BY ADEDAYO SHOWEMIMO
On Sunday June 12, 2016, TheNETng spent time at home with Nigerian producer OJB Jezreel, who has passed on today, aged 49.
It is a pre-50th birthday interview he’ll never get to read.
Sometime in April, I ran into my very good friend Sarumi Ademiluyi, an industry plugger and artiste manager. The last I remember, he was OJB’s manager, so I asked ‘How far bro, how Baba (OJB)’. He replied saying, ‘Baba dey ok o. We dey even plan to do him 50th birthday in July’.
Immediately I said to him, ‘Bro you know I have to be the one to get his 50th birthday exclusive interview’, and he was like, ‘Sure na, you be my oga na (laughs)’.
So we agreed to meet up over the weekend and set up a meet with OJB.
The meeting didn’t hold, but we spoke on phone a couple of times and Ade was like, ‘I don brief Baba about the interview, so you can call him to see him’.
I called OJB myself. He didn’t pick up the first day, so I gave it time and called a couple of days after. He did pick up and went: ‘Dayo, bawo ni’.
I told him why I called and he said no problem, ‘you can come to the house on Sunday.
So on Sunday, June 12, 2016 I headed to OJB’s house on Gbaja Street in Surulere Lagos. I got there about an hour late because Ikorodu Road was a mess traffic-wise.
I met OJB in his parlour. He laid on a bed right in the centre of the living room with his kids around him. OJB looked frail and was a shadow of his old bubbly self. He welcomed me, we chatted a little about his plan for the birthday and when we were about to start the interview, he sent his kids inside.
His last child, Emmanuella was a little relunctant, so OJB had her take off his jacket and sent her inside with it.
His first words were, ‘What most people don’t know about me is that I am very unassuming and I pray a lot’.
This Delta State born entertainer was one of the founding fathers contemporary Nigerian music and pop culture.
Many, including 2face Idibia, Wizkid, D’banj, Banky W, Ruggedman, Jazzman Olofin and more owe their early career successes to him.
How I feel at 50
Turning 50 was something I used to look at as an age that’s very far away, but here it is today. It just makes you see that the people that took the responsibility of fathering your generation at that time have done their part and it’s our turn to take over from them and take care of the next generation. That’s what I see, a lot of responsibilities because now it’s obvious that people will actually look up to you.
When your health challenge rose in 2013, did you ever think you’ll live up to 50?
Well, when the health challenge came, I won’t lie to you, I was a bit worried, but after the transplant, I started seeing things differently and I started seeing possibilities of living up to 50 and even beyond.
Now that you are 50, what will change about you?
I hear most people turn 50 and say things like ‘I’ll get closer to God’, so I always wonder. Really, you don’t have to hit the age of 50 before you should get close to God, what if you don’t live up to 50?
For me, there’s really nothing that’ll change. Like I said earlier, the only thing is the fact that you can’t be found competing with anyone. You should be more of the advisory person. You should let people know that there’s a ladder to climb, that there’s more to what they see. One minute you are at the top, the next minute it’s somebody else, and a lot of people have not been able to manage such situations.
I just believe that 50 gives you an opportunity to be more constructive with your life. Some say life begins at 40, for some of us I think life actually begins at 50.
I’ll be honest, I grew up in a very rich family in Lagos. I’m from Delta State but when they check the family tree, they say it’s from Ado-Ekiti because the Okungbowa family is from there, but I’ll say I’m from Delta State because that’s what I have on my passport (laughs).
However, what made me get in touch with the street was my decision to go into entertainment which my family was not in total support of and to them, they felt maybe when they pull the financial plugs maybe I’ll come back to my senses, but it didn’t happen.
And that’s how I started hanging out in Mushin. I worked with a lot of fuji bands, highlife bands, so that’s basically how I got into music.
My journey into Production
I started as DJ because back then it was a lot easier to survive as a DJ, but I always loved beats and sounds, but some of the production houses we had back then didn’t make quality beats and most people and even record labels felt it couldn’t get better.
So I took it up as a challenge. I needed to prove a point and that’s how I entered music production.
Success in music
I think it’s a bit relative. I have never been a comparison kind of person, but from where I’m coming from, it’s safe to say I’ve really tried. So I think the clear cut thing is destiny.
In our own time, we came as the beginning of what you call the new age industry and I think we played our role, I don’t see us playing it again. I see some of my mates coming out to do the ‘I want to blow again’ thing and it’s so funny to me, because you already came at a time the industry needed that change, you inspired a lot of people, so there’s no need to compete any more.
So I think in terms of achievement, I think I have achieved because there was nothing else we could do at the time, so now we are supposed to be mentors to this generation so they’ll begin to understand that beyond money there is extreme need for passion which seems to be missing.
2face Idibia’s album still remains my most tasking project
The 2face Idibia ‘Grass To Grace’ still remains the most tasking project I’ve done till date. I say it because most people don’t know 2face is very stubborn (laughs). Sorry to say this, but Festac boys are really stubborn.
They always have an ideology that they have it all figured out, and when you try to structure them it causes a friction. So we did a lot of back and forth on that album. At times he was being difficult, he may not want to record at times and all that, but it’s so shocking now that it’s that same album that’s been called one of the greatest of all times.
Though I still think that Jazzman Olofin’s ‘Raise The Roof’ album was better in terms of production and creativity.
One thing I couldn’t do in music
I wish we had been able to structure a proper remuneration system for music producers and songwriters and the other guys behind the scene, because music is paying now, artistes get millions of naira from caller tunes and stuff, but there’s no provision for the producers and songwriters.
Looking back, I see no regrets because I see things from a more spiritual point of view. I think it was destiny that led me into music, it wasn’t accidental. We might think we are the ones orchestrating it, but there’s a higher force.
If I had the choice to choose another career path, I’m sure it’ll still be within the entertainment industry.
When you are younger you see a lot of regrets, but when you are older you see the regrets as things that shaped your life to become who you are and that’s what makes you an elder with experience.
How I want to celebrate my 50th
I think the first thing I really want to do is to have a quiet moment with my family, because as you are aware from 2013 till now it’s been a rolling stone of challenges health-wise and for some reasons I’m still alive, so that day, I really don’t want too much noise and celebration. I just want it to be a day for myself, family and God. But after that day, we can turn up and paint the town all the colours you want (laughs).
I have 3 wives and 8 children
Well, I have three wives and eight children. My first son is a graduate of Unilag, the second one is in her second year, my 3rd child is in OAU studying Mass Communication and the others are all still in school. I look at them and see them as my proud achievements not the Bentleys and Rolls Royce.
Jazzman Olofin is my only friend
It’s very difficult to mention names of loyal friends in the industry because I never set out looking for such people when I started. I was never conscious of such, that’s why I probably appear as a lone ranger. It’s as I grew older in the industry that I started to understand the value of loyalty.
But people have always said Jazzman is OJB’s best friend. For me I’ll say we are more or less like brothers. We fight like brothers, we argue like brothers, so I think he’s about the only one with whom I’ve been able to take it beyond the regular industry friendship.
How I react to news of my death in the media
Most people say when they carry such news about you, it means the person will have long life but me I don’t know about that one o. (laughs).
The truth is, people feel there’s a trend, and they expect things to always follow that trend, so when it doesn’t happen that after 3 years he dies, people get shocked and such news always flies.
So when I hear such news I never get bothered, but some times because we are all human, it gets to me and I get scared and when I have a little headache or stomach pain I begin to get extra worried but then it’s all good.
Always keep it simple
What I’ve always said for the past 10 years is to always keep it simple and humble, not because you are stupid or slow, but because in the end that’s all that counts.
And the more simple and humble you are, the more you will be honoured and blessed by the forces of existence. Once you realise this, you will find out that you will no longer wrestle with destiny or struggle with life.
This post first appeared on NET.