Hip hop paved way for afrobeats — Elajoe

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A rapper, Tochukwu Nwosu, aka Elajoe, speaks to OGHENOVO EGODO-MICHAEL about his career and other issues

What inspired you to pursue a music career and when did you decide to do so?

I grew up in a family that was music-inclined. Though my parents were not practitioners, my dad was a music enthusiast. I grew up listening to a wide range of music, such as jazz, highlife, and even afrobeat from the 1960s. I was inspired by different people growing up, including James Brown, Michael Jackson, Marvin Gaye, and Stevie Wonder. From there, I discovered hip hop in the 80s. A certain group— Eric B and Rakim— made me interested in music. When I heard their songs, I wanted to be like them. Everything about them, including their lifestyle, was rebellious but cool.

In what ways did hip-hop culture influence your life?

Hip hop, as a culture, influenced everything about me. I would go further to say hip hop is a religion, which is deeper than certain things.

How were you able to network and connect with members of your former groupp, Da Thoroughbreds?

Da Thoroughbreds was a coalition of individuals who came together to propagate the true essence and culture of hip hop; from the sounds to the business aspect. I had been in the industry for a while and at some point, I was in the eastern part of the country, and I connected with some of the crew members who were also based in the east. When they wanted to come to Lagos, I was already quite known, because I once worked as a freelance radio presenter. When they came to Lagos, we decided to come together on the condition that everybody would do their things solo, despite being a crew. It was one of the wisest decisions we made because, at that time, the industry was not mature enough for the kind of hip hop we were doing. We were privileged to push up hip hop to the level we did. We were the first recipient of the Best Rap Single by a Group award at the Hip Hop World Awards (now Headies).

When do you regard as the most memorable moment of your career?

I have been blessed to have memorable moments, such as being nominated for the Amen Award back in the day.

One of the best moments was also when I was given the privilege to eulogise and present an award to an American hip hop star, Nasir Jones, aka Nas.

Another memorable moment was during my time as the first music director of Big Brother Nigeria. I used that platform to promote hip hop.

How have you adapted to the changing trends and shifts in the music industry over the years?

I have adapted, because I am also in the category of entertainers that have influenced trends in Nigerian hip hop, even though I have been working behind the scenes.

You recently became the first African in the global senior executive committee of the World Cup of Hip Hop. How does it feel to attain that feat?

It is God’s doing. It is beautiful to see New York, the world capital of hip hop, recognise what I have been doing here in Nigeria. I am grateful to God for being in that position.

What are some of your responsibilities as a member of the committee?

I have many responsibilities. I speak with all the directors, and we map out strategies and plans. We have sub-committees, such as the DJ committee, with members from all over the world.

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What were some of the changes you hoped to see in the Nigerian music industry that are now being realised?

I had always wanted Nigerian hip hop artistes to be respected, and to an extent, that is happening, though not how I envisaged it. When the Nigerian music industry was not getting relevance, Nigerian hop hop, through afro pop, made Nigerian music relevant.

However, I want corporate organisations to believe more in hip hop. That was why I started different platforms and programmes to spread the gospel of hip hop.

There are different genres of music, such as fuji, apala and RnB, that can still benefit from this ecosystem. There is still so much to be done. I want to see more professionalism and unity, especially as hip hop is an ego-driven genre of music. But, there can be healthy competition. Artistes should be able to support themselves.

What is your opinion on the perception that rap music is fading away?

Rap is not dying. Rather, it is rising. Many top Nigerian artistes, such as Wizkid, started their careers with rap music. Many people love rap music and it has an audience. We just need structure and more programmes, such as award shows, and rap festivals.

We also need an award ceremony dedicated to hip hop. Many countries have celebrated hip hop at 50, but Nigeria has done nothing in that regard. We should also be relevant in the global scheme of things. Rap is one of the biggest genres of music.

What do you think can be done to curb the increasing spate of bullying in the music industry?

Bullying in the music industry did not start today. It has actually been ongoing for a long time. Illiteracy is prevalent in society, so people don’t know their rights. Once you get into the music industry, you should first get yourself a lawyer to look into your contract before signing.

Also, labels should not take advantage of their ignorant signees, and the signees should also be aware of what they are getting into.

Tell us about your background, and how it influenced your music career?

Initially, my family did not support my music. I started music lessons but after some time, my father stopped the lessons. My mother ‘banned’ me from interacting with musicians in any way. My mother was a very strict person. She was a principal and retired director in the Ministry of Education.

Eventually, when I started doing well in my music career, things changed, and my mum would always introduce me to people as a producer.

My childhood was beautiful. I grew up with a silver spoon in my mouth. I grew up across different states, such as Lagos, Kaduna, Port Harcourt and Enugu. It was a major achievement getting my mum’s validation, because she was highly respected, and she always wanted the best for me. Although my parents are now late, God has been faithful.

If there was one thing you could change about your time in the industry so far, what would it be?

I wish I had achieved certain things at an earlier age. I have achieved a lot and I am grateful to God. There are also things I still want to achieve. I wanted to be like Michael Jackson until I discovered hip hop, and I decided I wanted to be the next Rakim. I would have loved it if people saw my art earlier. My first demo (song) was in 1994. I would have loved to come up with my music when I was much younger, but God has His plans. I am grateful to God for everything. I still have some songs I want to share with the world, but I am all about the new generation now.

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