By DAMIETE BRAIDE
Having come from a humble background, hip-hop sensation, Ashimi Olawale believes that education is very important because it helps to shape life positively. But he also believed that what he needed to learn about hip-hop was not available within the four walls of the university.
Popularly known as Brymo by his fans, Olawale abandoned his Zoology course at Lagos State University and decided to pursue music fulltime. That decision had translated to his blockbuster hits, Oleku and Ara.
The artiste who is signed to Chocolate City which parades other acts like Ice Prince, MI, Jesse Jagz, DJ Caise, and Pryse, opened up to The Entertainer on his childhood days, how he came into music, challenges, and what he looks for in a woman among others. Excerpts:
I went to Akanji Aka Primary School and later went to Japual Primary School. I gained admission into Lagos State University to study Zoology but I left and went into music. For me, education is quite important, if I didn’t take out time to learn, I wouldn’t be able to speak English language as I am speaking now. But I do not think what I need to learn is within the four walls of the school because I can make it anywhere else. That was why I left. It was quite difficult for me to pay the school fees. Though, if I had stayed, my father would have strived to pay the fees. I knew that I could prosper if I had time to do what I wanted to do, which was music. Basically, I was sure that I wanted to become a musician, instead of going to school.
I grew up in Okokomaiko in Ojo, Lagos and I did not leave the area until I was 18 years old. It was after I became an adult that I went to other areas like Ikeja. Okokmaiko is quite a fascinating area. It is a place for the rich, the middle class and the poor. I had friends whose parents were rich and lived in duplexes and I also had friends whose parents stayed in houses consisting of so many people but we all lived together in the area. I used to go out to play basketball with my friends even though I was short. My mother used to tell me that as a child, I was very stubborn. If my father was not around, I could go out all day and play with my friends. I learnt a lot of things and made new friends in Okokomaiko. I still go to Okokomaiko to visit some of my friends, and get fond memories of the area. I was there last year for the street carnival that takes place every December.
In 1999, I was in JSS3/SSS1 and I used to write songs then. In 2002, I started to write music for my friends and later I got sponsorship. Basically, I started by singing for other students. During break time, I would go to other classes and while standing on the chair do some beats and sing for the students. I grew up in a home where my parents listened to a lot of Yoruba folk songs and it made me pick interest in music.
No! I grew up in the mosque. My father was a staunch Moslem. As I grew up, I had new ideas and I had deep love for singing and writing. My mother would listen to a lot of songs and put her own melodies in the lyrics and I grasped how she put words together, which has helped me in my career.
In 2002, a group of four boys came together and formed a musical group called, The Aliens. In 2003/2004, we recorded our first album and it was the first song that I ever wrote. We didn’t get it right, we were down for a beat and we stopped rehearsing and later we started again. In 2004/2005, we started having problems and it became difficult for us to be together as a group. Some members of the group gained admission into the university and we stopped seeing each other and rehearsed less. So, I started writing more songs for myself. I went solo from there.
Brymstone was my first solo album. I remember then that I had a lot of R&B influence and listened to a lot of songs by R. Kelly and Back Street Boys, so I wanted to go that line, to sing R&B. I recorded Brymstone but the album did not make waves in the industry. I thought that the most beautiful way to come out as an artiste was to sing the way R. Kelly sings. So, I did that and two things happened. Firstly, people in Okokomaiko whom I thought would not like the song, liked it and I had to do the distribution myself. I sold more than 2000 copies on my own within the first six months of release, so that spurred me into doing more. Even though the album was great, it did not make waves in the country then. That made me to know that if I wanted to do a good album, I really needed to go out there and introduce myself to the people. If people get to meet me, they would like my song. So, I waited until when the opportunity came. The Brymstone album was a risk that I took and it definitely paid off.
Chocolate City miracle
I met Denrele sometime in 2009. Later in 2010, he called and urged me to call M.I which I did. He asked me to see him in his office. When I got there, he asked me if I would like to feature in Jesse Jagz’s track, Love, I agreed and joined them in the studio to record the track. Two weeks later, I attended the album launch of M.I and we got talking and he asked if I would like to join Chocolate City, I said ‘yes’. We talked and later reached an agreement, which was beneficial to both parties. That was how I joined Chocolate City. Every time that I think about it, I do say to myself that is was a miracle and I am grateful.
Ara simply means wonder but it is more of a slang and it is usually used when some things are happening. When somebody is doing something big or something big is happening to someone, religious people will say, ‘Olorun dara lara re’. The song is quite old, it is like a folk song. At that time, I needed a single and I was skeptical and somebody said to me that he had a beat that he wanted to give me, I listened to it and I thought that if I should use it, it would be great. Eventually, it was successful because I needed it to be successful
My kind of music
There is an element of fuji in my songs, so also R&B and rock but it is easier for me to call it pop because of the medium of getting across to the people. Nobody will invite an artiste to come to a function and perform a sad song. But rather, you have to make people happy with your songs. With that, people will know if you are really good in what you do or not.
The first challenge that I faced was being able to create a new song and made people know that the song was from me. People should be able to say that it is a nice song and it is different from the first one. There must be a story to back up the new song for people to know that there is a difference between the songs. Another challenge is how to sustain my voice. I don’t take cold water or oily foods when I am to perform on stage because it stiffens my voice.
Lowest and highest moments
The lowest moment was in 2009 at a live performance on the Lagos Island. I was hoping to have a great show but when I got on stage, I lost my voice because of stage fright. On that particularly day, I couldn’t start at all because the keyboardists were playing off-key, the drummer was playing too fast and the music was too fast. I couldn’t pick the key and when I sang, I sang off-key. I started the performance again, and it was the same thing four times. Unfortunately, the show was aired live on Radio Nigeria and it was something that I worried about. It killed my morale for close to a month before I picked up and came out of that state.
My highest point was when I released Ara, because it came out at a time when I needed to decide if the chorus on Oleku was not a mistake considering the artistes that featured in that song. At that point, people knew that I could actually deliver. After the song, I started getting positive reactions and I was relieved that I had entered into another stage of my career. It was not just about choruses anymore but I could actually put out singles that people like.
On music industry
Nigerian music industry is emerging and I remember what the industry has done in the last 10 years. In 1999, we had musicians like Plantashion Boyz and they laid the foundation for pop music. One thing that we have failed to do is to realize that musicians that were before us were part of our history. There is a little more that we can do in terms of strengthening the music industry. Young artistes must know what happened to great artistes like King Sunny Ade, and the late Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, how they played their music and it must be structured so that we can learn about Nigerian music. That way, we will grow instead of teaching us about foreign musicians.
Relationship with other artistes
I have a good relationship with other young and upcoming artistes in the country. We do meet at different functions and clubs where we party together and have fun.
My female fans
Interaction with the opposite sex is quite unavoidable. I am a proper African man, I prefer women and interacting with the opposite sex is quite interesting. Female fans are quite amazing and they are more important than any other person. When a female fan listens to a song and she likes it, the reaction is encouraging. But men will suppress their reaction and that poses a problem. When women like your songs, it is most likely that you will have more than one girlfriend and father many children without getting married. That is the issue that we all deal with.
Single and searching
I am not married and I am not into any relationship. I am single and searching for a devoted partner that will be ready to carry my child. Children are to be taken good care of and their needs provided for, because we were once like them. I have soft spot for children. I will like to raise few children so that I can take good care of them.
My kind of a woman
There are a lot of ladies – short, fat, tall or slim – if I am going to have a basic idea of what my ideal woman would be then I am on a long thing! I will rather just meet them and see if it can work out no matter the physique of the woman.
Over the years, the number of my role models has increased. My mother once told me that ‘Ogbon lo gbon, aki se ogbon’ meaning ‘nobody is smart, while wait for people to come and give you ideas when you can get ideas from people’. It is always easier to learn from other people but it is more difficult to learn if people need to teach you what you need to do. It is really difficult for me to say, this is my role model but everybody out there who is making waves in his/her field is my role model. Everybody that I have read about and is doing well is my role model.
How I relax
I stay at home and play video games, I watch a lot of movies and listen to songs and I hang out with friends, drink and smoke sometimes. I don’t drink excessively, as much as I don’t call myself a saint, I like moderation so that I can continue tomorrow and not have hangover for a few days.
I intend to make more music as much as I can and perform before a large audience. If it is possible for me to play music for people living in Mars, then I will like to play music for them. I just want to make more music that people will love.