It was a random Tuesday at the office, everyone had their game faces on and we were ready to conquer the day. Suddenly the office speakers started playing ‘Penalty’ by Small Doctor and I could hear cheers and a bit of noise here and there. I went downstairs and saw a spectacle of female colleagues twerking for Small Doctor. He danced along so energetically, after which he decided to award the best female dancer a cash price of Twenty Thousand Naira (N20,000).
Transitioning from being a popular street artiste who caters to a niche fanbase to becoming an A-list act performing in shows where the elite wine and dine is quite a big feat that Small Doctor never saw coming in his wildest dreams. Because of his love for music and the fact that his folks were adamant about it, he ran away from home at a young age and found himself in Oshodi and Mushin. Hawking goods on the streets of Lagos and living on Twenty Naira (N20) Akara and a sachet of pure water a day, if you go back in time and tell Temitope Adekunle, the commercial ‘Okada’ rider (who got his bike stolen) that he would be one of the biggest artists in Nigeria who would sell out shows in Nigeria and Europe, he’d probably snicker and scoff at you in sheer disbelief.
While touring the Vibe.ng office, he resonated so much positive energy that everyone left their workstations to have a chat with him. If you were a first timer at the Vibe office, you’d swear that Small Doctor was a staff. The way he flowed and had random conversations with the team was quite surprising and you bet that everyone took a picture with him for the ‘Gram.
It was time for the interview, the Vibe team led Small Doctor and his small crew to the interview room and when he seemed settled and relaxed, I couldn’t help but ask him how and why he started adding his popular adlib ‘Ain Ain Ain’ to all of his songs. His feedback was, “It’s something I find myself doing to bounce on the keys. I got to realize people fell in love with it, so I held onto it and I’m still holding on to it.”
Small Doctor is a name given to me by my Older brother. I can remember vividly a movie in vogue back then titled ‘Doctor Who’, on my way back from school my Older brother was like I should get something for him, and the time was due to see that movie on tv. Instead, I collected the money from my brother and went to see the movie. While searching for me, he found me seeing the movie and was like I have been looking for you. Look at him with his small stature seeing Doctor who, why don’t you start bearing Small Doctor? Ever since then, the name got stuck.
That was his explanation on how he got his stage name Small Doctor, this was the first question everyone in the vibe team tabled to me when preparing questions to ask him.
Most people classify him as a Fuji artiste because his sound might seem a bit similar to popular Fuji acts like Obesere and Pasuma Wonder but he clarified this wrong notion and stated that his music can be classified as “Akeweje Pop”. He claims the sound is exclusive to only him and he even went as far as stating that the genre is his intellectual property.
Vibe.ng: Take us through how you make your music.
It’s a combination of how I feel at the moment, the little things I see on the street while driving, or what I see in Nollywood movies. I just combine everything together and they make hit songs.
Personally, I’d call you the King of the streets. People have said your type of music opened doors for artists like Idowest and Slimcase, what do you have to say about that?
I personally don’t permit people calling me the King of the streets because I’m just a king in my room and I believe the little I’m putting out there is to make people happy and put food on my own table. Definitely, there’s someone that is paving the way for others in every field. I remember the days of Dagrin, they say if there was no Dagrin there’s no Olamide. It’s a normal thing that people say out there but I just feel like I’m the symbol of hope to so many other Nigerian youths out there. The youths are not lazy.
Which International acts would you love to collaborate with?
The thing is, I don’t take consideration to artists because they are big or because they have that international sound. It depends on the kind of music I’m doing at that moment. If I feel like I may need an artist, I will contact them. I feel like I could feature any artist I can easily vibe with. If I feel Celine Dion would vibe well on my track, I’d contact her.
My song is not limited to the streets. I have been invited for many shows in reputable events. Although my music is 100 percent street, still the Ajebutters have to jam to It.
What moment made music the way forward for you?
I never had the moment where I felt I should face the music. I was ruling my hood back then in Agege while still riding bikes and conducting vehicles. I felt like music was starting to work though I still had to do my menial jobs. Some years back, I got someone who felt I was doing better and then decided to take care of my upkeep. I would have continued being a conductor but for that person.
Is this person Pasuma?
No. Pasuma only contributed. The person chose to remain anonymous.
What’s your take on Noble Igwe’s claim that most record labels are being funded by Yahoo boys? Also, What’s your opinion on the growing rate of internet fraudsters among the youths in Nigeria and what’s your advice to the government to curb this issue?
I feel the youths get carried away by what they see on social media, which is why they do all these things. About Noble Igwe’s claim, we’re not on the same page. His point of view is different from mine. The person who helped just decided to do so, and he’s not an internet fraudster. About my advice to the government, if they can create more job opportunities, scholarships, I think so many people would not want to become internet fraudsters. Trust me, the youths are not lazy. They can spend the time they use while engaging in fraud for something more positive.
How do you feel about numerous record labels popping up in the industry?
I feel so many record labels popping isn’t the question. The question should be if they have the strength, strategy, and ability to advertise their product to the masses. Time will tell. If they are still relevant in the next decade then that’s fine for them.
As a street artist, what kind of discrimination have you faced so far?
There are so many. People tend to want to put you aside as a street artist. Before now, we were always discredited. But the likes of artists like me have made it possible for the public to reckon with us. Street artists are not touts, hoodlums or riffraff. We just chose our way of life because we feel convenient in it. I shouldn’t be discriminated because of the life I chose. I’m just trying to express myself in my own way. Being a street artist has not been easy, but keeping my head straight up and letting others know that’s the way I chose to live and I’m going to make a living out of it is the way forward.
How do you intend to fit your music into the global space?
That’s what I’m working towards and I believe very soon by God’s grace I’m going to occupy that space. It all started in Agege and now we have dominated Lagos. From Lagos, I moved to Ibadan and into other countries. We are moving globally.
I was at a show and a girl walked up to me. I thought it was going to be a hug but it was something else. There were cameras and I was on stage when she pulled her shirt. I found it embarrassing because it was not a rated show and there were underage PEOPLE in attendance. Getting to expose the youths to that was inappropriate for me.
Is there any song you released that you didn’t expect would make waves?
Ile Ijo. I was recording in a noisy area and just asked for it to be mixed by 2T boy. When I heard it I decided to drop it when he sent it to my mail. I didn’t drop it officially, but I’m grateful it made waves.
Is there any project to expect from Small Doctor anytime soon?
Yes, a lot. We plan on having a concert in Agege. I’m dropping a new single next week. I’m not much of a person who features. I have a lot of A-list songs for this year. For my album which my fans are demanding, I would drop it as soon as possible.
Do you have plans on doing any other genre of music?
I can do anything. I did a love song titled ‘Forever’.
What are the things you miss doing which you can’t do now as a star?
I miss eating bread and beans from Majaro street in Agege. I also miss eating Amala from Iya Ejo. The feeling of eating in a Bukka is special. One day I would decide to go to these places. I miss so many things but I just have to adapt.
We know about your mother and your son, but you don’t talk about your father much, why?
My father is a very private man. He’s not an internet friendly person. He’s a very calm person and it’s not that we aren’t proud of each other. Even people who are close to me don’t know I’m quite close to my father.
DJ Khaled said in an interview that he’s a king and doesn’t give head. What do you have to say about it?
Well, that’s his style of living. If it’s my own style I would say the same thing also. Those that are kings that just feel like making their woman feel right, that’s fine. For me, I’m Black Panther.
Cover Story: Opeyemi Famakin
Photography: Amazing Klef
Styling: Mag Payne
Cover Design: Slimkiss
Location: Railway Compound Ebute Meta Lagos