Making a mark in the Nigerian industry is a gamble that is yet to pay off for both old school and new generation artistes but there’s one, it seems, who already knows that the industry is his to rule.
It’s a regular Thursday afternoon in Lagos; sunny with a chance of the normal hustle and bustle on the streets of the most popular state in the country. On my way to Amazing Klef HQ for the digital cover shoot/interview, I was slightly trembling because not only was this my first time doing something like this, but the person I was losing my interview-ginity to was an artist whose pop culture reference, “Otedola with the money,” had been greatly overused (and abused) by my mouth. Let’s call it a slight case of fangirling.
Signed to arguably the biggest rap-inclined record label in Nigeria (and probably Africa), Dice Ailes knows that he has a lot to prove, but the air of confidence around him suggested that his goal wasn’t far from his reach at all. In fact, he gave the vibe of a man who was sure would roll ‘double 6’ every single time a dice was given to him… like a man who knows the odds are forever in his favour.
Our March cover star, walked into the venue spotting a casual shirt which had ‘Otedola’ boldly written on it. No doubt a nod to both his viral track with the same name and the family that his reference has brought him closer to.
“Yea, Cuppy and I are really close now and Femi Otedola is a fan of the song,” Dice Ailes said when asked if the song Otedola got him any recognition from the family. “I met him after I released the track and he told me he was a huge fan of the song. Every time I speak to Mr Femi on the phone, he always goes “Otedola with the money o” which I find very funny.”
Though he got the best education the average Nigerian hopes for, growing up surrounded by music was all the inspiration Dice needed to get his career rolling.
“I started music at a really young age, I was 8 at the time. My uncles used to write music and I was always fascinated by how they composed lyrics and melodies. My mum too was a member of the choir at the time and I used to watch her sing and perform in church. I always wanted to be like them and grew up trying to emulate them, that’s how music really started for me.”
The usual problems that arise from choosing to be a musician instead of being a doctor or a lawyer, was something Dice also had to deal with as his Nigerian father wasn’t in tune with his career choice. His Ghanaian mother, however, was perfectly fine with the versatile artist, following his passion.
“My Dad wasn’t okay with the idea of me doing music, ‘cos he wanted me to study medicine,” said Dice. “My mum didn’t really mind, in fact, she used to give me money for studio sessions then. However, I first had to prove to her that I really wanted to do music. So I saved up some money and recorded a few songs for her to listen to. It was then she knew I was serious about it and she started giving me money for studio sessions.”
“My father is very supportive of me now though. He even called me a few days ago, telling me he read some news about me in the papers and told me how proud he really was of me.”
DA – In 2013, I came back to Nigeria to promote a song called “Yemisi,” and while I was promoting, by chance I met M.I, who heard my music and was blown away. Before I went back to Canada, M.I said he wanted me to meet with Audu who also heard and loved the song and a couple of others as well. Contract talks started going on and eight months down the line, Chocolate City sent the contracts to Canada, which we signed and the rest, they say, is history”.
Vibe – Is M.I like a mentor to you or are you your own man?
DA – Of course, M.I is a mentor to me. He’s been in the music industry way before me and has impacted the industry very positively especially the hip-hop scene. Also, growing up, I listened to his music and I am influenced by M.I. it’s definitely an honour working with him.
Being versatile in the Nigerian music industry is something not many new artistes can boast of. But Dice Ailes has definitely taken versatility to another level, a word which even inspired the name “Dice” because there are different sides (numbers) to a die and anyone can come out at any time.
From being used to Dice vibing Afro-pop on his first couple of songs, a lot of Nigerians were shocked to hear him effortlessly jump on trap rap in M.I’s “Your Father.” Dice, however, felt it was natural as he doesn’t have a particular genre his music leans in.
“Predominantly I do Afro-pop, but I like to experiment with my sounds. If you hear “Otedola,” “Ella,” “Mr Biggs,” all these songs have different genres and sounds. I don’t think I have a particular genre that describes me, I’m just an all-around artist.”
Vibe – Of all the songs you’ve put out so far, which one is your favourite and why?
DA – I think “Ella” is my favourite song so far and that’s because of the effort I put into the production. Even for the video, we had to travel six hours and were freezing in the cold. I even broke my wrists snowboarding from the top of the hill down. There was a lot of work put into the song and I feel bad that it didn’t get the type of recognition that I thought it was going to get. People generally love it but they don’t understand it. So I urge everyone to pay attention to the lyrics, video, production and everything involved with the song.
Being true to his Nigerian heritage, Dice Ailes is of the opinion that general consensus that South Africa is the ‘hip-hop capital’ of the continent is a little biased, because (well, Warri people, excuse my saying this but,) Nigerians no dey carry last.
“I don’t think South Africans can rap better than Nigerians. Infact, I don’t think anywhere in the world you can do anything better than a Nigerian. I only feel that hip-hop/rap music isn’t mainstream in Nigeria and that’s why we aren’t hearing as much as we should be. go to the mainland, island, port harcourt, There are a lot of people in Nigeria who can do hip-hop really well. I only pray that soon enough, the genre will start getting the recognition it deserves.”
Going back to the confidence I mentioned earlier, after laughing to himself because he was suddenly thrown into a ‘Dicey’ situation (see what I did there?), Dice Ailes wasn’t shy to put himself above every other rapper in the industry when asked to list his top five rappers in Nigeria.
“My top 5 rappers in Nigeria are;
- Dice Ailes
- Loose Kanyon
- Mode 9
In my mind, I was like “wawu, they don’t make confidence like this anymore,” seeing that most new-school artists would immediately put the top old dawgs above themselves, but not Dice. He immediately came across as the kind of person not to give up what he believes in because popular notions say otherwise or because he wants to please others. This was verified moments later when I asked him which he would give up; his fine face or being a musician?
“Nah mehn, I can’t give up anything,” said a laughing Dice Ailes. When I pressed him further to choose one, he stylishly gave the answer a ladies’ man would give. “They work hand in hand. I can’t give up my music for nothing and I also can’t give up my face because these ladies love my face.”
Being a young celebrity in the midst of the heavyweights in a label like Choc City (a label that is known for having little to no scandal, whatsoever) can be a detrimental factor for someone who doesn’t know how to handle it. However, Dice knows what he has to do to stay ahead. Even though he loves being a celebrity because of the fame that comes with it, he simultaneously hates being one because he now has to watch his every move in public as a little misstep or jamtalk can bring a wave of scandals crashing down on him, and he certainly doesn’t want to be ‘that guy.’
The Otedola-crooner’s choice of waking up and living as another celeb for 24 hours was quite an inspirational but strange choice for all the right (well, some may be wrong to you) reasons.
“Maybe Fela Kuti because his life was so dramatic and he had so many wives *laughs*. I’d just want to experience everything that he experienced. He fought for the oppressed and society and it was for a good cause. So yea, I’d love to experience the legendary life of Fela.”
Vibe – A couple of months ago, you were almost kidnapped? Do you think this was targeted or was it a random act?
DA – “At about 4 am, we were on our way to the hotel from a club and then we noticed a car following us. Shortly after that, the car sped up, overtook us and blocked our front, while another car blocked our back and they all came out with guns. At this point, the security team given to us by the club that hosted us kept on driving without looking back, and that’s when I knew we were actually targeted and the kidnap attempt was planned by someone. But luckily, God was on our side and we escaped it.”
Ahead of a second-quarter release of his highly-anticipated album, Dice, who isn’t too big on featuring people said that he may get a couple of artists on the album, but the tape will be predominantly just him, his sounds and songs. Something like a J. Cole kind of vibe.
At the end of the interview, all I could think about was how easily he had taken different qualities from the three top dawgs that have rocked Choc City; Ice Prince’s effortless swag, Jesse Jagz’s deep/free-thinking spirit, and M.I’s absolute confidence.
Talk about cool, talk about confident, talk about wavy, talk about Dice Ailes.
Cover Story: John E. Michael
Photography: Amazing Klef
Styling: Mag Payne