When SKALES tells you he’s seen it all at the age of 23, better believe him. The singer-rapper has been through the wire; enjoying fame and success but also falling into the pit of rejection from fans and the media at some point. But what’s that thing they say about what doesn’t kill only makes you stronger?
In this week’s Weekend Chat, for the very first time, Skales opens up to Popularity Bar on his leaving former record label EME and the controversies that trailed his exit, a look back on his come up years and how his birthplace played an instrumental role in his music career. He also talks about working as an independent artiste and signing a new recording deal….
Please find excerpts from the interview below,
Tell us about your background?
I was born and raised in Kaduna state. Actually, none of my parents are from Kaduna, my father’s family has it roots from Cameroon, that’s why I have the name Raoul and my surname is Njeng-Njeng. My mum is from Edo State, I’m a Nigerian because I was born and raised here…
How was the hip-hop scene in Kaduna?
The Hip-Hop scene has always been big, even before I started doing hip-hop. Shout out to Terry Tha Rapman who was one of my heroes in Kaduna back then, Mode9, Overdose, Six Foot Plus, Jeremiah Gyang, who really he wasn’t Hip-Hop but he loved the culture, and big ups to him too because he gave me my first studio session ever….
How did you hook up with your long-time manager Osagie Osarenkhoe?
I met Osagie in 2009. I used to go to KnightHouse Studio back then when I wanted to record my first single. She saw me rapping and asked me to give her my number. We started talking, she hooked me up with stuff and helped out but she wasn’t managing me, so I begged her to manage me but she was busy with Kel and Wizkid at the time. I think I went to perform somewhere else again then, Banky W, Segun Demuren, saw me and they were like ‘Who is this dude, we just keep seeing him, who is he with?’.
They became interested and began making enquiries about me, I went to another show where Banky performed, I killed it but nobody knew who I was, they don’t even know my name. It was only Wizkid who knew me because we met at KnightHouse. Wizzy started talking with me and we became cool friends. One day I got a text from Wizzy, it read, ‘EME wants to sign you’. I asked him if it was a joke but he said ‘for real’ that I should hit up Osagie. I hit up Osagie and we started working together. It took us like almost six months to negotiate because I was scared, I don’t believe in depending on anybody, I do things myself….
So would you’d agree you signed with EME because you didn’t have the financial capacity to move your career forward?
That’s what happened at the end of the day, that’s why I had to, like I didn’t even have a choice. But it took us time because we had to negotiate, then I had issues with my old manager and I had to let him go, then I begged Osagie and finally she agreed. That was how we started working till now.
We are told it was EME co-owner Segun Demuren who was really interested in you…
I actually signed because I met Segun Demuren. It was after I got signed before I met Banky….
Was Banky a fan of your music?
Well… of course he was because he was working with me, so I guess he was, he could sing my songs so definitely he was, but one person I know that was really crazy with my stuff was Segun Demuren. That’s how it all started for me and ever since then we’ve been working and musically I’ve been growing and I have known more….
EME wasn’t trying to re-model you into another Wizkid seeing his success has gone so far?
No, they didn’t.
Did EME really pass a message to you that they want you to stick to rap rather than sing?
They didn’t really pass that to me, when I said the whole Drake thing to them we all agreed, whatever statement they are making now isn’t true. They seemed to be all right with it and approved video shoots for the songs….
In 2011 when Wizkid dropped his debut, did you feel pressured at that time, knowing you were next up?
The funny thing is I never ever felt pressured, the only time I felt pressured was when I was being delayed. I was just worried that a lot of people were waiting for me to get out there. I dropped ‘Mukulu’ after Wizzy’s album and got buzzing, I wanted to drop another single to support an album release but what I heard was ‘Yo! You need to wait, EME album is next’. I wasn’t cool with that but I didn’t have any option. I never actually felt pressured when Wizkid was succeeding because I knew that if he made it, I could make it too….
When did the cracks start showing while at EME?
I think it all started at the beginning of this year, I just wanted to do my own thing because I was putting my career in somebody’s hand and nothing was happening. So I felt like doing something on my own to make more sense and that way is the best move. People respect me more seeing that I decided to move on and do my own thing and I’m not trying to do it in a small way, I am trying to make it bigger.
You can see what’s going on with the songs; see how ‘shake body’ is so big. The song is massive; I keep seeing tweets from Francophone countries, and that was the dream when I was doing the song, I wanted to reach out to African countries, I wasn’t even thinking about Nigeria only, I was trying to just get out there, I am grateful peoples have been showing love too….
Do you think EME signing Niyola, Shaydee and DJ Xclusive was a wise executive decision at the time, when you and Banky hadn’t dropped an album?
I won’t lie, I’m not in the appropriate position to say this but in my own opinion, I don’t think that was a smart move, but no offence, it is like you just have to finish with the people you have first before doing other things. But they know what they are doing; it’s their plan, maybe they had their own plans because people think differently, so I don’t know where their own thoughts were going….
How was Segun Demuren’s reaction to letting you go?
I have not spoken to him in a longtime, the last time I spoke to him was when I graduated, we never actually even see when we were in because he is always busy, it was only Banky we always talk to and Tunde Demuren….
There was a rumor that you were going to sign with Timaya?
Timaya is like my big uncle. I call him my daddy because he’s part of the people that advice me, he always looks out for me. He’ll just call me and be like ‘I saw this thing, but don’t do that again’. He just puts me in the right direction, wanting me to be better. He’s a very close person to me. I used to always be at his house, so I guess people saw the Instagram photos and guessed I had signed with him….
What is the difference with you being independent and under a label?
I think now I make my own decisions and know that this is actually what I wanted to do. And not wait for somebody to actually say ‘No, change it this way’, or do something that benefits them more than me. You see, now I just drop a song and I am confident of the song because this is exactly what I wanted it to sound like. I want to make my own decisions and face any consequences that come with it. But right now since I started my stuff nothing has actually gone bad….
What does the label provide you?
What a label should do for their artiste. I am actually now a recording and a performing artiste under the label line but also a CEO of ‘OHK Entertainment’….
What is the relationship like between you and Banky W?
You both hung out at Wizkid’s birthday gig. Well…we are cool, as a matter of fact I was supposed to go cash a cheque last week and I needed a reference, I just walked into Banky’s house like I used to and I told him that I need his help in signing a referral form. He jokingly said ‘you are going to give me a cut after you cash this cheque o’. (Laughs).
I didn’t even see the hanging out a big deal because I don’t really notice what’s going out there, I am just all about the music. I didn’t really take it as a big deal; before I knew it cameras where just showing up around us taking a lot of pictures of three of people and us were like ‘three of you have to be together’. The next day we saw it had made the news….
Would you run any of your music by him before you release it?
Definitely! Of course, I even have a song that I want to put Banky on my album. So expect that to happen. One person I really respect when it comes to writing in Nigeria is Banky. Banky is a badass writer, when you listen to his music you will know that this guy get sense well well….