MR. FLINT: MY LIFE AS MUSICIAN ON WHEEL CHAIR
When in 1989 Bamidele Fagbemi left for the United States like most young men in search of a greener pasture, he was full of hope and expectations to make it big. Having grown up in Lagos and a skilled breakdancer, he got the sobriquet skinny and was determined to make the difference when he got to the states.
One bright morning when he was going to work in the mid 90s, all that changed because as he was riding to work, a truck hit him. The result of the impact is his confinement to a wheelchair.
Undaunted, he plunged himself into music, his first love and got himself another nickname, Mr. Flint. The music producer couldn't break even in America because of a lot of discriminations. First, he was black, second, he is a Nigerian, so he decided to bring home his art to where he would be accepted.
Right now, he is promoting his single, entitled, Ba mi jo including the video, which is enjoying massive rave on air and on the internet.
Mr. Flint is poised to become an inspiration to those with disability by breaking the unwritten rules to come tops.
The Ogun State-born musician whose father once owned a magazine called Music Maker, spoke on various issues like the discrimination in the United States against Africans, challenges, his music, what he hopes to achieve and more.
Kind of music
I used to be a break-dancer. I used to do music when I was in high school. I had a group and tried to get signed to old labels like Polygram or DÃ©cor records. Everything went bad in Nigeria; the currency went down and a lot of other things. I felt that it was time for me to go back to overseas. I went to college and took business management, video and editing, acting. I didn't finish college when I had accident because I was depressed. I started doing things like jumping out of the plane, going skiing, diving, and other stuffs just to give inspiration to people in the wheelchair a hope. I had wanted to make a point that if one is on the wheelchair, such can still live.
I played hip-hop - a Nigerian format mixed with western sound. If the chorus is not high, I can't build round the song. Most of the time, I always have the melody in the chorus, then I create the song.
My music is for 25 and above. It is about life in general, about things happening in the society everyday, like I wanna have a girl, I want money, I wish things would better for me. I got songs talking about dream killers, you wanna do something and your parents could say you can never achieve that. I got a song that talk about friends; who are they, where are they now? The number one single is Ba bi jo baby which is getting a lot of attention on Youtube. I posted it and about four days after I got about a thousand views.
I attended Immaculate Comprehensive High School and graduated in 1989. I left in 1989 for the US to further my education. I came back in 2005 and left again. I wanted to work but because of the discrimination, I finally decided to come to a place where people will love and appreciate my art.
I am going back because I have another artiste that I am working with in the United States. I am producing his tracks and his name is Ejuno the Don.
I feel like I am back at home. When I am in the United States, I don't sleep, but when I am here I relax my mind. In overseas, my mind is never at peace, first bills will kill you. Every month, as you open your mailbox, it's nothing but bills. No letters from home, just bills.
I have contended with a lot of discrimination. My first deal was with a group I had in the United States but it didn't materialise. They put us on the shelf as if I was a liability. They always asked me to produce but I always wanted to be an artiste. I just feel like doing what I am good at so that I could inspire somebody else on the wheelchair.
I even have video clips of me jumping out of the plane, jet skiing and so on. This little inspiration, if I could give somebody else, I am ok. I just found out that people with disability in Nigeria are regarded as hopeless people.
When things start looking up, I want to set up a foundation for people with disability. Maybe I could get some sponsors to fly them to the United States, show them what other disabled people could do. Possibly, they could get some new wheelchairs, medical equipment, or other encouragement.
Let them have a sense of belonging in the society. That is my goal. I went to America, came back and was accepted, which they can also achieve. That is the kind of message I'm trying to get across to the people. Some people say, why don't you sing like Ayefele? I am not Ayefele. I keep telling people this is what I do. If you ask my classmates, they will tell you what I was when I was walking and I am still the same person. Even though I am on a wheelchair, I can do a lot of things able-bodied people can do.
Life on a wheelchair
It is pretty difficult. I can't have people cry for me. I have got to live my life. Sometimes, I fall off the chair and I slip in the mud. I will call a police officer to come into my house and help me back on my chair because I don't get any medical benefits. I struggle and I do everything myself and this is all the inspiration I want to give to people in my shoes.
I do a lot of jobs on the computer which is very hectic is very hectic. I used to deal in real estate. I don't have a maid, I don't have a driver and I do everything myself. I live alone. I have a lot of girlfriends, but I just met a lady that inspires me. She is a girl I knew in my high school. Because she gives me some inspiration, there are two songs in my collection dedicated to her.
Acceptance of Nigerian music abroad
The western world is not going to accept Nigerian music because of racism. Nigerians readily accept to play Jay Z but Americans would never play Tuface or D'banj. When I see Nigerians paying Jay Z like three million dollars, it sounds ridiculous because in the United States, he won't get more than $300,000. If they cannot patronize us, why do we support them? We give them their lifestyle. They need us, we don't need them because in America, our artistes perform in clubs but when they come here, they perform in stadiums. I think MI is a good artiste. El Dee is also good but they are not going to do any collaboration with any Nigerian artiste. Even though we are black and all Africans, in America, they still poke jokes at Africans like 'do you still hang out with lions in the jungle'? That's what they think of every African country. I just laugh because that is how ignorant they are. The media over there portray Africans as people who still live in the jungle.
Do you know why Nigerians troop there? It is because the Amerian media know how to publicize America as a great country. I talked to somebody to please let me host my TV show, which is called Flint TV and I would show you the real America. A lot of Africans are suffering. They cannot come back home. If you have no papers, you cannot return home.
There are Nigerians working as cab drivers, car washers, hawkers who cannot come back home because they have no valid travel papers.
There are lots of Africans in London and America whose children don't return home, yet they still claim to be Nigerians. What kind of Nigerian is someone who has children but can't speak a Nigerian language?