Nigeria At 50: Inside Storm 360: West Africas Hottest Entertainment Company (Part 2)
Where else could one find 1) a star rapper who while at the top of his game is also earning his Masters in Energy Studies 2) a rare talent who once lived in California but is now thousands of miles away – giving new meaning to Wu-Tang Clans concept of a Slang Doc popularizing new phrases by combining English with native tongues; and last but certainly not least, 3) a gifted female MC, poised to continue a global renaissance – balancing tradition with innovation.
If you guessed West Africa as region; Nigeria as country, and Storm 360 as entertainment company you would be correct.
And we didnt even mention the super-producer, multi-talented vocalist, international DJ or the promoting genius within the circle.
This week, we place a spotlight on the talent that makes up the Storm roster, and some figures who play a behind-the-scenes role in cultivating it, and bringing it forth, for the world to see.
[Part 1 - focusing on the dynamic Storm executive team, and Africa's emerging prominence in the world of Hip-Hop - is available at: http://allhiphop.com/stories/editorial/archive/2010/10/07/22425762.aspx]
Cedric Muhammad: You are making statement with your project African-American. Your interview promoting the album is powerful (http://www.notjustok.com/2010/07/27/video-notjustok-interviews-saucekid-road-to-african-american-album/). What is the personal connection and journey for you in that phrase African-American?
Sauce Kid: African-american is my brand. Im fusing Africa with America. Im a product of both cultures. I came up on hip-hop while living in Inglewood, California. I was influenced by Fabolous, Eminem, Jadakiss, Styles P, Busta Rhymes to name a few. Then I came out to Naij [author's note: 'Naija' is a phrase/nickname for Nigeria coined by the youth: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-11447252] to push Naija hipop and make it a force to reckon with. I used my Naija influence to coin popular slang/phrases (e.g Yebariba, Samboribobo, its naija, sinzu is sinzu, edondeymadt). I started with Moneylong the Mixtape: Best Of Both Worlds! Now Its about African American.
Cedric Muhammad: As the First Lady Of Storm Records and being referred to as Africas Number One Female MC how do you balance expectations regarding women in terms of conservative and independent conduct and different notions of what beauty and fashion are? How do you view the global scene regarding the state of the Female MC? I have written about this being the time of The Renaissance of The Female MC at length for AllHipHop.com:http://allhiphop.com/stories/editorial/archive/2010/05/11/22213013.aspx
Sasha: It hasnt been that hard striking a balance because as an African woman our expectations are founded on culture mostly, but that said this is the 21st century and I believe although there are societal pressures to act or look a certain way, ones individual opinions or self expression should not be compromised. In terms of style I choose what Im comfortable in , and through my music I speak my mind fearlessly, being able to welcome change but not let go of ones values. I think is the best way to strike the balance.
Cedric Muhammad: How do you view the global scene regarding the state of the Female MC?
Sasha: In recent years there has been a huge void where the Female Mc is concerned but with the growing success of Nicki Minaj in the States and all over I think it has started a ripple effect and once again women are stepping up to the plate. I look forward to a time where we can have just as many Female Mcs as we have male, who can successfully exist side by side. It doesnt always have to be one by one or one at a time and I think with the talent springing up in Africa, in particular, that dream is not too far off!
Cedric Muhammad: You made quite a bit of noise with the news that while you have been one of the hottest rappers on the continent youve also been attending school pursuing a Masters in Energy Studies at the University of Dundee [author's note: see, "Dundee student's double life as international rap star revealed," http://news.stv.tv/scotland/181472-dundee-students-double-life-as-international-rap-star-revealed/].
What does this say about you as a person and in what ways does it help or hurt the marketing of you as an artist?
Naeto C: Besides music I always thought I would need to create more options for myself based on my own personal interests, just so I can secure a decent future. In addition to this, the entertainment industry in Africa is still growing and hasnt reached a point where a career in music is effectively monetized. This means that artists like myself have to rely on shows to earn income and at some point, endorsements and maybe proper touring. To top it all up there is an absence of an active royalty collection system.
I decided to go back to school so I wouldnt have to rely on being a regular musician to have a bright future financially, but most important, my decision has helped inspire my fans and others that know of my music to go get their education and provide options for themselves. I believe that in this day and time, the world has become very competitive towards attaining success. As a young African male, I think there are tons of challenges out there but with the proper education, one elevates himself beyond typical conversation.
In terms of marketing myself as an artist, what I did with going to school is basically highlighting a feature of my brand, which is simply being educated and academically more advanced than my contemporaries. Now I get a different reception whereever I go and respect comes along with that. If anything pursuing school has helped my career as it has positioned me differently, on another lane from my peers.
Video – Dress Code featuring Naeto C:
Cedric Muhammad: How does it feel to be the newcomer at Storm? Storm is positioning you with high expectations calling your album a classic in the making, are you feeling any pressure?
YQ Jubril: I feel so glad and grateful to GOD. I know it is an open door to super stardom with Storm. I dont feel any pressure cause I know if I keep working hard, there will definitely be a great follow up to my Debut album and I wont disappoint everyone that believes in my potential.
Int Dj Neptune
Video: 123 (Remix) by DJ Neptune Ft. MI, Naeto C and Dagrin (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6g_6CQj_2uQ)
Cedric Muhammad: I see youre a touring DJ and have also been a radio DJ, which gives you an important perspective. I just saw this hot video for the debut single for your mixtape, featuring Naeto C, MI and the late Da Grin, how do you feel about this major collaboration?
Int Dj Neptune: I thank God for his mercies, and of course Naeto C who showed me love from day one. The original track was done with MI and when I was building with Storm, Obi mentioned to me the importance of making major moments, so he said why not get 3 of the best Mi, Naeto C and my boy Da Grin? We recorded the track in late January, and Naeto and I took off for a show at Harvard University. Unfortunately by the time we returned to Nigeria, Da Grin had passed following complications from a car accident. I am just glad we had the record, to also push his brand and keep him alive. As a DJ I am on a mission to take my skills global and I keep putting out heavy mixtapes, I do the Naija thing, and also make international moves. Right now I am working on a best of both worlds mixtape with rappers from all over the world, so let your readers holla at me on twitter or facebook.
Tola Odunsi aka Bobby Boulders
Cedric Muhammad: Tola, you are director of talent and events for Storm 360. I also know you have clearly emerged as one of the top video directors in Africa. You went to the New York Film Academy after your degree and 10 years of working in the field. And I understand you have directed over 30 music videos, produced over 60, as well as having produced and managed countless events and talents under the Storm brand.
You are a gifted promoter and have been part of the evolution of the entertainment industry. Having accomplished so much, the question I have for you is simple – what is next?
Tola Odunsi aka Bobby Boulders: Thanks, in truth I never really do interviews and stuff but I have to chat with you, Cedric, and the mighty allhiphop.com. In the first instance thanks for showing us love and for being the first to point out what is going on out here.
For me this is not really a job it is what I was born to do and I do it with my Storm family. We dont have bosses here in the traditional sense, all the talents, and the execs bond at the same level with no ego and I am proud to be associated with some of the most talented and positive young people in Africa.
I have been fortunate to do a lot of travel from South Africa, Brazil through the US as well and I know that our content is world class.
I cannot wait until BET, MTV and the rest in America begin to play our videos, and give us mainstream access.We might just cause an invasion (lol).
In the future – for me and Storm – is more work, we are trying to build brands and you can expect to always hear new projects and new approaches from Storm. We have always been pioneers and you know imitation is the best form of flattery so I just have to give a special shout out to all the other guys in the Naija entertainment industry especially those in the music industry who are making it happen, esp KK and D-one from Kenniss Music, Audu and Choc City, my man Segun and Banky W from EME, there are so many more but we are all one. When we really began this revolution back in 04 in South Africa, Obi told me come on board and lets make history, we will drive a Nigerian agenda and not just a Storm agenda. He has kept the faith and I am proud of the role Storm has played to get all the Nigerian superstars out there – from music, sports, fashion, and nollywood.
- E No Easy P-Square featuring J Martins (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A86uqiK9alU)
- Jupa (Remix)
Cedric Muhammad: Jay you are reputed to be one of Africas top hitmakers and you have an almost familial relationship with P-Square the biggest group on the continent. Apart from your own solo career and the hits you have crafted for them and many others, Ive also learned of your historic and progressive collaboration with another one of Africas true superstars, Fally Ipupa. As one who has changed the soundscape of African Music how do you expect to expand your platform with this new partnership with the Storm family?
Jay Martins: Thanks for the question, in the first instance I am all about music, as a producer, songwriter, singer and performer. I have my own imprint but I partnered with Storm to reach new markets and new audiences. Obi keeps saying that some of the biggest secrets here are producers and I am proud to belong to this generation of talented Nigerian producers, including the P-square family, Don Jazzy, Cobhams, Dokta Frabz and Tee-y-mix. I respect everyone but these are the ones who stand out for me. For me music is universal and with songs like E No Easy with P-Square we have proven already that we can impact the world. I am looking forward to infecting the world for many years with the Storm Family and I want to say to your audience – check for the Africans, we are coming!
Video: Hustle (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NG5vKqFpTwM)
Cedric Muhammad: You have a unique voice with incredible range and I hear you are one of the few really speaking to the people and what they are going through on the streets. How did this come about and what are your aspirations?
Gt: I am working on new tracks for a re-release of my debut album which is called the truth. I view myself like a reporter and I simply tell the real stories of the streets of Lagos and Naija, all I can say is keep watching out for GT and expect great music, great songs and great melodies.
Cedric Muhammad: Multi-instrumentalist, singer, producer, and hitmaker that you are, Frabz, Obi tells me you are also the musical director on Glo Naija Sings and also an official in-house producer for Storm. How do you view music and what is your approach to making it?
Dokta Frabz: I am just trying to do the best I can, spread the gospel of quality music, and share that with the world. I have been blessed to make hit records for a diverse range of artists and I am comfortable in all genres. I work with real instruments as well as all the digital programs too. Watch out for me in 2011 when we hope to share my debut album. You will also be hearing more of my work with Storm artists and others I have been developing.
Cedric Muhammad: You have been described as a gospel and soul star, in a class of your own – with a voice that makes timeless and classic music. You are also the permanent judge on Glo Naija Sings which is one of the largest music reality shows in Africa – conceived and produced by Storm 360.
So, you are a solo artist with a huge fan base with a new emerging audience, beginning to follow you through the show.
Tosin, how do you feel about being on the show and with a double album currently available on itunes what should we expect from you going forward?
Tosin Martins: Thanks man. Well, its a challenge, our people are emotional so everyone wants me to be nice on the show but thats not my job. The winner is getting 100k dollars so its tough and they must be excellent – not just good. Also it is important for people to understand that music is an occupation not simply a vocation, I am a qualified barrister but I chose to practise music. I am looking forward to a wider audience embracing my music which is a fusion of gospel, R and B, jazz funk, and juju, highlife, and classic African sounds and percussion. I consider myself to be a true musician and my voice is my primary instrument so all I want to do is share my gift with the world and hopefully the music will do the rest.
[For more information on Storm 360, please visit the official website:
Cedric Muhammad is a business consultant, political strategist, and monetary economist. Hes a former GM of Wu-Tang Management and currently a Member of the African Unions First Congress of African Economists. Cedrics the Founder of the economic information service Africa PreBrief (http://africaprebrief.com/) and author of The Entrepreneurial Secret (http://theEsecret.com/) . His Facebook Fan page is: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Cedric-Muhammad/57826974560?ref=ts and he can be contacted via e-mail at: cedric(at)cmcap.com.