Patoranking: Nigeria's Purest In Spirit?
Patrick Nnaemeka fought many personal battles to become Nigeria's most versatile superstar. Now the reggae dancehall singer is pulling others up, in music and in love for humanity.
“No yawa” Patoranking says, lifting himself from his studio couch and into an upright sitting position and offering his hands for greetings. I’m late by 30 minutes for this interview. I'm rushing into the studio, raising my hands and apologizing to a room packed with the Nigerian dancehall musician’s handlers, friends and band members. It’s the third time I have been in this studio in Lekki, and the singer has never missed a beat in his mannerisms. Patoranking, 30, is always early. Always gracious. And always ready with a kind word.
A week ago, I was back here with him, and a small crop of music industry professionals, listening to a curated set of his songs. We cast votes on what would become the final tracks for his latest album, Three. That humid July evening, music blared from monitor speakers, cups and bottles were passed around, liquor splashed down throats, and feedback saturated the air. Patoranking moved through the room, sharing good vibes, pouring Hennesy into red cups, and answering questions on the art in consideration. “This one, I want to look through people's eyes. Like how everybody felt from the songs. We didn’t pick any by ourselves. I didn’t even allow all those emotional attachments you have to a song. Like, ‘this song, I used my power, my might sing am,” he explains.
It’s rare for Patoranking to outsource this critical part of his art. A music original, he’s a man who’s accustomed to personal control and responsibility. Born Patrick Nnaemeka Okorie, life has often been a rollercoaster for the Ebonyi State native. He’s never ashamed to tell you of his early roots in poverty and lack. He was born into the ghetto, his family struggled, and he was inducted into manhood at 12. “How?” I ask. “At the age of 12, I'd tell you for free that I know what life is,” Patoranking says. “I was already selling with my dad on the street, going to Cotonou, crossing the border through illegal parts. Yes, we just have to survive you know. And I was the first child, so my dad was getting me prepared for what is to come,” he continued.
Patoranking once slept on the streets of Accra, during a stint in Ghana where he went to pursue the art. “You know you're driving to work and you see some people sleeping, lying down. I was once in that situation,” he says, shrugging it off. “I did it because I had to do it. And moreover, there were people also trying to survive in that same way, that same manner. So they gave me hope as well. So I said, ‘if una fit do am, I fit do am now. Una sleep for road una no die. So make me sef try am.’” On the journey to this position of privilege, he once laid bricks at construction sites for food. He’s famously admitted to hawking pest control in Lagos’ traffic, and hustling at every turn to make cash for recording.
Music saved him. It moved him out of the struggle and took him beyond that station. That’s why he gives it his best shot.
For a man rooted in the pop music-dominated music hub of Lagos, Patoranking’s decision to pursue dancehall is the road less travelled. Popular perception always places him in competition with convention. He’s soaked himself deep into patois and the Caribbean sounds, credit heavy influence from late legend Bob Marley, and cites Jamaican dancehall reggae artist, Busy Signal as a huge inspiration.
“A lot of people do not know this part. Because when you're a source of strength to people, you don’t let them see your weakness. Which I try to avoid and just make them understand that this thing, if you work hard, you work smart, this is what you achieve. You stay close to God and you stay out of drugs, this is what you achieve,” he says.
Patoranking is an empath. It’s one of his most obvious traits. You initially recognize it in how he sincerely inquires of your business. It flows into how in-sync he is with his team members, who take turns throwing jabs at him every time. If he invites you deeper into his thoughts, it begins to take shape as an aching longing to help the disadvantaged. In his songs, he advocates for the noblest of human qualities — love, community, kindness, fairness. Off the mic, he puts his money where his heart is. Due to his inability to get education, Patoranking has spent all his career being a secret benefactor to disadvantaged kids around Africa.
In February 2020, he went public, announcing a landmark partnership with the African Leadership University to launch the ALU Patoranking Scholarship. Having overcome financial adversity in his own journey of impact, Patoranking wants to help unleash more entrepreneurial leaders who will bring positive change to their countries and the continent. In July, Patoranking announced 10 recipients of his scholarship program drawn from low-income areas around Africa.
“Education, because I couldn’t go to school,” he tells me. “Education, because there are so many people out there that can't go to school. Take, for instance, we had thousands of applicants across the continent. Joey, you need to see their scores. You need to see these guys' brains. These guys are so bad that the time we picked we were seeing 100/100. And these guys are coming from slums, various slums in their different countries. There's a lot of them. At first, when we announced it, a lot of people thought it was for hype, many just didn’t take it seriously. I just laughed because when I met the owner of the network, I could have told him, ‘boss, I need that grant for my business. They would have said, ‘okay take $500,000 and the relationship is…He said, ‘you're into education,’ I said ‘yes.’ He said, ‘okay why don’t we just put it this way, I said yes, I love it. I will do it. And that was what we did.’ On current count, Patoranking is currently involved in the education of 152 kids around Africa.
Patoranking’s third studio album, Three, is a translation of that positivity into art. 2020 has taken so much from earth, and Patoranking wasn’t spared from its long arms. His grand plan to help give dancehall a local shot in the arm with a reggae and dancehall festival was cancelled, along with a number of gigs. To keep his head up, he channeled the down time into music, speaking positivity to humanity and recording somgs about happiness. “So I had three major highlights that I wanted the album to be built around, which is love, happiness and life. You know, if you have these three things, the world would be a better place. If you're happy you are alive. If you're in love, if you love your neighbour, you love yourself, the world would be alive. So I said, ‘let me just have these three elements while making the album.’ And at that point, I never knew the album was going to be called "Three,” he says.
Three is a breezy ride through Pato’s strongest offerings. Hosting guest contributions from Nigerian musicians Tiwa Savage and Flavour, Kenyans Sauti Sol and Ghanaian singer, King Promise, the LP comes at a point when the world is opening up again. The album is set to be a part of that rebirth, soundtracking the optimism that we all dearly hold on to. Whether he’s cheerleading a romantic interest on ‘Mon Bebe’, or narrating reality on ‘Abule,’, there’s an exultant request to get lost in the beauty of te art.
We talk for an hour in the studio, walking through his humanity and artistry. Where does goodness come from? What is the price of kindness? His daughter Wilmer continues to illuminate his world. Has fatherhood provided newer perspectives to art and legacy? How can Nigerian artists unlock the Caribbean?
Patoranking speaks freely, as he always does. For him, it’s the only way of life.
Patoranking - Thanks for the last time too. I really appreciate man.
Joey Akan - It's nothing jare. I hope it helped.
Ha, bro. Like I said, this one I want to look through people's eyes. Like how everybody felt from even the songs, we didn’t pick any by ourselves. I didn’t even allow you know all those emotional attachments you have to a song. Like, ‘this song, I used my power, my might sing am’ (laughs). It had to go man. Because for me, the way I see music is very different. I still see it in the traditional way. You know, where you have to talk sense, preach through music. But I realise that people, regardless they just want to have fun. So okay, I'm trying to get used to it though.
How about those who would strike a balance in the middle?
No, it's hard o. How many people?
It's few for this generation.
Even few sef, na only 'F'. Because for example: and to change am no hard o, I swear. If I be president, to change good music for this country e no hard. You know wetin I go just do? You see like them Timi Dakolo, Waje, Praiz, Darey. I go tell them say I dey book una to perform every weekend. To perform for banquet hall every weekend. And one of the things that comes with it, you must post how much them pay you. Since I dey pay them 20 million Naira to come because of the music, good music, I dey put them on the spot. Automatically, any artist wey dey think that direction we go dey pay dem...
But everywhere go dey saturated now, very soon. By the next one month, every artist don sound like Timi Dakolo.
You go see Naira Marley...(laughs)
But it's beautiful on your album. Did that affect any part of the creation of this project? This your consideration of music.
No. It did not because there's no music I can't make. I did a song called 'Champion'. If you listen to that song—and every time I try to record those songs that make sense, I try to be futuristic in the sense that I want it to stand the test of time. Even three, four years from when it was recorded, it would still play. For melodies, I try not to use what has been used. I try to sound in a way that I know that I may not sound like this in the next 12 records. So we did a song like 'Champion.' Or a song like 'Black,' which I'm still going to shoot a video for. Most definitely, even if na four years from now. When I was writing 'Champion', I went back to my ghetto days when I used to play football. I idolized Jay Jay (Okocha) lot. I like Jay Jay. I say 'Jay Jay, na you I go use do this video. If I no use you I no go shoot am'. And Jay Jay tell me say that period him brand and all those things, as baba say him busy... him never really hear the song. So at a point, when artist say him wan do something, he fit feel say you fit just wan show girls and all those kind things so I just chill.
But the conversation don come up again. If e no be Jay Jay, we no go shoot am. The beauty be say if I shoot am next year, e still sound fresh. If I play the song for you now, you go be like 'was this song on "Wilmer" album?' Which brings me back to that place, that session we had. I learnt something from Do2tun and Cobhams saying ‘Pato, if you have a song that can stand as a single, it doesn’t make sense to be on the album.’ But it's crazy man. Like that my brother country, that my friend, Bera the way they run their country ehn, you fit use $5 watch Nicki Minaj. Government don make am down say all those artists no be big deal. Like for the whole year, top top artists dey come the country but e dey dey very cheap. As low as, regular na like $4 or $5. No be anything. You gats watch am. Na him bring me back to if we want good music, people wey dey up there fit do am, e no hard.
How is the transition between "Wilmer" and Three?
It's been a smooth transition. Because how I make music is just a reflection of mostly where I come from which is the ghetto. And this time around, I'm out of the ghetto. I'm in a place where I'm new to fatherhood and just seeing everything that comes with it. The whole beautiful moment. Bringing that into the music makes everything beautiful, I swear. When I'm writing a song like, maybe my phone rings and I don’t get to pick, and I’m seeing the wallpaper. I'm seeing Wilmer. There's a smile and it goes back to the whole creative process again, it makes everything beautiful. So it's a feeling that I can’t really explain much, but I would say it's been another growth. Growth in the sense that I like my later to be better than the former. So this time around, what I'm bringing to the table, and because of the whole fatherhood playing a role in my life still, there would be growth. So if you had fun in the previous album, we should be looking at more fun on this album. Anything you had on that album, there is more to it, and there is growth. In terms of sound, in terms of melody approach, delivery, and the whole vision around the album.
When did you start recording for Three?
I can't say. Big shoutout to Corona because it affected the whole world. And you know, these are like perilous times according to the Bible and sad times to so many people. But I'm somebody that I don’t see the problem. I tell people that the problem is when you see the problem as a problem. I chose not to identify with the problem. So in my head, I'm like what do I make best out of this situation?
I think some people call it the 'Next Play' mentality.
So I said: ‘Pato, if you make song for heal the world and you want the world to be healed with love and all those things. And it's so sad that we are in such times. So what do you have to do? The only thing I have to do is make music.’ And I said to myself 'why make music?' I have to make music because that is the only thing that can be done. And we started making music. At that point, I wasn’t looking at an album but I said if I can, why not? So let me just start recording. And I remember, we just got back from our concert in Abuja. So I was just literally taking a break to know what's next before we got the pandemic break. So I said let me start working on the album. And that was it. I just started recording.
Did the state of the world influence the process in any way?
Yes. Like I said, I tried to look at the positive side of life. So I had three major highlights that I wanted the album to be built around, which is love, happiness and life. You know, if you have these three things, the world would be a better place. If you're happy you are alive. If you're in love, if you love your neighbour, you love yourself, the world would be alive. So I said, ‘let me just have these three elements while making the album.’ And at that point, I never knew the album was going to be called "Three".
Why is it important that you never return back to the ghetto?
I think it's very important we be the change that we want other people to be. If you're a leader, you have to lead by example. When I was in the ghetto, I've always wanted to stand for people in the ghetto. I've always wanted to be the voice of the voiceless. I've always wanted to be a symbol of hope. And I remember I was 17 when I left the house. I became a man at the age of 12. At the age of 12, I'd tell you for free that I know what life is. I was already selling with my dad on the street, going to Cotonou, crossing the border through illegal parts. Yes, we just have to survive you know. And I was the first child, so my dad was getting me prepared for what is to come.
At that point, I remember one of the times that we went to the border, we crossed the border, we just got off the car and—that was the first time—he said 'meet me in front'. You can't cross Seme border. It's a tug of war. You see those American movies, you see those borders, that is how it is. It's hard. So I just walked. I didn’t even know what was happening. I just got there and he saw me and was like 'you're now a man'. Like really daddy why, he said don't worry. And that was it for me. It took me a while to understand what he meant. To cut the long story short, I've always wanted to be an information technologist as well as those things I've always wanted to do for people in the ghetto. But I couldn’t go to school because my dad wasn’t financially buoyant.
And I said to God, if you put me in a position to make money, I'd definitely take care of people which gives me a lot of joy to do. Trust me Joey, when someone is happy around me, it gives me joy because I know what being sad means. What it looks like to be sad. Because if I can remember the times I was in Ghana, I was literally sleeping on the streets in Ghana, on the road. You know you're driving to work and you see some people sleeping, lying down. I was once in that situation. I did it because I had to do it. And moreover, there were people also trying to survive in that same way, that same manner. So they gave me hope as well. So I said, ‘if una fit do am, I fit do am now. Una sleep for road una no die. So make me sef try am.’
And a lot of people didn’t get to hear this part. A lot of people do not know this part. Because when you're a source of strength to people, you don’t let them see your weakness. Which I try to avoid and just make them understand that this thing, if you work hard, you work smart, this is what you achieve. You stay close to God and you stay out of drugs, this is what you achieve. So for me, it's very very important. It's very fundamental. It's an integral part of Patoranking to be there for people. There are so many things I've been able to do because I'm in a position to do it and I'm thankful. And remember, like I said, whatever you start in life, the foundation matters. My career was built on God's hand, God's foundation. And I said if I'm in a position to make money, God, I'd definitely want to help people and that's what I've been doing.
Well done with the Patoranking scholarship, that was beautiful. Why education?
Education, because I couldn’t go to school. Education because there are so many people out there that can't go to school. Take, for instance, we had thousands of applicants across the continent. Joey, you need to see their scores. You need to see these guys' brains. These guys are so bad that the time we picked we were seeing 100/100. And these guys are coming from slums, various slums in their different countries. There's a lot of them. At first, when we announced it, a lot of people thought it was for hype, many just didn’t take it seriously. I just laughed because when I met the owner of the network, I could have told him, boss, I needed that grant for my business. They'd have said okay take $500,000 and the relationship is… He said, ‘you're into education,’ I said yes. He said, ‘okay why don’t we just put it this way, I said yes, I love it. I will do it. And that was what we did.
But picking the 10 students wasn’t really easy. But the truth is, the reason why we're suffering today was the mistake that was made years ago, 30 years ago. If I really want that change for my daughter in the years to come, it starts now. So why don't we just start breeding new leaders with fresh ideas, good orientation, making them understand that when you're in a public space, it's two things? Good and bad. There's the glitz and the glamour, there is service to humanity. So choose service to humanity. Be selfless. That's how the world would be a better place. So it starts now. We need to start telling our kids. We need to start telling people that we are investing in. If you’re into human investment, which is one of the best and still comes with high risk, you know what I mean. But at the end of the day, you just have to do what you have to do.
For me, I told a student, I said you're not to pay me back. You don't owe me. All you need to do is when you're in a position to help, you help people too. We've been doing this since I started making money, getting booked for shows, I started with four kids. As at 2020, we have about 152 kids. From primary to secondary to university. And the reason I got to say it out was because of this. Because this needed to go out for people to apply. So it has to be education Joey. Because whether we like it or not, if to say I go school join this music wey I know, you go dey hear song titles like the Molecules of Love (laughs). You go dey hear the Chemistry of biological love life (laughs).
Na only you go dey hear am na.
You go dey wear lab coat dey hear am.
What has fatherhood been to you?
It's one of the best feelings in the world, and the answer is straight. If I was a good person before I became a father, now I'm a better person. If I was a better person before I became a father, I'm like the best human being on earth. So it has actually made me a better person.
You say this thing about being good all the time. You preach it all the time, humanity being good. How important is being good to you? And what does it mean to be good?
Being good is selfless. It gets to a point it's not about you anymore. You're in a position to do what is right, just do it. I'm saying all these things because I learnt the hard way. And I don’t want the next man to learn the hard way. I'm coming from a place where my rent was #1000. My father can’t pay for two years, N24,000 which is not up to $100. It tells a lot. I see life in my own way and it works for me. I see life like; I make friends regardless of your age, your class, your status. We just bond. And even if you have any bad intention, nobody go tell you, you go change am. You go turn to good automatically. Because when you dey see the person wey you dey deal with say na like this e be.
So I think it's very important we understand what being good is. And asides the fact that you're even doing good, it keeps you on balance. Like you're free. You're happy. Like me, whoever is winning, I'm happy genuinely. Whoever has the biggest songs, I'm happy. Because I know that I'm working. It does not affect my psych. ‘Oh Pato,’ I get aggressive and I want this thing to happen to me now now now. Since I've been doing music and since I came into the industry, my price hasn’t gone down. Not because of the music alone, the character plays a huge role and how people see me and how they receive my music. So I think it's very important being good. It's simple, just be selfless. Be nice to others.
With all these benefits, why does bad exist?
I'd give you a short answer. That's the world we live in. And it's so bad that everyone has an opinion. Even when you say the Lord is good, there's somebody that might say ‘not all the time.’ So what do you say about that person? That's the world we are. Everybody get opinion. Everybody get how life dey play for their head. So we came into the world, we meet good, we meet bad.
And then the world tries to change you.
That's where the fight comes in. I'm not saying I'm righteous but there are some things that you know that this is bad, it's bad. This is not good. So you just try to discipline yourself. Self-discipline comes in, it helps. But bad people must dey o, we no fit pursue bad people o. Because me, e get some kind bad things wey I dey do sef. Wey my guys them fit dey waka for house, I fit just hide. If I see say dem dey come I go just put leg. If he fall, I don take off.
Everyone predicts a short career span for dancehall artists. Why has yours been different?
Every music that I've made, I make those songs not because I try to but because I can. From singing dancehall records to reggae records, to Afrobeats to highlife, to fuji. There's a fuji track on "God Over Everything" with KWAM 1. So for me if I can, why won't I? Another thing is that people are scared to evolve. There's something that I need to hold the older ones accountable for. The people before us. I mean the people we grew up looking up to. Those that taught us in school and everywhere. They failed to tell us that failure is not the end of success. Failure is part of success. Automatically, a lot of people are scared to fail. I'm not scared to fail; If I try it and it doesn’t work, I keep it going. I change the plan, not the goal.
With this type of mindset, I can try any type of genre. I can just wake up and say Joey, leave me alone bro. Because you like Majek (Fashek) and you love reggae, I am not giving you reggae today. Baba I wan do galala, I wan carry am go ghetto. And you say, ‘no I dey feel am.’ I say, ‘no, I wan take am go Ghana highlife or Nigerian highlife. Or Afrobeats.’ And even if I do it and they don't like it, I keep it going. But because people are scared of failing so the chances of them trying to evolve is a big problem. I was listening to an interview of I think Mike-Will and that one got me though. He said JAY-Z called him when JAY-Z heard he was the hottest thing on the streets. He said, ‘Mike-Will, I want you and I want to work with you.’ What was he trying to tell me? That even JAY-Z said okay, this guy you know I'm JAY-Z, I've worked with the likes of the biggest producers. But you are the one running the game right now. Come, I want to work with you. Mike-Will won’t give him that sound of that era. He's giving this sound of this era. Why would Beyonce do a song with Migos? So it tells a lot. And these are people we look up to. Why will Beyonce come back and say I want to do a song with African artists? I want to do Afrobeats.
Even do a song with Megan Thee Stallion.
Yes. Exactly, how? It tells that things and times do change. So we should be able to try something new. Give new things a chance. The fear of...
...the unknown or failure.
We need to get rid of that. There's no harm in trying new things. So for me, that has really helped me. So today, you should check, anytime I'm releasing a song—which is a tip I'm giving out now—you'd never see me coming. When you see the title, you don't even know what it sounds like until you hear. I'd give you example again; 'Alubarika' was different from 'Girlie 'O'. 'Girlie 'O' was different from 'Happy Day'. 'Happy Day' was different from 'Another Level'. 'Another Level' was different from 'Daniella Whine'. 'Daniella Whine' was different from 'Make Am'. 'Make Am' was different from 'My Woman'. 'My Woman' was different from down to 'Love You Die' to 'No Kissing', 'Suh Different'. You won't see it coming. Like it's just different.
Another thing again, our people sabi see person finish quick. Why YouTube dey do advert on top YouTube?
I no know.
Na them get am na. They for just say na we get am, make we relax. Other people dey do advert so they say make we sef try am too. E no go bad if we sef. That 'if we sef,' got us talking about them. So maybe if they had tried it and they failed, they'd have been like okay we failed so let's see how we can do it again. A lot of people are scared to fail. ME I'm not scared. It's part of success.
But why do we have an industry that says a specific thing cannot exist. Even exist for a certain duration?
Joey, this question. By the way, this is Patoranking, this is not Patrick, a record label executive form the UK. It's so sad. I'm not going to lie to you, if you look at a country like Nigeria, baba international artists wey dey blow enter Nigeria e dey hard o. You no dey check am? I don’t know if it's our modus operandi, how we operate or na the way God just talk say Nigeria go be. From the top of my head o, songs wey this generation go remember e go hard. Even from back then sef na one, one. Like Ghana music, we dey close to Ghana. Then Awilo go come, then after that era things change, we con know of 'Kona'. 'Kona' na big song wey enter Nigeria well. Now 'Jerusalema'. Like one one. But when you go other countries, if it's playing in your country, it's playing in so many countries. So that thing wey you talk no be question o, I just feel say na statement. The people wey go answer am ehn, they know themselves. It's not a good look because right now Joey. If 20 new artists ‘burst, like Jamaicans do say. If them blow, add am to 20 artists or 30 artists wey dey on top wey dey play steady. You know say e no change anything. You just increase the playlist to 50 artists. Increase the enjoyment for everybody.
Somebody tell me one thing one day: E say Pato, you know say no how wey artist wan big reach them no fit play am two hours for club. When no be say na album launch. Club on a Friday, you are being played for two hours. For me that was like ‘okay, you have a point.’ He say: ‘okay, so there's space for everybody.’ With our population, we should have everything in quantum. Female artists suppose yapa. But I don't know. I no know how I wan take solve that one o. Make them solve the matter.
How did you penetrate the Caribbean?
Most independent artists, we tend not to know the importance of PR. So it needs to be explained to us well. So for me, it's just dreams. I just dream it and I hope, I work and I prayed for it and it happened. For the Caribbean, because what I do is what they do over there. And it was like a big deal for me. Wow, you guys actually know me. I did not understand until I went to Reggae Song Fest.
What year was this?
I think 2017 or so.
You got the booking from there?
Yeah, we got booked for the event. We were told the number one song in the country was 'My Woman, My Everything'. So we got there and that was the first time I was going to perform. I said ‘okay.’ I was about to go on stage, my international manager was there. She was looking at me. she said, ‘are you okay?’ I said ‘yeah.’ I was talking to myself. I said, ‘you say you dey do dancehall na, you go prove yourself today.’
It was your first-ever Caribbean performance.
First ever. And this is the biggest reggae festival in the world. So in my head, I'm like ‘how will I do this?’ And you know they brought me up like midnight. You know what that means. After me, Tory Lanez is next, Mavado is next. Like the big names. So I was like ‘how do I go about this?’ But because I've always been true to my art, staying true to everything. Less than 40 seconds before I get on stage, something just came up and was like 'I'm in Jamaica. They pull up song. You can perform one song ten times. I told my manager say ‘listen, because I got 15 minutes on stage, I am not starting with 'Alubarika' anymore. I would start with 'My Woman'. So when you play 'My Woman' for like 20 seconds, just move to 'Daniella Whine.' Then I'd do 'Alubarika,' then we end with 'My Woman' and then I started smiling. She said why are you smiling? I said yes because I already got the formula. Do it that way. Then we got on stage. The guy said 'all the way from Nigeria, Africa, make some noise for Patoranking. The place was quiet.
I didn’t say anything. And the way I chopped the record, I didn’t chop from the intro where it starts with the beat. I chopped from "my woman, my everything." Yo, the minute it came up, oh my goodness, the stage. Everybody was going to fall on me. And you know they have this their horn. I'm like yo. Everybody went mad because they never saw it coming. On the ad was just my face, Patoranking. So everyone was like okay. When I saw how turnt they were, the DJ just switched. Then I performed 'Daniella Whine'. Now I've got their attention. After 'Daniella Whine' I stopped and I said "yo listen, my name is Patoranking from Lagos, Nigeria representing Africa." They went mad. I said, "when I wrote this song I never had a passport, but I believed in my music and I'm here in Jamaica." We did 'Alubarika', they felt it. I went back to 'My Woman', they went mad again. Because in Jamaica you can perform one song like 2 million times. "Pull up!" you start from top again. And that was a very good one, Jamaica.
Then we did Trinidad. Trinidad was very crazy. I had done the remix of 'My Woman' with Machel Montano who is actually a legend of the Soca. We had Machel and we had somebody I look up to. He told me later on that ‘Pato, I listened to your music and I'm a fan.’ That's Busy Signal. O my goodness, that night. So apparently, I was going to go on stage in about five minutes or so. Busy was coming from Paris. Busy got to Trinidad when the show had started so we were all waiting and they pushed the performance forward. Then Machel said, ‘Pato, I think we would go now, if Busy doesn’t come. And we didn’t know Busy was there already but they took Busy to the tent that they had for artists. And when they announced us on stage, we just got on stage with boom "my woman" everybody was going crazy. I'm sure he heard it somewhere, so Busy ran to the stage. The next thing when Busy got on the stage, we just heard "woman your behind..." At that point I was just like, ‘O my God, is it Busy Signal?’ Then I had to continue, I had to hold myself. The place he got me was he switched. I was like oh my goodness. And the three of us were performing the song together.
That was one of the biggest nights of my career, you know. And then we went to Haiti, Haiti was crazy. When I mean crazy, Lagos Island Crazy. Ebutte Meta Crazy. Stubborn people. And then good people, they loved the vibed and loved the music and we all had fun. Stubborn in the sense that they love music. You could see that ‘aaah, we love this music.’ That was a good one for me. And then, they called us back again for Jamaica. This time around, this is the second biggest reggae festival in the world. It's called Rebel Salute. And I said, ‘I don’t do DJ, I have a band. We have to do it the right way. We have to come there and Africanize the place,’ which was what we did. We went there and did our thing. Now it's much bigger how they see Pato. We had a good time in Jamaica, so there's this feeling that comes with it. Because nobody understands the dream more than the dreamer. These are things that I've dreamt of and it's happening.
You also did the 'One Love' remix.
You wan go there again? You wan burst my head. I never saw that one coming o. I'm not going to lie. I never saw it coming. And I do perform 'One Love' in some of my shows. Yes, I do. And when I got the email and I saw 'please can you tell Pato to record as soon as he can'. You know all those Instagram skits when you see it and you're seeing the finished product already, and you're like I'm done recording already, leave this email. It was done in no time, they loved it. They sent me mine. That was everything, that 'One Love'. Because if you know me, you know that when I opened my Twitter account—I'm sure it's still there— "next big thing after Bob Marley." So coming to do a song that I grew up listening to. One of the biggest songs ever, it's an honour. It's a blessing.
Why did Nigeria lose her love for reggae?
I no know. Our people, you know say na wetin we like, we like. Growing up then, reggae was a big thing. Big up poppa Oris Wiliki, rest in power. Majek Fashek, rest in power. Ras Kimono. So many good people as well that we've lost from the whole reggae to galala era and all. We have people like Marvellous Benji who did their thing. Blackface, Daddy Showkey, Baba Fryo, a lot of them. But I don't know. I don’t think reggae is our thing though. It's something that definitely we all love it. The culture is not as big as it is in Ghana. I don’t even know how, why. I can’t even say this is the reason.
Every year, there's almost a couple of reggae songs, they would be fused and...
Yeah. Even galala music has a presence then. Remember there was a time, it was Ajegunle that owned music. A bit of the AJ music influenced the people staying in Festac, because it's almost the same proximity and the same music. Festac, they have a touch of that ghetto sound too. But I don’t know why. But it's something we have to bring back.
Do you feel a responsibility in that regard?
I would say I'm playing my one cent. I'm just giving my one cent. Sorry, and I would definitely love Nigerians to go back to how it was, you know. The whole reggae vibe, how we used to have the reggae song splash
Lekki Sun Splash?
Lekki song splash, them kind of things there. Those things are different. You also have people that are trying to give life to reggae and dancehall. So me I'm just trying to play my own role in my own little way. There's a festival that we launched that due to the whole pandemic we couldn’t do it. It's called ‘The African Reggae and Dance Festival.’ So definitely, we want to play our role.
How do you track changes in sound, and respond appropriately?
Yes it is very important. I think I said something earlier that is in this direction. It's very important that we evolve. Change is constant like they say. So any artist wey no follow change, he go find himself. Even when they say change, change but don't lose yourself. Do you understand? There's still a bit of ‘okay, this is our guy. This is what we know him for.’ Because at the end of the day, the mass market would always win. If you check the top brands, they don't change. They evolve. You know, with time they come up with something new but it's still what it is. It's very very important you try to tap into what the people want but don't lose yourself. The only way you can't lose yourself is if you stay true to art, stay true to your music, stay true to your craft. I don’t think you'd lose yourself. You just find yourself doing, "oh wow, so I can do this. So I can sing like this. Am I the one actually doing this?" Because you're still true to what you really really stand for. Change is very important but don't lose yourself.
How should artists react to Nigerian music opening up?
RIght now, there are a lot of opportunities out there and the only way you can tap into this opportunity is if you do the right thing. There's no two ways about it. If you're a musician, you just have to make sure you have quality music. Good music. Hit music. These are the things you need to understand. I overheard someone talking about the artists of this generation. That if one artist should leave a major label, the effects it's going to come with. And I was just reading comments and I read a comment that struck me. Someone said 'creatives, not just musicians, need to understand the power they have. The power is in their hands'. With these opportunities, you know it's between you and where you want to go to. Nobody is in front of you. If I would just wake up and make a song and I know that a Spotify, Apple or anybody would definitely love the song and definitely want to support. Why won't I make a quality song? Why won't I make a good record? And I advise young people; study everybody but don't sound like anybody. That makes you different. That brings the question to ‘like who's that guy? Where is he from?’
I consider you an original of music. It comes naturally to you.
It also extends to your live performances.
It's very important in all angles because this is where the true form of being an artist comes out. And for me, I've always loved what I do. I'm not going to lie, I think originality is the word. I tend to be original to my sound because I love what I do. So I try not to force it. If I'm on stage, if I'm writing, if I'm trying to put up a show, it's just me saying let me just go have fun. The reason why my manager can go to bed on the day we have a show is because she knows that I'm coming out in my truest form. Irrespective of the stage or where I am, she knows that he's just going to do his bit and leave. So for the fact that I'm able to stay original to my sound, to everything, it's key for me. Those are the things that make me feel like a true artist.
You've never had a situation where you've not given your best?
Joey, I no go lie you. E dey happen though. I'm not going to lie to you, I do every show like it's the last because you don't know who's watching. No forget say I come from ghetto o. Actually sometimes I dey think like thief. Any little place to sell the market I wan sell am because you don't know who is watching. One person dey one corner say, ‘I like that guy, can he...yeah, let's get him for our end of the year.’ Because he see me for another person club or beer parlour where I dey perform. That's me. I love music. So I don't go to shows saying this is like four people. I don perform for 12 people before and the oldest there na 16 years (laughs).
What is the one thing you want to have in your corner when it all ends?
For me, it's much bigger than the awards or rewards that come with it. it's much bigger than the whole catalogue. It's much bigger than the fame. The most important thing is what were the things I was known for during those days or what would I be remembered for? That is what I ask myself every day. I just want people to listen to my music and they are fulfilled and they have hope. I want people to hear my story and say yes, because he did it. I want to hear things like that. Pato can do it, yes, I had to do it and I did it. Those are the things that can make me say yes I'm successful. Those are the things that would make me look back and say I am a true success. Those are the things that would make me look back and say thank you. Those are the things I would hold back to myself and say yes, mission was truly accomplished.
Don't forget, the path I chose for music is the path less travelled. It's a bit hard. I'm not that lifestyle guy that you want to see the whole razzmatazz. I don't know how to do it, but which is what most people like. So you're competing with people that are into lifestyle and every. So you know where their attention is. So all I want to see is people coming out and saying oh yeah, I listened to this song and I listened to that song, and I was inspired. Joey, that's everything for me.