I Am Rebranding Myself to the World
I Am not Born-again But I Do God’s Work with My Music
Nigerian musician, Joshua Iniyezo, popularly known as Solidstar has disengaged from a 10-year contract with his former company and gone ahead to establish his own label, Shaba Entertainment, in collaboration with former Kush singer and lawyer, Emem Emah’s One Management. Nseobong Okon-Ekong writes on the prospects of the career move
Dateline was the Liquid Hub in Ikoyi-Lagos. Emem Emah, a lawyer and former Kush singer, who now heads One Management, was waiting. The artiste had yet arrived. She apologised, pointing out that he would arrive soon. The waiting was not too long as the artiste arrived as Emah had hinted. Solidstar entered the lounge in the fashion of a star – making sure he registered an impression with his three-man team. Who would not take note when three men in dreadlocks invaded your space? On a good day, especially when he is going to rock a club, these are the guys who surround him.
Introduction done – Ono Macaulay who may be described as the chief of staff to Solidstar – order was made for drinks and food. Request was made to excuse Solidstar from the crowded table to another part of the room where an interview could be conducted with little or no distraction. Emem politely asked to tag along. She was obliged her. It was a good decision as she later gave some statements by Solidstar deeper perspective or nudged him to be more decisive. Overall, she engendered an unhindered discourse.
With little background to go on, it would take some effort to figure out, Joshua Iniyezo, popularly known as Solidstar who recently broke free from his contract with Achievas Entertainment and established Shaba Entertainment while also engaging One Management to deal directly with all the prospects available to him. One’s immediate task is to change the narrative around Solidstar which will help him meet the objective of travelling to great distances to perform and become more marketable.
The interview began with a seemingly inoffensive aspect of his personality by trying to find out if there is mystic ring to his name. He said Joshua “works’ for him and that like his biblical namesake, he is also in the business of “doing God’s work”. He did not stop there, he declared that his moniker too is a “strong name”. He was 17 years old when his grandmother told him that the star she saw around him was solid. “That is how the name Solidstar emerged.”
Another evidence of his spirituality that he likes to flaunt is an event that led to his first contract as a musician. “I didn’t suffer to get a deal. I did a freestyle that caught the attention of an influential person. He was impressed and I got signed to my first record label, Wave Makers, in Kaduna. That was in 2006. Back then in Ajegune, when we were done playing football, we started to show other skills, particularly in dance and music. I was doing my thing when somebody noticed me. I did not even sing much. The person said, ’I want to work with you.’ He took me to Kaduna and I stayed there for a couple of weeks. It was a very good environment, but it wasn’t what I wanted. So, I told him I wanted to go back to Lagos and wanted out of the deal.
“With the money he gave me, I recorded a song in Lagos. I was testing the output of the song with a DJ friend. Then the big boss of Achievas Entertainment heard it. The rest is history. I started working with him on the spot. He took me to a studio. I was the first artiste on that label till last year. Ten years gone. It is time to do Solidstar. We renewed the contract a couple of times. All the years spent with Achievas were good. I learnt a lot from them.”
Much of his assertion was circumstantial with no real evidence. Nonetheless, Solidstar argued that his special relationship with God is tangible. Growing up in a white-garment church founded by his grandmother, his restive spirit, often experienced moments of calm when he beat the drum. However, he confessed that his love for pulsating percussion was not solely for spiritual fulfilment. There was the equally urgent need to exploit that gift to put food on the table. Thus, he formed an ‘Ogene’ group that was much sought after to perform at social events like birthdays, marriage and funeral in Lagos’ notorious slum, Ajegunle.
But music was not the only activity that competed for the attention of his restless spirit. He was a skilled footballer as well. Measuring the two talents on a scale, the odds weighed against football. He chuckled a lot after each anecdote, like it was not meant to be taken seriously.
Another interpretation could be that he was being mischievous. “I was born and brought up in my late grandmother’s church. It was a Cherubim and Seraphim church. I was the lead drummer there. I also supported the choir too with my vocals. I was not a pastor. Even now, I am not a born-again. But I am still God’s child. I am still working for God.”
Emem interjected to throw light on the fact that he uses his music “to work for God”. Grabbing the anchor, Solidstar, explained, “If you listen to my albums, I have gospel songs. You can’t go on as if there is no God. I know there is God. I give God His space and His time. I don’t have to start preaching about God in everybody’s ears. People are different. I preach God’s word through my music and in my own way, even if you do not hear it every time.”
This assertion was debatable. Many of his well-known songs centre on (as exemplified by his biggest recording to date, ‘Wait’-the original featured Davido, while the ‘refix’ has Tiwa Savage and Patoranking collaborating with him). He was reminded him of this. Solidstar and Emem countered with a response. His reply was rhetoric, at first. “Who created women?” Emem found a logic to it. “He is appreciating God’s work.”
Solidstar, however, laid it bare. His seeming preoccupation with women is solely for the money, he revealed. “I am a businessman. I have been in the industry for a very long time. If you want to sign an artiste, you need to know the strength of the artiste. I am versatile. I do different things. But women are my strength. Whenever I do something about women, it comes out phenomenal. That is what my fans like and as a businessman you have to do what works for you.”
Coming from a polygamous home, his close circle of women include his teeming number of female friends, his mother, sisters and step-sisters and rather than further the notion that he may be exploiting womanhood for commercial gain, he justified his stance. “They are my greatest fans. Women constitute 70 per cent of my fans. That is why I sing about women more than any other thing. I know what works for me. You have to do what works for you. Women appreciate my works more. It is not just about the business. The passion is there.”
As drum does not sound prominent and distinct in many of his songs, his acclaimed love for drums interrogated. Could it be that the record company or his producer determine the direction of his music? Perhaps, for the first time, he disclosed what may not be generally known about him. “I laid the percussion on all my hit songs. I work closely with P Banks, my producer. Drum is my strength. I don’t joke with it, even if I don’t play it, the producer has to do what I want.”
The future promises a more assertive Solidstar as he takes his career to the next level, especially with the collaboration between One Management and Shaba Entertainment. The partner between the two companies has a defined objective. “It is time for me to challenge myself and do something different. I thought it was time for me to start up something for myself. Shaba is something spectacular. It stands for uniqueness. (Again, Emem smoothens the rough edges, ‘Shabba is his record company, his imprint and he owns it with Ono, who is his personal manager, she said). I don’t want to do what everybody is doing. I am very selective with my songs. That is what Shaba stands for.”
Working as an artiste on his own record label will certainly exert a lot of pressure on him. But Solidstar is ready for the task ahead. “I knew it was not going to be easy. Thank God for my brand which has become a household name. It is like starting afresh. I brought One Management in because I know I cannot do it alone. I have managers from Shaba Entertainment like Ono Macaulay and Jojo. A lot of Africans know my songs, but they have not seen me. I need to be seen. I need to relate with my fans out there.”
Inscribed on his arm and neck are tattoos showcasing some of the things Solidstar stands for: images of a guitar and microphone, musical note and a musing lady.
Last week, Solidstar released ‘Eleganza’-a dancehall track- the first single on Shaba Entertainment. At the time of this report, the number of views on YouTube was increasing steadily. In the weeks ahead, there are plans to increase visibility for the song with a video and other promotional strategies. His faith in this new career move is solid as a rock. “I don’t think I need to kill myself. When you do the right thing, you get the right result. I am not doing badly. I started this race with a lot of friends. But here I am today and they are nowhere to be found. I am one of those artistes who have been there for a very long time. This industry is all about packaging, branding and structure. That is just the part that I am lacking. I do not see writing or producing songs as a problem. I do not have a bad character. It is left to my team to brand me to the world.”
QUOTE: Women constitute 70 per cent of my fans. That is why I sing about women more than any other thing. I know what works for me. You have to do what works for you. Women appreciate my works more. It is not just about the business. The passion is there