Reminisce: Rap, Respect, Update
Reminisce scored his first hit at 30, nine years after he joined rap. For a late bloomer, he’s led a rap revolution, hacked the street, and enjoying a novel Nollywood run. All in 10 years. How?
“I play Champions League football. Everything is premium.” Reminisce is wearing a brown shirt with floral designs, and he’s so pleased with himself for his choice of outfit, and career decisions. The 39-year-old rapper has spent the past one hour, playing me new music from his rigged workstation comprised of computer setup. He’s been fiddling with creative software that he bought and learned how to use during the recent national lockdown. Outside, 5 kids wait patiently in their rooms, spying for a chance to crowd into the studio, call him Daddy, pull at his hands, and ask him why he has to make music. In his world, fatherhood and music often collide, and he’s learned to make one flow into the other.
Inside his personal studio on the Lagos mainland, his holiest spot at the back of his house, music is blasting from all speakers. He tells me he’s been recording enough songs for multiple projects, and learning how to self-engineer the technical process. His past albums artworks hang on wall frames, outlining his steady growth and dominance in the Nigerian music industry. In March, when the city was locked down to cripple the advance of the Covid-19 pandemic, the rapper who had not released a body of work in four years, decided he was coming out with a new EP. What happens next lights his face with a smirk as he recounts it: Reminisce downloaded recording apps, bought license keys with help from producer Krizbeatz, and set himself up for recording his art. A few tries and endless Youtube tutorials later, he says he was confident enough to personally handle this responsibility. “First couple tries, very horrible, very terrible. But I kept YouTubing,” he says. Every time he tells this part of the story, Reminisce proudly touches his chest, giggles, and reminds me that “I recorded everything myself!”
Reminisce, born Remilekun Abdulkalid Safaru, is by many metrics, one of the most accomplished rappers Nigeria has ever produced. He’s sold millions of copies of four rap projects, a miracle in a country where pop music has maintained a chokehold on consumer preferences. His records form a strong part of Nigeria’s hip-hop, occupying prime position in street music and indigenous rap. He’s built a career rapping in Yoruba, blending genres to stay ahead of the curve, and finding success at each level. Before fame’s arrival, Reminisce was a constant presence in underground street music scene. He spent 9 years watching his friends and collaborators including 9ice, Olamide and Jahbless achieve success and leave the hood. Olamide continues to credit him as a mentor, he’s played backup for old-timer Jah Bless, and have run petty errands while working on his big break in the music. Success came when he clocked 30, and by then, he was already a father. “The night when my wife had the child, I had my first kid in Abeokuta, my first-born. My elder brother, the guy fired me from 10 o'clock till 4 o'clock in the morning, telling me that this music shit has to stop,” he recalls. “Go get a proper job or get a proper life. This shit you're hoping on will not happen. Is 9ice not your mate? Didn’t you start together? I used to remember 9ice coming home. Do you see the margin between you people? That it's not going to happen for you. If it was going to happen, you would have known,” his brother continued.
Success came for Reminisce in 2010, when he stepped outside rap’s confines for ‘Kako Bii Chicken,’ a party record injected with an expansive infusion of pop. The Sarz-produced beat had passed around creative circles, meeting multiple rejection by musicians, including legendary rapper Naeto C. But not Reminisce. His anti-rapper stance was an instant hit, and things looked up from there. “I remember Sarz. Sarz said ‘Remi, this song will destroy your credibility o. This song is break it or make it.’ I said I know. He said ‘are you ready to go for it?’ I said, ‘make we go.’
Reminisce has had a decade of running with the music, synthesizing pop hits, while leading the hip-hop community with big-budget rap campaigns. In 2015, Reminisce led a genre-wide revolution, collaborating with Phyno and Olamide to drop the polarizing ‘Local rappers’ record, which announced a shift in audience’s sound preferences. It’s a prophecy that’s led to subsequent progress for street music. You can recognize Reminisce’s influence and elements of his work in the careers of many street rappers, including Zlatan Ibile and Naira Marley.
Reminisce’s core drive lies closer to home. It’s in the details of how he conducts his business. He’s grounded, a father of three daughters and absolutely pragmatic with his daily decisions. His foundational training are from a time before social media, where privacy and communal respect were important. Here in this studio, he’s honest about his place in Nigerian music; how to hack it by following the money, focusing on artistry and leveraging your strength. He’s never left his core street following, where he’s revered as a king. The streets love Reminisce. When he showed up at his gate to welcome me, a passing power company truck halted, and its staff all screamed out to him in excitement. “They don catch me today,” he told me, smiling before leaving instructions for an assistant to gift them some money. On my way out, my Uber driver lost his calm, screaming “Alaga Ibile.” All through the trip, I received intermittent thanksgiving, for giving him his first-ever sighting of the star. It’s moments like these that reinforce his decision to continue his music for his demography.
Reminisce’s latest campaign is via his latest EP, Vibes and Insha Allah. He says it's a timestamp of his current mindstate. It comes hot after a year where he tore up the Nollywood box office, playing Makanaki, a character in record-breaking movie, “King of Boys.” Director Kemi Adetiba who convinced him to take the role is now a close friend. He mentions her repeatedly in our conversation, his respect evident each time. “I love Kemi so much,” he begins. “I love her because there's this Yoruba saying; ‘e Iibi ti won ba ti femi ni ma lo.’ I would only go where I'm wanted. Investors, people persuaded Kemi not to use me. ‘This one is not active, he doesn’t post on Instagram. He doesn't do this, he doesn't do that. This one is bigger. Use this person. This babe insisted that ‘no, Reminisce is who I want.’ So that's why she's my G for life. Like my G proper. She knows. She didn't allow herself to be bullied by people. She stuck by ‘I want Reminisce and I would get Reminisce.’”
A curated 6-track project with Tiwa Savage and Fireboy as guest features, Vibes and Insha Allah also has vocals from his children asking “Daddy why are you making music?” He laughs. They wouldn’t understand. But you will. In our conversation that follows, you will.
At this level of your art, what's in it for you?
First off, I'd like to state that if anyone had told me I'd be here, that I'd participate in what I call—myself and my friend Biola Kazeem, we call it—Biola Kazeem says, “Reminisce you're a champions league player.” I'm playing Champion Leagues football. Obviously, from my releases to my collaborations, my associates, you would see that I'm a premium guy. I like premium stuff. So I'm a Champions League player. I tell Biola every time. Even if I’m old, I still want to be like Zlatan, Ryan Giggs, play Champions League football till I retire, that's if I don’t feel like making music anymore. But it used to be cool to say you’ll retire, you don’t want to make music anymore. But it's no longer cool to say that. You know why? Content is like crude now. Content is the new crude.
I mean, you're making money off your old catalogue, people are buying catalogs here and there now, licensing shit up and down. The worst is as you grow older, your demography shifts. But they still listen to music, and who's going to cater to them? You need to give them music. Maybe you might not be as active as you used to be, obviously you know, you're older and you want to try other things. But I tend to keep making music. What I want out of life? Errm when I started off, like I said, I didn’t know I'd get here. I just thought I'd be a one/two-hit wonder. You know, just one or two songs and. I didn’t know. It's been a decade since ‘Kako Bii Chicken.’ I think I don’t give myself enough props. It's been a decade since ‘Kako Bii Chicken’ and four albums. I haven’t put out an album in four years. We need to state that.
I haven’t put out a project in four years and it doesn’t feel like that. I still had a hit about six months ago, I'm 39. What else? I've represented premium brands, global brands for 7-8 years. See the things for your back here. Time magazine, hip-hop, won awards back to back. You know, box office as well. I'm a premium guy like I said, I'm a very premium guy. A lot of people don’t know that. I'm a result-driven human being and a lot of people translate that to being cocky. But I'd take that as well. I'd take cocky as well. But I'm a result-driven human being. I'm a Nike guy, I like my pass mark everywhere. So if it's fucked up, I won’t do it. That's why Kemi is my guy. Kemi Adetiba. She's a G. She knows me. She's like “I know you now, premium.’ So I just want to leave a positive footprint. I don’t want to tell my children I was this, I was this with money. I want them to see things that I did and be like, ‘oh my dad did this, despite everything against him.’ Joey, I blew up when I was 30 you know, against all odds. I blew up at 30 and I started at 21. 9ice blew up, everybody blew up before me. Olamide blew up before me. G-dog, his name was G-dog then, you know. So yeah, but I was just patient. I blew up at 30, very late. When a lot of people were winding up already.
What kept you going, seeing as all your peers had broken through?
Joey, I'd give you a few stories here. Of course, I feel some type of way. I used to feel bad. Then, I don’t want to talk about this story, Olamide tells people, but I don’t want to be the one to say. You know, when Olamide blew up, it coincided with the time Jah Bless had 'Joor'. When we go to shows, Olamide would be at the same show. Olamide would perform 'Eni Duro,' and I was still Jah Bless' back up. This particular event in Abuja, I think I had blown up then. We were in the hotel, I think Harrysongs, Olamide, Kcee. That was when Kcee had Limpopo, but Limpopo hadn’t blown. Sean Tizzle was about to fucking skyrocket that period. Sean Tizzle was in Abuja with us. They were doing the promo for 'Sho lee' then. Olamide was now telling people, they don’t really know who I am to them. There are a lot of people telling me stuff, but they don’t know who I am to them. He said ‘look’, then he now told them who I was. The Cabasa era, how we started blah blah blah. Joey, it's a long story.
Then Ola was like he used to feel sad when he'd come to shows and see me backing Jah Bless up. He'd be like ‘God, look at my mentor, you know. Look at this bros, someone I listened to, someone that inspires me in the studio still backing Jah Bless up.’ But I didn’t care, I just kept going, Joey. That's why a lot of these kids, I hate this sense of entitlement they come with. I'm three months older than Jah Bless, I used to buy ciga for Jah Bless. I'm older than him. Three months, but I still old pass am abi? I dey buy ciga for Jah Bless. He's still my friend till tomorrow. He owns a joint on the island by the way. He's in Yankee now and owns a joint on the island. Doing well, proud of him. You know, I used to buy ciga for him Jah Bless, because I understood he was the bigger one. He was the bigger artist. He can't go and buy ciga now, I’m his friend, I would drive him. I used to do that. Back him up. And I was happy to do this. Everybody was blowing up, I didn’t mind. I was happy to do it. And I just kept doing this, kept doing this, it wasn’t working out. And then I remembered 'Kako Bii Chicken'. Sarz said he had played the beat for Naeto C, but Naeto C didn’t understand it blah blah blah. I said ‘make we do am now.’
When was this?
2010, I think.
Isaac John, Edge Studios. Sarz played the beat, we just took beer, fired a lot of beer. "O ye rappers!" because I had done a lot of rap songs. I had 'Ever Since' out then, and the one with Da Grin, 'Gba be.' They didn’t really pick up. They were rap songs, they didn’t really pick up. You know, omo mhen, I don rap o, wetin happen. ‘O ye rappers, I've moved on to greater things, I would see you in a jiffy.’ I sha did the song. I remember Sarz. Sarz said ‘Remi, this song will destroy your credibility o. This song is break it or make it.’ I said I know. He said ‘are you ready to go for it?’ I said, ‘make we go.’ We dropped that song, it was a bit cold. That time, Notjustok comments used to be a thing, the comments were negative 100%. What is this one? What is this rubbish? A few DJs that we gave the song to were like ‘no, go and meet Terry G and do a remix. The tempo is off.’ I can remember over 15/16 DJs, popular DJs, said we should go and meet Terry G and redo it so that the beat is off tempo. The beat is weird.
Then four, five months after, I just started receiving calls that Oniru, your song is this, your song is this. I'm like wawu, what the fuck! Then we went to Oniru beach one day. That's the first day I cried. Bruh, they played 'Kako Bii Chicken.' Fucking hell! I saw people shouting ghen ghen. Omo, tears just drop say finally this blow, I don blow am. Because I used to tell myself that maybe I'm just one of those guys that would know everybody, that'd be around superstars and just never make it. So yeah, I was so excited.
At 30, yeah. And I had a kid already. And my brothers were on my neck that you went to school. Go and look for a job. Time is not on your side.
Your fame started late. Did that affect how you moved in your celebrity?
Yeah. It shaped my entire life. Because first off, I had a child before blowing up. The night when my wife had the child, I had my first kid in Abeokuta, my first-born. My elder brother, the guy fired me from 10 o'clock till 4 o'clock in the morning, telling me that this music shit has to stop. Go get a proper job or get a proper life. This shit you're hoping on will not happen. Is 9ice not your mate? Didn’t you start together? I used to remember 9ice coming home. Do you see the margin between you people? That it's not going to happen for you. If it was going to happen, you would have known. He was doing comparisons. He was being truthful to me. But you know, I just kept going. I just believed that I was nearly there. I kept pushing, put everything into it. I'd get money, I'd just give some to my wife to buy food for the kid, the rest whew! Promo. CDs. There's a place I used to print CDs at Oregun. I was a customer there, they knew me. The Koreans knew me. I was a customer, always printing promo CDs. I don’t think any artist has more promo CDss than I used to have then. Because I used to put out singles every two months with CDs. One thousand copies. Share everywhere. But I don’t know Joey, I don’t know how to put it. I don’t know. I guess it was just meant to happen.
The fact that it came late, did it give you perspective on how to move?
Yes it did. It shaped my thinking, it shaped my finance, it shaped everything about my life. I had a responsibility, first off. I blew up and my kid was a year and half old already. So first off, I had to start preparing for school. Second, my father called me already to set up a trust for my child, first. I would never forget that. My father called me, first of every month, you must put the money here. So I blew up with responsibilities. And one of the greatest decisions I think I made was when I blew up, the first set of money I had...that's why "Alaga Ibile" will... see there are a lot of things I don’t say. This album sold one million copies. Over one million copies, almost two million copies from nowhere bro. In Alaba. From nowhere bro. This album had eight videos out of 13 songs. I spent all my money, all the first money I made in my career, I kept shooting videos. Whenever they book for shows, we pay for videos. Shout out to Ibrahim Ogunlaja. It was me and him. Whenever we made any money, pay for videos. This album had eight singles, eight videos. At a time when people weren't shooting videos.
I spent all my money, I directed it into investing in myself. I learnt how to cut spending, I learnt how to not do... You know bro, I was driving a V-boot. I had 'Kako Bii Chicken' and I was driving a V-boot. After that, I bought a Mitsubishi. Sarz was driving a big car already. People were driving big cars. My assistant was driving a big car already and I was driving a Mitsubishi Gallant because I had things to do. And when I got really really comfortable, when the endorsements started rolling in, ehen I now began to tear Benz. Tear two Benz, tear this, tear that. Up to the stage where let me just get a brand new motherfucker and chill like. You understand, there's nothing to prove to anybody anymore. Yes, obviously it shaped me. Blowing up late showed me. Because if I was in my 20s, I probably go don fuck up. I probably go don give like six people belle. I go don dey Instablog well well. I go don give like six people belle I swear to God, my bro.
What's the main thing "Alaga Ibile" did for you?
Like I said, there were doubts. There were doubts in people's minds about my rap credibility. You know, you blew up with 'Kako Bii Chicken,' and then you're telling people you're a rapper. Joey you no understand? People wey no know you. At a time when people were not willing to research Nigerian music, na wetin they hear. People con dey look say is this one mad? People didn’t accept me as a rapper. I was like ‘what am I going to do?’ I was recording and recording. And coincidentally, myself and Sossick hooked up at City Mall. We just jammed. Sossick was like ‘man, I've been looking for you.’ I hooked up with Sossick, I started recording. Sossick obviously likes my shit. If I record, Sossick is always excited like ‘man, man.’ And me, I get time well well. I go just dey burst, dey burst. Then I was like literally, I have a song with Davido, I have a song with Wizkid, I have a song with Burna Boy, I have a song with Olamide. Let me cap it off with rap songs, proper rap songs and shoot videos for them.
Making rap songs didn’t make the difference. Promoting rap songs made the difference, which is what a lot of the fuckers out there don't do. Now they keep making mouth. How many of them shoot rap videos? I ask today Joey, I put it down today. How many rappers in this country have more rap videos than me? I'm talking proper rap videos, raps songs than me? My YouTube is there, go and look it up and tell me any rapper that has proper rap videos than me in this country. I put out proper rap videos, shoot videos for them and promote. When others are promoting Lamba, I promote rap songs. I did that to clear my rap credibility. Also, that same year, I made sure all the features from Naeto C to Mode Nine to Terry da Rapman to every fucking baddie was deliberate. I made sure that every rapper that featured ma pa e danu ni (laughs). That was very deliberate, so I guess that shocked a lot of people. 2013 was the year of shock for a lot of people that ‘wow, this guy is really dope o.’ So that's what "Alaga Ibile" did for me. It registered me as a rapper.
Hip-hop also had more power in this country.
Yes, more influence.
Why do you think we are experiencing a shrink?
It is not a shrink. It is a bunch of people refusing to accept that things evolve. Joey, what you just listened to is a rap project. Do you know? But these people will tell you it's not a rap project because it's not boom-bap or what do you call it? It's not DJ Premier beats. You know because it's not DJ Premier kick and snare, so it's not rap. This is a rap EP but they'd tell you it’s not rap because it's not hardcore. Because it's not English that some people don’t understand. And some people don’t understand this, but I'm not the guy to give you that. Rap started shrinking when people refused to grow. When people refuse to accept that there are new ways to do this thing. There are new ways to do rap. There are ways you can rap and still be in the middle of the culture like we spoke about earlier.
When you do that, people move and leave you behind. So that's what's going on in rap in Nigeria. People are leaving, leaning towards Wizzy baby and Afrobeats, and leaving rap behind because the rappers have refused to evolve. Rappers have refused to evolve. You make songs only you can listen to. You make songs only a select few can listen to. Then when they are booking shows, you're angry they are not booking you. They won’t book you because the people you want to perform for don’t fucking know your songs. You have to be fucking able to strike a balance. And unfortunately for you, you claim that you have fans, yet your fans cannot fill up a 500-capacity venue. So what are you doing? I don’t know if you get me. If you claim you're not for everybody, of course, everybody is not for everybody. Some people have niche audiences and all that. I understand that, I respect that. But the question is; your niche audience, can they fill up a 500-capacity venue? Can they even support your music? No.
So why would I, in my right mind, want to make music for people that cannot even give me the—Yoruba would say ‘oju owo.’ Oju owo means the exact money I've spent. Expenses, the capital. You cannot even make me my capital back, talk less of profit. But you want me to invest in you. I'm not going to do that, I'd rather give them my lamba limbo that I will spend one million, and make seven million. It's as simple as that. Because at the end of the day I've said it again, owo ni koko. We are in a society where what you have matters a lot. No matter how wrong the idea is or how immoral it is, it is a fact. You are measured by what you have and I never forget that.
You also led what was regarded as a cultural revolution.
Lo lo lo lo (laughs). That's what turned me to the enemy of Nigerian rappers o.
It seemed prophetic. The rap wave was switching.
It was and people didn’t realise. Okay I'd ask you a question today. Look at the Ibile side of things and look at the other side. In the Ibile side of things in the last five years, I'm sure you can mention 10 boys that have blown up. Can you name 10 boys from the other side? So what are you saying? But these are facts that people don’t want to talk about. You know, they like to posture on the internet and claim I'm the god of this, good. Bruv, it's okay. But from your side of the map, how many people have come through you? Directly or indirectly, that have blown up? Through what you do.
How many people have tasted real success...
Real success. But from our side of the map, you see motherfuckers every day. Before, it used to be okay with me and Ola's blessings. Now you don’t even need Reminisce or Olamide's blessings bro. Niggas blow up randomly because the platform is there for them to ride on. That's what I call success. I'm not into this. Myself and Lanre talk about this all the time. Vector. I talk to Vector a lot. We spend a lot of time talking on the phone. Like there's so much bitterness in Nigerian hip-hop. The Nigerian hip-hop scene is the definition of toxicity. Tell them I said so. It's the definition of toxicity. They hate themselves, they are pretenders, I don’t know. Nothing positive comes out of them. They never collaborate. It’s easier to feature Wizkid than to feature my fellow rapper apart from maybe Vec, Ice Prince and co. People I know that are really very cool.
Ice Prince is one of the most fantastic human beings that I've ever met by the way. One of the most fantastic people. I’m not saying music, all-round people in my life. I need to say that. He's a great guy. So apart from maybe Vec, I'm still owing Vec a song sef, right now. He's cool with me, we send each other stuff. Ola, before he'd release, he'd send me. Apart from a few much that send me stuff, Zamani would send me stuff. ‘Yo Rem I want you to..the rest na jam. Just because you want to feature, you want to feature fellow rappers because they are up for who's going to murder who in 2010. You're looking for who's going to murder who, some people are still behind. Some people are still in the past of ‘I murdered this, I'm the dopest, I'm the best.’ Bro, we're in the era of playlisting, there's no best my brother.
Even the numbers are being manipulated. So how do you measure this GOAT thing? I told Vector that this GOAT discussion, Nigerian rappers should be ashamed. There should not even be a GOAT discussion. This is a genre that's crumbling, a crippled genre and you're talking about being GOAT. It's like saying you're the chairman of a collapsed building. You should be ashamed. Nigerian rappers. Especially the older ones, we should be ashamed. It's like a building burning and you're saying, ‘I’m the owner of this house. I'm the king, I'm the chairman, I'm the Alaga of this house.
You're the king of nothing.
At the end of the day, because your house is fucking collapsing. So you should fix that first. That's why I said that GOAT discussion, everybody just remove it first. We shouldn't even be talking about it. GOAT what, GOAT where? There's a lot to fix around Nigerian hip-hop, obviously. Maybe I'm not the guy to hear it from because I'm not a rapper, according to the purists. The sons of Rakim. The sons that Rakim gave birth to hip-hop in Nigeria.
All these comments, do they get to you?
Does it get to me?
If people say I'm not a rapper.
Does it look like it gets to me? Did you listen to what I just said? I don’t have time. I am on to the next lamba. I don't have one minute to give. Apart from say gist, we are talking about it. My brother, it does not influence how I make music. My Apple Music For Artists logs and my Spotify For Artist logs, decides what my next song is going to sound like. Baba, music has shifted. You understand. The dollars determine what's coming out. Music has shifted, music has changed. So the dollar determines what is what. The dollars determines my features sef. The people I fuck with, the people I make music with. Like I said, I'm a Champions League player, I only fuck with the premium. If I'm fucking with the kids, premium. I'm not going to compromise my standards. So I'm not bothered by what your thoughts are of me. I'm not here to caress your ego, I'm not here to make you feel good.
But my point is, before you talk to me, make sure we share equal success or we can be placed. But if you're beneath me on the success ladder that's what annoys me. You cannot talk. I'm a very modest...I don’t like to announce. But you should know that ‘ah, this person is not my set.’ So regarding the hip-hop discussion, there are people I can sit down with. I talk with Osagz a lot about hip-hop, we talk a lot about Nigerian hip-hop, what they think can be done. But all these random twitter purists or people that just... When it's time for them to show up now go and stream, show up for show, 1k5, you will not see them. But the same people want you to do pure hip-hop so that I can be begging for school fees (laughs).
Your pop music and hip-hop are almost the same. They are intertwined. Check out the song with Davido.
"Daddy Mi', very huge song, till tomorrow. One of the biggest songs of my career. Very funny song.
How did that come to be?
Big ups to Davido, I love my brother Davido. Big ups to him, kind heart. We just wanted to make a song, I was in his house. That time, he just got a new house. He hadn’t set up the studio, he was like, ‘oh Shizzi loves me a lot.’ Big ups Shizzi, I love you my bro. So he was like ‘Shizzi loves me a lot, Shizzi wants to be the one to produce.’ I had gone there with some Sarz beat, he was like ‘No, Shizzi wants to produce.’ And Shizzi comes in, plays a couple beats, we found it difficult to be on the same tempo and all of a sudden he just "everything is nice, the bang is banging..." I remember then, people were laughing at me in the studio because I used to have this Higher Education notebook, you know I write. It was the Blackberry era, so I had this notebook where I was writing lyrics. people were laughing at me, what's going on? Why does this bros have a Higher Education? And when I wrote the song, it sounded good. I sent it to Sarz and Sarz was like this is dope. We put it on the album.
That's why I don't listen to you guys, Joey. I remember the album review of "Alaga Ibile.” I don't want to mention names, but the person will probably read this and know himself. He said "at best 'Daddy Mi' is an album filler." I would never forget that review. So that's why I don't listen to all these people that just listen to a few Jay-Z songs and claim they are critics. That person said ‘at best, 'Daddy Mi' is an album filler.’ That "Alaga Ibile'' is an average album and 'Daddy Mi' is an album filler. Since then, I no dey even hear wetin anybody talk. That's what all these critics I don't even...like, you don't understand jhor, you don't know anything. I swear, that's what the person said. He said that song is at best an album filler. The song that ended up being my...despite the number of hits I've had, that song is up there. Even David, any show he wants to do, that's his favourite song. He tells me, ‘oga we have to do this song o, you know, my dad.’ You get. So, seven years later, that song somebody said is an album filler. That's why I don't really react to what people say. Whatever they say on Twitter, it doesn't change what I'm going to do musically. I listen to my logs. My logs are the only thing that control me. I look at my logs. Which one is bringing the bar? Why is this song bringing the money? What happened to this song? Why is it bringing the money? Look at why they are listening to it. Okay, maybe they like this kind of sound. Let me do the next one like this and put this person there.
You're regarded as an original. Your words take root. See ‘Alaga Ibile’ and pop culture. Different people would identify themselves as Alaga because of your work.
And Ibile. Where do all this come from? This lamba, where do they come from for you?
Well, Joey I grew up at Yaba and Ojota. I know how people live day to day. I'm not a butter kid. So I must be able to express my everyday liverhood in my music or through my music. I must be able to reflect that. And I must also be able to reflect the educated man in me. The small tush side that I was privileged to go to school and all that, yeah. I must be able to exhibit that as well. So that's why I'm sort of a balance. That's why I cut across, I'd say the societal scale. I think the elite kids love me a lot. I think the Alte kids love me. I think I'm one of the few guys from the other side that they like. They like me a lot, and my people also like me. If I can speak Igbo, I should be able to rap in Igbo. If I can speak Yoruba, I should be able to rap in Yoruba. If I can speak English, I should be able to rap in English. I'm a firm believer in that. I also make sure these things reflect who I am as a person. My image, I don't try to attach too much to myself.
I don't attach fashion to myself, I'm just a guy. In fact they forced me to wear this. I was going to put on my uniform because every matchday, I wear my Manchester United uniform. Then Osagie was like, there's too much of that out there. That there's too much Man Utd pictures, that I should just wear normal dress. Bro, I don’t care. I'm not a fashionista, I don’t care bro. There’s nothing you want to have that I don't have. There's nothing you want to wear that I don't have upstairs, but I just want to be myself. I try not to attach fashion to myself. Ebuka is there to do that for you. If you want fashion, go to Ebuka's page. But if want lamba tutu, you can come to me. I've tried to separate that. The music, the man. I've also allowed people to accept me for who I am. I think people have accepted me. They know that I don't like publicity that much. My fans understand that Reminisce is not somebody that likes wahala. He just wants to be. So they've accepted that over the years.
Before it used to look like I was under the radar. But now, they understand that it was not under the radar, but he just doesn't want these things. Like for instance, one of my boys, Laycon, is in the Big Brother house. Inasmuch as I'd love to support him, I'm looking at it like shey people will not think that I'm trying to hop on this boy's buzz because I want to release a project? I'm that kind of guy thinking that oh my God. Look at coincidence. Because he's a kid I really really love. He does all my songs 'OG b4 IG', I post him a lot on my page. He's a cool kid, I like him so much. I forced myself to actually tweet for support for him, that look, because I saw people slandering him. I had to stand up to him that ‘no, you don't do that to people. You don't know this kid. How do you just judge him? Ahn ahn, why?’ I had to stand up for him. I'm very intentional, at the same time I'm very cautious with how I move.
I try to make you understand that this is just who I am. I'm not going to shift or bend for you. This is who I am, this is what I want to do, this is how I want to be perceived. Your definition of me can remain with you, but this is what I want to do. And I think people have gotten a bit used to it. Sometimes it's a bit weird, people are like Alaga, why are you not doing this? Ola knows me well. If we're somewhere, Ola would message me on Whatsapp and say ‘Aga, somebody is pissing you off here,’ and I'd say yes. I can tell already, let's go. He understands me already. He would tell me somebody is pissing you off here, your mood has changed. I'm that guy, I'm a positive energy guy. If I were not cool with you now, I won't allow you here. I'd just tell you, let him call, let's do the interview. I'm that kind of guy. I'm not angry with you or anything. I've had few friends that were 40 this year. 9ice, Kemi, I talk to them. I'm like what's the price of happiness? Like, let me start now a year behind you guys, let me start my happiness now. Let me start pursuing these things so when I clock forty, I've had my peace. You learn and unlearn, as they say. So I probably would have unlearned some stuff and learned new things as well.
At your level, you think there’s an expectation of leadership from you?
Of course, there is. When you’re at this level, of course there is. Naturally you’re a leader, naturally I am. Naturally I am, because the only people who have done what I do long enough and successfully are me and Olamide. I mean, from our side of the map. It’s just the two of us that have done it to this level of longevity, and amount of success. Obviously, you automatically assume leadership roles. Anybody that’s doing what you’re doing will definitely look up to you. Anybody that is rapping or doing what we do now, obviously has me or him in mind somewhere. inasmuch as they do not like to admit it, I understand that. But obviously, we must have shaped and influenced your music making at some point in time. Of course, you assume leadership roles. 10 years in a business, I need to state that o. 10 years in lamba, Joey. I supply you people for 10 years, Joey you’re ungrateful. It’s not easy na, 10 years after blowing up with arugbo status, I’m still giving you.
You championed local rap, and it’s become a vehicle for others to blow? Does that feel good?
It feels good. And why I feel way better about it is that anybody who knows me, knows if I mention the names that have passed through me, Twitter will shut down that day. The people that I know that have passed through me, that I just told them, ‘please just go.’ I’m like that, I don't even want credit. Just do good, do you. You too, carry some people. I don't want credit. I can give you names, but I don't want credit. Someone was here and there was a tweet that a kid came up with. Enimoney and were having a discussion, he tweeted something. I don't know if you saw it, it was Biola that shared that tweet with me that “Reminisce told me today that allow people to enjoy their fame alone”. That is because when you try to attach yourself to their success too much, you end up looking foolish. That’s what I do. If you want to give me a shout out, okay. But I’m going to detach myself from you immediately, so you can enjoy your fame yourself. I don't want to “I’m the one that took Joey to Pulse now” no bro. I’m not like that. Maybe if you want to say, but me go out and say, no I don't do that.
Naturally, you're in a leadership position. And naturally, leaders are happy to see people move up. All of them, Zlatan, Naira, I talk to them. I’m happy. Kesh, anyone of them, I’m happy to, if you need anything I’m right here, I’m open.
Part of you sounds very anti-social media. The way we live now.
I’m not anti-social media, it’s just that I don't know what’s happening on social media these days. Like, my cousin was here two days ago, then we were talking about childhood memories. Obviously, family feuds, yeah. We were talking about it and he was like oh, I should have forgotten about these things, that I sound like I’m still angry. I now told him that last Sunday, I walked through my kitchen into the living room. I now told my wife and my sister that this kitchen smells like my aunt’s kitchen 30 years ago, when we used to go to their place on Sundays. I’m from a muslim place, but she married a christian. So she used to worship at Tunde Bakare’s church, Latter Rain. We used to always want to go to their house because they had the latest version of Nintendo. That was his mum, his house. I now asked him that I was telling my wife that that this kitchen smells like your kitchen used to smell when we were younger. Is that a good memory? He said yes. So why haven't you told me not to remember it? I said, ‘why do you want to force people to live their lives your own way? You don't want people to talk because it's wrong. Let people talk, let people be themselves. If I am angry, if I can remember that this place smells like your mum’s kitchen then you should allow me talk. If your mum has done wrong or if your aunty has done wrong, the same way I’m commending you positively, if I want to vent negatively, let me do it.’ I told him; now that I’ve said a positive thing, why haven't you told me to stop?
People want to live their lives a certain way: there are things you cannot say. This is how life should be. Don’t beat your daughter, did your father not beat you? Who dem no wipe? So you now want to wake up and say your father was this? Bro, I’m not part of those kinds of discussions. That’s why I stay away. You know you have a right to raise your children however you want to raise your children. There is a way I raise my own children. I raise my children to know that there are consequences for every decision. I raise my children with a reward system. You want this, you perform better in this subject in school. Reward system. That’s how I raise them. There’s nothing I don’t get for my children but they know, you have to give something back. Let them know that you have to give to get something. You can’t get everything on a platter of gold.
Especially my position, I have to do it for my children because I can almost afford anything they want. And it’s difficult for me to say no because my kids are girls. Very difficult for me to say no. I need to put some, there has to be a red tape somewhere there. A threshold. Because there’s nothing that they want that I can’t afford. I think so. So you just end up raising kids you can’t say no to. The only way you create a threshold is: give me this and I’d give you that. That’s how I raise my own kids, but you have a right to raise your own children the way you want to. What I don’t like is that you want to project your own way on other people that this is it. No. That’s what social media is doing now. You can't speak, you can't. The whole thing, I just lay back. I’m just on football Twitter. Football Twitter just dey. Same thing with music. You want to project your own meaning of rap on other people. So people that rap a certain way are not rappers because why? You’re Rakim’s grandson. Joey, the day all these boys sit down with me, they go cry go house. Because you’re Rakim’s grandson, Rakim granted you power to control rap. As if you know this rap. Kemi Adetiba knows more rap than 90% of these fuckers. Kemi Kemz, she sabi rap pass 90% of these fuckers out there. But they don’t know. For their mind they like rap, they sabi rap. So I’m not going to submit myself to the image of me that’s in your head. That’s your problem, baba. You don too watch TV ni.
So it’s not that I’m anti-social media. I’m just of the opinion that you cannot force your thoughts and opinion on other people. Let people live their lives the way they want to. Whoever wan flog him pikin oh oh, na him problem. Who ever no wan flog him pikin, oh oh, na him problem. But trying to project. You don't know what people have been through. These discussions are very sensitive, so I try to stay away from them. But all I know is, let people do their own thing. We were all raised up in different ways. Even though we want to posture online, nobody wey no chop koboko here. With all my Reminisce, I chop. And e no turn me to anything na, I still be update. I’m well behaved. Everybody will be fine. Your reflection or your understanding, or your transition of life should not be forced on people. Leave people wey wan enjoy.
Your new project, “Vibes and Insha Allah,” why does it exist?
“Vibes and Insha Allah,” like I said, the part wey I no like pass for the music process is the engineering part. The recording, the mixing and mastering part and all that. I don’t like that part at all. So they say necessity is the father of invention. During that corona period, my engineer couldn’t come here obviously, so I had to YouTube. I had this latest version of Cubase that I had bought, but I didn't have a licence key. I just ordered a license key, and the delivery guy brought it. Krisbeatz walked me through it and I started recording. First couple tries, very horrible, very terrible. But I kept YouTubing, I tried that with my kids. The very first vocals you’d hear on my project are my kids' vocals. I left the mic on actually, I was trying to check something. They were now talking, 'daddy why are you recording? Why do you have to record?' The funny thing is my second kid asked me 'why do you have to make music?' I just laughed, that little do you know. Little do you know that you are here living fine because I have been making music. So I learnt how to record.
There are a couple of songs on the project that had been pre-recorded before the lockdown. I deleted everything and retook the vocals. Especially the Sarz one, he requested I retook the vocals. I recorded myself, I recorded everything, had STG, mix and master. My personal engineer as well. We just wrapped up the project, selected six. Of course you are lucky enough to have heard a very special jam. You know what's coming next after this one. I just selected these six. I thought these six fit perfectly to the theme. So "Vibes and Insha Allah" is just telling you that—what you spoke about earlier—the level I am now. I'm not here to do anything to impress anybody or to prove anything. So I'm just telling you it's vibes and the rest is with God. Vibes and whatever the results are, we are here. We are not bothered. We are not here to prove that we have the best EP, but it's "Vibes and Insha Allah," the rest is with God. The same way Liverpool dey play, cross and Insha Allah. My own is "Vibes and Insha Allah", nothing serious. This is me, this is my creating process. Like I told you earlier, the first track, just states how difficult it is to make music when you have children. They are not going to school so you have a lot of children in the house.
The reason why we have this peace right now, is because I've warned them. I warned them that I have a visitor from CNN. 'Really Daddy, is it CNN?' If not, they go don come, ‘daddy daddy can we play outside?’ So it's crazy. Five kids. My kids, my nieces and nephew. So it's crazy. That period, I just made that song about the difficulties and challenges recording when you have children in the house. So it's been fun so far. I enjoyed the entire process.
King of Boys. How did box office success alter your life?
The first person to brief me of King of Boys, is standing right here (Edward Ayide). Things didn’t manifest until seven months after. Banky W reached out to me. Me and Banky W we're at Samsung together, so he reached out to me that ‘yo, Kemi is trying to reach out to you.’ I was ‘oh, same Kemi, fine babe, no wahala na give am my number.’ So she sent me a text like ‘hey, my name is…’ I'm like ‘yo I know you, fine geh, no worry.’ So she's like, ‘don't worry, there's this movie I'm trying to do blah blah blah.’ I said—you know I'm a very straight forward guy—I'm not interested. That I don't want to do movie, Ngerian movie. Then he convinces me like ‘yo, what are doing? You haven't put out music since the last album. You said you don't want to put out music yet, you want to chill.’ I said yes. So why not just let's shoot now, let's do this movie.
Then I asked her and said send me the script. Then this babe sent me the script and I didn’t read. I agreed to shoot obviously for the money. I collected the money. Then on the first day on set, they said Reminisce where are your sizes. I said what is size? They said where is the script? I said, ‘script.’ Erm, so you know, I hadn't read the script the first time I went on set. So Aunty Sola (Sobowale) now pulled me into the car, she started teaching me. It was a crazy experience. Then the first time I saw her act, that was my birthday. Olamide was at 57 waiting for me. Baddo as usual, make we go shayo, your birthday. He was waiting for me at 57. The first day I had to take a couple of scenes, then I saw aunty Sola act. Then she missed her lines and she was like ‘oh God! Go away from here all of you.’ I said eh?! Is this the woman I'm going to do film with?’ They said yes. I said ‘don't worry, I will return your money tomorrow.’ I swear, I was scared. I said, ‘is she still acting or is she mad at someone?’ They said no, she's cooling off. Kini kan steaming. I said ‘steaming?’
I said, ‘Kems, I know what I can do, I know what I can't do. This one, I can't. That trust me, I don’t want to fuck up. I now told her that I'm a Nike guy. She said ‘what's Nike?’ I said ‘I'm a pass mark guy. I'm a perfectionist. I like everything to tick the boxes. I don't want this King of Boys to come and stain my reputation.’ 'You'd do it Rems, I'd help you through it,’ she said. So we kept on shooting, and then I noticed that this one would come and ask me that, ‘Hi Reminisce, have you been acting before?’ I'd say no. So I'd be like, ‘Yeh! I've disgraced myself.’ Then Kemi would be like ‘yo, you did mad.’ So I now noticed everybody was shocked like, ‘has this guy been acting before?’ I think they were expecting me to fuck up. And me, I was just giving them. The thing just dey enter, I just dey give them. Say eh, so you mean I can act? Are you serious? So from there, the energy just built. And do you know how uncertain I was? Do you know I didn’t attend the premiere? I didn't attend the premiere because I wasn't sure how the reception would be. I was thinking, ‘Ah!’
But you saw the final cut now?
I didn't see it. I still haven't seen the movie.
I saw 43 minutes on my flight to Dubai, but I haven't seen the full movie till tomorrow. Even the day of the premiere wey me and Olamide dey there, na shayo we shayo half the time. They didn't allow us smoke inside the...so we go comot, come smoke. I've not really seen the full thing. My wife now went to see it and was like ‘people were screaming for you.’ I'm like ‘ehen? So I've blown in the movie. Okay, I'm an actor now (laughs).’ It was really really crazy. I love Kemi so much. I love her because there's this Yoruba saying; ‘e Iibi ti won ba ti femi ni ma lo.’ I would only go where I'm wanted. Investors, people persuaded Kemi not to use me. I don't want to mention names. They were giving her other names that, use this person. He has more following, he has more Instagram followers. This one is not active, he doesn’t post on Instagram. He doesn't do this, he doesn't do that. This one is bigger. Use this person. This babe insisted that ‘no, Reminisce is who I want.’ So that's why she's my G for life. Like my G proper. She knows. She didn't allow herself to be bullied by people. She stuck by ‘I want Reminisce and I would get Reminisce.’
What has that done for you and your career?
Of course, I've re-blown.
To another different generation.
Different generation and demography. You know I realised that the movie world is actually different from our music bullshit o. Bro, I think I was at Duty Free at Dubai, and this woman walked by, she just stopped. ‘Oh my God, Makanaki. Oh my God, I even watched it here now on my way to Dubai.’ She was almost crying. She now called her sister. She just told me, ‘you're singing, I didn't even know you used to sing. Funny enough, I know like two of your songs. I didn't even know you were the one.’ I was like ‘ehen, so this blow for this movie world is serious. What a wawu!’ Okay, you people will start collecting from now on. Don't worry. Like I said, you learn and unlearn. They have a huge movie world out there. The movie guys, they have another world out there. So King of Boys has introduced me to another demography, minus music now. And also another generation that listen to music and watch Nigerian movies, the diaspora people. Of course, that's why I said I've re-blown again. And also, it has sold me to people as, I'm not only a rapper, singer. I can do a bit of other things, successfully. We need to add that. Success is very key. Let me blow my own trumpet. Successfully. This is Champions League football. In Biola Kazeem's word: “Reminisce is a Champions League player.” I play Champions League only. Even if I am old, I will do like Zlatan or Ryan Giggs. I will still play Champions League. I will sha win local league at worst.
So King of Boys, exciting project. I'm looking forward to the second part and you know I had the opportunity to work with very fantastic people. Adesua, Aunty Sola especially. She eased me through the process. And Kemi, Kemi is a wonderful soul, wonderful person. Remi, my namesake. Yeah. And Kemi is one of the few people in this industry that I've done stuff with and I have no regrets. Most times you do stuff with people in this business and you regret it. Kemi is the one that I've never had any regrets over. She's cool, she's a G.
You tend to be very public about your faith.
I don't know if that's intentional. I'm not very public about it. My name is Khalid, I'm an Alhaji, normal. So there's nothing to hide. I'm not selling religion and I'm not hiding it either. Same way religion and my family goes the same way. I'm not hiding it and at the same time, I'm not publicizing it. I can post my wife, I can post my child. I can decide not to post them as well. It's happened. For example, I have three kids, my third child is almost two years old and people don't even know I have a third child. Do you know that? I'm sure you don't even know. And on the day of her naming, I posted the pictures and people were in my house and people didn't know. So I do whatever I do. I have three kids, but people think I have two. People refer to me like I have two kids, Hafusa and Fatimah. The two of them are even on the EP. They don't know I have a third child because I just chose not to. But when the time is right, I'd let you know. My baby, my little baby. I just feel like she's too young to be exposed to cameras. So I'm not hiding, and at the same time, I'm not publicizing. I just do whatever I feel. I post my wife like once in two years. Like this year, I think I've posted her like five time. We did a couple of Tiktok videos together. I'm not holding her and at the same time I'm not publicizing her. I'm just doing me.
Regarding the faith, I'm a muslim. It appears in my lyrics obviously. El-Hadj, of course people go to Hajj and post pictures. So why wouldn't I. I missed it in 2016 and made it up in 2019. Three years after. So I'm a man of my words. Put this down. You were the one that asked my why the title El-Hadj. Thank God, you're the one that's going to explain to them now that I've fulfilled it. I'm not very public. Me, I’m muslim and I was born muslim. That's the only thing I know. It's not like I'm an Alfa and obviously you can see that I'm woke (laughs). I'm woke, but I must do the basics. like I said, let people practice their own way.
You pulled magic for Samsung.
Yeah, I think I did.
That's why they've renewed you every year ever since you've joined now.
Why do you think they are renewing your contract?
Because, update ni.
Why do you think that deal was successful for you and for your partners?
My first deal was..Samsung came before Orijin yeah? So I told Ibrahim, the pay wasn't really great. It wasn't what we expected. But I took it. It was six months because it was a very short deal. I just told Ibrahim, let's do it and I'd prove to them. And before six months ended, they gave me a one-year contract. And during the one-year contract again, before it ended, they were already negotiating. And I doubled the fees again and they paid. I kept doubling. One of the things I think I do with any brand I work with is, I try to get the job done first. Most people want to collect the money. Yes, the money is attractive, you'd collect it and now go and sit down. So they would beg you to post, they would beg you to do appearances. Meanwhile, you are forgetting that these brands are probably spending 70, 80, 100 million Naira putting your face everywhere. That is a huge investment which at the end of the day, you're the one that's going to benefit. Why not leverage on these things? Push your music through it, push your craft through it, push any of your content through it. Use their free press. Use their channels to amplify your own career.
But a lot of people sleep on it. They think they are doing the brand a favour. I'm repeating it to you. You can never do any brand a favour. Have you seen these guys' budgets before? How do you want to do those guys a favour? You can't do them favour. No matter how big your brand is, how? You think you're big as an artist, gbagbe. You cannot do them a favour. Can you buy billboards in the whole of Nigeria? Can you buy ads on the radio? You can't, as an artist. You can't. You understand? But these guys have all these channels, so why not just plug in? Look for a way where your deal will incorporate using your music for this. You understand? Use their platform to amplify. They have the money, they have the boards everywhere. Put your face everywhere. That's what I did. I just played the smart game, the long game. I made myself indispensable. You work to an extent that when they try to replace you, they see that ‘omo we've messed up. They come back to you. That's what you do. I make sure that I work extra hard.
Orijin, everybody. I left Orijin. I’m like yo, I think three years is enough, I want to be able to work with other liquor brands and I left. It was a good relationship. They didn't want me to. They still talk to me till tomorrow. I have a good relationship with all of them. You do it to the extent that you are indispensable or irreplaceable. That when you leave a brand, they find it difficult to put another ambassador. Like ‘this thing has gone with Reminisce’s name already. So how do you bring another person in there?’ That's my work ethic. I do that a lot.
That's why I don't do all these influencer deals. A lot of them come my way. I can't do an influencer deal. What's that nonsense? If you want to do stuff, let's do stuff properly. Where I will introduce your brand to your target audience and you will see everything. Not, ‘help us post give away.’ I don't do that. So if you want to do brand endorsement, let's do a brand endorsement. If you want to do influencer work, they are plenty on the internet. Go and meet them on Instagram to help you post pictures. But I don't do that. You understand. And also, I'm very particular about the money. A'n gbowo gan o. Baba mi, mo kala bi were (laughs).
What's the one thing you want to get from all this?
Vibes ni, baba mi. The vibe continues. You know, I look at Pasuma. Have you seen KWAM 1 before? Come on, I'm the new age KWAM 1. Brother, there's vibes. Baba is still there since them born us. Baba is still updating till tomorrow. Happy man, looking young, healthy. Enjoying his music and his life. I just want to be a jiggy Daddy. My kids love me. My kids love their papa. I just want to be a jiggy guy. Just peace of mind, enjoy my music for as long as I can. So far, the audience hasn't said they don't want to listen to me. If they don't want to listen, no problem. I'd go and play ball. I'd go and join Man Utd academy (laughs). But if they are still listening, omo there's no reason, you just give them. And it's easier these days because all you have to do is just focus on your demography. You don't need to stress yourself. Focus on those that listen to you and you're fine.
So far you don't want Wizkid money with Reminisce audience, you're fine. You can't look for Wizkid's money with Reminisce's audience. That's the truth a lot of people don't tell themselves. I can't be looking for Wizkid's numbers with Reminisce's audience. We are different people, different audience, different demography. So, learn how to milk your own demography, which is what I'm doing now. Entry-level things, Samsung, all these things. Big brands want to reach my people, so I collect the money and help them reach them. That's what I do. I'm the gatekeeper. That's it now, learn how to leverage your own advantage. Music is very easy. Everybody should be making money now. All you need to do is find out your own demography. Look at the Alte kids now, they are making their money. They are a very minute community, but they are fine. There's bar. And they are making their money and they are cool. I like them a lot. I make a lot of music with them. I love their vibe. They are cool. That's what I'm doing, I'd milk my people. I'd milk them well well.
All photos by Tobi ‘BadmanTej’ Tej.
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