Hip-life pioneer and Glo X-factor judge, Reggie Rockstone remains ever relevant. Born Reggie Osei in the United Kingdom in the late 60s, and popularly known as the “grandpapa” of hip-life, he shared with ENCOMIUM Weekly‘s Bukola Edak his experience as the creator of an exciting genre, how the journey has been rewarding, his family and intimate secrets as well as his role as the newest member of VIP now VVIP, among many episodes…
Tell us how your musical career started?
Right from when I was young, my parents told me I could do a little bit of everything – from martial arts to taekwondo. I won a lot of competitions, did commercials and was one of the young black belt holders. And of course, I knew music. And growing up around good music, l started dancing at a very young age and I would entertain folks, because I could move to the rhythm.
Also, my mother used to tell me that I was self-employed from a young age. So from being a dancer, doing commercials and wining many contests, I was going to audition for Beach Street, the famous break dance movie by Harry Belafonte. I was going to audition, but l was not in the movie. So obviously…so when you take all the above information and put it together, it pretty much gives you the picture that I have always been artistically inclined.
Can you share your experience with us on your favourite or memorable collaborations with other artistes?
I rarely make music I don’t like. They are my children, I love them all. if I didn’t like it, then you don’t get to hear it, I won’t put it out. So all the collabos are all memorable with different vibes. Incredible collaborations with Bennie man and Tuface. Tuface is a great human being. But most of the people that I worked with are similar to me. They are very conscious or very pan- African and very humble and so they all are memorable. Just did a collaboration with my VVIP, my new group featuring IDRIS Elba and Phyno.
Idris Elba is an actor, is he into music as well?
Yeah, he’s into music. He even rapped in pidgin, we shot the video already and it’s about to come out. I keep meeting really good people, Wyclef Jean, TINNIE, manifset , EL, and a whole lot.
Is it true you did a collabo with the late FELA Anikulapo kuti?
No ooo!!! I wish. if I had, that would have been the beginning of my resume, I won’t be mentioning none of these folks. I’ll be like, you know what, I did music with Fela,so lets cut it off. I mean, I would have set it off just straight. But I grew up with his music. ButI kind of did a collabo, if you really put that way. One of my biggest songs that I started with hip-life, I sampled one of Fela’s songs which is “Shakara” and that set some of the tones for hip-life. So yes! I have collaborated with Fela…laughs
How would you describe Fela?
Earthling with a revolutionary agenda. Yeah, he was off this planet earth, no doubt. But his agenda was definitely, definitely a revolution. This dude didn’t mince his words. He did as he felt, he wasn’t perfect which made him earthling. But there is one thing you can never ever dismiss that this dude stood for all that was righteous. At least, a big percentage…he fought the machine. He was earthling and revolutionary. He didn’t sit down and just speak, he acted. So yeah man, he’s a heavy weight.
What is the secret to your longevity in the music industry?
It has to do with life. I love anything that has to do with life, because I love life. And music is part of life and part of my life. And because I love music, my quest is to stay alive to make music what it is. It comes hand in hand. People ask me how I stayed so relevant for so many years, and I say relevance is as relevance does. But it’s pretty much up to my Maker, it has nothing to do with me. I push my vibes around, but it’s really God. So what GOD says is going to happen, is what is happening.
To remain relevant means you have to do different things and not do the same things all the time. Unfortunately, they are wrong because , I really didn’t join VIP to remain relevant. My track records in life will never go away in history because I am responsible for the movement that made VIP. So all through my life, whether I dropped dead today, they will always know me as hip-life originator. It’s pretty solid. When you talk about James Brown as the king of funk and Michael Jackson as the king of pop. I have affiliated with a whole lot of genres of music.
I actually joined VVIP like joke. It started like a joke. One of the members just left and I tweeted on twitter, about always wanting to be in a group, and people started going crazy, saying no,no,no. And the minute you say no to me about something not being possible, that’s the minute I wake up, because they excite me. So I did. How many months down the line, and we picking up awards and giving them hit records. It’s an amazing story.
But why VIP?
Like I said, it wasn’t planned. It started off as a joke. I mean, they are my younger brothers. I have known them since they were young and we’re good friends. And they are one of the longest surviving groups. They lost one of the main true members of the group and so when they did, I thought to myself, when the reactions came and l am like this group should never die…So I think God just ordained it. No, I don’t think, I know God ordained it.
As a judge on Glo X-factor, what was the experience like for you in Nigeria?
It was really serene, because there is a whole lot of generations in Nigeria who know who I am and know what I have contributed to African music. So here I am, a guy with dreads locks sitting on TV and these younger ones don’t know who I am. They are like who is this dude that seems to know Africa but has an American accent? They couldn’t place me. But the older generation know who I was. So they are the ones telling the younger ones – you don’t know this dude, he ain’t no joke, he’s been around. But it was a blessing, because they came to warm up to me as time went on, they came to realise that this dude knows something, he is an old soul. And till date, I’ve got Nigerians on twitter who says oh yeah I remember you, and when they go check my background they realised who they were dealing with. So it was actually a compliment.
As a family man, what is the key element to a lasting marriage?
I am learning something new every day. The fact that a female is a complex being and males are not very complex. We are pretty plain. Females are a little bit deeper. You might think you are doing all the right things and the woman thinks you are doing the wrong thing. So being with a woman is really to study the art of relationship, and that of course friendship is really important. l am really terrible with money , I like to hang out with my boys just chilling and these are the things you try to unlearn and strike a balance, but it has more to do with friendship. if you ever see an old couple, don’t think it was easy, they just made a vow to be together to the very end till they die. Some gave up and they divorce …It’s not an easy road and nothing is easy.
So the more you survive your fights, the stronger you are going to get. Sometimes the two might feel like giving up and not seeing each other. And then there are times you just wanna see each other. Being able to survive all the above, then you become a success story. So when you see Denzel Washington and his wife, you better ask where they are coming from. The Mandela’s even broke up, so it’s not easy. It’s a race of emotions and everything, and you have to tell yourself, “I am going to win this race ” because you are not guaranteed tomorrow. If one of you drops dead today, the other one would swear they did never get a chance to say all the things they wanted to say. It happens all the time. And guess what, you are not guaranteed tomorrow. So in our earthling ways we are stubborn, but if you really simplify it, it’s all about friendship. You say look, I am in your corner and on your side and that’s just it. I could make it sound good on tape, but applying it, is another whole different game.
What are the legacies you want to leave behind for your children as an entertainer?
My legacies are pretty much in stone right now, no pun intended. My kids know who I am because it’s just what I have done. What I instil into my kids is to be real good earthlings. Good people, good vibes, good energy always. Almost no negativity in my family. Besides human errors, everything is really positive. My children are really nice, nice kids, they are warm. I want them to grow up and be great citizens of planet earth. All the hip-life and stuff are just human accolades.
Can you share some of the sad and happy moments with us?
I really don’t like to think of the sad moments. You know, nobody likes sad moments. But, like normal humans, I have had my own share. And my happy moments, as we speak, I am pretty happy. Just like every human, I go through my ups and downs, overall am just been content that am alive and happy to be alive.
Can you describe yourself as a wealthy man?
As a wealthy man? Materially, I would say no, l am still hustling. But I don’t really know what that means, because even the rich folks are still working, so I wouldn’t say…But I am rich in the other things, I am rich in personality, I am rich in talent, I am rich in life. I think wealth would probably give me the material one. But I can stretch a dollar out. The kids are good, they have clothes on their back. I am really not extravagant, I am actually terrible with money, I don’t hold on to it. So, I tell my wife, I don’t respect money. I don’t give money that kind of reverence. It is for what I need I get, and I pay for it and that that.
So how where you able to put up this place, Django Bar?
Same thing, hustle. You have to make ends meet. You put money here and there and you got a good wife who is really behind you, come together and say your personality fits this. Put your name on something. You are really popular, every club that you go everybody goes there, so why don’t you have your own,since you like hanging out a lot all. So, here we are!
Was that part of the motive for setting it up?
Yeah, l am a socialite. Every club that I hang out ,everybody will be there. So why not have my own.
Do you plan going into any charitable event?
l am a walking charity. Half of the money I make goes to helping people. If I have any money on me and you ask me, I will give it to you, because that was how my father was. I grew up like this. There used to be a lot of people in my father’s house all day asking for money.
Everybody needs help , it could be the one right in front of you, or the one on TV. if you give it out, it comes from your heart. It’s the same vibe, but I have affected a lot of charitable homes.
As the pioneer of hip-life. what is the connection between hip-hop, high life and hip-life?
You would never have hip-life without hip-hop. Hip-life is a branch off the tree of hip-hop. And then, high-life comes from our own thing. But you would never have had hip-life without ‘diasporic’ influence, it would never have the Caribbean influence. So they are connected. Music travels like language and involves change. Where I came in was in hip-hop. Hip-hop was my generation, so I took the hip from hip-hop and took the life from high-life then created hip-life. In terms of branding, it’s perfect and the younger generations love it. It balances them up, they followed and today that’s what you have.
So there is a definite connection to all of the above. But you would never have one without the other. Even the name pretty much tells you there is a connection.
Which do you prefer?
I love good music. I listen to jazz, funk, everything. I will be more about hip-life, because I will be more patriotic, because it got my language in it. It’s more of a revolution.
What is your final word for up and coming musicians who would like to be like you?
I never have my final words, as long as l am alive, there is no final word. Because I might say something different tomorrow. But my advice on how to stay relevant, like I said, relevant is has relevant does. I don’t really like going out of my way. I just stay busy doing something. I am always thinking of new ways, you know, I get bored real quick. But to remain relevant has to do with how people see you, because you remain relevant to your family till you die. So let’s look at that on bigger scale. What is it about you? It’s because your family loves you and they respect you and they like your mind. How you move and bring food to the table. Yeah, but just be yourself really. If you are doing something that is of significant, people will notice and it starts to pay off. That’s when you are rich.
What other stuff do you do aside from music? Do you read books?
l am very well read. But I don’t read as much as I should do. But when I was a kid we had a really lazy baby sitter, and so she would put me in front of the TV all day. So I learnt so much from the television. l am a semi-literate. My education is not to the degree level. My daughter made a point, she said you are not educated but you know a little bit of everything. Television, I guess, did that. Every little information, I am always listening. I talk less and listen a lot. So I pick something from here and there. So I know pretty much small of everything, and that’s all you need, survival kit.
So how many kids do you have?
I have four. Little Ricky who is named after my father, and then I have Zuzu. Zuzu is a lawyer, she was born on my wife’s birthday. And then l have Reggiesaler born on my birthday and my oldest, she is Fibbie, and she is 28.