Obstacles to my music have kept me going
Obstacles to my music have kept me going By Taiwo Obatusin His real names are Michael Ugochukwu Stephens he was born in in Ebem, Ohafia, Abia State. Ruggedman is the fourth in a family of five made up of two guys and three girls. He attended St. Joseph's Primary School Surulere, Lagos, Atunrase Boys' High School also in Surulere and later graduated from Lagos State University with a degree in Political Science.
“I really got into music in 1989, about that time I used to listen to and watch rap music and radio and TV. What really caught my attention was the 'word play'
Which to me is poetic. I had this conviction in me that if I really get involved in the act of rapping I would go places and achieve a lot. As time went on I would write my songs try to sing them and I discovered I improved greatly by the day”. His first time on stage was a dream come true to his friends who wanted him to perform to prove that he could be do better at Surulere Girls' Secondary School. “I remember it was in 1992 we used to have the Literary and Debating Society for school and there were competitions in quiz, debate, dance, miming and so on. I was to represent my school in the rap presentation. I remember two guys; Cool Gee and Mad Max put up a very good performance and from their lyrics I knew they wrote their own song. It was a serious competition which could not be concluded and it was to continue at a later date, unfortunately it did not come up”. Says the man who back in those days loved to listen to rap music of Naughty By Nature, Heavy Dee, Kool Mo Dee and others.
Ruggedman has only one album to his credit, which will be made available in the market soon. A seventeen track album with his hit singles lit 'Ehen', 'Peace or War', 'Baraje', 'Big Bros' , 'Dublin with Love' and others. He spoke further, “I am practically the first Nigerian artiste to make single tracks available in the music market”.
One imagines how Ruggedman copes with female admirers, in his relaxed style he answered, “I thank God I am not carried away by their overtures. I try my best possible to keep them at arms length. But then I am not a saint. Though I just got out of a relationship and the reasons for the break up are personal”. He said further, “I think I should make it known to every male artiste that you need women because they are the majority of our fans. If women love your music the issue is that you are as good as made. The woman makes her husband or boyfriend listen to your music and attend your shows if only to protect the woman from Ruggedman and Lexzy Doo!”
On his challenges as a musician the most featured rap artiste in the country said he doesn't have challenges but situations that arise which have made him strong, undaunted and focused. “It very sad that because someone doesn't like what you sing tries to stop your music from being played on radio or TV. That has been my challenge like the ban of 'Baraje' on TV.
Ironically about that time Channel O' was showing it everyday. These to me are temporal obstacles that will keep me going and make me work harder. Like you know how widely accepted my music is outside the country”.
Ruggedman has to his credit several awards such as FAME award for the Best Rap Artiste for 2003. He had the highest number of awards from the AMEN 2004 awards when he took away four awards from different categories. He also got the AMEN 2005 award for the Best Solo Performance, another award is the Best Rap Act from the Nigerian Entertainment Award.
Asked about his view on Piracy he said to him it is a thorn in the flesh of everyone and he believes it is a problem that can be fought with much success. He said, “The system in the country gives room for 'sacred cows' who cannot be stopped and dealt with by the law”. He is of the opinion that a good rapport between the record label and the artiste will also go a long way to solve the problem of piracy. “Though in Nigeria record labels most times function as marketers. I think the issue of mass production should be strictly monitored by the Copy Rights Commission”.
Life to Ruggedman should be lived per second. He treats himself to the good things of life and would not mind the financial implication. “I think it is one of the things that has pushed me up on the rap music scene and I like to stand out”. Says the man who loves the keyboard and says it is the best musical instrument to him because it has so many features and can produce all kinds of sound.
What about Regrets being a musician.The young man who loves to eat Fufu and Egusi soap any time of the day explains, “No I don't have any regrets. I thank God my name is mentioned if you are talking about musicians in the country. I meet people who have made names in the music industry and we have had to do one or two things together”.
On his next project, Ruggedman is working on an album with Faze and features a Nigerian girl, Kaline based in London. It is going to be released on Rugged Records; his record label.
About his relationship with Lexzy Doo he said, “If I am to have a best friend he is my best friend. He is a down to earth and understanding person. We met for the first time in 1994 at a show in Unilag, we lost touch and met later in 2001 and since then we have been together”.
Ruggedman whose works has been produced by the likes of Paul Play Dairo, Omololu, OJB, Jezreel and freestyle, alongside some Nigerian artistes were recently refused entry visa into the United Kingdom by the British High Commission, his commented on this, “I have left that behind me and right now there are better offers, I wouldn't talk about that now”.
For his Fans the best Rap Act for 2004 said, “I say thank you and God bless you. Without my fans I would be nowhere. I wish I can produce an album, which I will give out freely, and they would not have to pay”.
BY TAIWO OBATUSIN