No Holds Barred With Egberi Papa I Of Bayelsa
Born November 29, Enetimi Alfred Odon, otherwise known as Timaya, started his solo career in 2006 with the release of his hit single Dem Mama, which also appeared on his debut album, True Story released the following year. After the release of his second album Gift and Grace in 2008, Timaya, who is the founder of hih-hop group Dem Mama Soldiers, gained further visibility and international prominence through his third studio album De Rebirth, which has Plantain Boy as main hit. He later collaborated with Dem Mama Soldiers on the album LLNP (Long Life N Prosperity). By 2012, Timaya released Upgrade, which spawned hits such as Bum Bum, Sexy Ladies, and Malonogede. The father of one, who is expecting a second baby, recently dropped his 5th solo album, Epiphany. The 16-track-album has songs such as Ukwu and Bum Bum Remix Ft. Sean Paul. To date, his works have earned him multiple awards, including four Headies Awards, and one Nigeria Music Award. In this chat with CHUKS NWANNE, the Egberi Papa 1 of Bayelsa and CEO of DM Records spoke on a wide range of issues concerning his music career, the beefs and hope for a new Nigeria.
Your last album has so many hits on it, how has the response been so far?
The feedback is good; the album was already good before it came out. In that album you have Ukwu, which was a hit. You have Bum Bum remix with Sean Paul; you have Sanko, Bow Down and others. So, when you want to rate the album, at least you have about seven bangers.
You started out as a conscious musician, singing about societal ills. But these days, you seem to have a lot of profane words in your lyrics, while some of your tracks still sound?
Well, like in the bible, you have David; no matter how bad he is, he still believes in God. So, I believe that even if I sing Bum Bum, it doesn’t take me away from God; I still have the fear of God. I’m just human.
Are you switching to party songs now?
One thing constant about life is change, but I still talk about life itself. Society is life and I still talk about God. I just had to borrow those words you talked about to recreate my music. Before now, my music and message just focused on one direction, which was ‘bad belle, bad belle,’ which I had to change. Right now, I don’t see no bad belle, trust me. I just want to work hard and do my thing; make happy music for people to dance and still remind them of God.
What informed the decision to take off you dreadlocks? Has it in anyway affected your music?
In fact, the first day I took off my dread, the first place I went to was the studio because; I wanted to know if it was the ‘dada’ that was doing the music or myself. That time when I took off my dreads, I just realised I needed to rebrand. Before then, I had started shaving it gradually, but eventually, I felt it was time to take it off; having a child was also part of the rebranding. I even changed my kind of music from; from Bad belle, Dem Mama, Dem Papa to Shake up your bum bum, Sexy ladies and all that because those were things I wasn’t talking about before. Then, I wasn’t really into club music, but there’s no way you want to do club music without talking twist and wine.
Which is more profitable, conscious music or party song?
Of course, the bum bum…
Are you saying Nigerians like songs with lewd lyrics?
Check it now; the evidence is there. If you want to talk about people making good music, you talk about Ajegunle musicians; they talk about situation in the country. But the people know the country is bad, but you need to take their minds away from that sometimes and make them happy. We all have problems, so lets not capitalize on it; the more you keep talking about the problems, people will get tired. Everybody wants to feel happy, so once in a while, you give it to them.
How was it like growing up as the last child in a family of 15?
I left the house when I was really tender; I was 14 years when I left home for the street. I ran away from home because I wanted to live life differently. Don’t get me wrong, my father was a bank manager; he had a good life. But at some point, the children were too many and I wanted to do music, but everybody felt I was crazy. From time, I like to do my own thing.
Was that why your early song had anger embedded in them?
There’s no anger right now, but at time, the anger in my music was about where I was coming from, which was the street. It was about the situation I was going through; I went through a lot.
But it was your decision to leave home; you should be able to deal with it?
My father had 15 children; before it got to my turn, poverty don come. Even the children of big men, most of them are foolish. Even today when someone like Davido has proven to them, they still can’t learn from him that, no matter what your father has, you still need to work hard. Davido does not sleep; he works very hard, that’s why I like him so much. At that time, I didn’t even want to wait for my father; I just wanted to work hard. You know the Empire movie, a lot of people need to watch that movie; it says a lot about life.
What’s your relationship with your first producer, K-Solo?
He’s my friend; we are cool. I called him on phone.
But he made some negative comments about you in the media?
He was just saying those things, but I don’t blame him. In life, when you are trying to change, even your friends that are with you, they will start having problem because you are tired of that low level that you are. It’s only the ones that are ready to move with you that can catch up; the ones that are not ready to catch up will just beef you. Like this my new producer Orbeat, who is doing all my beats now, before him, I had Young D. I used to tell Young D, ‘change your sound; I don’t want to sound monotonous.’ When he was not there anymore, I changed my producer, but Young D still did Bow Down because he’s still informed. It’s only when you are informed that you can meet up, but some people will pick up anger; that’s what K Solo did. That’s why I never responded; no matter what, that’s someone that made my first album. If he’s not good, he won’t have done that; I still give him all the respect.
Do you really read some of the stories about you in the media, especially bloggers?
I don’t visit blogs because what they are saying won’t add anything to my life or take anything away. So, what am I seeing it for? Some people just talk, but where I’m going, that’s where I’m looking at.
I don’t even know, but I just desire to be great. I just want have a good life; I don’t want to go back to that poverty where I used to be.
When you look at where you were coming from and what you’ve become, what comes to mind?
I just want to keep running and never to go back to that life. So, what these people are saying is not even affecting me; the bottom line is the alert. It’s just the grace of God first of all. Secondly, God cannot come down to help you. Like some artistes, when they make one hit track, they will relax and all they do is club and carry girls. I don’t really like to have fun; the only time I have fun is when that alert comes. I can’t explain it, but I’m doing what I love doing and I’m paid heavily for it.
You are known for helping young artistes grow, what’s the drive?
Everyday in my house, a lot of artistes come to my gate to drop CDs. I take time to listen and if it’s good, I will call you. I don’t need to sign you on; I’m just trying to help. Musicians come and I put them through.
People have tried you describe you in different ways, who is Timaya?
Everything they think is Timiya. I’m not Jesus Christ; I can’t be. I respect people, but if you come to me to tell me nonsense, I don’t have time to edit.
Even with your fans?
Who are the fans? We don’t’ have fans in Nigeria. See, once you stop reigning now, they will be the first people to start abusing you; cant you see what they are doing to other artises? I’m not saying there are no fans, but the wayo ones are more than the real fans. One day, Tuface and myself were watching a movie and we saw Bobby Brown. We were shouting, ‘oh, Bobby Brown…’ but people were like, ‘is it Bobby Brown that you are shouting for like this?’ why, because we were really fans, whether he’s down or not. A lot of people don’t think like that; they treat you based on your level.
Have you had such experience before?
For instance, one day, I put up a picture of my daughter online on her birthday, and one guy said to me, ‘this one that your baby is always sitting down on that wheel chair, is she a cripple?’ then you say because I’m one ‘stupid artiste’ I shouldn’t reply him? I told the guy, ‘for your information, that’s a stroller and not a wheelchair; you were not opportune to sit there.” I said, ‘you are such a blind pigeon.’ People started finishing him online. I think people should just grow up and start being reasonable and stop being foolish.
What’s happening with your contract with MTN?
Well, we are not just renewing it again. First, I wanted to become an ambassador; when they came last year, Glo was coming, but I chose MTN. But this year, based on what I got last year in the whole endorsement thing, I’m not really fine with it. I’m a businessman; I’m not interested in saying ‘I’m this, I’m that.’ For me, it wasn’t right for me; I think I should do better this year. Every year, I come out with a banger, so, if you want to have a contract with me, let us revisit it; this is not about pity. For me to be limited to you, I should be getting more. They are good people; I still respect them, they showed me love. But I’m a businessman. We never had a problem; it was just about business decision.
You started as a backup singer for Eedris Abdukareem, but he recently accused you of not giving him the credit?
When I was with him, did he give me any recognition? I was the one that took my legs to his house and knocked on his gate; he never treated me well. I would stay in front of his gate from morning till night and he will tell somebody to tell me to come back on Tuesday. When I repeat again, he will ask me to come back later. I used to pay with my money to his shows as a band member; I was not celebrated. The only money he has paid me in his life was N1000, after we did the Kuramo Beach show. You can’t compare that with the money I was spending on transport; I wasn’t bothered because I just wanted a platform to learn. I tell people, whatever you want in life, you just have to sacrifice. Even if they are giving you shit, you won’t eat that shit forever. It was there I met people like Sound Sultan and others. I’ve never been in the studio where Eedris was recording; he never gave me that opportunity. So, how did I learn anything from him? The only thing I learnt from his is his stage performance; he’s a lion when he’s on stage. For me to even say I was a backup singer for him is even enough recognition. For me to say that, I still respect him. If I’m in a show, if I see him, I will bow for him; he’s my boss. I’m not even sure he knew my name that time; he used to call me Bayelsa Boy. If they were going to Ibadan for a show, I would pay my way to Ibadan, hung around until they come. I will call the boys and they will tell me the hotel where they were lodged. After the show, they will carry girls, I will wait at the reception just because I wanted to hang around him. In the whole crew today, who is better? The truth is that I was eager to make it.
How would you rate the former president? What was his achievement for your people?
Nothing; he didn’t do anything. I’m not a politician, but I think that as a president from our side, you can’t be going to your village and you are still flying to Port Harcourt or you do road trip. Probably, when he lands in Port Harcourt, they fly him in helicopter to his village. But one day, you should thin that you are not going to be in the position forever. Even the road to his village (Otuoke) is bad.
But a lot of your kinsmen will disagree with you on this?
Because they are selfish people and they make money off the situation. I can’t be telling lies about it because it’s clear. Me, I don’t want to say because he’s from Bayelsa, I want him to win. I want the right president for Nigeria; it’s not a selfish matter. Whatever we do right now, our children are going to suffer for it. So, it’s better we take this decision once and for all. Don’t you travel abroad? Don’t you see how things work? All theses talks they are talking, this is not about talk; do the right thing. Do you know how much I spend on diesel? I spend N17,500 everyday if I’m in this country. In this Lekki, there’s not light, common light, which is normal? Sometimes, my security guard can’t even come and tell me because from the look on my face, it’s painful. And you think I should be happy?
And the fuel situation?
The fuel issue, it’s too bad, but we can’t even talk about it. And you are the president? So, what did you say you have done for us? See, why I’m happy is that Nigerians are wiser now; social media has opened people’s eyes. Now, the Nigerian people are smart; they know what’s happening, you can’t lie to them anymore.