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By Abidemi Dairo
March 24, 2010 01:12AM
Jesse Jagz. Repping a city called Chocolate. Photo: Chocolate city

Jesse Jagz is arguably the soul of prominent Hip-Hop record label, Chocolate City. As a hinge for all the success tales from the imprint, he produced most of the tracks on his big brother MI's critically acclaimed debut album, Talk About it, that reportedly sold 30,000 copies within 30 minutes of release.

He is also the winning producer of the 2009 Hennessy Artistry contest which was bagged by his label mate Ice Prince. Then, early this year, he added The Future Awards Producer of the Year trophy to the shelf of Chocolate City.

Training Days
Born Jesse Garba Abaga, he started his sojourn into the musical realm as a chorister. 'I grew up around music, so I guess that was where I picked up the interest from,' he said. 'From a very young age, I started listening to music and started learning to play the drums and piano from my church choir.'

He was also a member of an Acappella group from his college days at Baptist High School, Jos. During this period, he was 'basically doing it for fun' birth out of 'my love for music'.

After graduating from college, he however decided to take it to the pro level: 'I don't know why, maybe because I thought it was cool but I decided to take music serious,' he explained.

In 2000, he teamed up with a couple of friends and started a gospel group, Gospel Insanity. 'It was from GI that I met E. Kelly, then our producer, and learnt how to produce; he showed me how to use the software,' Jagz revealed.

Although the group started recording an album, they disbanded before it was ready. He went ahead to join another group, Eleven Thirty, which also disbanded before debuting its album 'because some members had to go to school and one left the country, so on these circumstances we couldn't continue.'

Defining Period
With his anticipated debut album only a few weeks away, Jagz feels it is an opportunity to reveal he is 'more than just a music producer.' Although he has lent out verses to some mainstream music, he believes the album will help prove to critics that he's got the credentials of an emcee too.

'As a producer, I'll always produce for other people, but as a recording artist, producing myself, it affords me the opportunity to show myself in all totality. It is titled Jagz of All Trades because you will be seeing Jesse the producer, artist and the dancer; my style of music is versatile, so I'm the Jagz and master of all.'

Being a producer and a recording artist, he explained why he is not faced with the challenge of deciding which beat to keep for himself and which to give out to other artists.

'Firstly, I understand that not all beats will work for me,' he said. 'More so, I'm not that kind of producer that produces various beats and has to decide which goes to which artist. I prefer to work with the artist in the studio, where I work with the person by first understanding the artist's kind of music. So basically the beats I make are already designed for the music that will go with it, they come together. So I don't have to decide whether to give the beat out or keep it.'

The Jagz of All Trade
With lead single, 'Pump It Up' making the rounds in the media and a successful album listening party earlier in the month, Jagz summarised the hard work that went into the production simply as 'a lot of sleepless nights.'

The album, he revealed, will feature appearances from, brother and label mate MI, label mate Ice Prince, rapper and 2007 Most Beautiful Girl in Nigeria Munachi, Kel, Soul E amongst many others. The album, however, will have hundred per cent Jesse Jagz production; a decision he took without fear of rendering the album monotonous.

'Take Don Jazzy for instance, he has produced over eight great albums collectively; it is important that you sensitise people with your songs so that when they hear your beat they know that right away. It is also important to sensitise the people such that anywhere they hear your beats they know it is from you. Again, I think this album should show me as a producer as much as it should show me as an artist, so it is about Jesse Jagz as an artist and producer,' he said.

His credentials thus far have brought poachers knocking on his door, but seeing 'Chocolate City as family', he always wades-off such temptations.

'God knows how many offers I've gotten inviting me away from CC,' he revealed. 'Sometimes, there are some problems I go through and I'll be like 'is it worth it being here?' But one thing we do understand at Chocolate City that I think most labels are not getting is that it is not about the money for us, it is all built around our passion for music.'