Hunky and dark skinned hip hop artist, Ukeje Okechukwu, popularly known and addressed as Nigga Raw now prefers to be called Mr. Raw.
ENCOMIUM Weekly’s Faith Omitoyinbo chatted with him in his Magodo, Lagos home. He spoke on why he changed his stage name, new album, marriage and more…
What informed the change of your stage name from Nigga Raw to Mr. Raw and how did you even come about the name?
There was a lot of pressure from the press and my fans that they can’t really blend my name with the kind of music I do. After a while, I visited the internet and I found out that it was difficult for some people to write stories about me because of the name.
Even on air, some presenters don’t use Nigga, they use Raw because it was hard for them to sell any news about me. An once you remove the Nigga, a lot of people won’t marry the two, they won’t know that you are talking about the same person.
At a time, I visited some sites that have my songs online, I realized that they don’t have Nigga Raw. What they had was star, Star Raw because they are trying to censor the Nigga. If you search for my songs online and type Nigga Raw, it won’t show. So, when I noticed these, I decided to change it.
I also noticed that when I went to the US, some promoters found it had to sell a show Nigga Raw in the States because one or two people might be involved , and how would they tell others that there is a Nigerian artist called Nigga Raw?
There are lots of things my eyes opened up to and I saw that it was the right time to change the name. Moreover, I am married too. So, if I do it now, it’s not bad because it will make me live up to my status. I decided to use Mr. Raw instead of Nigga Raw. I thought about it adter my trip to the States and I think I prefer Mr. raw to Nigga Raw.
A name goes a long way to explain or tell people who you are, and that’s why they say, a good name is better than silver and gold.
People think about you when they hear your name either for good or bad. There is something in a name that is stronger than what we can see without ordinary eyes. If my eyes were as opened as they are now, if I was wiser as I am now, I would have used my real names to sell myself as an artist so that anybody from anywhere will ask for the meaning of my name. They will try to know what is behind the name and where I am from.
What have been the reactions of your fans to your change of stage name?
I must confess, a lot of people are not finding it funny. Maybe because they are used to Niggar Raw. So, it’s hard for them to blend, they find it hard to start calling me Mr. Raw. My fans are complaining but I am trying to make them get used to it. I spent years building the name, it took me years to sell the name and all of a sudden I want to change it. I know it’s going to be difficult, it will take time. It’s not going to be easy, it’s like I am a new artist.
When I went to shoot in South Africa, I saw the missed calls of a TV presenter on my phone and when I called her back, she asked who is this? I said it’s me mr. Raw and she said, Mr. Raw? Sorry, I don’t know who you are. I was trying to explain to her but she didn’t even wait to listen until I said, it’s Nigga Raw and she started shouting that she actually saw it but that it didn’t click. I know it will take time for people to adapt to the new name.
So, what happens to your fans, who still stick to Nigga Raw?
It is still same old me, the same brand of music, the same style of rap. It’s just the change of name and status. The name took me years to build, I don’t think I will change it over night and people will get used to it. But I believe with time, they will get used to it. Till today, a lot of people still call me Nigga Raw. Some people like it while some don’t, but I thank God that people still appreciate what I am doing.
Tell us about your new album?
My new album in entitled End of Discussion. It’s a 14 track album, it out and doing well. That is the new me, that is my first album as Mr. Raw and I am very happy that a lot of people love it.
How much did it gulp?
It gulped enough. I don’t want to talk about how much.
Why did it take you so long to come out with another album?
I was so busy with the old album, I was enjoying the benefit and euphoria of what I sowed. It didn’t occur to me to drop a new one. I was actually busy with shows outside the country and it affected my release of another album.
I wasn’t even in the country when my latest album was released. So, imagine if I had waited in the country before the release.
Do you think End of Discussion, your new album will beat your hit album, Obodo?
I don’t know. People have their favourite songs in the album but I won’t really use Obodo to judge because it introduced me to the industry. Obodo came out at a time nobody knew who I was but they liked the song and it became popular. People will still buy the subsequent album because it is Mr. Raw’s job. The difference is there and I can see it. Some people will buy a new job because they know the artist, not because they love the song. It is only when you buy the album, you listen to it that you then check the songs you like. In the case of Obodo, people actually bought it because they like the song but for now, people want to buy the album because of me, it is a known name and a known artist. So, they are two different things. A lot of people still play Obodo till date.
Do you feel threatened by the new hip hop artist doing similar music?
No, I don’t feel threatened. Rather, I see it as a means of working harder because when there is competition, there is room for expansion and improvement. I don’t feel threatened at all.
A lot of people think that Flavour is getting popular by the day, what do you think?
Flavour is very popular and he will continue to be popular. He is a good and gifted artist and nobody can take that away from him.
Do you feel threatened by his steady rise?
No! We are not even doing the same kind of music, we don’t even sound alike. Flavour is a different artist entirely.
What do you enjoy most about your career?
The smiles I see on people’s faces when they listen to me music.
How will you describe life as a married man?
I am more focused, more calculated than I used to be. Whatever I am doing, I know I have to go back home, I know I have a home to build wherever I am. I now plan whatever I want to do unlike when I was a bachelor. Marriage has made me focused and organized.
What are the pains and gains of marriage?
It’s not about you alone anymore. It’s about you and somebody. Whatever you want to do, you must check if it is acceptable by your wife and vice versa. You don’t have the freedom to do what you like at your own time, you must always consider your wife’s opinion before doing anything. You no longer hang out late nights with friends. But I must tell you, the gains are more than the pains. Marriage keeps m focused.
Being married and single, which do you prefer?
I prefer being married because marriage is very important and I am gaining a lot from the sacred institution.
How will you describe your wife?
She is beautiful, intelligent and very caring.
How many kids are you looking up to God for?
Gad has the final decision but I wish to have two boys and a girl.
As an artist, you are constantly in and out of the country, doesn’t your wife complain?
No, she doesn’t complain because she understands the nature of my job. Sometimes when I am not comfortable with some shows, she will be the one to encourage me to go at least for the sake of my fans. All I need to do is to let her know if I would be sleeping out for travelling out of the country.
This story was first published in ENCOMIUM Weekly on Tuesday, August 23, 2011