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Uniqueness Stands Me Out Among Singers *DJ Zeez

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DJ Zeez real name is Kingsley Elikpo, one of the best musicians Nigeria has to offer when it comes to Street Hop kind of music. He explains to Reporter, Ifeoma Meze, the misconception people have about his songs and the negative rumour that fame bandied about him. Excerpts:
When did you start seeing the music side of you?

I discovered my music talent while I was 17 years old. I started as a DJ then. I was a science student in the secondary school. I was attracted to the technical part of music. I started planning to be a studio engineer or a producer or a DJ. The DJ was the one that has the easiest access for me, so I had to go for it. When I started as a DJ, my parents where ok with it. They did not see anything wrong with it because I was doing well in school as well as in the DJ thing. Then I was not doing it for the money and months later, some friends advised me to take the music thing to the next level, and I did.

In 2004, I met a group of friends that were so much into music. The three of them called themselves Exists, so I joined as the fourth person. I think four has always been like a lucky number for me.

What else has happened to you around four?

I started with a group of four and then 4kasibe. I left the group and went solo, 2005. I dropped a single titled See mu ni. That was basically what I was known for then. The song was much more popular than I was then. I could be in a place where they are playing my song and people there won't even know that I was the one.

Why were you looking simpler or you don't have dreads then?

It was not because of my looks. I have always looked like this. It is just that back then I was not taking it as serious as now. I just did the song for the fun of it. I was not doing much of going for shows or to publicise the song or myself. I was doing it 100 percent for the fun of listening to what I can do with beats and sounds.

When did you start seeing the career aspect of the 'fun' you were having?

That was in 2006 when I shot the video for See mu ni, and in 2007 when I heard that I was nominated for the Channel O music video award in South Africa. I was not expecting it. I did not even know that such thing was going on. I went out one day and some people walked up to me and said that they have been voting for me that they hope that I will win. I was surprised. Those people told me that I was nominated for an award. I went home and made some research and I found out that it was true. That was when I started thinking of the career side of it. If a song that I did not even take serious like that can move that far what would happen when I put all my energy in it. I said to myself that since this song went this far that I really have to seat up and take it serious. I came up with 4kasibe album in January 2009.

Why the gap between See mu ni and 4kasibe?

I was still trying to develop myself. I was trying to make sure I come up with something much better than before. I would not want a song lower than what I had before. So I was taking my time. I was doing the whole recording towards the end of last year. I released the album officially this year. The launching was done January 13th with my record label Headline Records, I still did the remix of 'See mu ni with Ruggedman, 9ice and Ajasa.

What is your kind of music called?

When it comes to the kind of music genre, like they call it. There has been a kind of confusion in the kind of music that we Nigerians do especially among young musicians. Speaking for myself, I get most of my inspiration from the street and God. Most of my songs always have certain impact on people on the street as well the upper class. In the midst of Hip-hop and R&B, I just decided to name my style of music Street Hop. And coincidentally that is the category of the award I won recently in the Hip-hop world award.

Is it your kind of music that determines the choice of words in your songs, because the lyrics of your songs are usually vulgar or would I say not what children are supposed to listen to?

Well, it depends on how you want to define it. Definition is what anybody makes it to be. As an artiste, you have to be very creative. You are not supposed to go into the studio singing 'Read your book' 'Do your home work.' Let's tell ourselves the truth that is not what the kids want to hear. If you listen to my song, there has been a little bit of controversy on the song O4kasibe. A lot of people are confusing it for a curse because of a word in Yoruba that sounds the same, which means break. But there is an after effect when something breaks, it breaks into pieces and it spreads. O4kasibe is a slang that stands for creativity. The 'O' stands for the world (the globe). The '4' represents the four cardinal points of the world, north, south, east and west. That is why in the song I got this part that said, "To ba dey Yankee, wo ngbo wa nbe." Meaning that what we are doing is having a good positive impact on people not just here but across the world. Then if you ask a core Igbo man the meaning of Oforkasibe, it means elaborating on justice. Somebody with 'Ofor' in Igbo land is a justified person. The people believe and trust such a person, seen as someone that speaks the truth. So these are the deep meaning of the song. It is not a simple song that curses people.

What about the song Booby FC?

I am not preaching anything vulgar in Booby FC. The song came up as I looked at the two things that most guys like so much, and capable of causing problem between them and their spouse. Those two things are music and football. You see a banker that has an account to balance but cannot afford to miss the latest Chelsea and Manchester United match. I just felt like marrying both music and football together. If you listen to the song, you will find out that I was talking about football fans and clubs, though I started with Manchester. People use the word as a slang to qualify women that are very endowed in front (you know what I mean). I said Booby FC, people have not stopped to ask me the meaning of the FC, but keep asking me about Booby and forget FC. They just look at the shallow meaning of things and don't think deeply enough to actually understand. It is not easy for someone to come up with a song like that if you listen to the rap side of it. I don't like going to studio to record a very cheap song.

So that is why you don't sing it in a way they will read the meaning straight?

I don't think that is what I mean but Booby FC means Booby Football Club. That is the club I have created for the ladies and women through music. Whenever the song is played in a club or party, it is usually girls that react to the song more.

Are you working on any project or any album presently?

I am working on the collection of my videos. I have done two videos on songs that are not as popular as Booby FC and 4kasibe. One of them is Confirmed. Confirmed is a very patriotic track following the trend of rebranding Nigeria. It is just to set an example by singing that 'I am proud to be a Nigerian.' I am ok in Nigeria and I make my money in Nigeria. The second track is a bit of Pigin and Igbo. It is like a marriage song.

So you have a slow jam in your album?

The song is not slow, it is just mid tempo. The inspiration for slow jam hasn't come yet.

Are you more like dance and jump kind of musician?

I am more like the inspiration come I deliver. I don't have restrictions. If I am in the studio and what comes to my mind is slow, then I will do it but I don't have to do it because other people are doing it. I work with the way I get inspired.

What good things have music brought your way?

Music has brought a whole lot of good stuffs. I cannot shy away from the fact that it has brought me fame, though fame has its good, bad and ugly. It is bringing about wealth and fortune as we work hard and as the days go by. But it is a lot of hard work, it is not easy to stay relevant in a very competitive industry like music. Almost everybody out there is good and well talented in what they do. So, for you to stand out you must be unique. That is why I do my songs the way I do them.

What about the negative side of it, which troubles you the most?

It has not brought me anything bad. It's just that as a popular figure, news spread easily about you. Someone can come out and start saying that I am a snub. It is not everybody that has the opportunity to come close to you. They believe what they hear from people that claim to be close to you.

Is there any misconception that people have about you?

That has been something I come across everyday even before I went into music. It happens in everybody's life. Everybody can never understand you. The best thing is to do your best and leave the rest for God. So far so good, I don't have any problem with anybody in or outside the industry.

What greater height are you looking at?

I have a lot of plans in my life. I have dreams. When I started music like I said earlier, I was not hoping to get this far. About five years back, I did not know God was going to bring me this far. So I am living the next five or 20 years even tomorrow in God's hand, totally for him to take me to wherever he wants me.

What kind of music do you listen to?

I listen to all kinds of music. You will see me listening to songs outside my kind of music like Orchestra, Enya, Enigma, R&B, Hip-hop and Jazz. These kinds of songs are where you get some certain inspirations. Legendry, Fela Kuti has always been a source of inspiration to me he is very realistic.

Do you think Nigerian music artistes are moving in the right direction?

I think we are begging to threaten the international market. Music industry in Nigeria, if going at this pace, by the next ten years will threaten the international market. The international marketing and record labels will not have a choice than to embrace and market Nigerian music. We are doing very well in the aspect of production right now. These days it is hard to listen to a song on the radio, you have to hear the language to know if it is Nigerian or not in the aspect of audio production. Video production has taken another level. There was a time that we look up to Ghanaians in terms of video. People travel to South Africa to shoot videos. But now people shoot good videos here in Nigeria. I have shot three videos and they are all here. Bom Digi Bom video was shot in Lagos in a mini studio. Many thought I shot it in South Africa. It is just about organization, knowing what you want and try to be unique in your own way.

Are you saying that Nigeria music is close to getting a Grammy?

We are actually closer.

What do you have for upcoming musicians, seeing you as their role model?

First of all I will say wow to any up and coming artistes that say DJ Zeez is their role model. As aspiring artistes, do not try to sound like anybody. Sound like yourself even if people think you are not good, stick to it. Lil Wayne used to be considered one of the worst rappers, but today he is one of the world best rappers. They could not beat him so they have to join him. So believe in yourself.

How do introduce yourself to your fans?

Everybody knows me as DJ Zeez but my real name is Kingsley Elikpo. I am from Imo State. My mom is from Lagos State, and I have spent a better part of my life in Lagos. For that, I don't speak more of Igbo Language but understand the language to some extent. I am the second in a family of three. I have one elder brother and one younger sister so that makes me the middle child.