Controversial act, 9ice, needs no introduction. The singer, who stormed the music industry in 2007 with his runaway hit, Gongo Aso, is back after taking a hiatus to pursue a career in politics.
Recently, reports of him making up with his ex, Tony Paine, was the buzz on social media. And on Sunday, the singer added another year and he celebrated with colleagues, fans and a group of select media men. Also in the house were the likes of Lord of Ajasa, Remineice and Seriki among a host of others. 9ice, who unveiled his latest single, Abefe, and who late last year released a string of singles including At the Moment and Oro, opened up on career and why he and Toni Payne must work together among other issues.
Congrats 9ice, you are celebrating your 36th birthday today, what does this day mean to you?
It means a lot to me because I’m celebrating it with the boss. It means a lot to me because I’m using it to correct my mistakes. It means a lot to me because I’m settling my grudges and I’m moving on with my life. This is my 36th birthday and it means a lot to me more than any other birthday I’ve celebrated.
You talked about settling your grudges and making peace. Could you shed light on that?
I’m talking in terms of peace and in terms of settling grudges. I’m talking about Ruggedman, I’m talking about Toni Payne and I’m talking about my saga with the press. Whatever has happened as from today I’m putting behind me and setting new standards; I’m living a new life. I think what brought about the issue with the press is due to a song I released entitled, Once Beaten Twice Shy. That song came out at a time I was having marital problems. Some people picked up stuff in the song and said ‘okay, he must be talking about Ruggedman.’ And before you could say Jackie Robinson, it was everywhere! That was the only problem I had with Ruggedman. Let me state that Ruggedman and Tony Payne issue never arose; it was never an issue. I’m mature now. I have a family now. To ere is human but to forgive is divine. I’m using this platform to apologise to my friend from another mother, Stephens Ugochukwu aka Ruggedman. And to the press I’m saying I’m very sorry, you guys should just forgive me. If I have offended you in anyway, I’m very sorry.
You’re wearing a top from Ruggedman’s clothesline, it’s like you guys are really back together. Are you going to do a collabo soon?
Most definitely by God’s grace.
Can you give us an idea of what to expect?
(Laughter) I don’t have an idea. ‘E be like say na you wan write the song, Tony (more laughter).’ But definitely, most importantly and with all sincerity, there will be a song; a friendship song.
Talking about Toni Payne, now that you guys have made up, are you getting back together?
Getting back together depends on what you mean. Right now, she has forgiven me and I have forgiven her. She’s moving ahead and I’m moving ahead but we have a son to raise, and that’s the most important thing right now. Whether she will settle in my house is something I can’t tell for now; we can only wait and see.
Most times people find it difficult to say I’m sorry, especially celebs with their over bloated egos. Where did you find the courage to say ‘I’m sorry’?
I think having the courage to say I’m sorry or to admit that you made a mistake is all about maturity and self-consciousness. Sometimes, it’s not that we are not all mature but because of pride we could be like ‘so what?’ So, I think having that self realization comes with maturity and responsibility.
Now that you are back on the block, are we going to have another Gongo Aso moment?
(Laughter) We shall by God’s grace because we will always make songs. However, what turns what we play into evergreen songs is the people, the media and the masses; that’s what Gongo Aso was all about.
You and Reminisce started in 2002 and it was pretty hectic. Could you recount those years?
Those days were difficult and tough. I think God just brought us together and directed that unity. Because even without money, we remained friends and everybody laughed. We always shared the little we had and lived like brothers. Nobody saw the success coming and I thanks God Almighty for that.
There was a time you had your CD thrown back at you by a radio DJ. Did you feel like quitting after the experience?
Back then my kind of songs were new. It wasn’t something people had heard so they tended to have a negative reaction because it wasn’t in vogue. So I gave this DJ my CD and he said ‘this is a trash’ and threw the CD away but he accepted Reminisces’ song. I cried back home. And I remember Cabassa was like, ‘9ice, don’t worry. What you’re doing is new and it would take a while to get some traction.’ On the flip side it also made me put in more effort.
Let’s get back to the very beginning, how did the music start for you?
Music started like fun. I knew I had talent but coming from my family background, you can’t say you want to be a musician; it’s not just possible. It’s either you aspire to be a lawyer or doctor. You just had to go to school and be something. So I was doing it without seriousness until I tried every other avenue and music was the last option. My parents didn’t know I was doing music until I released my first album and I was on TV. They were like; ‘ah! Is that you on TV?’ and I was like ‘no-o, it’s not me-o!’ And they were like ‘that is you on TV ‘joor!’ And then they gave me all the support. The challenges before then were enormous. I had to trek to Computer Village, Ikeja, to buy empty CDs all the way from Bariga a lot of times. Sometimes, we did joint trekking, Reminisce and I and the rest of the crew. We all trekked together to avoid long and lonely treks (laughter).
So, how did you feel when Gongo Aso blew overnight?
Wow, it hit me like a ton of bricks! When it blew I didn’t know. It took me another year to realize that the song had blown because I was still in shock; Gongo Aso shocked me I must confess.
Talking about your grand mum, we learnt she was pivotal in your growing up. Tell us about her?
She’s late now. She passed on last year. I started living with her at the early stages of my life when I was like two or three. I saw her as my mum. I called her my mum and called my mum aunty. Everything that I have and know today I got from her. It was very sad when I received news of her death. She was 82 but I thank God that she didn’t die young.
Have you dedicated a song to her?
Watch out for my next album.
Are you still missing her?
I’ll forever miss her because this was someone that impacted my life one hundred per cent.
Let’s talk about your son with Toni Payne, how often do you get time to spend time with him?
Yesterday we spoke. Today we’ve spoken already. I have also spoken with my twins today as well. Now I think we are all mature. I need my son; he needs me. My son needs his mother and his mother needs him as well. So, we need to work together as a team. Not for our own benefits but because of the lives that we have created; it’s not for today but tomorrow.
A while ago you went into politics and lost but got an appointment. Tell us about life in politics?
Life in politics is a different thing entirely. We criticise government from afar; we talk about politics from afar. But when you’re in the system, it’s a different ball game entirely; you learn not to promise what you cannot deliver. While you’re campaigning, you listen to the yearnings of the people, what they actually want. However, the position you might be going for sometimes might not be one that would empower you to impact the people so, don’t promise what you cannot deliver.
Do you have any regrets about running for public office?
I don’t have any regrets. I learnt a lot and I met a lot of people and I’m inspired and happy and I’d be willing to run again.
This evening we saw Seye Kehinde and Mayor Akinpelu; two publishers come to honour you on your birthday. What’s your relationship with them?
They are like fathers to me. They are pioneers in the industry. At the beginning of the brand, Global Excellence was there; City People was also there. So too was Encomium magazine among a host of others; those are the people that brought the brand to limelight. They didn’t just come here; I went to them to express my indebtedness. I’m happy that they came here today.