Ice Prince: Super Cool Cat

Ice Prince has spent a decade making rap cool in Africa and redefining what it means to be 'fly' in hip hop. 10 years after his debut album, he's gearing up for another.

“My man!”Ice Prince exclaimed as he answered the door. It’s 9 pm, and the Nigerian rapper is wiping the last remnants of sleep from his eye. He yawns as he pulls away from our bro hug. We’re in a high-rise Lekki Apartment with a stern receptionist, jealousy guarding access to the rooms. It’s the day’s end, and Ice looks like he had taken an early start on sleep. He’s alone in this apartment, which he booked himself and his producers into, in search of “a new creative environment.” He says he has spent the last two days, shooting videos for a collaboration. We walk into a spacious living room, stopping at a corner where recording and music production equipment filled a large table. Making space between crisscrossed wires and a microphone stand, he lights a cigarette, as I point to a half-smoked blunt. “Smoke,” he instructs. We light up and begin to play catchup.

This is Ice Prince. This is the Nigerian rapper who has spent a decade redefining hip hop in Africa. His awards are abundant, his celebrity assured, and his legacy is written into the history of African pop music. He’s still fly by every account. He’s wearing a yellow hat with the words ‘Moongoose’ drawn across it. His flowery blue shirt was struggling to hide a gold chain, and as he smoked, he inquired. “Where you dey work now?” Cigarettes done, we trade work histories as he rolls a blunt and takes a puff. He exhales, passes it, and we launch into conversation.

It’s release day for Ice Prince. His latest record, ‘Kolo’, had dropped a few hours earlier. It features Nigerian singer, Oxlade, who Ice Prince claims as a friend. “I’m such a fan of his music,” he says. Ice Prince has spent the day away from the internet, missing out on praises from fans who love the record. It’s how he’s always been, he tells me. His favourite media fascination is the mainstream global news channels. While he might watch that all day, he makes a special exception for a local comedy show, Flatmates, which he catches every evening.

Born Panshak Henry Zamani, 34, Ice Prince found fame after releasing ‘Oleku,’ a classic Nigerian pop record in 2010. After signing with the Nigerian record label Chocolate City, he pushed that success into an equally stellar debut album, Everybody Loves Ice Prince. The LP backed by singles, ‘Superstar’ and ‘Juju,’ attained commercial and critical success. As part of a defacto group with his friends and collaborators, M.I Abaga and Jesse Jagz, Ice Prince played a major role in golden age of Nigerian hip hop. “...Choc Boiz was more than a label. Choc Boiz almost became like a group even among the three of us. When I say the three of us, it's not to exclude Brymo. I mean me, M.I and Jesse — we came to Lagos literally together. We've always been M.I, Ice Prince and Jesse. But now, having songs that you can perform to thousands of people and everybody's singing along, that was our introduction into the music industry. That's why I would remember that as some of my favourite moments, you know,” Ice Prince says.

When he speaks, Ice Prince stares into the distance. I assume he’s calling his thoughts from the deep. His words are measured. His disposition is often resigned. He arches his neck to make a point, and takes pauses, for effect. He’s been rich, Due to a lack of funding, Ice Prince dropped out of the University of Jos, in his first year. In 2011, he was orphaned after his mother died. His Dad died earlier in 1999. Without financial support, he moved to Abuja, shacked up with M.I and Jagz, to focus on the music. In 2008, the trio moved to Lagos. By 2010, ‘Oleku’ had made him a star. “Whatever comes, comes,” Ice Prince says. “I lost my dad, God kept me here. I lost my mum, God kept me here so I just feel like It's all God's plan my brother. As e be, e be.”

In 2013, Ice Prince released Fire of Zamani as his second studio album. The album contained the singles "Aboki", "More", "Gimme Dat" and "I Swear". On 1 July 2015, Ice Prince was announced as the vice president of Chocolate City. He held the position until his exit in 2016. “Life has taken us from boys to men really and truly. So proud of my brothers. So so proud of each and every one of them. I was just with M.I a few days back and M.I played me his new album. Fucking crazy man,” Ice Prince says.

Despite a full shelf of awards–including a BET ‘Best International Act’ trophy and multiple Channel O recognitions–Ice Prince has never been considered Nigeria’s number one rapper. It’s a position he’s never had a problem with. For a man who comes from nothing, ratings, respect and rap supremacy aren’t his biggest concerns. Life for him is more pragmatic. There are bills to pay. “I'm not saying it's not okay to aim to be number one or want to be number one,” he says. “But I don't mind number two, I don't mind number three, I don't mind number four, number five, number six. As long as I'm good, feed my family and take care of the people that I'm responsible for.”

At the height of his powers. Ice Prince redefined what it meant to be ‘fly,’ in African pop culture. A larger than life carriage, sold his music and made his art connect. His big-budget collaborations with rappers Cassper Nyovest, AKA, Emmy Gee and Kenyan group Camp Mulla aided in bridging African hip hop. And when he sought expansion, he tried to bring his art to the US, via Roc Nation. One of the most iconic photos from the African music industry came from his 2015 meeting with Jay Z in New York. ‘Afrobeats to the world’ was his target, and he says he’s grateful to have played a role. “I'm also blessed to be one of the people that is being mentioned as somebody who played a role in the movement or the journey, even though there are so many people. I keep saying to my colleagues, this our Afrobeats movement, it has been on from before a lot of us were born,” he says.

These days, Ice Prince lives a more withdrawn life, spending time in his home in Lagos, and only travelling for performances and work obligations. He’s got a son who prefers to hang with M.I Abaga. His extended family is taken care of, and his day ones are still around him. This peace. This pride in his clan. These career achievements.  They make his world go round.

We talk for an hour about his motivations for his career moves. How does he consider his contributions to Nigerian music? What lessons can be learned from hindsight? Has life been fair to him? And how important is it to carry your people with you?

You have a new record out 'Kolo'. How does it feel to put out new music again?

Man, it feels very great. It feels very awesome. 'Cause if you know me very well, you'd know that music is the only thing that Ice knows how to do. I don't know how to do anything else, you know. I dropped out of the university at a very early stage, so I didn't get any chance to study anything. If they put me in any office now, my nigga, I'd flop. But music is the only thing I know how to do. So the opportunity to be able to put out music and even have people listening to me after how long I've been in the game, it's awesome. It's a blessing. More than a blessing. 

And then, you worked with Oxlade. Why?

Nothing really. This is not the only song that me and Oxlade have. Me and him have been recording some songs, we've been working on stuff. I mean, Sammy Gyang has produced a few songs for us. Sammy Gyang is my OG producer, my day one producer. This record was produced by him. I met Oxlade through my manager, Dammy. Dapper Dam. That's a mutual friend between me and Oxlade. And he introduced us and from day one when Oxlade pulled up at my crib, we just became friends. The first time he came to my crib, he came dressed like an aboki, very fresh. I like people who're fresh and fly and cool. So it was easy for me and Oxlade to connect as friends. And because we were friends first, it was easy to put ideas together. So we just thought 'Kolo' was the right one to start with. We can't wait for people to hear the rest of the songs that we have. But for now, 'Kolo'.

When people mention Ice Prince, they always say he's a correct guy. He's a real one. People say the same thing about Oxlade. Is ‘realness’ a bond here?

I guess they say energy doesn't lie. And from day one up until today, the respect he shows me every time he's around me, makes me feel like this legend that inspired him. I don't know why, I wish Oxlade really knew how much of a fan of his music I really really am. I keep telling him, but maybe he sees it like 'boy, Ice just dey wash me.' But really and truly, I'm a big big fan of how he creates his music. How he takes his time to not rush a beat, but actually write a product. So again, I can say I guess energy doesn't lie. Between us was perfect energy from the beginning, and amazing chemistry. It was easy for us to actually relate. And yeah, you said everybody likes me. That made me blush and I'm still blushing. But you know my first album was called "Everybody Loves Ice Prince,'' and that's something that has really manifested in my life. There might be people out there who don't like me or who don’t give a shit about me. But the ones that do love me and the ones that do care about me, I hold that to heart.

When you operate as a good person with a clean heart, how hard is it to navigate this music space with that sort of mindset?

I don't like to see anything as hard. Whatever I'm not able to do, I just feel like maybe I'm not meant to do it. Whatever I'm not able to achieve, I feel like maybe it's not for me. Whatever I'm not able to achieve really and truly, I just leave it up to God. Whatever I'm able to do, I just feel like it's all part of God's plan. So I don't see obstacles. I don't see hardship. If I get, I get. If I no get, I no get. Na so I dey see am. I just keep doing what I need to do.

Your new record is considered a bridge between what has happened before and what is happening now in music.

...And what is to happen.

...'Cause it tells us what the future can be. That's what this sorta record does. So was that in any way in your mind when you were making this record?

Actually no. I wasn't thinking of bridging a gap. I wasn't thinking of catching up with a generation or a trend or what's new right now. None of that. And if you've noticed closely in the past, maybe 5 to 6 years, I've surrounded myself with a lot of young artists. I dropped an EP in 2018 called "Cold." That I had literally my youngins executive produce from A to Z. I'm talking about Strafitti, Remy Baggins. Most of the time, when you're around Ice, you find out that I’m hanging with people that are like, less than 25. I'm always the oldest person amongst my friends. So I'm used to recording with Oxlade's age group. I don't know if that sounds insulting to Oxlade. But if you know what I mean, I like to surround myself with them. They keep me fresh, they keep me updated. They are the ones that put on what's new, what's hot, what artist is doing what. 

If you come to my house, ask anybody around me, they'd tell you Ice doesn't watch anything else but CNN. Honestly, I only watch the news. I only watch CNN, Arise channels. Maybe 6:30 in the evening, I'd switch to Flatmates to 7:30 in the evening. Once Flatmates is over, I'm back to my news. But the only way I stay fresh and updated really is the people that I happen to surround myself with. And it's not intentional that I want to hang out with this person 'cause he's young. It just so happens that most of the people around me are maybe 8 years, 7 years, 10 years younger than me. I feel like it keeps me fresh. It keeps me updated. They keep me on my toes. The new generation of Afrobeats artists. I have an artist called Jay Teazer, and anytime he is recording, I'm mute. There's so many amazing artists coming up and I learn a lot from them.

Africa to the world. You were one of the earliest campaigners for it. You going to Roc Nation, you taking that iconic photo with Jay Z and all of that. What do you think about what's happening now?

Man! We are saying thank you Jesus [singing]. That's all I could say, man. But again, I'm also blessed to be one of the people that is being mentioned as somebody who played a role in the movement or the journey, even though there's so many people. I keep saying to my colleagues, this our Afrobeats movement, it has been on from before a lot of us were born. From Fela, from King Sunny Ade. I remember my first trip ever to the BET Awards in 2012. I was nominated that year, but Wizkid and Sarkodie won it at the time. And they took us around the Grammy museum. That was the first time I was in the Grammy museum and I remember seeing Sunny Ade plaques and achievements and stories. Even some of his outfits that he wore for certain performances being displayed in this Grammy museum for people to look at.

And in my head I'm like, ‘omo this thing don tey wey men don dey try put leg for this global scene really and truly.’ And from that generation to the generation after, to the Plantashun Boiz, to the P-Squares to the Mo'hits, have actually contributed to it. Have paved the way for people like me to even do what I was able to do. And right now, like I said, I started saying thank you Jesus first. It's more than a dream come true to see where we are. And the fact that it took people off the streets. Music has taken a lot of people off the streets. Music has put a lot of food on the table, created a lot of employment for the whole country, for Africa as a whole. It's more than a dream come true to see that happening man. Honestly, it's more than a dream come true to see that happening. I mean we always felt like the world was going to hear us one day. But certain things that are happening right now; like Davido on the Coming 2 America soundtrack, that's more than what we actually saw coming. And maybe we saw half of what was actually coming. And maybe we actually saw all that is coming, but I'm very very proud. Very very proud of everybody that's a musician from this side of the world and will do great stuff.

Do you think we're fully taking advantage of what it means to have a global audience pay attention to us?

I think we're starting to take advantage of it, and even for some of us, we can always learn from each other. Like me personally, I've been learning so much from Burna Boy for example. I've been learning so much from how Burna Boy's team moves and how he moves and all that stuff. I get inspired a lot too by Wizkid and Davido and Tiwa Savage and Patoranking and Tekno. Even among the new school guys. Big ups to people like Rema, big ups to people like Fireboy, Adekunle Gold. I can go on and on and on. I think we can’t learn everything in a day, we are all in the learning process. Life itself is a learning process anyway. But we're learning more as we grow and we're learning from each other. That's what's dope. It's not like we're learning from the Western world or another part of the world again. We are actually learning from each other. Na we dey ginger ourselves now. And it's amazing to see. I believe that the world actually hasn't heard 5 or 10% of what we can actually do yet. 

You never give yourself credit. But you were partly responsible for our notion of flyness in pop culture. 

(Laugh) Okay...

You should give yourself your flowers... 

Maybe I actually should give myself flowers. You started by saying I don't like accepting that reality right? You're absolutely correct. I don't like thank yous. All my people know, I don't like thank yous. 'Cause, when you tell me thank you, in my head I'm like, ‘damn I wish this person actually knew what I wanted to do or what I intend to do.’ I don't like to be called the first to do this, the most this, the best that. That's not what I'm about. And this is a mental thing for me. Bro, I won't lie to you. I've always been like that. I'm not saying it's not okay to aim to be number one or want to be number one. But I don't mind number two, I don't mind number three, I don't mind number four, number five, number six. As long as I'm good, feed my family and take care of the people that I'm responsible for. I dey take care of myself, I'm good. I'm more than happy with that. Because everything is part of God's plan. It's not my plan to determine what is what, you know. That's how I think. I don't know if you understand.

But where does it all come from? Is there something in the past that moved you away from that and made you focus more on achievement and functionality?

I'd like to say man, I was born like that. As far back as I can remember, I've never been anything else but that. This thing that you said, you're not the first person that has said it to me. I've heard it from different people. But I guess what I’d always attribute it is to the fact that where I come from...I come from a tribe called Angas. And I realise that from research too, a lot of my people are very similar to me. So I always like to attribute that to where I come from, my background, probably my upbringing too. I was brought up in church really. I grew up really in church. And that's how I started music with M.I and Jesse too. We all started in church. And a lot of things that I was taught as a kid, as a teenager I still kind of live by those rules. I believe in humility. I don't think humility is overrated. My personal favourite words—funny enough—I like to say ‘sorry’, I like to say ‘please’ and I like to say ‘thank you.’ My three favourite words are ‘please,’ ‘sorry’ and ‘thank you.’ But funny enough, I don't like to hear that one called ‘thank you.’ You know what I'm saying? And I attribute it to just where I come from or how I was brought up. I can't place it to an event that happened in my life that made me like that. I've just always been like that. Whatever comes comes. I lost my dad, God kept me here. I lost my mum, God kept me here so I just feel like It's all God's plan my brother. As e be, e be.

You're a part of the golden age of hip-hop in this continent. With M.I, Jesse, you, Choc-Boiz, you showed the world what was possible. When you think back to that time, what feelings do you have?

Excitement. Some of the best times of my career were as Choc Boiz actually. 

Why?

Because Choc Boiz was more than a label. Choc Boiz almost became like a group even among the three of us. When I say the three of us, it's not to exclude Brymo. I mean me, M.I and Jesse — we came to Lagos literally together. We've always been M.I, Ice Prince and Jesse. But now, having songs that you can perform to thousands of people and everybody's singing along, that was our introduction into the music industry. That's why I would remember that as some of my favourite moments, you know. As you grow older in the game, not that it's not exciting anymore, but you're just a little bit used to some certain things. Like some things just become like 'okay, it's work. It's office stuff.’ So that was a really exciting moment. And that era, from Nigeria to South Africa to Ghana to Kenya to Ethiopia to Angola, there were a lot of collaborations that happened as well between them artists. 

Let me tell you a story. When I first started going to America, I realised that almost everywhere is far from everywhere. To go from New York to LA is a 5-hour flight. To go from Miami to Philly is like a 3-hour flight. Everything is two hours, three hours, four hours, three hours. So I realised that these people live as far apart from each other as we do here in Africa. But these guys are able to chuck out projects all the time together. Like they live in the same city, like they live in the same house sef. You see Meek Mill and Rick Ross dropping songs like they are in the same house together. Meanwhile, they're hours away apart. And I actually started talking to a lot of my colleagues about this. ‘Yo! we actually need to connect, we actually need to do more. I dropped records with Sark, I dropped records with AKA. I did collaborations with Emmy Gee, Cassper, with Camp Mulla. 

I was just trying to expand my talent beyond my shore and take it more to the rest of Africa. 'Cause I saw that these Americans were doing it with ease and there's no reason why we couldn't do it with ease either. Lagos to Johannesburg is the same thing as New York to LA. And if Jay-Z and Dr Dre can be working back to back like they live in the same place, then there's no reason why me and Cassper can't do it. And I started putting in some effort. And it did work for me as well. I could tell you 100 percent that I don't think there's any rap artist probably on this continent that has been around this continent like I have. I've been booked in almost every nook and cranny of this continent. And not even off of the hits that I have out here in Nigeria. But mostly a lot of them rather were based on the collaborations that I did with people from those countries. And I'm using me as an example but a lot of artists also apply that method. 

Let me use Wizkid for example. Wiz did a lot of collaboration with people from Uganda, from Kenya. A lot of Nigerian artists did the same thing, a lot of Ghanian artists did the same thing. A lot of South African artists did the same thing and it helps the whole African continent. It helps the whole Afrobeats music. I can't imagine what it would have been like if we didn't have songs like Mafikizolo and Davido (Tchelete). If we didn't have songs like Wizkid and Maphorisa or Tiwa Savage and Becca. All those collaborations and all those things only make us bigger and stronger and more united.

What is happening to hip hop now?

I think hip hop in Nigeria is definitely being slept on. And I can't answer the question why, but it's definitely being slept on because there's actually a lot of amazing rappers. I listen to Ladipoe sometimes and I'm like man, I wish I could rap like that. Even I have a song with him. I have a song with Ladipoe called 'Mr Poe- Mr Ice'. Google 'Mr Poe- Mr Ice', you'd find a song with me and Ladipoe. And when I recorded that song with him, Ladipoe came to my crib, wrote that verse literally in 10-20 minutes and it was so dope. And there's so many Ladipoes out here in Lagos or in Nigeria. But I think that we're being slept on. And the only advice I can give to the hip-hop artists, or to the rappers, is maybe try make your songs a little bit more relatable. That helped me. That helped Ice. I came in the game telling everybody that ‘I dey rap, I dey sing, I dey come MC.’ 

And I said that line intentionally because I knew that I'm a hook guy. I'm a hook person. I came up in the game writing hooks like ‘African rapper number one.’ I wrote hooks like ‘Undisputed champion.’ I'm a writer for hooks. But I knew that coming out as a rapper, they're going to attack me for singing. But guess what? I'm still going to sing because even before rapping, I was singing. I started in the choir. And even as a rapper, some of the songs that have made me mainstream a lot of them are not necessarily rap songs. Songs like 'Aboki'. I might do a little rap in there, but I'm still singing. I'm doing the backups. Songs like 'Superstar,' I did the hook, I sang everything and I rapped everything down to the backups. 

Now, I'm not saying as a rapper you have to do the hook and everything by yourself. Because you might not even know how to use your vocal chords well. But try and get hooks or try and get melodies that people can relate to. As a rapper, I don't write songs as a rapper. To be honest with you Joey, I don't like to engage myself too much with Nigerian hip hop conversation. I feel like I'm one of the people that take the most shots in the game. But guess what? I've probably done the most than any other rapper in this country. I got a text from Naeto C a few years ago, and he's telling me I'm the greatest from Nigeria. I'm not even playing. That's my Daddy telling me that. And there's proof to it. There's accolades to prove it. Those things didn't come because Ice Prince is fly. No. It's because an eight-year-old can sing 'popping in my name', the same way a two-year-old can. So as a rapper, try to make your songs a little bit more relatable. 

I feel like the rappers are trying to rap. It's okay. I mean rap, but make your rap a little bit more Nigerian. Make your rap a little bit more Afrobeats. You have to make songs that can be on the same playlist with what's mainstream, for you to be accepted. If DJs can't mix your song with a Wizkid song, I'm sorry my G. Do you understand what I'm saying? That's the honest truth about it. Yeah, Nigeria is a dance place, we love to party, we love to owambe, we love to jiggy jaga. So look at some of the biggest rappers that have come out of this country. From Naeto C to Saucekid to Rugged Man to M.I. Let me mention those ones as a point of reference. All those greats had records that could really move the people. It might not be everything in their catalogue, but they still have stuff that could move the people that at least even the trader in the market can sing along to. Even if he doesn't know the whole verse, he can catch a line or say one or two lines. Make the raps more relatable. That's how I feel about hip hop in Nigeria.

Do you think the work that you've done hasn't received the level of respect that it deserves?

I don't work for respect. I don't work to get respect from anybody. I make music because that's the only thing I know. And if I make it, of course I'm going to share it with the world. This is one of my producers. Me and him just made a song last night. And when we're making a song, we're not thinking, 'oh something that would gain respect.’ We're just trying to create music. Music is not...I don’t think it's a competition. It shouldn't be something we do to big up our chest. We make music to make people happy, to give people a feeling or to paint pictures. Music is an expression of self. Not something to say, ‘oh I'm spitting bars because I want to be respected.’ So I don't make music looking out for respect. So if it comes, if I go outside and people are 'baba baba', thank God, it makes me feel good. But that's not why I make the music. I'm not out here trying to be famous. The only thing I know how to do is make music. I'm not making music for respect or for money either or for fame. Even if I wasn't famous, I'd still be making music. So fuck respect.

When people refer to you as a legend, how does that make you feel?

Scared.

Why?

Because that's such a high pedestal to put somebody. That's such a high pedestal. I mean, I hear that every day. People call me that every day. I put a picture on Instagram, I'm going to have people saying that to me. Maybe scared is not the word. Perhaps, nervous. It puts a responsibility on you that you cannot disappoint, you cannot fail this person. For somebody to call you a legend, that probably doesn't even know you, just knows your music or knows your art or knows something that you do. I feel like it puts responsibility on you to do more. I'm not saying scared in a bad way, or nervous in a bad way. Sometimes you need that adrenaline. It's crazy.

Does it come with pressure?

Yeah. But pressure to do more. Pressure to stay on that pedestal or even go higher. Good pressure. It puts good pressure on you. And I don’t think it's been up to two years that I started hearing that a lot. Like, I started seeing that a lot on my social media especially. Even in real life when I'm on the streets, it's a weird feeling. I never knew I'd get here. It makes me feel old as well.

Do you think there's any truth in what they're saying?

I mean, maybe, maybe not. I don't see myself as that though. I still see myself as that kid that walked up to M.I like 'yo, I want to battle you. Let's do this.’ I still see myself as that, funny enough. And you know this question when people say ‘do you know who you are?’ I get that. 'Do you know who you are?' I really don't want to know who I am. I feel like the day I know I know who I am, should be the day I am dead. If you want to feel like you know who you are, you might...I don't really want to know who I am. I want to keep discovering who I am every day. I don't feel like any human being should feel like they know themselves. Nah. You're always going to find new things about yourself. It might be in minute forms, it might be in very little form. But as you grow old, you learn something new. Learn something that you never knew. I don't think I want to know who I am. It might make me proud, it might make me cocky. Yeah. 

You mentioned something about the Choc Boy era being a very happy time.

Yes o! 

What do you think about where life has taken all three of you to?

Man, we've grown. Life has taken us from boys to men really and truly. So proud of my brothers. So so proud of each and every one of them. I was just with M.I a few days back and M.I played me his new album. Fucking crazy man. Tell them to watch out for M.I's new album, that Ice Prince says so. It's crazy. So proud of him, so proud of everything he's done and accomplished. My son even prefers M.I to me. My son even hangs out with M.I more than he hangs out with me. Real talk. 

And Jesse Jagz my man. My man just got married recently, he's putting himself together, putting his family together, putting his wife together, everything nice. Again I was in Jos with him around October 2020. Actually, right before the End SARS protest, I was with Jesse in the studio for a week straight up in Jos. Just me, Jagz and some of our people. We made amazing records together that I hope would be on my next album —"Fire & Ice". But man, Jesse is doing so good. Brymo, my days man. Brymo created a lane for himself and he's been consistent in that lane. I'm so happy for him too and every other Choc Boy that has been. Obviously, Choc Boiz we always say M.I, Ice Prince, Jagz, Brymo. But there are so many people. 

Dice Ailes is as Choc Boy as I am, Loose Kaynon is as Choc Boy as I am, Koker is as Choc Boy as I am, Yung L, Ruby Gyang, Victoria Kimani. I could go on and on. I mean the family. I'm happy for each and every one of my brothers and sisters. Even though we don’t get to kick it like it used to be before. Like when we first came to Lagos, we were all living...ok first of all we were all living with Djinee. Then M.I got his apartment. Then we were all living with M.I. Then Jesse got his apartment, then we were all living with Jesse. We left M.I to be boss, and then I got my apartment. And then a whole bunch of people came to live with Jesse as well. And the Grip Boyz came to live with me as well. So it's always been. Ever since everybody started buying their own cribs and moving to their own houses, we've not been able to kick it like it was before, when we were in the same house. But the brotherhood is still strong, and the family is my family forever. I love all my brothers, man. So those are my brothers really. I call all of them my brothers because like I told you earlier, I'm an only son. So those are the only people I find brothers in. 

Does the world try to make you feel old? And why?

I guess it's just respect. And that respect comes out of love. Because really and truly, nobody owes anybody respect. Nobody needs to respect me. You don't need to respect anybody. You can be on your own and everybody dey him dey. But that respect comes out of love and that's God-given. Honestly, that's God-given. I think it just comes out of love and respect. Because if they don’t love you or they don't respect you, they're not even going to call you with names of high esteem like that. So I think it comes out of love and respect and it's a blessing to feel that.

But I do imagine a part of you kicks against it.

Nah. If you want to call me anything and say 'eiisss,' I'd answer you. However you choose to address me, I'm good. I swear, I'm not particular about how people address me or how people call me. A lot of times I meet people and they say, 'oh, do I call you Ice or Ice Prince or do I call you Zamani?’ Whatever you feel comfortable with. Call me 'legend', 'baba' whatever. Call me fucker, cool. My whole secondary school, from my SS1 to SS3, I had one of my seniors call me fucker. It was a joke, but it turned out to be a nickname amongst her and all her friends. So whatever you call me, I'm good with it. I've been through all of that. 

Let's talk about some of your works that are considered as classics. When people mention some of the best projects Nigeria has ever produced, "Everybody Love Ice Prince" stands out. How does it feel owning that album?

Remember, I told you when people tell me thank you, in my head I'm like, ‘I wish you knew what I could have done for you.’ When people call that album a classic, in my head I keep remembering those little mistakes that I feel like we made. Maybe in the mix or in the writing or in my takes. But to have people call that album a classic, man. I see they always put that album next to other albums and that album always gets very good reviews. Man, all na God. That's all I can say man. 

Literally, me and Jesse Jagz booked ourselves into an apartment that year and stayed in that apartment for about three months. And we locked ourselves in there. Day in, day out and we made that album. We were locked in there for three months, and me and Jesse literally just vibed and made that album. Hearing it as a classic, I just give God all the glory. And I give all the love to everybody that worked on that album with me. From all the engineers to everybody. But I'd definitely use Jesse Jagz as a point of contact because he literally created the whole foundation to the album. I just wrote lyrics. And M.I as well who oversaw the whole project. I mean, the Grip Boiz were with me almost every day throughout those sessions. Everyone that worked on that album with me did well. 

And this year, funny enough is 10 years of "Everybody Loves Ice Prince.”The album is going to be 10 years this year, and I'm hoping that my next album comes out around the same time that we're celebrating that. We are supposed to go on an African tour to celebrate these ten years of "Everybody Loves Ice Prince." And we intend to do universities in Kenya, Universities in South Africa, Universities in Ghana. Of course Universities all over Nigeria. Maybe we're going to go round Nigeria. But the target is really universities. Because a lot of people that are in universities now were probably in their adolescence or probably just coming up when the album came out. So we want to kind of refresh their minds.

'Remember when you had your 10-year-old birthday, Oleku yeah.’ And of course, they got 'Kolo' and ‘Feel good.’ And just let them know this is who Ice is. That's why we are targeting universities to mark 10 years of "Everybody Loves Ice Prince.” And shoutout to everybody that loved that album. That album has some of my favourite songs.

That transition when Nigeria started officially recognising indigenous rap and moving towards it. I know that you championed infusing Northern culture into the art and all of that. Do you think you were ahead of your time?

No actually. I wish I could actually do more raps in Hausa, or more songs in Hausa. Even though Hausa is not my tribe. I told you I come from a tribe called Angas, but I grew around Hausa people. I grew up around that side. But I don’t know how to make music so well in Hausa, unfortunately for me. I'd have done a lot more. And if you listen to songs like 'Aboki' everybody termed it a Hausa song. I spoke English almost throughout the song. So I've never thought about trying to champion any cause. I'm the kind of artist that I'd make a song like "gimme the lighter, gimme the kush..." And make a song like "you know I got some feelings for ya..." Still make a song like 'poppin in my name.' And still come back and make a song like "I feel good you know.” 

And that's why I always say that I started my career telling everyone that I'm gonna rap, I'm gonna sing and I'm gonna MC. And of course, during my time so far, I can brag that I've hosted the Channel O award. That was me MCing. But again, like I said, I like to make everything. So if I feel like making a song in Hausa today, I'm going to write that way. If I feel like making a song about my parents now, I'm going to write that way. If I'm going to make a song about fucking, I'm going to make that, whether it comes to me as rap or a melody. Sometimes I need help. There are certain things I know that okay, I can’t sing this myself. 'Oleku' for example, I knew I couldn’t sing that hook myself, so I called Brymo. 'Kolo' for example, Oxlade wrote that one, so I didn’t have to stress about it. But there are certain songs that I write and I have other people sing for me. But there are also certain songs that I write that it's just my voice for it. Like when I made 'Particula,' I made it for somebody else to sing. But it just turned out to be to be what it did. But yeah, I might rap today, sing tomorrow. I always flip the coin like that. I'm both sides of the coin. Ah! Maybe I should name one of my albums "Both Sides of a Coin.” I think so. 

At this stage now, what are you most proud of?

Right now, without even thinking about it, off the top of my head, I'm super proud of my super cool cats. Let me call them that. My guys. One thing that I could beat my chest or be happy with myself is; over the last ten years I have invested in a few people. I've brought a lot of people to Lagos, I've linked a lot of people with a lot of people. And a lot of these people, I'm very proud of. Like you see this nigga right here, Gidi. Gidi is dashing me money now. Back in the day, he didn’t have much. So to see my guy go from zero to even if it's not a hundred, but at least 30, 40, 50. A lot of my boys are the ones taking care of me now. 

That's why I tell you say, whether money dey my pocket or e no dey, I no get wahala. Because I did actually invest in a few people. Not like I even wanted to or that was my intention. But it's just that that's what God kept in my presence at that time and certain things happen. I came through for certain people in certain ways, and now they are coming through for me in a lot of ways. So that's one of my biggest joys. And when I talk about my boys or my people, they are not necessarily artists. It could be managers, it could be assistants, it could be photographers, it could be engineers, it could be producers. It's a lot of them. But at least, I know that a lot of people that have either been around Ice or lived with Ice or been through Ice. A lot of them, I can beat my chest to say I'm proud of right now. 

That's one thing I'm very very proud of. That's the first thing that came to my head. I don’t know why. But I'm actually very proud of a lot of them and Gidi knows what I'm talking about. It's not just him. It's a couple of them. And they come through for me hard. That makes me proud. It gives me joy.