I would usually dress in a fading blue jeans and a shirt that seemed to be oversize but was actually my size. This was just unlike the fitted stuffs that now adorn my taste. I learnt every shortcut in Owerri especially those that connected my favourite spots. Recording studios.
In 2012 Hot 99.5 FM was like a den of angels, Acharaman was rarely seen in public places and XBusta [Listen to his first songs ‘Respect’ and ‘Freestyle’] was just an example of a perfect studio rat. The media [print and online] was an ambiguous sector in the entertainment industry which no one cared about and I could remember making a fool of myself when I tell artistes that I would publish their stories on local newspapers for free. One famous answer I always got was ‘I’m not ready for that”. I’m simply saying that 2012 was when most artistes were never ready for the media. When they were also never ready for one thing they dearly needed. Fame.
In that funny year, I could remember waiting at the reception for hours, looking insignificant while waiting to see music producer Young Roc. I could remember trekking from Mbari Street to his studio which was then located at Christ Church Road by Wetheral Road, Owerri, Imo State. I would also walk from there to meet the famous Regiz, after calling severally for an appointment. I also remember DJ Chet’s studio where I met the likes of Zbyte, Da Otikas for the first time.
I was always off no matter how hard I tried to blend in. my outfits had no place in the pop culture that was taking over Owerri that year and one would be wondering where that wind of change would be taking a city that had always known songs in Bongo genre as the only genuine music in it. The rest of the artistes where just wannabes. This would actually end the moment a name like late Raymond De Rage Ayuba was mentioned.
People started seeing something in the wannabes and the highest beneficiaries were Acharaman and Aifee [Aguleri Boi and Makachukwu]. They became the gods of hip-hop in the city and people were forced to worship them. Others that caught the rave include: Bee with his ‘Sweet Lullably’; De Dukes with their ‘Knock on your heart’; 2Blac had ‘Ebeano’ and ‘Mpa gi there’; Dawn Tawn had his ‘Ndi Nku’ and ‘One Jeans One Shoe’ but these other artistes were never anything close to Acharaman and Aifee. There were also Red Loaf with ‘Marriage Material’, Dj Cueba, Naut-B, Profingaz, Ugames, Frankiss, Ceeflo, Money Making, Femilarge and others who would also be considered to be on top of their games, thanks to the good radio airplay they were receiving then.
By this time, XBusta of today was just a Student of Imo State University known for his freestyle prowess and in 2013 he was featured in a song by General Sleezy titled ‘Jijiji’ but before then, General Sleezy had been known by one of the songs I would never stop playing ‘Wicked Boises’.
The same 2012 saw the release of one of the best hip-hop tracks an artistes from this part of the world has ever written. That was when LMG realized that a little controversy could shoot him to the top. He took advantage of a name issue he had with Regiz to get on the news and that was one of the first times, we had a real artiste-artiste beef on the media. He tapped into Regiz’s fan base to become known beyond the state. The single ‘Mbo’ was released and latter was the ‘Disinfectant Mixtape’ which had its own raves towards the end of 2012.
I met music producer cum artiste Aizbag De Genius before I got my first Blackberry phone and speaking to him was like coming in contact with a legend. He believed in my project of publicizing the little that was happening in Owerri, unlike others who thought otherwise.
Another set of gods in 2012 were Big Chance and Cyphatye. In as much as I attended the same school with Cyphatyte, they still had a certain aura that would still make everything new at that time. If you talk about them, you must talk about Reflex who was behind every single production they had.
With artiste wannabes filling the streets, the same was with record label owners. The likes of Regiz, Young Roc, Aizbag, DJ Chet, Reflex and other producers had their blocs of artistes whom they all expected to adsorb into their supposed record labels in time. As at then, Don Jazzy was a perfect role model for every music producer who also wanted to own a label like Mohits Records. Maybe that’s why Yung Roc had Mo’Rhymes City.
One the most successful projects in this line was owned by Yung Roc. His Mo’Rhymes City label was famous because as at then, he was also a blog owner who was ready to partner with other media outfits to promote his works. I remember my fist interview with him titled: Morhymes City Records@ 5: We need to be united – Yung Roc
Aside everything, he owned the only genuine female singer in the town. Harmony was a raw and rare talent who struggled to succeed because of some alleged attitudinal issues. With songs like Good Loving Ft. Yung Roc (Produced by Yung Roc) and Get Down With You (Produced by Somik), she was a star to be. This is just one of the dreams that never happened.
Somik was just one of the producers I never met in Owerri as at that time, but from everything I learnt, he was just into music production and loved doing it. He never cared about the labels, he just cared about the good songs and helping artistes to make them. He was a hard nut which most artistes avoided especially those who hated the truth because most of them saw him as a dream killer. That character also helped him excel because the best of every artiste always came out in his studio.
Aside the legacies of the likes of Harida, Don Malacy, Singaholic, Emex Didi, Southend and others, there were still the likes of Lokey, Barbie Dolls, Baseline Soldiers, Yucee Jay, ill Thotz, Still Bill, Zona, Xcello Maxmello, Icz Money, Luther, McHez, Nani, Young D, Cpex, Conclusion, Asme, G-Tims, Da Brain, Suspense, Arty Ready, Shekero etc, on the background.
It will be so unfair not to mention the man who stood on top of the chart as at then. Kelly Hansome had become and international ambassador for the city. Even though he was swimming in troubles with Kennis Music, he was always seen here and there at home and still remained everyone’s favourite to be featured in songs. Acharaman [Relax], Aifee and others were the local heroes of our music industry, but Kelly Hansome was the only man who come, saw and was fighting hard to conquer.
With his loads of issues with the media and his fight to remain a relevant name in the industry where many were being forgotten because the emergence of new stars, he did a cover of The Everly Brother’s ‘Take a Message to Mary’, which was more of a truce call. That song did what it could, but never solved the problem which lingered for more three years. Other songs like ‘Ghetto’ meant that no one could tell the ‘O’town Stories’ better than Kelly Hansome. He always knew when to add ‘Nda Letty’ (in Magga don pay), ‘Ukwu Mango’, ‘IMSU Junction’, ‘Back Gate’ and ‘Timassy’ (in Ghetto). Others do it and sound like wannabes, but he was always classical with it.
It wasn’t all praise for Kelly Hansome in 2012. Many artistes accused the singer of jinxing the entire city with his troubles with Kennis Music. They blamed him for making the whole world believe that Imo State based artistes are nothing but trouble makers, unruly and strong heads who would never honour their contracts.
Only XBusta had broken that jinx by signing for Five Star Music, while others who were rumoured to have signed for labels only did that in stories and pictures because nothing was heard about them and their labels afterwards. No artistes who toiled on the streets of Owerri or any other part of the state is yet to achieve the fame attained by Kelly Hansome, some four to five years ago. Now that’s the jinx.
Aside the names and long humble beginning stories, there was something common with everyone including me. We were always ready to go that extra mile to be known. We were always ready to do that extra thing to promote our project unlike now that we have all become big boys and chairmen that are not still known as much as we have always wanted. That class 2012 is like a normal set of graduates where some don’t get to be as big as they have dreamt.
Music producer Somik thinks otherwise. He said that artistes have really improved in their mentality, even though he called it ‘little improvement’. He said: “I have noticed that every Imo State artiste now has this burning ambition to make it real big unlike before when they had shallow ambitions.”
He then blamed the poor music promotion culture which reached it’s peak around 2012 as another problem. He blamed DJs and Radio stations in the state for not helping matters, adding that they preferred to play songs by outsiders to those made by artistes in Imo State.
Although he singled out Zanders FM, I want to share this quote by late Raymond Ayuba, from an interview after Easter Rave, an event organized by Hot 99.5 FM Owerri, at the Valentino Night Club of Rapour Hotels Owerri, Imo State, on April 6, 2012.
“I promised to help the industry and I’ve been doing that. I’ve always been against someone running to Lagos to get artistes for a show in Owerri. We bring Terry G, Tuface, and others, forgetting our home grown. How do we expect them to grow? Because these artistes also provide contents for the radio stations around town, so they need to be promoted.
What do we gain when we play songs by Lagos state artistes every day, just nothing! These guys are making good music here in Owerri and need to be encouraged. Formally they pay money for their songs to be played on air but I said no, and now look at where we are” Read Full Interview. He is a legend in the development of contemporary music in Imo State because of this. He did not just say those words, but he worked for it and gave artistes platforms to shine.
In 2012, the formation of cartels which were usually owned by music producers tore the town apart and instead of going into constructive beefs, artistes in Imo State have been on destructive beefs. This blinding them, mostly making most of them forget that no sane person will listen to only songs from one artiste. This rivalry was also the reason why Acharaman and Aifee never did a song together even when most people were looking out for it.
Acharaman lasted more because he was touchable and reachable, while Aifee who choose to be seen like the moon and despite his abroad tours, videos and album is almost forgotten in this small city. While people have been screaming ‘no love’, I keep asking where the love would be coming from. The blind rivalry, snitching and greed has remained as one reason the city has remained the way it is.
The root of the problem has remained lack of appreciation by people in the city because the middle men have not lived up to expectation. It is a city where a one year old Disk Jockey wants to feel like a god, same with OAPs and bloggers. The first thing everyone learns is how to rate a bad song, but promotes the same thing or something worse when it comes from outside.
2012 could still offer us lots of inspirations, history and a path to retrace our steps to know what has never been done the right way. So many things have been said and all of them seem to be the same thing and nothing different.
A trip to 2012 is a funny one because most of us were totally unknown unlike now. It’s time for everyone to draw from that inspiration, knowing too well that in three years time, someone would be taking a trip to 2016, when no one was ready to go back in time for a good reason.
Here are some notable events and articles of 2012