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Wonders! Alaba traders release Nigga Raw’s un-shot video

By Lolade Sowoolu
Okeje Okechukwu Edwards ,AKA Dat Nig.g.a Raw
Okeje Okechukwu Edwards ,AKA Dat Nig.g.a Raw

The name Okeje Okechukwu Edwards may not ring a bell but Dat Nig.g.a Raw certainly will, not with his 'Nothing mega' slang which happens to mean the same as Tu Face's 'nothing dey happen'. With his style of music which is predominantly rap done in Igbo language, the Igbos may have found their own 9ice. Nig.g.a Raw first came on the music scene in the year 2005 when he dropped the 'Obodo' single and later the album 'Right or Wrong'.

The Lagos based rapper seems to have everything going for him at the moment with his video 'Strong and Mighty' getting massive airplay, his club banging raps and ever-increasing fan base which is predominantly Eastern. Here Lolade Sowoolu engages the proudly Igbo artist in his Surulere abode and the result is this story. Enjoy it.

How did you come by your stage name?

It's a name I picked when I was in secondary school. Back then I used to be very vulgar, I won't lie to you, and so people referred to me as the raw guy. So when I developed the interest in rap music and started listening to other rap artists, I decided to pick it (raw) up as a name.

Where was secondary school?

Union secondary school, Enugu.

Does Dat Nig.g.a stand for anything in particular?

Some people think it's the swear word; 'dat nigga', but its not. 'Dat' simply means 'that' in English and 'Nig' means Nigeria. G is for 'Guy' and A stands for 'A na kpo'. 'A na kpo' is an Igbo word and in English, it means 'called'. So together we have 'Dat Nigerian Guy called Raw.

Let us into your background a little?

I'm the third born and the third son in a family of eight. I'm from Abia state. I was born and bred in Enugu state and that's where everything about me revolves: childhood, friends, family and everything I have learnt in life.

I studied Business Administration and Management at the Institute of Management and Technology, Enugu. That's all for now. I'm not single and I am not married but very soon I will be. I prefer to say that I'm user busy.

I am a Christian and a Nigerian. I'm a true born Abia man for life. I love my state; I love my country.

When did you relocate to Lagos?

I relocated to Lagos four years ago but it wasn't fully initially. I was coming to survey grounds first. Since all of my growing up was in Enugu, I felt I should have a change of environment since I was taking up music for a profession and it has helped me a lot. For me, its been a plus relocating to Lagos.

Does it mean you're planning to settle in Lagos?

Not really. I'm a business man so I think I stand a better chance of going far media wise here. And that's what I'm doing. I'm getting to know people in the industry and its making sense. I would say I've stepped up. I might still leave Lagos but for now this is where I'm based.

How long have you been playing music professionally?

I will say since 1992 'cos that was when I actually started writing my own lyrics. Then I was doing more of the English songs then later it developed into pidgin and Igbo. Before then I was just doing other people's songs between me and my peers 'cos we had this rap thing going. We would record one new rap song, learn the lyrics and then rap along with the music playing. At a point it turned into a mini- competition when people started learning to write their own lyrics.

Then I formed a group with my friend, Smart, and we were called 'Raw and Smart'. That was many years ago in Enugu and the journey has been a rough one. Then I was a student trying not to let music get into my head, so it was somewhat difficult. I tried hard to make sure that music didn't interfere with my schooling.

So music was not sudden for you...

No it wasn't. Hearing my songs on radio or t.v will not surprise my friends one bit because many of them encouraged me into it. I did series of competitions (you can see the awards and plaques). I took part in the Benson and Hedges 2002 singing competition.

I won the national finals and was crowned the 'best upcoming artist'. That same year, I participated in the first ever StarQuest with Klint De Drunk. We registered under the name of 'The Comedians' and we came second.

I was actually serving in Owerri then and people were like, 'Bros, you are doing well musically, if you pick it up as a profession, I think you'll do well'. And I thought about it and I decided to give it a try and here we are today.

Before the advice, what were you thinking of doing after service?

I was actually hoping to become an office person because where I was working I was a marketing executive.

But there's just this thing about music and me: the money, the fame, good profession... I enjoyed the work experience for a while but I decided to become self-employed by taking up music as a full-time job.

Is music all you do now?

Yes.

How much of your bills does music pay?

You can see for yourself. I do music; this is my apartment and I am doing well for a young man. I don't want to go into my material achievements. There was a time I wasn't thinking of the bills but I was making money.

I was more concerned about how excited and happy people are anytime they see me on stage. I'm more interested in that than paying of bills, not that I don't care about the money.

How do you feel when you see people excited by your presence?

It's a beautiful thing. I've seen even richer people; millionaires, so excited to see me just because you do music.

I've seen someone who just wrote me a cheque because he loves my music. He didn't say, 'sing for me' or anything like that, he just wrote me a cheque because he loves it (my music).

Compare the success of 'Right or Wrong' with 'Everything Remains Raw'?

This one is better than the first. I can't even compare them. The first one was an introduction. Although many people still love Obodo, for someone to score a hit and still come out with another album that is acceptable is commendable.

On this second album already, I have sold more units than Obodo and it only dropped late March. People write me and say they prefer this new album to the first and I feel happy but the fact remains that my first album introduced me to them.

So when they buy, they are buying Nig.g.a raw's new album and not essentially an album they heard and like. So I can't just give all the credit to this new album.

What are you working on now?

I am trying to shoot more videos I'm planning to shoot 'Ko gbadun'. A lot of people love that track and five additional videos. I'm planning to drop my video collection along with a documentary on me and then maybe my tours.

Wudi Awa will handle one. I hope to work with Clarence Peters; then Godfather in South Africa will handle three- he's the one who shot my 'Strong and Mighty' video. He's actually from Umuahia in my state so it's not like a South African thing.

Right now I'm touring a lot of states. I just came back from Anambra state and I'm having another one tagged, 'Nig.g.a raw and friends' next week. My label 'Eastside Records' is taking care of the tours right now.

I hope to release the VCD compilation before the end of the year because already 'Alaba' people have done a video for me.

Are they not your brothers?

They are Nigerians.

Which of your tracks have they released the video?

That's for the track 'Ara ga agba ndi ara'. It's actually a big song in the East. From the kids to their grandparents and I'm not exaggerating.

I have played a couple of shows in the East and you need to see the number of people that come out chanting the song. I have sat down in clubs too and hear them play about seven to eight of my songs, all from one album.

Did you see the songs blowing like that while composing them?

Actually I am a difficult person to satisfy and the people I work with know. So even when I do a job and I am convinced that it is good, I might go home, listen to it, and then have doubts. Then I'll call the person that worked on it and say, 'Bros I'm not really feeling this thing o'.

When I'm sure I like what I have done, I release it. That way I don't push blames even when people don't like it (the job) after it is released.

Is there the possibility of you exploring the R & B genre of music?

How? How now? I don't have the voice for that. I'm a rapper and that's what I do. If you want to listen to R & B songs, I can recommend.

Do you take offence when compared to 9ice because of your similarity in style especially with the use of indigenous language?

It's a good thing because I love 9ice's songs and I have actually compared our songs and you are not far from the truth. But 9ice is not the only one rapping in Yoruba, its just that he is accepted because this is his time just like it is my time.