Vanessa Obioha writes that the afro-dancehall king Timaya has shown a level of consistency and relevance in the music industry since 2005 when he was first beamed to the world Everyone knew him as Timaya when he burst into the music scene in 2007 with the release of his critically acclaimed album ‘True Story’. Shortly after, the Bayelsa born artiste was nicknamed the Egberi Papa I of Bayelsa state following the success of his raving hit ‘Dem Mama’ which was included in his debut album. He would later be known as Dem Mama Soldier, derived from his record label Dem Mama (DM) Records.
Nowadays, he goes by the moniker Don Papi Chulo, a Spanish slang which primarily means ‘Pimp Daddy’. Other colloquial meanings of the word ‘Chulo’ include cocky, attractive or cool.
Timaya, who was born Enitimi Alfred Odom could be any of this except a pimp daddy. Known for his rebellious persona further complimented by his dreadlocks and musical lyrics, Timaya is one of the few artistes who have maintained significance in the music industry. By next year, his musical career would have clocked 15 years.
Sometimes, it appears to be a bit overwhelming for the artiste who was once a plantain seller. At the inaugural Born in Africa Festival (BAFEST) held last yuletide season, the artiste during his performance told the crowd that he never expected he would come this far, while raining prayers on them.
Indeed, his humble beginnings showed no indication that he would attain the superstardom he is enjoying today. From dropping out of school to hustling in Lagos before finally hitting the goldmine, Timaya has a lot to be grateful for.
He often sings about those struggling days. For instance, his 2009 hit ‘Plantain Boy’, chronicled his grass to grace story while encouraging others not to give up on their dreams.
No matter the direction his creative work takes, Timaya strives to infuse his life story in his music. For instance, his latest single ‘Balance’ from his latest body of work, ‘Chulo Vibes’ started with a liner that encapsulates his poor origin: “One white shoe and one ‘nika’. Gat no house and I gat no car.”
Despite not having it all back then, Timaya was still steadfast to his dream. That dream he told this reporter recently in an interview is to perform in every country in the world.
“I’m gradually getting there.”
In a way, the afro-dancehall artiste is slowly inching nearer to that dream. He featured the Jamaican rapper Sean Paul in his highly erotic remix of his 2012 single ‘Bum Bum’. Chulo Vibes also saw him collaborating with Tanzanian singer Ali Kiba and Trinidadian singer Machel Montano. Locally, he has collaborated with almost everyone in the industry from the defunct P-Square to Patoranking who is also his protégé. However, Timaya got his mind on one artiste.
“I’d love to work on a record or a project with Jay-Z,” he enthused.
In his over a decade career, Timaya has enjoyed an unfading recognition unlike his counterparts who started the journey same time with him. He attributed his success mainly to the Supreme One and his fans. He is also grateful to afro-pop sensation 2Baba, who advised him not to squander his money but invest in businesses. Notwithstanding, Timaya has not been immune to words of his critics which he said to a large extent affects him, particularly on social media.
“As an artiste, as a creative, public opinion could affect your state of mind, but it takes a lot of self-belief and majorly trust in God, not to hold that as a yardstick for validation. Nobody believes in me, more than myself.”
That personal validation stems from the realisation that an artiste should be responsible. Reacting to news of sexual abuse levelled against the American pop legend Michael Jackson and Rnb crooner R. Kelly as well as the latest saga between the artiste MC Galaxy and actress Etinosa, Timaya pointed out that “Nobody’s a saint and we all need to accept that every action has a reaction, a consequence and you have to face it someday, no matter how long it takes.”
He further noted that one of the most consistent ways for an artiste to get booked is “through referrals from people who have experienced your brand. At some point in my life, I had to make a conscious effort to rebrand because it’s not just about making good music, or being a talented person, talent is never enough.”
However, one of the ways he’s been able to maintain relevance, he said is by constantly reinventing himself.
“It is very necessary to continue reinventing yourself to stay relevant. I feel like as an entertainer you should always give the fans, reasons to stay excited about your art, your music, performances, everything. Also, music, just like everything, changes. I’m always listening to the new sounds, the new shifts, learning about ways to stay relevant in every music era.”
Much of this is seen in the release of ‘Chulo Vibes’, an extended play (EP) album with nine songs. In an era where digital sales have overtaken physical album CD sales, Timaya is staying abreast of the changes. The body of work is coming five years after his last album ‘Epiphany’.
The process according to him started late 2018.
“I felt it was time to put out an album, so I discussed with my team and we decided on releasing an EP. I probably recorded over 30 songs within a period of a month. We wanted a seven-track EP, but there were so many songs to choose from, we ended up releasing nine tracks on the EP.”
Before the release of the album, Timaya entertained his fans with singles such as ‘Dance’ featuring Rudeboy. That song was a cocktail of old melodies. Same with his 2014 track ‘Sanko’ which is redolent of the ghetto music of Daddy Showkey. Explaining his love for such sounds, Timaya said: “The melodies are evergreen; it’s all music I grew up listening to. It’s always so unintentional. It just comes to me while I’m writing or recording, I like what I hear and it sticks.”
Though he is happy about the growth in the music industry Timaya who was on the Peoples Democratic Party’s (PDP) campaign team as a performing artiste, expressed dissatisfaction at the outcome of the just concluded general elections.
“To be honest, I wasn’t impressed and no, our votes don’t count, because there are hungry power mongers in leadership who are willing to do anything to hold the power and position, they have now.”
For now, Timaya is focusing on his latest project which turned out to be the new artiste on record label, King Perryy. Like other protégés, Timaya is confident that the young star from Enugu will ‘blow’ one day.
“I’ve always been a firm believer in helping exceptional young artists reaching their full potential. When I met Patoranking, Runtown, Skales, Attitude and many others, I knew they were exceptional and was happy to help the best way I could at the time.
“Currently, there’s just myself and King Perryy under the label imprint. DM Records is a different kind of label, I believe in helping exceptional artistes reach their full potentials. King Perryy has some great music out now, and he’s also working on his debut EP and a university tour,” he added.