Augustine Amidu, popularly known as Blackface Naija is a total package. His name is practically synonymous with creative music, and by the turn of the 21st century, he had become a master composer. His lyrics, composition, and orchestral arrangements are painstakingly technical and well-organized. He is a compositional powerhouse. In the last 20 years since he started his music career, he has written and produced over 200 songs, which are still considered among the most beautifully arranged pieces of all time. BlackfaceNaija is the CEO of Loudhouse Entertainment. He is the pioneer of Urban Sound of Naija. He is widely known as a songwriter. One of the hit songs is the popular African Queen which was released by his ex-member of the group Plantashun Boiz.
He recently visited City People Corporate Office, for a round table chat, where he talked extensively about his life, challenges in the music industry, copyright issues and his grouse with Tuface Idibia.
What have you been up to in the last few years?
Well, basically, the past years have just been me trying to keep my head above the waters first. You know it is when you survive that you can be able to offer that service and touch humanity. so the first thing for me was to stay alive. because I’ve been through a tough period back then.
When I was in Festac, they made me get evicted from my house, they did stuff to make me unstable, but now I saw those periods as trial times when I look at it now. Leaving Festac, I had to go to a place called Ijegun waterside. I stayed there for like about 6 to 8 months, by the river you know. I even got pneumonia from there. That’s why I said one has to stay alive first. so, then I eventually moved to a place in Ikotun, and now I am chilling there and starting to recuperate. but it’s been like 7 years that I did not release an album, after the year 2010.
I could not release any work from 2010 till 2017. So those 7 years of me doing nothing, you would have imagined whether I was taking my music seriously or whether ‘I don join Boko haram’ (laughs) or Amotekun. You know you only live once. Like we have been telling the youths, don’t get involved in negative stuff, but be positive in all that you do. If you have talent, trust your gifts and you work on it.
Time will come that people will bring you to light. So people like us couldn’t compromise with things that were wrong. We have to, first of all, hold it down. So I stayed all those times and started recording an album called defender. The songs that I have not released over the past 7 years were so much so I had to break the album into 2; Defender Volume one, which has about 20 songs, now I am trying to finish the second volume of the defender, which I titled Rising Sun. it has about 26 songs.
If I have my way, it would be like 36 songs, but you know every product comes with expenses. You have to deal with Power, Diesel, and all. So it takes more time to produce with less facility. You know we have to provide for ourselves what the government should be providing for us.
So it has made it difficult in a way.
I tried to put it in the market, but the sabotage in the market is there; the sabotage says ‘don’t sell Blackface’s work, just like the sabotage in the media; ‘don’t play anything good about Blackface. Just like there’s sabotage on the radio; ‘don’t play Blackface’s music. Some are beginning to play my music now, but it’s a big sabotage and I’m wondering why. Take for instance; people are out there for a show and there is no Blackface, but the moment they hear; I’m at it again…watch me do my thing… the whole place goes crazy,, why. Or the people who when they hear, ‘It’s hard life wey we dey live for Naija’, everybody goes gaga, why?
It must tell you that something about that artist that makes people like him. but that reason is also why some people will despise you and make sure they say everything negative about you for people to look at you in dark light. but I’m not perturbed because I know you’ve never met me, you don’t know beyond what the media is saying about me, but thank God I have been watching the news lately and see how Trump has been attacking the media over fake news, attacking CNN, talking about their fake news. This is the same story with Nigeria and it can be political. Why would anyone want to damage the credibility of innocent people?
What are your plans?
Right now I’m still recording an album called the Rising Sun. which is the Defender Volume 2. I’m almost done with it and I’m trying to do some videos to let the people see me, and know that I’m still here and I’m working on a tour called ‘Peace and Unity’ tour. Because It’s time we moved around the country and unite the people and say we are all one, regardless of your tribe, and religion. Let’s reunite and love one another.
Tour is important when your music has a message and touches the hearts. But there’s no use going to tour with content that has no message to touch the heart of the people. Songs are meant to give people hope. nobody wants war. We all want to watch our kids grow, get education live peacefully and lovingly regardless of religion or tribe. Those are the messages I intend to pass across during my tour. So we are doing 36 States, 36 concerts. That’s what I’m planning.
I also have a record label of my own. It’s called LoudHouse Entertainment. I have some young acts I am working on. I have a studio where I do stuff too. So I plan to push meaningful materials out there very soon, for people to relate to.
Can you take us through how and where you were born and where you grew up?
Yeah. I was born in Creek hospital, Obalende Lagos. My father was an RSM at the barracks, so we later moved to Calabar, then Aba, Ogoja and then to Benue. In Benue, I didn’t want to school in my town, I wanted to school elsewhere. That was why we moved to Makurdi. My father’s house was in Otukpo.
I don’t want everybody to see me all the time, so I went to St, Gabriels. from there I moved to IMT Enugu. That was where I met Earnest Azuzu, Don Hill, Klint De Drunk and so on,, we were all there, so like that it was just hanging out and developing. it was just for fun.
From IMT I came into Lagos and I started thinking of how to start my career because I was working on how to start as a solo artist, but I have known Tuface from when I was in school. About this time, he was also having some issues with his music and when he came to me around 1997 and 1998, I told him I was coming to Lagos to start my music career fully, that I can’t be doing this schooling anymore, I got to go look for money. So, he told me he will like to be on the train, so, I said Okay, fine. I can’t be doing for me and doing for you, the only way out is if we can form a name and be like a duo: I got the line, I got the sound, and that’s how we formed the band. And here we stormed Lagos. We were staying at my uncle’s place in Festac. From there we met Faze. Faze came to meet us after he’s heard us sing in Ray Power for their 3rd anniversary. He listened and loved the vibe, so he came to look for us in Festac. we started talking and I knew he could sing. We became friends, we went to his house, came back, and I told Tuface, how you see am, we need to bring this guy into our band o, we go now be 3 instead of two’.
And me and Faze have been having issues of his father not letting me come to their place because he thought I was a bad influence on the dude, you know. But hey, I said I am coming to your house because you son is a good singer, not for clubbing or making him turn to a bad boy. Faze’s father understood with me and we were good from there.
So I told Tuface, we got to bring Faze in and that was it. But don’t forget before he joined us fully, we have taken him to Murphy’s place for a music contest. Because I knew he could win it. And we got there and we won the money. So we released our first Album called body and soul. we released the second album again, Sold Out, gone our separate ways to do solo albums. I did Ghetto Child, after that I did Evergreen.
I also did Jungle Fever, I did Me, Music And I. I did Dancehall business, then I did Defender Volume One, So I’m on my next album now. every other person also did his own album, but now I feel I don’t have to worry about more than me anymore, as long as we are all good. I can now concentrate fully on myself. we’ve all learned from each other. We were playing in a team back then, but now if we are in a different team, I go play against you, because I want my team to win, and after the match, we go shake hands, change jerseys. There’s no problem with it.
What really happened to Plantashun Boiz?
First of all, let me correct the impression that the Plantashun Boiz brand is no longer active. The Plantashun Boiz Band is very very active, just that you might not have the same members as you used to have before, but the band is very active. You know it was my idea, saying this is what we do and this is the name we call it because as a bandleader, they’ll be waiting on you and nothing will happen if you don’t make the move.
I have to make the first move like let’s go and let’s go.. Let’s go jog, let’s go meet someone and all that. wake me up when you wake before me.. all those times I was doing all those things, it is possible that some people may be feeling like this blackface is acting as he knows too much. he’s feeling like Alpha and Omega, like you have said that I was the soul of Platashun Boiz, somebody might be feeling bad, that people think that of me, and you have no idea how far such people can go to make sure you have a different view about me.
they could go to any length: fetish o, Babalawo house o, they can go anywhere. But the only thing is, once you have God on your side and you believe in God. You just have to put your fate in God, because you will pass through the test. so anybody has their name to cater to, but the Platashun Boiz project is my project, even though I invited Tuface and Faze into it.
But if they are tired of the project, they can always hang their boots. The album of that Plantashum Boiz will drop and it’s called The Return this 2020. I have promised the fans that I will give them an Album. I can feature Tiwa Savage on it, it Platashun Boiz, I can feature Seal, It’s Platashun Boiz. So nobody should worry. if they are tired they can go and rest. Me, Na my fans be the priority.
At a point, you had so many enemies in the industry…
(Cuts in).. Till now oo.. Till now I still have…
I think they see me as a threat to the industry. I don’t know. but it’s okay to see me as a threat, because I am a threat, actually, because If I’m on the stage, You’ll know the reason why I’m a threat. because once you hear my vocals on the stage, you will know that another artist after me, if he’s not as good as me, will not impress the fans at all. They will notice.
At a point, some artists, when they get to events and shows and noticed I am in the list of performing artists, just say, ‘Hei, I am not performing anymore.’ So, there’s so many of them who’d run away from having me on the same stage with them. because they will know there will be a difference. And that’s why most of them want to sabotage me, but it’s okay, we are in the business. If you are a champion, you should be on the stage with champions too. Like Black Faze Vs Burna Boy – Clash, Black Faze Vs Tuface – Clash, Black Faze Vs Naira Marley- Clash. Stage Clash, Microphone business.. That is the way it is done. But when there is nothing like that, it gives the artists opportunity to do anything they like and claim they are the best, as far as they can play radio, the money to play their music.
So the good ones don’t get heard, and the ones that have money will pay their way to get popular. So I implore the media to check new talents and see who are the saboteurs, we’re just like politicians in the music business too, people want to stay relevant in the game if they no longer got the stuff.
People now rush to Eko Hotel for shows, how many sitting capacity? How many Nigerians can afford to pay for entry or invite?..
How do you intend to fly your tour? Who do you intend to carry along?
I’m not going to fly this alone of course.. In Benin for instance, there are some artists that are popular, but not that popular in Lagos. I’ll like to work with them when I get to Benin. There are some artists in Borno, that are popular in Borno, but not popular in Lagos, I’ll like to work with them when I get to Borno. That’s why music is important. It’s our job to push the message.
How do you cope with media attacks?
They pay them now, but I’m not bothered. I know some people pay the social media handlers to rush onto my account any time I post. But they don’t change me. you can try to kill the perception of people on me, but you can’t change Blackface, because there will still be people that will want to work with Blackface, those are the people I want to work with, people that are keen on working with me, not the people that feel like he’s the rave of the moment and they want to dive into the franchise. I like to advertise a product that I can promote for a long time for the person who is investing in me.
At what point did you realize there was sabotage around you?
The time I realize was when I was evicted from my house in Festac. That morning, police came to my house with four different trucks from nowhere. They busted my gate, busted my door, jab my face with a gun, tell me to evacuate from the house. I said show me a proof from the court, where is the notice and so on..but some people had planned it, bolt me comot, so they will be the Only Superman Ina De Area.
Some people have really planned something because they just want to occupy the space. I just felt like wow, so he dey happen like this? So this cant just be ordinary..when I didn’t do drugs, but they attacked me like they did Fela. But this is where we are today?
Do you know people see you as being too blunt?
But I have to be, because if I die, who will know the real truth behind all these tales? I want the real story to be told. I am writing a book for people to really know what happened. I have nothing to hide or fear. If I did something to him, he would have said ‘this is what you did to me’. But I didn’t do anything to him. They are just scared of me. And I don’t know why.
I am tough mentally. It’s difficult to make me to change my beliefs.
For example, I don’t believe Obama was a good president, just as I don’t believe Jonathan was a good president. It will take heaven and earth to convince me that Jonathan was a good president. because we can see with our eyes.
How about Marriage?
Mhen… I just dey maintain now o..you know I have two kids in my first marriage, nobody dey get this kind problem wey him wife dey stay. Sometimes they use them against us (laughs).
Now I don’t want to marry one wife, I want to marry like 4 or 5 wives.. so when one leaves, the other 4 stay.