Iceberg Slim relives his early beginnings into the world of music while still in the US and tells Vanessa Obioha about his influences and journey so far
Maybe it’s his controversial lyrics or his stage name, Iceberg Slim, which is synonymous to the popular American pimp, Robert Lee Maupin. Nonetheless, Olusegun Olowokere has more up his sleeves than he’s credited for. As an emerging rap artiste in the entertainment industry, Iceberg Slim seems ready to set the music scene ablaze with his inimitable breezy style.
Born in the United States, Iceberg Slim had no intention of delving into music. As far as he was concerned, he was just a normal church boy, playing the keyboard, drum and singing with other members in the choir. He grew up listening to Fuji music such as the likes of Obesere, Sunny Ade and others. It never crossed his mind that someday he would be holding the mic and writing his own lyrics.
Looking cool in his red polo shirt and denim jeans, he evoked strongly his stage name. He might indeed have an undying love for the fairer sex but he insists he’s not a flirt. His stage name, he owes to one of his former girlfriends. “She said to me, ‘you love girls too much just like iceberg slim’ and that was how I got the name,” he recalls.
With a childhood serenaded by Fuji music, he ought to have taken up the genre. Rather, he preferred rap music. “I chose rap music because I got influenced by it,” he says. “And I think rap music is all about freedom of expression. When you listen to some rap artistes, you will observe that they are in a way expressing their emotions. Take Tupac Shakur, for instance.
You can see the pain he expresses through his lyrics because of his upbringing. Your main aim is to convey those emotions to the listener so that they can connect to your music.” Thus, his dream of becoming an FBI agent vanished in the wind as he pursued his career in music. “I never thought I would be a musician though I have a strong passion for music. I studied criminology justice and was already dreaming of becoming the next James Bond but music stole my heart away.”
Iceberg slim would later attend IAR (Institute of Audio Research), where he pursued a career as an audio engineer/producer. International artistes like Jay-Z and Eminem also influenced the sound and style of this young rapper. Little wonder he bagged the award for Mr. International at NEA Awards in 2009.
Before he finally relocated to Nigeria, Iceberg Slim had released some hit singles. With the help of his brother Rico White, who is also his manager, both painted New York City Hip-Hop community red with their creative lyrics.
“Sauce kid reached out to me in 2006 and told me he loved my music. He encouraged me to come back to Nigeria. I was a bit sceptical about coming back home because I have spent most of my life in United States. I had to make that decision to bring back my cultural heritage through my music.”
Despite his budding appearance into the rap music scene, it didn’t take long for the young rapper to gain recognition in the hip hop community with the controversial lyrics attack he took a pot-shot at his fellow rap artiste, MI. This outright challenge to MI on who is a better rapper spawned a feud between the two rappers until late last year when they decided to sweep everything under the carpet. But to Iceberg Slim, what he did was just a healthy competition.
“I don’t think I picked on MI. It was a healthy competition in Hip-Hop, which most people don’t understand. In Hip-Hop community, we could be best friends or brothers and I can say I’m the best rapper in the world and no one takes offence or takes it personal. My shot at MI wasn’t a sign of disrespect in any way. Though sarcastic, it was healthy. People just took it out of context and thought I was dissing him. Rap music is all about competition because it helps you grow and improve on yourself.”
Hip-Hop artistes have a unique way of marking their presence. It could be through the lyrics, swagger or the hairstyle. For Iceberg Slim, it’s the music and the character. He has no intention of following the trend of wearing long chains or getting overly tattooed on his body. Cool and simple is his style. “I don’t follow trends. I love being me.” Take away his Mohawk hair style and he looks every bit of a gentleman. But how gentle he is, one can never tell until one gets on his toes.
Iceberg Slim had featured the likes of Banky W, Sauce Kid, Iyanya, DJ Jimmy Jatt and other top artistes including the international rap artiste, Ja Rule, in some of his hit singles. Due to be released later in the year, his album titled, From New York to Lagos tells the story of his journey so far in Nigeria. He will also feature in the MNET-award winning soap opera Tinsel later in the year.