Girls can apply, I'm not dating Sasha -Naeto C
Naeto C has been in the news of late. If the talk is not about his dating with female rapper, Sasha, it's about his inability to grab a record label to distribute his debut album. Naeto Chikwe, as this Storm Records artiste is known off stage, has his first album pending in the studio, yet he is one of the big names in nation's rap, thanks to his sublime rap style and his videos. correspondent Kemi Yesufu cornered him in Abuja and he spoke of his relationship with Sasha, Storm Records and his lifestyle.
You are about to release your first album, how do you intend to distribute it because the talk in town is that Obi Asika is about to shut down Storm Records?
It's not true that Storm Records is shutting down. What's happening is that Storm Records is restructuring. They (management of Storm Records) are making changes. So, any talk of the company being shut down is a rumour.
The rumours could have been fuelled by the romance between Storm Records artistes like you and Ikechukwu working with the Mo Hits Records crew, the likes of Don Jazzy and Dbanj. Don't you think so?
Well, I could say this is some sort of miscommunication, because Ikechukwu did (the song) wind am well. Or is it because of the last two videos he did, people think that he is leaving for Mo Hits Records? But there is nothing like that. The guys at Mo Hits Records are close to us. We are friends. So, it's natural for us to work together musically. Beyond that, there is no possibility of us going to Mo Hits Records, we are the World Famous Akademy (WFA). We are working on building the WFA label. Ikechukwu and I can't me moving to another record label.
There are music critics who believe that Storm Records artistes, though talented, have not been much of a commercial success. Do you agree with them?
I beg to differ, because it depends on what you call commercially successful. Every artiste Storm Records has produced is a big artiste. They have performed with big artistes, on what basis would someone say that Storm Records' artistes are not commercially successful? Dare Art- Alade is a national icon in his own right, in terms of his R&B genre. I don't think that there is any more recognised artiste in that genre than him. His songs Fuji and Escalade were instant hits. Sasha is the number one female rap artiste in the country. She is the most complete package and if you ask me, Sasha has a big fan base. GT (Guitar Man) is still up and coming. Ikechukwu has one of the hottest singles in the last couple of months. I am just coming out (with my album). It is a fact that my title song, 'you know my pee' topped the charts. You probably want to also talk about how many awards nominations and awards won by Storm Records artistes. I would definitely say that we (artistes) in Storm Records, past and present, have been commercially successful. In terms of selling CDs, that is out of the artiste's scopes, as this is more technical.
If a song is big hit, people simply walk up to the nearest music retailer and buy the CD. Much as it is clear that it's the duty of the record label to distribute its artistes' CDs, records sales in the long run is something that the artiste and his label can put a figure on. Could you give us figures of CDs sold by Storm artistes?
I am not a Storm Records executive, so I can't give you the numbers of records sold. Another clarification I would like to make is that, you may have a smash hit but doesn't mean that you are going to sell as many units. This is the honest truth. This is a business that is not predictable, there are issues that surround how many records you sell. That start from the time you release your CD and the videos you make for your songs. Music videos are like commercials that drive the sale of your album. Then you talk about the distribution of the CDs, I have heard of situations where distributors buy minimal copies from the record label and go behind to print more copies. Of course, they don't return any money for the ones they printed by themselves. From the public point of view, these are some of the issues they don't take into cognisance in judging the success of an album.
Talking about Sasha, when are you guys getting married?
Oh, it's a big rumour that Sasha and I are dating. Sasha is my sister. I met her before she was about making her current album. I worked with her on majority of the songs on her album. I was, at that point, putting up my own production outfit, called Serious Music, with my partner, TY Mix. Sasha was one of the first people we worked with and we decided to work closely with her, because we wanted to ensure that her album is not a success for her but also for us, as a production outfit. Obviously one of the products of our working relationship is Sasha's Adara which unarguably is a smash it.
Aside from the fact that you worked with her on her album, why do think people pair you up with Sasha, why not any other guy?
They can't pair me up with any other person because Sasha is the only one I have worked with so closely. Another reason is that in entertainment there is so much of speculation. That's showbiz for you.
But there is this song of yours where there is a line that sang something like 'girls stay away because they know you have a woman.' I got the feeling that you were referring to Sasha.
I said something like girls believe that we entertainers have a lot of girls around us and treat us in like manner. I didn't refer to a particular person. I try to keep my private life out of my music. I don't put in personal stuff in my music, a public stuff.
Since you are not dating Sasha are you in a relationship?
Like I said, I try to keep my personal life, personal.
I ask because some girls may like Naeto C and want to apply.
They (girls) can like Naeto C, that's not a problem. Naeto C is a brand. It's important that as an entertainer, I separate my personality from a brand name. When you mix both of them, you find that you have problems. Naeto C is brand, quite different from Naeto, the individual. Of course, there is a part of the individual that influences the brand. But at the end of the day, you don't want a situation where everywhere you go people take you as Naeto C and not as Neato. They think you are what they see in your videos. In my new video, kini big deal, I am like James Bond. So, when people meet me they think I am like that. That is a wrong perception.
I ask again can the ladies apply?
He laughs. Apply to kidnap me? Apply to date Naeto C? Yes, they (ladies) can apply. They should feel free, there is nothing stopping them.
This your first album, how do you take off your bills?
I have a life outside music, which I really don't talk about. Like I would advice anyone, don't put all your eggs in one basket if you want to be an entertainer. It's challenge for those who don't have a life out of entertainment to maintain a living standard.
You told me that you are a youth corper; it's a little surprising. One would have thought that you would plunge straight into the entertainment. Why go through the hassle of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC)?
You shouldn't be surprised of what I'm doing in NYSC. An individual like me is concerned about education and about a career, not only in entertainment. You know they say in entertainment there is no permanent champion; there is only a reigning champion. So, when you are not a reigning champion, you fall back on what you have. I feel that it's important I should do what other millions of Nigerian youths are doing. If you don't do your NYSC, you are merely fooling around with yourself. Relying solely on entertainment to carry you through is too much of a gamble. You can't tell when the big boom is coming, when our CDs will sell for N500 naira or when artistes will be paid in dollars.
Are you in Abuja for your service year or you live here?
Both, I am serving here (Abuja) and I also live here.
A lot of people think that the best place for an entertainer is Lagos and not Abuja, so are you probably thinking of relocating to Lagos after your service.
Why should I relocate to Lagos because people think Lagos is the place for entertainment? I would never do that. First of all, I don't follow the bandwagon. The only reason why I would advise anybody like myself to move to Lagos is if you see better opportunities than what you see here. I am in Lagos as often as I can. Obviously it's hard for me to go to Lagos as often as I can because of the NYSC service, but I manage my situation. I don't think that to move forward as an entertainer I have to be in Lagos.
What were the ideas behind the World Famous Akademy, how long have you guys been together and what the future holds for you?
World Famous Akademy (WFA) is made up of I, Ikechukwu and, his brother, Uzi. We are close friends who are into music and we created the WFA to show our bond as friends. Right now, we are trying to establish the akademy as a record label. We have with Storm Records put out two albums for Ikechukwu and one album for me. The future for us is more hits, more nominations, and awards.
What level is the rap game in Nigeria?
It's still up and coming. Rap hasn't reached its threshold. There are more rappers and rap is being broken down into sub genres. Now, there is 'pop rap,' there is 'conscious rap,' there is even 'gangster rap.'
How do you categorise the kind of rap you do?
I have the ability to do all, but I don't do gangster because it is counter productive. To be honest, I do general stuff. I think that, to be a good rapper, you should be able to dibble-dabble into various topics. It gives your album more content.
Judging from your kini big deal video is it correct to say that there is a Kanye West influence on your fashion sense because of your eyewear and neck scarf?
No. That would be wrong. Firstly, Kanye West isn't the first person to wear neck scarves. Hip-Hop is about trends. It's a lifestyle, one person starts doing something and a hundred other people follow suit. Nobody knows who actually starts the trend, what they see is Jay Z, Nas, and Snoop Dogg. So it's not about me copying Kanye West.