If you ever wondered whether Timaya truly sold plantain as claimed in his 2009 smash single, the answer is a big fat YES!
His Mondays to Fridays were for school but his weekends were for hawking trays of plantain so large that he now has cause to think his height may have been affected in the process.
Times have changed and he can now afford to purchase a whole damn plantation, but how did Inietimi Alfred Odon go from selling bunches of starchy vegetables to selling out concert halls? How did he go from accepting a 500k deal for his “True Story” Album to becoming a high and very well respected authority in the creative space? What has kept him afloat and dry for well over a decade, in the murky waters of the Nigerian music ecosystem?
In addition to gathering information for his feature, these questions were also personally important because I’d once interacted with him in my freshman days at the University of Benin, as an obsessed fan.
Whatever you have seen on MTV Base’s Celeb Living is only a fraction of what Timaya’s living space really looks like. A pampered Rolls Royce first intimidates you at the gate before you even enter the main building – which is, by the way, dipped in such unconventionally sophisticated detailing. Sinking into one of the furniture draped in fur, I had cause to internally question what animal had been killed and skinned illegally for such sinful softness and texture…
“I never had a plan B because music is my first love. I love to sing. That’s the only thing that I can do.”
When fans meet their favorite entertainers, it’s a moment in time to be cherished forever but entertainers meet hundreds of fans daily. For them, it’s really another day, another dollar. Regardless of this reality, I took a shot at refreshing Timaya’s memory of our encounter in the capital of the “nation’s heartbeat” but as expected, it didn’t register.
After pleasantries had been exchanged and hospitality had been offered, we moved on with the scheduled session for the day but it was clear that a seed of curiosity had been planted in the mind of Timaya, after my claim of meeting him 11 years ago.
With his less than half-filled cup of Hennessy, he walked up to me and carefully queried.
“So you say we’ve met?”
Before sharing my answer to Timaya’s question, I must bring to your attention the wonder kid of the DM Records family; an artiste in whom Timaya is very well pleased.
“I listen to King Perryy because he’s got it…”
The ‘double Y’ at the end of King Perryy’s name happened because he was tired of the identity clash between himself and late American Saxophonist King Perry on the internet. He needed to differentiate his brand from the American’s because of verification, Wikipedia searches and the ease of finding his music on the web.
Literally quoting lines from his single -Man On Duty, this is the life King Perryy has ever wanted. After his love for music cost him a coveted chance to further his education abroad, King Perryy, by all means possible, made sure he turned it all around for good.
While in FUTO, his alma mater which he shares with some promising next-gen artistes like Boybreed, Profingaz, Barz, Bobby Ceezy and Breezy Cool, King Perryy would jet to Lagos after school had vacated for some music runs.
On the days that Mr. and Mrs. Offiah thought their son Anthony was in the Federal University of Owerri writing his exams, he was indeed shuttling the Island and Mainland hubs of the centre of excellence, spreading the word of his music at various shows including The Basement Gig; a high profile monthly music performance/networking event put together by super manager and industry expert Osagie Okunkpolor.
It must have been at one of such showcases that she singled out King Perryy as the exact type of artiste Timaya had been looking out to groom.
When asked why he chose to mentor King Perryy, Timaya said: ‘I could see that fire in his eyes. It was the same thing I saw in Patoranking and Runtown…’
He continued, emphasizing King Perryy’s ethics with details of Runtown’s dedicated studio rat days. He recollected how he’d see Runtown working in the studio on his way out at 9 or 10 pm, only to return at wee hours to still find him there.
‘If I come back around 3-4am, he would still be in the studio, working. When I sleep and wake up around 12 in the afternoon, I go to the studio and see Runtown there, still working. I will be like “come you no dey sleep?” then he will be like “boss I don sleep small o”.
There’s no way that kind of person would not grow… Till today I have that fire too. Till today I’m hungry. At my bedside, I have a quote from Steve Jobs. It says Stay hungry, stay foolish….’
“I feel this (music) thing is like a secondary school and everyone will graduate when it’s their turn”
The days of telling necessary lies to pursue dreams are now behind King Perryy. When his folks came to terms with his seriousness about his art, they threw in the weight of their support to the tone of paying for the production and promotion of his first music video.
As with Patoranking, Timaya endorsed King Perryy’s official music outing with a verse, thereby certifying him as a member of the industry’s big league and as the next best thing in what Perryy refers to as the continental sound.
Vibe: Can you give me a brief backstory on your single, “Man On Duty”?
King Perryy: “Man On Duty” is a song I recorded on the 1st of January, 2018. I got back from church and went to the studio. I had just graduated, then I got the whole deal so I was happy you know…
Vibe: Have you always had this Patois flavored sound since you started?
King Perryy: Hmm, my sound is actually a fusion of afro sounds, and dancehall, then probably other genres of music. I make this continental sound that I want to export outside Africa.
Vibe: You were an indie artiste before you came into DM Records. What’s the come up story?
King Perryy: I remember when I used to leave school to come to Lagos to perform at shows like Basement Gig. Then. I would send my songs to radios and on-air personalities. There’s a lot I have been through but then I’m very happy I’m at this level right now, with DM Records, the family.
Vibe: Why did you choose DM records as your music home?
King Perryy: DM Records is based on history. They’ve raised really good ones that are doing fine out there. Timaya is someone whose brand I really like as an artiste. Timaya is someone I have always looked up to. DM Records is now my family.
Vibe: When did you first figure that you had the talent for music?
King Perryy: I have always loved music. I have always made music for fun. I had one very big laptop I used to make beats with because I produce too. I would sing to my beats and record it on the laptop. I wanted to play my stuff to my friends but I couldn’t do that because they were not sounding too good so I decided to enter the studio. For the first time, I recorded my song. I think I did a cover to ‘Wiz party’ or something. I started getting a few numbers of girls and stuff. I saw my sound going somewhere so I thought to take it seriously.
Vibe: What qualities of Timaya’s artistry do you admire enough to emulate in your music?
His consistency. He has released a whole lot of bangers. He evolves every time. I love that about him. In the next 10 years, I still want to be here.
Vibe: What has challenged you the most as a musician in the music industry?
King Perryy: So far, I think it’s having people around me while recording. It’s very funny. I’m someone that prefers to record in the studio alone but people want to be there when you’re recording. They just want to see you work. I’m also trying to get to the point where I can work with any producer. I’m an introvert but that is no one’s business in the industry. You have to be able to relate with everyone in the industry, so with time, I will get there.
“I make this continental sound that I want to export outside Africa.”
Vibe: Are you saying you haven’t found a producer that you have chemistry with?
King Perryy: I’m still meeting them. Right now I think I have worked with Orbeat, Micon, STG, and I bonded with three of them from the start.
Vibe: There are a lot of artistes in your clique. Which of them do you see being at the top with you in the next 3 years?
King Perryy: Boybreed, Dapo Tuburna…omo, make e no seem say I no call some people name ooo…I also think Terry, who Wizkid signed. I feel this thing is like a secondary school and everyone will graduate when it’s their turn. Well, it’s our turn already.
Vibe: “Man On Duty” is in circulation. What’s the next big thing?
King Perryy: I have been recording a lot of songs lately, and tomorrow I might record another one. I just recorded one I really love. Everything depends on my label DM records. I just want to make good music for everyone.
Vibe: Have the females started bugging you? What has changed?
King Perryy: Phone’s been buzzing. The girls are coming too. A lot has changed. Timaya and I had to work on my style. When he saw me he said I like this thing about you, but there could be more. We have been going through a lot of styling until we got this perfect look.
Vibe: Beyond the artiste and executive producer relationship, what’s your relationship with Timaya?
King Perryy: He’s a big brother. He is like a father figure. If you meet him for the first time you would know he’s someone that likes to care for anybody. The first time I met him, he just went to his room and brought one of his favorite clothes, and he was like, “do you like this? Take”. I was like wow, just like that? We are like family.
Vibe: Do you have any peer in the label?
King Perryy: No. it’s just me.
”First of all, choose yourself before you choose a music family.”
Vibe: Do you have plans on how to manage fame?
King Perryy: Yeah. I have plans. The whole thing is kind of strange. I’m someone that likes to go out to get something when I crave it but I can’t really do that now. I still see myself as that mummy’s boy that just wants to go out there and have fun. Now I have to restrict myself.
Vibe: Talk to me about family. What’s family like?
King Perryy: My parents are the best; though I had issues with them when I told them I wanted to do music. I was supposed to go study abroad; my schooling process had almost been finalized including an admission until it was time to make a bank statement. My mom told my dad I was always with a laptop and she was scared that I might go out there and start something I would not be able to finish. My dad then told me to write an exam in Covenant and before I knew it, I was in FUTO. But, I took my time. I remember I used to tell them I was still writing exams, while I was in Lagos trying to find my way. My dad noticed I was really into the music when I brought Lu Baron home. Lu Baron was the one I came to Lagos to stay and work with. He went with me to Port Harcourt to meet my dad and we talked. My dad gave me money for my first video and more to promote it.
Vibe: So they are now on the same level with you on your music?
King Perryy: My dad can come here and be like “that song this guy sang is nice, who do you want to work with next?” He likes Don jazzy a lot so he can be like “work with Don Jazzy and Timaya too”. He was happy when I started working with Timaya. Then he would ask, “Has the money started coming in?”
Vibe: I’m going to throw that same question at you. Has the money started coming in?
King Perryy: Right now I just dropped my first record so yeah, very soon. But I’m not doing this because I’m waiting to see the money. I want to create a niche for myself. Like who is King Perry? He’s a fashionista, an afro dancehall artist who actually started that continental sound. Definitely, the money is going to come but fame comes with a lot, positive and negative. I’m on the positive side.
Vibe: In the music industry right now, who are you feeling the most?
King Perryy: Every artiste out there doing music. I’m the kind of person that likes to go out there on SoundCloud and listen to people’s music. Apart from the A-list that are doing very well for themselves, putting Nigeria and Africa on the map, all my friends are making good music. There are doing really well.
Vibe: What would you advise the upcoming artists to look out for before they choose a music family so to speak?
King Perryy: First of all, choose yourself before you choose a music family. I would say to everybody out there, don’t run around going to meet people to sell yourself. If you’re good enough they would find you. Instead, work on yourself. I didn’t go to meet Timaya before he signed me. Whatever you’re doing, just know someone is seeing you out there. You might feel like no one’s watching but the world is. So to the youngins, everyone that is making good music, just keep doing your thing.
Vibe: If I hear one day that King Perryy is in trouble, what would it be for?
King Perryy: I don’t really like trouble but it should be that he was listening to music and he forgot to greet somebody or something. lol. I’m someone that doesn’t like trouble. If you see me, you might think I don’t know how to talk. I’m always very quiet, very observant; I don’t know how to fight. I don’t think you would see King Perryy ever getting into trouble. Maybe if SARS see me on the road they might stop me because they think I look like a yahoo boy.
Vibe: Megan Markle recently got married to the Prince and she gave up everything to do so. What is that thing that you think would make you give up music?
King Perryy: I don’t think I can ever leave music. I just have business ideas and other things I might want to do but leaving music is not one of them. I see my brand as a big platform that would also help others. It’s just like you telling me that because I want to get married I should stop answering to King Perryy, I should answer my Igbo name or I should take off my hair, or start wearing a suit. No. You have to like King Perryy for who he is. In a few years, when I start executing my business plans I still won’t leave my music. I want to go into fashion properly, collaborate with fashion brands and I think the brand is going to help me get out there. I have ideas of doing that when I stand properly as a brand. Till then, I can’t leave this person for anybody.
Benin City, 2007
Timaya’s music trickled down from wherever it did into the South, quenching a thirst we did not even know we had. If compact discs players could talk, mine would have told tales of repetitive abuse in this order: D’banj’s “Tongolo”, Jarule’s ‘Rule 3:36’, R. Kelly and Jay-Z’s ‘Best of Both Worlds’, Sky B’s ‘Pray for me’ (yes, I had a Sky B album) and the latest of my weird collection-Timaya’s ‘True story’.
In a raw, gritty, edge-cutting and statement-making record with very minimal digital interference, Timaya etched his name in the subconscious of listeners, calling out the perpetrators of the 1999 mishap in his Bayelsa hometown – Odi while prophesying heavily about the future of his dreams.
His rebel toned voice rang from Ring Road to New Benin and his lemony green album art covered the front rows of music store shelves; both of which were the telltale signs of a relative newbie on his path to commercial success. Show promoters swooped in on the fertile opportunity and in no time, Timaya was scheduled for a concert in Benin City.
Efosa (known in the creative industry as Efex the entertainer) had been billed to host the event and I must have capitalized on our friendship to earn myself a ticket and a meet and greet with the star of the show…
His dreads had grown a little longer than they appeared on True Story Cover. A few strands masked his face as he sat in the meet and greet space, entertaining himself and his intimate audience. With a little too much energy for someone who had given an exciting performance the night before, I watched Timaya in utter awe, as he sang endlessly to beats made by hitting his hands against his chest in near perfect rhythms.
“If today (my daughter) tells me, ‘daddy I want to be a stripper’, that’s her life. I brought her into this world. I just need to make her understand what is good and bad, what is right and wrong.”
The full details of our brief conversation now evade me but I recall us talking about his perfume which he said cost twenty thousand naira at the time. It was in the context of him not being able to afford such luxury until his half a milli deal with Danco clicked.
Having added a few more zeros to that over the years, I regret not asking him how much his perfume must cost now. ‘True Story’ now has 5 album siblings: Gift and Grace, Rebirth, LLNP, Upgrade, and Epiphany. The dreads have been replaced with a much lower haircut which now connects to his very full facial beard. He’s had a few scandals and some unspoken battles but most importantly, everything he predicted on ‘Ogologonmma’ has come to pass, and more.
If I were to rob you of the joy of letting Timaya tell you about his journey in his own words, here’s how I’d cornily summarize the takeaway points.
- Your truth will set you free
- Doing what you love is the root of all happiness
- Some dreams do not thrive with a plan B
- Don’t think outside the box because there’s really no box
- When you reach the top, send the ladder back to bring others up
- You must be your own biggest fan
- Speak into your existence, things that aren’t as though they are.
- The biggest risk in life is not taking a risk
- Hang with people who share similar visions as you
- Patience will help you enjoy the process.
- No matter high or how low, ‘stay hungry, stay foolish.’
“Life is a process no matter what you try. It’s better to be original and stick to your thing than to rush it.”
Vibe: You started your own label quite early unlike most artistes who go through established labels. What informed your choice and how has the ride been?
Timaya: I have always known myself to be that guy that always wants to push. At that point, I wanted a record label to sign me on but there was none coming so I had to push myself. Going in that direction I got to realize that I didn’t need to wait for people to do those things for me. If I can do it myself, I can employ myself, own my own sh*t and run it.
Vibe: Did you have a plan B when you started music?
Timaya: No plan B o. I never had a plan B because music is my first love. I love to sing. That’s the only thing that I can do. It makes me happy and complete. Making money wasn’t the aim, being happy was the aim. I feel blessed because I’m happy doing what I love to do and I’m making a whole lot of money from doing what I love to do.
Vibe: Did you actually sell plantain?
Timaya: I wouldn’t be talking about it if I didn’t do it. Of course, I sold plantain. From Monday to Fridays I’d go to school, on Saturday mornings my mother would shade a lot of plantains. The whole bunch would be like N1,200 which is like N40 each in smaller bunches. I guess that’s what really affected my height. Imagine carrying that worth of plantain on your head. If you’re blessed sometimes you could see a buyer that would just buy everything. I think I’m happy I did; very happy I did.
Vibe: Let’s talk about fatherhood and music. What are the ups and downs?
Timaya: Fatherhood is life. Anything that is good comes easy. My music is my love and Emma is my life, so we are living it. Sometimes she tells me that “Daddy I don’t like that song, take it off”, and I will be like “why don’t you like it?” I’m trying to grow my kids in the way of love just so that they can be real. If I have bad breath, my daughter can tell me, “Daddy your breath does not smell nice”. Music and fatherhood is a happy life. I’m not living like I have to be serious because I’m doing music. It’s the job but that’s my life. I might just be doing music sometimes in the studio with my daughter but of course I’m a father, I know what is good for her at her age. So I can tell her “hey, It is bedtime now”. I’m a responsible dad also.
Vibe: If ten years down the line Emma says, “Daddy I want to do music”, how would you respond?
Timaya: Whatever makes her happy, 10 or 20 years down the line. If today she tells me daddy I want to be a stripper, that’s her life. I brought her into this world. I just need to make her understand what is good and bad, what is right and wrong. Sometimes what you think is wrong for the child can be good for the child. Imagine, my father wanted me to be a banker, how? That’s not what I wanted to be. I followed my dream. Just imagine if my parents had stopped me. This music that they never wanted me to do is what is taking the whole family somewhere, so, I think I should allow my daughter express herself.
Vibe: What does ‘Ah Blem Blem’ mean?
Timaya: I don’t even know the meaning o. One day I went to this 24-hour supermarket in Lekki, with King Perryy and a few others. Sometimes we check ourselves into a hotel, with a producer and a mobile studio, just to feel a different vibe to record. So at 2.am, we went to that supermarket when one guy came to me and said, “osha blem blem”. I was like what is osha blem blem and he said ‘The overall boss. You enter everywhere, everywhere spoil’. So I gave him like N10,000 and said, nice, I like it. I got back to the studio, Micon started playing a beat and I just started singing the hook. I record off the top of my head most times.
Vibe: Who’s your favorite artiste, living/dead, local/global?
Timaya: Me. I’m my favorite artiste.
“When I sang Ogologonma saying “I don get house, I don get pikin”, I never had a house, I never had a child. Those where my desires and God accomplished everything.”
Vibe: Who are your top 3 favorite artistes?
Timaya: I don’t have a favorite artiste. I just listen to a couple of artistes because I like their flow. I listen to Jay-Z a lot for the realness in his lyrics. Locally, I listen to King Perryy because he’s got it.
Vibe: What is your favorite album and your favorite song?
Timaya: I think True Story because at that point I was really down in my life and I can remember that I barely had food to eat. But everything I spoke about in that album was a dream, a desire, the hunger. When I sang Ogologonma saying “I don get house, I don get pikin”, I never had a house, I never had a child. Those where my desires and God accomplished everything. To me it was deep. When you really need something and you keep prophesying it, it comes true.
Vibe: Where else have you performed the most besides Nigeria?
Timaya: Different countries around The Caribbean, North America, Africa, Europe, Australia and Asia.My favorite place to perform and visit is the Caribbean. From Barbados to the Bahamas to Dominica e.t.c.
Vibe: They love your sound yeah?
Timaya: Yes, and I love the people too. They are happy people. Nigerians are very emotional. “Wetin people go talk? How this person go take am?” What’s my business with wetin people dey talk? I need to live my life. In the Caribbean, they love life, they are happy. I have never heard there that this artist is beefing this person. Whenever I go to the Caribbean I always feel happy and alive.
Vibe: From your success story, would you say it’s advisable to focus solely on the revenue that music brings to you? Would you say it’s important to invest in other sectors as a musician?
Timaya: Yes. Sometimes investments go bad. But it’s just good to take a risk all the time. Even if you’re doing the music, it’s still taking a risk. What if it doesn’t work? The things you are also going to invest in, what if they don’t work? Investment is taking a risk. What is bad is making the money and not investing it.
Vibe: What is the biggest sacrifice you have made for the music?
Timaya: I don’t see anything as the biggest sacrifice. When my father told me he’s going to disown me if I kept doing music, I didn’t care, because my music was more important. He’s not alive today but the music is still there. It’s not that I don’t love my dad, but I can do everything for my career. There’s no biggest sacrifice.
Vibe: Is there any producer right now that you have such great chemistry with?
Timaya: Yeah I have a chemistry with Micon. He’s a new guy. He’s the one who did the “Ah blem blem”, and King Perryy’s ‘Man on Duty’. I have a whole lot of fire coming but I’m still glued to my guys o. The Young D, Orbeat, a lot of them. I have a lot of songs with those people. My new single, “TO U” was produced by Young D.
Vibe: How long did it take you to plan the house?
Timaya: Just a year. I started on February 23rd 2017, I moved in February 2018.
Vibe: What’s your style secret?
Timaya: I style myself. I don’t just go for the popular brands. I try to look for brands that are not really common. I have a guy, Pooph Moore who helps me get these things. Whatever he sees outside he brings to me. Like the belt I’m wearing now, he just told me, “boss I like this belt, I saw it and I bought it for you”. I have been wearing it and people love it. It saves me money. I just do me. If you have a stylist and the stylist tells you to put on this, and you put it on, he still needs to help you carry yourself in that outfit. When you style yourself, you carry yourself well because you know the type of character you want to get in.
Vibe: Do we know the lady in your life?
Timaya: Whichever lady you people see, take it, because you might not see her again or you may still see her again. That’s Timaya for you.
Vibe: Are you likely to be married anytime soon?
Timaya: No. I’m not a marriage material. I’m not ready for that.
Vibe: Any weird chance that you might get involved in politics someday?
Timaya: The only reason why I may want to do politics is to have a voice, to speak a couple of things and to make things right.
“If you want to throw stones at every dog that is barking, you won’t get to where you’re going….”
Vibe: Any retirement plans?
Timaya: To do what? What am I retiring from? I’m living. Until I die I can’t retire. You need to sign Cheques as a boss. If you are trying to retire that means you are going to close all your companies or you are going to ask your children to handle some. What if they don’t understand the game? What if they don’t know how you actually got those things right? That means you will still need to come in.
Vibe: Which industry players make up your circle, like, people you trust?
Timaya: I don’t trust anybody in the industry or in life. I trust only me.
Vibe: Do you have people you hang out with?
Timaya: Yeah. I have a lot of people. Not musicians though. I have gotten to that point where I need to roll with people that are thinking the same way as me. I hang out with 2Face, D’banj, Skales, Patoranking, and I have business friends, we sit down and talk. I hang out with everybody whenever we have the time, we are all buddies.
Vibe: How do you handle public interference with your business?
Timaya: Everyone has an opinion. You have your mouth, say what you want. I’m human too, sometimes I just say my mind and go my way but at the same time, if you want to throw stones at every dog that is barking, you won’t get to where you’re going. Where I’m going is more important so I don’t care what you’re saying.
Vibe: What would you say is the most important thing you have learned in all your years in the industry?
Timaya: The process has to do with a lot with patience. Life is a process no matter what you try. It’s better to be original and stick to your thing than to rush it. It’s a process: do you and don’t care about what people say. I think it’s patience and the process.
Cover Story: Cyclone Artemis
Photography: Amazing Klef
Styling: Pooph Moore
Cover Design/creative direction: Slimkiss
Makeup: Jasmyn Artistry