AFTER completing his Master’s degree last year, rapper Naeto C returned to the country to continue with his musical career and has just released his second album entitled, Super C Season. In this interview with ENCOMIUM Weekly, he talked about his experiences while at the University of Dundee, Scotland, the requirements of his course, Energy Economics, his new album and the issues that have cropped up around him.
How was it taking off for your Master’s degree programme at a time your music was still hot in the land?
It was a very big and difficult decision for me to make, but I felt it was the right decision. Leaving Nigeria at that time with the magnitude of ground I had covered in my music and the popularity I had gained was a risk because it meant that I was going to forfeit a lot of opportunities like getting shows, possible endorsements and marketing myself and my music.
But when I weighed the options, I was convinced that going to school was the correct decision. I felt it would have a greater impact on the larger scheme of things, it would affect other people, especially those that look up to me as a role model. Moreover, my becoming a musician was just a chance thing and there was already a plan in place before the music came and furthering my studies was part of it.
Did the people in the school know who you were and how big you were in your home country?
In my department, they knew who I was, but I tried to keep a low profile because I didn’t want to be a distraction to my colleagues and I didn’t want to attract too much attention in class or the department. I just wanted to focus on my degree. It was only much later when the Harvard African Business Conference held, where I was scheduled to perform and be on the entertainment panel and it clashed with one of my class projects. So, I had to approach the professor in charge to explain the situation to him and he was shocked and excited that I had been in class for a year without him knowing that part of me. It was only by the time I finished my degree that most of the people in the school knew about me and the awards I had won and my music.
You said that your becoming a musician was more or less accidental, what actually led to it?
I have always been into poetry, music, hip-hop and rap. But all of them were very similar and because I was writing poems, I started writing rap and I was able to cope even though I saw rap as a hobby. But opportunities presented themselves and at some point I had practised well enough to actually be able to make my own songs and I decided to take those opportunities when I got back to Nigeria in 2006. Music was a way for me to become independent and not rely on pocket money any longer.
That was pretty how it started and then the more songs I recorded, the more recognition I got and the more fans I made and it then became very difficult to quit.
What does a Master’s degree in Energy Economics involve?
It involves energy issues and this comprises electricity, petroleum, oil and gas, renewable energy and carbon related issues. Obviously, energy is what powers our everyday lives and the course basically involves understanding how that contributes to life and national development.
It’s a broad discipline, but one tends to find areas of specialisation and then move from that to something else within the same subject. I specialised in Energy Economics. For example, an energy economist could be interested in the Nigerian Liquified Natural Gas (NLNG) and would study it to find out its challenges and how to make it better and more profitable to the nation.
Another example could be rural electricity. We had a rural electricity fund in the county that got scrapped for one reason or the other. But why was it initiated? It was because majority of Nigerians in the rural areas don’t have access to electricity. And why is that? Because the national grid cannot reach certain areas. Why can’t it reach certain areas? Because at the time it was built, the technology to tackle it, for example, the swampy Niger-Delta areas, were not there. There’s desert terrain in the North and so on. All these lead to the challenge of how to provide electricity to these areas. My specialisation deals on how we can identify these challenges and at the same time proffer solutions.
At what point do you intend to fully put this knowledge to use?
At some point definitely. I can’t place a time frame on that because it might not be within my powers to do that. The reason I went to school was because I had an interest I wanted to develop to a certain professional level, so I can create more options for myself and not solely rely on musically generated income. I created a lot more challenges for myself by getting my Master’s and that ultimately makes life much more interesting. Because the more challenges you have, the better an individual you become and that leads to self development.
Talking about the album, how much of it did you do while in school and how much after?
I think I did about 40 per cent while in school and the balance was when I came back. The major challenge was that I didn’t really have a studio while in school and I couldn’t do as much music as I would have loved. Then, I really needed to focus on school and it was only in my spare time, which was always when I was in Nigeria that I was able to work with Nigerian producers. But things became a lot easier when I finished school.
What’s in the album?
It’s a 17-track album. There are 14 core tracks and three bonus tracks. I originally wanted to do a 14-track album, but my label pressurised me into putting more songs on it because I had been away for sometime now. I had collabos with about seven artists. I personally think the album shows growth from my first album to now. I’m happy about it and I am confident that it’s going to do well.
Is it themed around something or did you just drop tracks?
The title itself is a theme, but it’s a vague theme. But at the same time a personalised theme. Super C Season just encapsulates the whole period of my going to school and coming back and the challenges that I was put under and how I had to really tap into myself to overcome them. So, I have come to believe that everybody is a super hero and it’s not until you face challenges and adversities that you tap into yourself to go the extra mile and do things that you haven’t done before or was feeling that you would never be able to do.
I think that’s what I did by going to school and bouncing back even harder than before I left. That’s the general theme and the songs are all representations of different moments of my life in the last two years.
Did you notice that you really sound like MI’s own theme in his latest album?
Yeah, it’s a coincidence. I already had my album titled in 2009 and I believe MI has also had the title of his own album a long time ago, but neither of us knew what each other’s work was really about. We only discovered this during a special meeting where we interviewed each other and I think that we probably live parallel lives and go through the same things. It’s amazing, but I think it’s good for Nigerian hip-hop and other music at the end of the day because the common theme/message is for everybody to tap into your inner super or action hero to overcome your challenges and I think it is a very positive and powerful message.
Do you see any level of competition on the Nigerian contemporary music scene?
The honest truth is that hip hop is a very competitive sport and you don’t get better if you don’t have competition. It’s okay to compete because that’s what makes us get better. We are all friends while trying to become the best. Yet Nigeria is a very large market and there’s room for almost everybody to excel.
Apart from all the music, a lot of issues about your love life have been up in the air for a long time now. It would be nice for you to address them, starting from the rumours of Sasha to that of former MBGN, Omowunmi Akinnifesi.
I don’t really like talking about my private life because I think it’s a distraction from what I’m here to do. I’m here to make music and my personal life is for me because I can’t give everything to the public. I know people always want the best from me, but they still have to respect my privacy.
I have been saying all along that I’m not dating Sasha, but people have kept asking me about it till tomorrow. Then, I don’t know where that of Omowunmi came from. I am friends with these people and I wouldn’t want any of these stories to affect them or their relationships in a negative way. People can always call me to confirm these stories before putting their pens to paper.
Your mom (Dr. (Mrs.) Kema Chikwe) is a very active politician, do you at any point intend to take after her?
Politics is a life of service and for much older people. I still have a lot of challenges at the moment, but anything could happen in the future.
But do you make much contact with your people at home in Owerri, Imo State?
Because of the nature of my job as an entertainer, it’s difficult to go home as regularly as I would want. But I went to register in my ward which a lot of people couldn’t do because of the situation of the country. I did that because I wanted to vote at home and not anywhere else.
- This story was first published in ENCOMIUM Weekly on Tuesday, February 15, 2011