|Posted by Admin on April 28, 2012 at 4:25 AM|
Babatunde Jezreel Okungbowa, aka OJB Jezreel, is a civil engineer turned musician. The last child of a family of six, originally from Agbor, Delta State, OJB grew up in Lagos and Kaduna. In this interview with NET, he tells us how he dealt with his family’s opposition to his career, and his forthcoming album.
How do you define music?
Music is something that creates a balance in this world. It sets the mood, and I think it is very important to create emotional balance in this world.
What is your relationship with Kennis Music?
We are still friends, because it was more of a business partnership. It was my company and theirs coming together. As we are friends, we’re open to different opportunities, if they have any job for me; they bring it my way and vice-versa. It’s not as if we burnt bridges.
Since you left Kennis Music you have kept a low profile. Why?
Let me use this opportunity to correct that impression; I didn’t leave Kennis , I was a partner with Kennis music. You need to take time to reinvent yourself, because there is lot of music out there you can’t just follow the bandwagon. You have to make sure you crave a niche for yourself and stand out. So I have been reinventing myself.
What exactly about yourself has been reinvented?
My look is completely different. I have gravitated towards what I am comfortable with. What even made 2face work with me in the beginning was that I am comfortable with mixing Rhythm and Blues with Reggae. I guess I have gravitated more towards that direction. Some songs from my album Searching had the influence of Reggae and R n B [but now] I am making it more pronounced than what it used to be. That change is there, and people will definitely see it this year.
You’ve dabbled in Hip-hop, R&B, and even Gospel music. What particularly genre of music are you most drawn to?
My genre of music is hip-hop dominantly. Of course, we do one or two Fuji songs here and there, but as far as gospel music is concerned, it has to do with the state of mind. It doesn’t have to do with if I go to church or not. As much as I sing about how I love that girl’s shape or [whatever], I also love God.
When did your interest in music start?
I don’t want to say right from my mother’s womb (He laughs) and all that. But I started early. I started writing when I was 7 and headed towards where I am today.
What kind of childhood did you have?
My childhood was different. In the monetary aspect, it was rosy. If there is a phrase like ‘diamond spoon’, I’d say I was born with that, but in terms of visions and dreams and aspirations, it wasn’t so good. I had to battle against the system [because I] wanted to do music and people were against it. We were in London and when my mum saw that I was interested in music, she told me we were going back to Nigeria. It was a real battle. She said ‘either you are a lawyer, engineer or a doctor‘. But now, people encourage their children to do music.
After you developed a keen interest in music, did you go to school to develop your skills?
It has always been on the inside. I grew up among people who were musically inclined. We played instruments, I worked with a band, and we were always with them, and that actually inspired me to do what I wanted to do.
You’ve worked with notable artists in your time, like 2face and Ruggedman, how were those experiences?
At that time, what was different was that we were trying to build the industry, establish it. Don’t forget that at time we were battling with DJ’s to play Nigerian songs. We had to prove to them that we could do it, [that] we could make it happen. And it just happened that they were the right choice for me to take at that time (2Face and Ruggedman). As far as rap is concerned, whether anybody likes it or not, Ruggedman changed the face of rap in Nigeria. And then the change in Nigerian music came when 2face came in.
How are you preparing for your come back?
The single is on the air already, people are feeling it and they know that something is going on with OJB. I am really preparing for it, and I’m also going to kick-start the new label.
What’s the name of the new label?
J Recording, J for Jezreel. The idea behind J recording is that in Nigeria a lot of people choose label and all that. I want to use the word recording because we are coming together to make music and together we are are making it work. It is not just OJB sitting down as the CEO.
You are known for discovering new artistes, do you have any on your label?
Yes we do, we have three of them at the moment: Ugly, Karate kid and Pamela. They are new, and they are fresh. Trust me, between now and next year you will see them.
You were recently robbed. What happened?
My team and I were coming back from an event, when we suddenly saw a trailer in front of us. We were trying to avoid it when a group of guys suddenly jumped down from the vehicle. One guy put a gun in my face and asked me to give him my phones. I looked out through the mirror and saw the other two with guns. What was surprising was that after collecting the phones and everything we had, they still shot at us. They shot but we were lucky nobody got hurt. How we came out of the car no one knows. I wish I could tell you, but it was all God.
What’s the most challenging job you have ever done?
The most challenging job for me is actually producing myself, because when I’m producing for somebody else, I can easily hear the sound, but it is not easy [doing that] for myself. That is the hardest part of it all, and that’s why it has taken three years to get it right.
Are you currently working on an album?
Yes I am. That’s what I want to use to jump start the label and the artistes as well. It should be out in September. We’ve started doing promos on the radio and internet, and we are getting good responses. We’re also ready to take it to the next level with good videos.
What audience is the album tailored to?
It cuts across every one. I mean, I’m in my 40’s so I can’t appeal to only the 18-year-olds. I have to put everyone into consideration.
At the end of the day, would you say you are fulfilled?
Yes, I am, because there is no way the history of the new age of music can be told without mentioning OJB. That is the legacy that has been established, and it is likely to get better.
Any words of advice for new and upcoming artistes?
Don’t get it twisted, sometimes you may work hard and come out successful, other times you’ll have to do things over and over again before you get it right. In all just be focused, and most especially, be humble.
NET is 2. What’s your message for us?
You have done the first year, now it’s the second year, and it shows that there is more to come. It shows that you guys are really focused, and in a country like this, you have to be focused to put it together. I wish you guys the best, and I know there is more to come.