your so-called friends would come around you and show you some love. And at the end of the day you will found out that the so-called friends would not want to help you because they want you to fall so that people will look down on you. They want you to be covered with shame. That is where they get their joy from. If something of such should happen to them, we’ll be the first to run to their aid. In my own case, the reverse happened.
Who are those friends that you expected that didn’t come around?
I have so many friends. In fact, they are too numerous to mention. My friends know themselves, even you are one of my friends and I didn’t see you around me then.
But you didn’t tell me-
How will I tell you when you don’t even ask or care to know what has been happening to me? All of una know una sef (laughter).
Why do you always shun public gathering?
It depends on what you mean by public gathering. I do a lot of going around and I don’t make noise about it. I don’t like going to some places just because people are going there; there has to be something that will make me go. Right now, I have so many things I’m battling with, not just party. I need to get my album into the market. As I speak to you now, I have about 22 tracks and still thinking on the ones to select for the album. So going out to social gatherings is not in my agenda until I get this album done.
You have brought many artistes into the industry and one expect them to pay you back in kind or cash especially during your trials.
As a coach, I teach people how to go about their career. I really don’t expect anybody to come and give me kudos or pay me back. My joy is that I want to see those I have trained succeeding in their careers. Coming back to say thank you is like a disturbance. I trained the Tribunal, not for them to be around me all the time, but to be able to go out there and do their own kind of music. Same with 2face and Faze. It was a time of learning for all us while we were still together as Plantashun Boys. After everything, we all parted ways and I don’t expect any of them to come back and say, “if it were not for you, we wouldn’t come this far.”
Does that means 2face and Faze don’t respect you?
I don’t even expect it from them. They are not the first person I have worked with. If not for me the likes of Tony Tetuila wouldn’t have had a music career. He almost gave up when the Remedies pushed him out of the group and I encouraged him to never give up. I carried him along and eventually he made a name for himself. I don’t expect him to come back and tell me thank you.
Why did you allow Plantashun Boys to die?
There was no agreement that we would split but we all knew when we started that the group won’t last. We all used the group as a platform to build our music careers. Plantashun Boys was my idea. The names, Faze and 2face, was my idea. I gave them those names. But I don’t always dwell on that because that is an old story. Right now, it’s all about my fans, my career and my new album. Then, everybody just wanted to go solo. People just think that there’s a story behind our split but there’s none.
Who was the first to come up with the idea of going solo?
Don’t you know who released his first album when we went solo? Let’s assume I don’t know-
2face was the first to release his album and we all know it, even then we were still living together.
How did you feel when he left the group?
How else will I feel when I already knew it would happen? The fact is that when 2face released his album we never expected him to do so.
We learnt Tuface left because you were too bossy-
Then everybody was equal. Nobody was getting more than anybody, it was 50-50. Even Faze who was the last person to join the group was getting equal shares. But the issue is that a captain will always be a captain, if your captain takes a decision and you don’t like, then it is left for you to join another club maybe they will make you a captain over there.
Does that means 2face left because you always took the final decision?
Not really; in our days as a team there was nothing like that. If anyone has idea, we would put it in on ground and vote. Nobody took the final decision arbitrarily. Even if I’m the captain and two of them agreed on one thing that is what we’d eventually settle for. I can’t change it because I have two votes against one. If at all there was a problem, we would have come to the table to resolve it.
Parting ways was evolutionary; we just needed to split that time. If we didn’t split, you wouldn’t hear Blackface singing “Hard Life” or 2face singing “No Be Small Thing” and even Faze will not sing “Kolomental.” Nigeria is getting three albums from us. Like now, Faze has dropped his latest album, 2face has done the same, and very soon I will launch my own album as well. It is a welcome development.
How much did you people realize from your first album as a group?
I can’t really remember oh, but we all shared it equally. Nobody gets more than another for any reason.
I heard you guys were cheating Faze because he is from another tribe?
I don’t know who told you that but all I know is that it was 50-50.
Do you regret the end of Plantashun Boys?
Why will I regret? If the group didn’t split where will I stand today? You wouldn’t have heard of Blackface Naija. I would still be under the shadow of Plantashun Boys. I’m happy the way I am because our break-up really gave me the chance to create my own kind of music that stands out.
During your trials why didn’t Tuface come to your aid?
It is not everybody that will help you in life. Some people’s problems are two-times bigger than yours. It’s a case of big man, big problem. I didn’t feel bad because I didn’t see him around me.
But as your brother, friend and colleague one expects him to help you out-
Maybe he knew I was going to take care of myself. He knows me as a resilient never say die soldier. I don’t always give up until I reach the cross line. Everything that happened to me was a lesson to me, it’s nobody’s fault and I can’t blame anybody for my downfall. I’m just happy the way God has built my life and career.
You once said that nothing will make you guys work together again, why did you featured Faze in your upcoming album?
Working as a team is different from working with Faze or 2face alone. Like when I was in Malaysia, Faze sent me a beat that he wanted me to do on the track, I was supposed to write a lyrics on it and do the voicing, but I couldn’t do it till I get back to the country. When I came back, we went to the studio and I did my own part and I left. The mixing of the song is not my business, whether it is sounding well or not, I don’t have any problem to do with that because we are not working as a team.
You talk more about Faze unlike your brother 2face, why is it so?
Yeah because Faze is just a cool guy, he’s a normal guy without any problem. If I and 2face have any reason to relate, we relate. See, you don’t hide friendship, if we are friends I don’t need to tell you before you know that. I don’t force myself on people. Like this my guy, Skinny; we met recently and it seems as if we have known each others for years. That is what friendship is all about.
So what is your relationship with 2face?
We are ex-members of Plantashun Boys.
When was the last time you and 2face communicated?
Omo the communication just dey o. Everybody is on his own but I communicate with Faze often.
Does that mean you are close to Faze than 2face?
Yes, because I like a kind of people that I can discuss music with. I and Faze often talk about music, rhythm and career development. Faze is more of a person I can discuss that kind of thing with unlike Tuface.
Why is it so?
It’s just natural; you can’t take that away from Faze because he has always being like that. Faze is a cool guy and 2face too. We are all just there. Na on your own level we dey.
The song, African Queen has generated a lot of controversy, who is the rightful owner of the song?
I know the song has generated a whole lot of revenue. Right now, I and 2face have joint ownership of that song. But from the inception it was not like that. My publisher, BMI had to find a way to work that out. All the funds the song has been generating I’m supposed to have 50 per cent of it, which I’m not getting and I don’t just know what is happening. I’m still trying to find out what is happening. There is even a situation whereby somebody in Jamaica sang African Queen and some other persons like that of which I was not aware. Nobody told me that he was going to sing my song. So, there are some issues that I and 2face need to sit down and iron out, but 2face is difficult to get on the table. So I have decided to do it on my own. Surely, with time we’ll get to the root of the matter because we both have 50 per cent right to the song.
That means 2face has been cheating you
Yes, because I was not being paid and you know the way it is in Nigeria, the ideology is that because one is not on one particular record label they won’t put his name to a song he wrote just because they don’t want to promote the person. But the fact is that your intellectual property remains you intellectual property, nobody can take that away from you.
But you sang your own version of the song
Yes, I have a reggae version of African Queen, which I’m still going to re-record. I did that because there was a time some people were trying to claim ownership of the song.
Did you ask him to include the song in his album?
Yes, we wrote it together and I gave him permission to do so because when he was recording his album we were still living in the same apartment. I found out that the album was not making any sense, so I told him that the only thing that will allow the album to make sense is to include the song African Queen which we both wrote. But I didn’t say he should take away my own right. That is the rider. For the fact that I wrote a song for you to perform does not mean you should claim it and deprive me of my own right.
Who came up with the idea of the song?
It was actually one Idoma man called Willy Walkman. He told us to do a song for his soap opera and the title of the soap opera was African Queen that we should write a theme song for the soap. We started writing in earnest. Then one day he just came and was like, we are not serious about it that he didn’t want to be our manager again not knowing that we were already doing what he asked us to do. That was how he threw us out. So African Queen was Willy’s idea.
People just know you as a Benue boy, where exactly are you from?
I’m from Ogwule in Agatu Local Government Area of Benue State.
What of your two kids, how are they doing?
They are fine, growing quick and doing very well, they are with their mum.
Why did your wife abandon you?
Nothing really happened. The fact is just that when a man is going through tribulations, not every woman will stand by him. But it’s all good, I’m just trying to start my life all over again.
Is there any plan of taking her back?
We’ve not even discussed that yet. My priority now is me and my career. Now that I don’t have any family I think it is it time to pick myself up and start all over again. I have a studio in my house; I work day in, day out, because I really want to get back to my fans. So until I feel that I’m ok then I will give that a second thought.
Does that mean your wife “took a walk” because you could no longer fend for the family?
Maybe that is what she felt; I can’t question her decision. I don’t know what was on her mind. That is why you need to see her and ask her. Because, myself, I cannot explain.
How often do you people communicate?
Once in a while.
What about your kids?
We talk always because they have their own phones. Caroline is 7 and Alex is going to be 5 very soon. My daughter is going to be a singer too.
What is your favourable mistake?
It was a rap competition at Mt. St. Gabriel in Alaede. I was rapping LL Cool J; that rap has four verses; after rapping verse one instead of me to rap the second verse, I jumped to verse three. By the time I finished the third verse, I started it again, then I paused and started thinking aloud ‘shebi I don do this verse before’ that was how I said bull s–t and I dropped the mic and left the stage.
They don’t know you much in your home town, why is it so?
Maybe because I hardly spend time at home. My major focus is just to get my music out and kick off with my Blackface Naija Foundation back in my state. I think it is time to give back to the society now. My foundation is going to help the less privileged by creating free scholarship, free medical care and a whole lot of things.
What is your take on the music industry?
It is crazy that everybody is sounding the same. It is so sad that everybody is using one kind of rhythm or progression. Some people think I can’t blend but the fact here is that I always tried to carve a niche for myself.
That won’t make me change my style.
Your Malaysian story, how did it happen?
My trip to Malaysia was one of the most daring trips. Then I was planning to release my album and some guys came and approached me that they wanted to take me to Malaysia so I could do my recording over there and I accepted. When I got there I started doing the recording but in the long run, I was like, what am I doing in Asia where they don’t play my music on the radio? What am I doing in Asia? They always come for us to go and drink in the club. What am I doing in Asia when all the people there are Yahoo Yahoo guys? What am I doing in Asia when I don’t even have the right to shoot my video on the street? When I put all these into consideration, I told them I was no longer interested in the contract. They didn’t want me to go, they even gave me a contract to sign in Lagos but I told them till we get there. So they went mad and they wanted to find a way to keep me in Malaysia. They tried to find a way to blackmail me, trying to use the press to dent my image because they were feeling bad. When I left there, I didn’t take my data, I left everything for them. They thought they were going to tie me down. Leaving that country surprised them because it wasn’t easy. If you came in illegally you have to be paying money every time. That is why you have a lot of Nigerians that are there.
How about your parents, where are they?
My mum is late but my dad is in Benue. He is a retired soldier.
How is he feeling that you are no longer popular like you used to be?
I tell you my dad is the happiest man on earth. Even as I am talking to you people are in our house trying to associate with my dad because of the fact that he is “Blackface’s father.”