Jesse Jagz is a scintillating artiste with class and style; He is one rapper to be reckoned within the Nigerian music industry as his brand and music make a unique statement. The artiste who was once a part of the Chocolate City label speaks in this interview about issues in the label and running his own label.What defines Jesse Jagz as a brand?
|I guess it’s the freedom and confidence to express myself without fear of compromise, criticism or opinion.|
So in terms of personality, who is Jesse GarbaAbaga?
I don’t think I can describe my personality. That’s for people close to me to do. But, I think I’m melancholy and introverted by personality.
How did the foray into music start for you?
I don’t really think there was a starting point. From the moment I was learning to play drums as a kid, music has been a part of my life. It was something I just did always.
You were signed into Chocolate City in 2007 and parted ways with them years after. What was the experience like?
It was a nice learning and working experience. Chocolate City was family with me before I got signed and they still are.
What exactly influenced your decision to leave the group?
We were never a group. When I left chocolate city, my contract was as a solo artiste. We always have been solo artistes. So I didn’t leave the group. I left solely to make the sort of music that I always wanted to make. It was a professional decision.
Your brother, MI was and still is a part of the group. No one ever thought as siblings, you could part ways. Did this thought bother you while you considered leaving?
Yes, and he is my brother first, not my label mate or fellow artiste. I knew the media was going to make it out to be that we had differences. You see, the only problem with me leaving was just public perception and opinion. He is my brother, I don’t know how else I can say it. I parted ways with a record label not my brother.
MI once implied in a report that, you leaving came as a shock to him… Wasn’t he carried along?
(Laughs) We didn’t sign as a family or as a duo. The decision to sign and leave was all mine. There are decisions you have to make for you and only by you.
How has it been since you parted ways with Chocolate City?
It has been challenging, but rewarding. It’s a whole new experience on its own.
How has your relationship being with the Chocolate City label family; Brymo, Ice prince, and AuduMaikori, because, many are of the opinion that you are not in good terms with them. Can you kindly clear the air on that?
We are on good terms. I’m good with everyone. Relationships change and evolve and you must make room for the adjustments. We are always going to be family. It’s part of friendship and growing up. I can’t be bothered about other people’s opinions. Never have and I never will.
The first track you dropped after you left Chocolate City in 2013 was Redemption. What influenced the lyrics?
I was going through a lot then, so for me, it was a personal redemption. I got to the point where nothing else mattered but what I had to do. It’s very personal.
‘Murder Dem’ is another track that came out during the time with really exciting lyrics. Is there anyone in particular that was directed to?
(Laughs) not at all… it was just a soulful feel good song.
Your label ‘Jagz Nation’ was launched in 2014. How has it been running a label?
‘Jagz Nation’ is not a label. It’s an outfit and a business platform, or rather the umbrella that covers everyone that works on projects with me. The idea that unites all these talented people together. However I remain the only artist on it.
Are you still keen on not signing any other artiste to the label?
Yes I still am. Atleast not for the next few years.
It is one thing to be a good artiste; it is another to be a good producer. You are a producer that stands out. How did you get into production?
I learnt it. I know people think producers are born producing. it took me years to understand what it was about. Real production is the ability to be able to compose and arrange music. What you have today isn’t producing but “beat making”. These kids have no idea how to produce. Digital production is just one angle. It takes years of training the ear and mind and muscles. E Kelly taught me how to start using a keyboard then a PC to produce. But before then, I learnt to play drums and piano. The ability to play an instrument is always an added advantage. Then I had to learn how to take all this knowledge about music, throw it out the window, and just make music that comes from me.
You were said to have produced the beat to ‘oleku’ in 30 minutes…. How is this so?
Sadly it’s so because of technology, (laughs). It is true,but the time spent has nothing to do with it. We still spent a whole lot of time reproducing, re-voicing and mixing.
You are a rapper and you started when the Nigerian audience wasn’t really ready for rap music. Were you ever discouraged?
No I wasn’t. I’ve always done me. I believe in the individual. Not in the society. Individuals change society. The Nigerian people have always been ready for anything. That’s how we end up denying ourselves the best. It’s a matter of consistency and quality. I am of the opinion that the Nigerian people deserve the best of everything. Be it rap or clean water.
You practically went off the music scene between 2011 and 2012, after dropping some videos. What kept you away?
Basically work. I took out time to work on Ice Prince’s debut album and Brymo’s project followed. Then I started work on ‘Thy Nation Come Vol.1’
The second edition of your concert; The Jesse Jagz Experience 2014 held in August with the theme “The Greatest Concert”, it was indeed a great show. What did it take to put it all together?
Great people. Period. I’m blessed with a team that understands my overall principles, vision and inspiration. It takes a lot of the pressure off me. I worked with a variety of super talented musicians so it was a wonderful experience for us too. It took hard work, dedication and blind routine.
The Royal Niger Company album has samples from the likes of Rufus & Chaka Khan’s Ain’tNobody ;FelaKuti, Sarah Mitaru, Tupac and others. What influenced that? What did you see in these people or their songs that inspired you?
Well I wanted to sample from artistes who I presently like and those that really inspired me growing up. So these are just a few but I wanted the album to remind me of growing up. RNC is a personal journey down memory lane for me. That’s where the title comes from, not just remembering where we started off as a country but as individuals.
Your videos are always entertaining. Which of your songs was the most difficult in getting the ideas for its video?
I’d say redemption definitely. I wanted it to be really revolutionary so getting the concept did take a while. It took a lot of personal energy and belief to have made that video happen, (laughs).
Which video was the most energy draining?
That would be sex and scotch. I was under the weather during the shoot. It just went on and on forever (laughs)
You are not really into collaborations. Why?
I guess I have too much to say (laughs). Too many collaborations are bad for any artiste in the long run, also is too much visibility. You have to satisfy but keep the fans wanting more each time. And lastly music is very personal and sacred to me, it’s not something I’m readily eager to share with another artiste.
Many artistes believe that the industry is quite competitive. Do you believe in competition?
In healthy competition, yes. There can’t be competition when there are no standards. We don’t pay attention to the detail in the music, to what makes it professional. We have no set standards for engineering or production. When it gets down to the music itself, very few people are competing professionally.
There seems to be something about Jos, one could say a home of talents. What exactly stirs the talents in youths there?
Honestly, I think it is because Jos has always had a unique blend of different tribes and cultures from across the world. It is very essential in the expression of art.
You once said that you were the first drummer of Pastor Paul Adefarasin’s House on the Rock Church in Jos, Plateau State. Are you still religious?
Yeah, in Jos and Abuja. I’ve drummed for a lot of churches. (laughs) I was brought up in Christianity, but, I’ve never been religious. I believe in God, the creator. I don’t believe in segregation.
What is the most embarrassing thing that has happened to you on stage?
I’ve fallen off stage numerous times. I’m short sighted so sometimes the lights get too blinding on stage (laughs)
How were the days of early beginningS?
They were the best times. There were no egos, there was no fame and only your friends knew your name. It was always just a bunch of us guys at any point dreaming and working towards what we wanted to be.
How does it feel being a father at a young age? And how is fatherhood treating you?
It actually feels nice. Having someone that you are now responsible for, that looks up to you as the most amazing man in the world! it taught me maturity.
What is your relationship now with your baby mama? When do you intend to settle down and what do you look for in a woman?
We’ve always been close friends and still are. I really can’t say when I’m thinking of settling down. That answer eludes even me (laughs). A woman that can tolerate my excesses and loyalty and vice versa.
If you had the opportunity to change something about the music industry, what would it be?
That we should actually have an industry, and not just make do with what is. An industry built on standards, ethics and merit.
Who do you look up to in the music industry?
I look up to no one. I am inspired and have been inspired by a lot of great people but I look up to me. I don’t want to be like anyone out there.
If you were not into music, what would you be doing?
I’d be in my village, farming.