Singer Brymo, has opened up on his music, personal life and relationship with former label, Chocolate city in a new interview with Sunday Scoop.
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Okokomaiko, Lagos, which is a fairly nice neighbourhood. Some of the people there were not so well-to-do and some were, so it was a pretty mixed environment. I had my days as a kid when I’d spend whole days on the streets playing football and fighting with my peers. It was similar to growing up in the ghetto. But my father wanted more than that for me; I was an only child and he didn’t want me to end up in the ghetto. He made sure I got education even though later on, I dropped out of the university.
What was your childhood ambition?
As a child, I wanted to play football because I was sure that I was good at it. But music came along and I started singing at 14. However, I never had the opportunity to record until I was about 18.
Why did you drop out of school?
In 2008, I dropped out of the Lagos State University, Ojo, where I was studying Zoology, partly because my mind wasn’t in it anymore and the tuition became too expensive for my dad. I just wanted to face my music head-on.
Can you recall the first song you recorded?
It was titled Future and it was made together with my former band, The Aliens. We rehearsed for almost two years but the first time we went into the studio, we messed up. And that was the beginning of our end as we all went our separate ways after that.
How exactly did you come into the music industry?
I came into the industry around 2007 after the release of my first album, Brymstone. One of the songs in the album is Shawty and it was fairly popular at that time. The song actually got me a Soundcity Music Video Awards nomination in 2008. That was the beginning for me and I met a lot of top players in the industry at the time.
What were the challenges you faced at that early stage?
The challenges were pretty much about finding a proper structure that could manage my talent, especially because I was new and my fan base had just started to grow. In music, people must get to know you over time before they can have confidence in you. Another challenge was finding someone who believed in me as much as I believed in myself to be my manager. Someone who would put in time and dedicate themselves to making the most of my talent.
Who was the first person to believe in you?
That would be my producer, Michael Kebonku. He has produced five out of my six albums. He was the first person I ever worked with and he believed in me. The first fee I paid him was N800 and it took me two weeks to pay in full. All through the years, we have had a good working relationship.
Your albums usually have unusual titles, how do you come about those names?
My album titles come from whatever is in my head at the time. The ideas come to me and if it sounds good, I use them. If you ask me now, I’ve even forgotten the reason I gave some albums their titles. It is all about art.
What was the inspiration behind Klitoris, your fifth album?
I wanted the album to be the key and the clitoris is the key to a woman’s sexuality. The album was also dedicated to women. It also happened to be my most commercially successful album. More so, in entertainment, it is always essential to catch the attention of people before they can get the message and that’s another reason for the album name. There is no single profanity in the album and I believe that women love the work.
You once said that you want to go to hell because that’s where all good people go, what do you mean by that?
A lot of the people we call legends and role models did not live their lives in accordance to religious standards. And by religious standards, people who do not live in a certain way won’t make heaven. Today, we’re fans of Fela and many people like him who suffered for the good of mankind. When we die, we’re all going to the grave and that’s hell.
What are your thoughts on religion in Nigeria?
I think religion, like other things society has put together, has over time lost its use due to the corrupt nature of man. We have lost the purpose behind many of these societal concepts like education, marriage and others. A lot of people are just religious but they don’t do any good deed.
Do you subscribe to any religion?
I grew up a Muslim but as I grew older, I began to understand some of the limitations we have put on ourselves based on these things. Some people wouldn’t want to associate with Muslims because of their religion, and vice versa. I believe that being good has nothing to do with religion.
Do you believe in God?
Yes. I believe there’s a power at work that put the world together though I have no confirmation of who God is. I don’t agree with how religion defines God because every religion has different interpretations. I believe that we don’t know much about our creator and we need to pay more attention to how we treat one another.
What was your experience with Chocolate City?
They had a better business structure compared to everyone else at that time and that’s why I decided to join them. The problem I had with them was that we were unable to properly execute my contract. Maybe because they had too many artistes signed to the label and the workforce wasn’t able to match that and get the work done.
There was some kind of acrimony when you left the label and what’s your relationship with them like now?
I didn’t have any ‘beef’ with them, I just needed to leave and make music in the way that I know is best. Right now, we’re not friends and we’re not enemies.
Do you get royalties from the company for your first album?
I’ve never directly earned royalties from Chocolate City. The initial royalty I was to get was to be transferred to settle certain debts I owed the company and that was in 2013. Ever since then, I’ve not heard anything from them but it’s more peaceful for me to just let it go that way.
Are you still indebted to the company?
I’m indebted to everyone who has played a role in my music career for they have made me who I am now. I owe a part of my success story to Chocolate City and that would never change.
Do you miss anything about the label?
Nothing really. If there was, I probably would have forgotten because I’ve left them for a while now. and we parted in acrimonious circumstances.
Can you still collaborate with your former label mates, MI, Ice Prince and Jesse Jagz?
I have stayed away from collaborations for a while now. But I would work with anyone who I feel a connection with.
Are you signed to any label now?
I’ve been making music independently since 2013 but I’m managed by the Bail Music Company. In 2014, I signed an international record deal with BMG and I released a compilation album but I wasn’t satisfied with the whole set-up so it only lasted for about a year. Being independent gives me more time for creativity and to be in control of when to release songs.
What did you gain from the international deal?
It gave me a little idea of how the international music business works. The international market is more sophisticated and they are patient; they usually consider the long-term in everything they do. Basically, their level of understanding of the business is far above ours.
You recently said that you make more money than any other Nigerian artiste, do you really mean that?
Since 2013, I have constantly churned out albums which have attracted some attention. And I know that Nigerian artistes, especially the top ones, don’t release albums that often, except singles. The entertainment industry is more about freebies. There are more people who would support you as opposed to paying you. There is no real patronage for the arts. Living off music alone in Nigeria is quite difficult and I think I’ve made some progress in that regard. I don’t see anybody else doing what I’m doing and working as hard as I do. However, I did not say I’m the richest artiste in the country, just that I make more money off music than everyone else.
Do you engage in other business apart from music?
No, I do music full-time. I spend most of my time writing and I’m currently working on my first book.
We also heard that you’re expecting another child from your baby mama, is that true?
I don’t think so. How am I supposed to be expecting a child and I don’t know about it? I only have a son who is two years old.
How do you unwind?
It depends. Sometimes, I drink, smoke or listen to music and at times, I do all three. I also do some other things I wouldn’t want to share with you.
We rarely get to see you at big concerts, why is that?
Maybe because the organisers don’t need me there.
Who are your musical influences?
That list is quite broad as I listen to everyone that has quality material. I admire musicians who write from their experiences and tell stories. I like Fela, Youssour N’dour, John Mayer, Asa, among others.
Don’t you think other artistes may see you as snobbish if you don’t collaborate with anyone?
I actually want them to see me as snobbish. A lot of importance is placed on collaboration which I don’t think is necessary. When you collaborate, it should be because you have a connection with the person but it has been bastardised these days. However, if I find someone I have a connection with, I would collaborate but it’s not a do-or-die affair.
Why do you want other artistes to see you as being snobbish?
Many of them don’t make music the way it should be. For me, it’s about being different and going in a different direction from the crowd.