For as long Efe Michael Ejeba can remember, his biggest and deepest wish had always been to get proper attention and funding for his music. So, when the 2017 edition of Big Brother Nigeria presented itself as Genie, Efe made sure to play his part by rubbing it the right way. During his stay in the house, the word “humility” became synonymous with his “down-to-earthness” and calculated persona and it brought him such great love from Nigerians, which later translated into the votes that confirmed him as the winner of the reality TV show.The love seemed unanimous for a hot minute, until Efe introduced his music to his newly found audience and boom… The controversy set in.
Before Big Brother, Efe had risen to reasonable fame in Plateau State, following his victory as the winner of a music reality show founded by Big Brother Africa Season 4 winner Kevin Pam. Remembering that Jos is easily the capital of Nigerian hip-hop, Efe chose to create his own style of basic pidgin rap; one which was utterly different from all the metaphors and punchlines, that he was surrounded by. This worked effortlessly for him as he recalls that it landed him gigs upon gigs alongside National A-listers but the style didn’t quite resonate outside Jos. The release of ‘Based on Logistics’ and ‘Somebody,’ met various sentiments but the most popular opinions judged the tracks as lacking structural coordination and lyrical depth.
Efe regrets 2 things. One of them is not practicing and reinforcing his style of art for all to see while in the Big Brother House, and the second being that he should have first created and released conventional rap materials to show and prove his ability before introducing his style.He is not all that bothered though. He seems to have no problem entertaining constructive criticism (because the music for him has been a long term plan from the get go. He mentions that he and his producer sidekick- Duktoh Sett, paid to professionally learn the nitty-gritty of music making in their teenage years and when he later gained admission to study Economics, it was really because he wanted to utilize the knowledge for music business).
However, what he certainly will no longer condone, is the outright disrespect from the immature supporters of his former teammates. He is of the belief that the only reason why they religiously attack his music is simply because they had no dirt on him during and after he left the Big brother House.This state of mind is partly what led to the radical set of tweets that accompanied the announcement of his latest E.P. which he purposely titled Am Sorry, Am Winning.
‘Art is sweet. Music is sweet…’
‘This is me being as 100 as possible…’ he explains to me. ‘I just wanted to sieve the greens from the chaff. I tweeted two major things. One for those who are supporting and one for those who are choosing to hate…’
On the fateful Saturday for which my meet up with the Big Brother star was scheduled, a much needed rain had just stripped Lagos bare of all its dust and insecurities -leaving the air a bit chilly but very easy to breathe in. Efe had barely walked in with his team when he bounced towards the music player in the studio to ask if he could play his EP (which would later be released on his birthday.) The spring in his step spoke of the level of confidence and pride he had in the 7-track body of work that he had created with Duktoh Sett (except for Yeba produced by TUC and Warri produced by Young John) and it made me super curious about the content.
I won’t even sell you a cheap lie by claiming that I did not raise my brows when I saw the title of the E.P. but I wasn’t too keen on jumping into the conclusion that everyone who vetted it, all somehow shared a coincidental sense of fatal grammatical error.
Needless to say, Efe’s title choice of “Am Sorry, Am Winning” is everything but a typo. I’m made to understand that it is infact, a deliberate attempt to annoy; an intentional act to get on the nerves of anyone who chooses to be offended by it.
With a priceless glee in his voice, he broke down his concept behind the mischief.
‘It’s just funny and sweet how creativity helps you do a lot of things and gives you free will-so instead of naming it I’m sorry I’m winning, you name it ‘am sorry am winning’ so it is more annoying to that guy who’s like “this guy no sabi speak English”… It’s just fun for me. Art is sweet. Music is sweet.
Further into our chat, we switched things up into a mini “preview party”, where he gave me first hand details of all the 7 songs on the E.P.
- Yeba: “The main Idea is to just play with words, drop punch lines and delivery and the best way to do that is by bragging…I enjoy it when I go cocky. It’s just me telling you I have moved from this level to this level. I spoke about how I came from Jos to Lagos.
- Greatness: DJ Neptune has an album coming out and it is titled greatness so I chose to connect my greatness with his greatness. The song talks about the fact that after getting to this level, I’m still level headed and still focused on my goal.
- I done Care: The same controversy that is going with the EP title is what will go with this song when I am ready to promote it. It is supposed to be I don’t care. It is a sample from an old Taxi driver song by Bobby Benson. It’s a (wooing) song that we tried to express in a fun and sing along manner.
- Onome: Onome is just a sensual vibe…
- Babaloke: This is me really saying God, do not bless only me. Bless my friends, my fans, my enemies and my people.
- Away: Away is just for the culture. It’s on the Shaku Shaku Vibe. I don’t even know what the song means. It’s just Away lol.
- Warri: When I came out of the BBNaija house, I heard Olamide wanted to see me so I hit him up and he responded. We met, spoke briefly and at a time, we just linked up in the studio and created the magic Warri. Olamide is someone that has me at heart to some certain level because he tries to encourage me… He tells me about how he too has faced a lot of “you can’t make it” and how he was being taunted as wanting to be like Dagrin but today, everybody has bought into the sound.
‘Olamide is someone that has me at heart to some certain level because he tries to encourage me… He tells me about how he too has faced a lot of “you can’t make it” and how he was being taunted as wanting to be like Dagrin but today, everybody has bought into the sound.’
This year’s edition of Big Brother Nigeria is barely 4 weeks in as I write this, but the show has trumped both the regimes of Katung Aduwak (BBN 2006) and Efe(BBN 2017), in the area of pure adult entertainment. Though reluctant to talk about the ongoing game play, he did have a few things to say about the rabbit behaviour in the current house, and a lot about his own personal Big Brother experiences.
Vibe:What habits did you have to lose after your win last year?
Efe:I cannot ease myself on the streets anymore and I cannot say a lot of what is on my mind.
What’s the first thing you did with your prize money?
I cannot even remember to be honest but I paid my tithe as a Christian that I is…(Lol)
The obscenities that we sneer at are not too different from what happens in the society but do you think there might be a problem in it being aired live? How you paint your reality is your choice. People say “be true to yourself” but I prefer to say don’t lie to yourself. It’s based on choice. For me, I don’t pray to be involved in any sexual activity because of my beliefs let alone in an environment where I have the power and capacity to encourage or discourage it. I will always try to encourage the people watching not to indulge in such.
You seem to have an anointing for winning stuff considering your ‘Jos Bring it on’ and ‘Big Brother Naija’ records. Have you considered trying lotto? Lol!!! Funny part is that my mum used to say we were jinxed when it came to luck/gambling. My dad played all the different types of lotto for years so my mum gave up but my brother fought that particular jinx and we started to try lottos and began winning TVs and various things. Although, we were still built to work for what we wanted. Luck was not an option.
So why is the E.P. title apologizing for the wins? I figured there’s so much unemployment, so much hunger and so much mental slavery in this country so your success makes some people angry, which is why you have to apologize to them.
How you paint your reality is your choice. People say “be true to yourself” but I prefer to say don’t lie to yourself…
The Oritsefemi assisted cut on the Am Sorry Am Winning Ep- “Babaloke”, is the single that will follow Efe’s viral Warri anthem. In addition to the fact that it is a commercially targeted placement, it also seems to carry a message that Efe is burdened with.
‘If everybody is blessed, nobody will have the time to hate. I wish people that come to (my comment section) to tell me things about my music are people like Dangote.
One person once told me I should not even act, that the only thing I am good at is fashion. I wish Dangote would come and say something like that but that’s somebody successful. God is blessing him so he doesn’t have time to come and be hating.’
The remaining 3 quarters of the year should see Efe releasing another project and reactivating his international tour which could not happen in 2017. There’s clearly nothing that anyone can do or say to stop him from achieving his dream to one day filling the Madison Square Garden, with thousands of fans chanting along to this same rap style of his that has been under heat since his music made it to mainstream media.
Without question, his current EP shows very visible betterment from his last and the growth is all that matters to him. What he just won’t do is to continue to entertain anything that might come off as distracting to his focus and he has decided to be very verbal about his stance.
‘I’ll say it again, shout out to those who have supported me 1000%. God bless you guys, Keep supporting me, keep buying, keep downloading and keep spreading the music. And for those who are not appreciative of my music, please don’t buy, don’t download, don’t listen…’
Cover Story: Cynthia Atagbuzia
Photography: August Udoh