What He Told City People
The name Michael Ugochukwu Stephens may not immediately ring a bell but the name Ruggedman does. Ruggedman is the celebrated Naija Rapper who has been variously credited to be one who revolutionalised the Nigerian rap music.
Many do not even know his real name is Michael Ugochukwu Stephens, but he is mostly known by his stage name, Ruggedman or Ruggedi Baba.
Ruggedman recently visited the City People office penultimate week. He had won an award at the recently held City People Music Awards but he was not able to pick up his award because he was engaged shooting a music video at the time. So, when he came for the presentation of his award few days after, the City People team led by the Publisher seized the opportunity to have an interview the accomplished Rapper.
It was vintage Ruggedman as he took us through a lot of the things he has been involved in lately. Enjoy excerpts of it.
What have you been up to for these few years?
Apart from the fact I have been living my life, I have done some acting, lots of people who follow me on social media will know how much humanitarian work I have been doing. What I mean by humanitarian work is that, I go as far as becoming a middle man between the masses, the government, the police, the Lawyers. Basically, what I do is that from time I have been someone who has never been comfortable standing by and watching people get bullied, cheated or something like that. It has kind of like become my thing, from twitter or Instagram when you go there you will see some issues like, maybe a girl was beaten by a policeman, or someone is illegally arrested or extorted, you see them tagging me or people say tag Ruggedman because of what I have been doing. Basically, I stand and speak for such victim and I give them any assistance they need, I connect them to proper Police Officers, or I connect them to a lawyer who can actually take up their the case without being paid. Unless it is really required. If it is a case of sexual harassment, I connect them to the human right organisation that will help them up and I have been doing this for close to 9-10 years now. I know I slowed down on music a bit but I really got into the humanitarian whole thing.
In the beginning, when some people say tag Ruggedman, a couple of people will come and say why should we tag Ruggedman, is he the government, is he the police? But then maybe an hour after the person cried out and somebody suggested tag Ruggedman, they will now see the victim come back to say that help me to thank Ruggedman, he just helped me to solve the issue. And now nobody says why will you tag Ruggedman anymore, they even join to say tag Ruggedman.
Movies, Humanitarian work, I started my own online talk shows, so when I say talk shows, I have like three of them on YouTube and Facebook, it is Ruggedman TV International on YouTube, and on Facebook. We have Ruggedman. Ruggedi Baba with (Ruggedman TV). I was in the UK for a while, almost immediately after the election I travelled. My friend asked why did you travel, I said because I wanted to go and rest.
I rested a bit, before I started my online talk show, I started talking to a lot of Nigerians in diaspora, not just entertainers but I talked to business owners based in UK, even in Germany, some artistes in America, South Africa, you will find this on my YouTube and Facebook. What I just started recently, actually I used to act, you will find me in Jim Iyke’s “Bad Comments”, you will find me in Toyin Abraham “The Ghost And The Tout”, there is a new series of Jim Iyke’s Production I’m also involved in.
Now, I recently put both feet in skit making too, you will still find that in Ruggedman, Ruggedi Baba both YouTube and Facebook.
So many skit makers used to do funny things that makes you laugh but I decided to give the touch of edutainment, one of the biggest recently done I featured Jide, he acted in “The New Living In Bondage”. I called it Emergency. It is more than a skit. Basically, it is about police stopping a young man driving on the road and he is trying to tell them there is an Emergency he is rushing to attend. Of course when you meet the bad police, they would not listen to that, they just delayed him. Then, one of the officers called that there was an emergency and he asked what hospital, he told him. He rushed down and found his son has passed. He was there shouting where is the doctor and the nurse said the doctor is on his way. He said what kind of hospital is this that the doctor will be on the way? As he was saying that the nurse said the doctor is here. He was just saying where is the foolish doctor and he turned to the door and the doctor walked in. Lo and behold this happens to be the guy he was holding on the road who he was telling them that he was rushing to an emergence but they did not listen, not knowing that the emergency the doctor was rushing to was to save the life of his (officer’s) son, which did not happen because they delayed him on the road. That particular video has gone viral, many blogs and social media TVs has reposted it on their page. Even a Ghanaian presenter posted it on his page and he was commenting but I didn’t understand his language. Basically, he was breaking down my video from top to bottom on Ghanaian live Radio. I am doing some funny skits but I want to educate people, and enlighten people, entertain and at the same time you laugh. In a nutshell, Ruggedman is into movies, online talkshows, skit making, and I do my event “Foundation Night” where I celebrate contemporary artistes of my time.
I have hosted Durella, Adex, Konga, Faze, African China among others. I am back to the studio. I am actually working on an Afrobeat album and I am working with the young artists. I have 2face, and some singers on the album, sometimes people used to ask me how I have been able to stay around so long but I tell them you have to be able to adapt, you have to be able to change and flow with the time. This is the Genzi era.
I am working with Genzi Producers, I am working with Genzi artistes, trust me, in fact I am a veteran Genzi.
How have you been able to adjust to the reality the industry has put on you?
I have always been a realist, I have always known it will happen because there were artistes before me and I am sure one them, someone might have asked him/her this question, how did you feel that Ruggedman is reigning? I knew it was going to happen so I have been able to put my name in the sands of Nigerian music history which is something I don’t think a lot of people will ever get to do because, there are some artistes that whenever you talk about Nigerian music you can not help but mention their names, I believe strongly that I am one of those names.
That is a great honour for me. I knew it was going to happen, I knew there will be new artistes. Because I always told people that you don’t boss forever, you are at the top right now, make the best of it, plant yourself into many places, invest in what you can invest in because that boss does not stay forever. 10 years might feel like two hundred years, but trust me one day somebody will ask where is this guy that used to sing that song and that will be you they are asking for.
I knew it was going to come, so now it was not a pressure on me because what you know and are expecting, does not surprise you any more.
On the “Wazobia Version” it started with YNK he is a Yoruba rapper, DJ Cinch a Hausa rapper, Lopo an Ibo rapper. If you listen to “Situation EP” it’s like when “Fela” dropped an hip-hop song because all of the young artistes out there, they touch everything that is affecting Nigeria.
I have been dropping music but I know it will not blast like the ones reigning because I am not up there with them, it is not my time now. An old musician dropped music, and someone asked, it is the one still dropping music? I said wait, you are saying it as if his fans all died when he stopped.
His fans just grew up, and the joy for me is that most or our fans, Ruggedman, Faze, Plantainshun Boiz, African China among others most of our fans are CEOs today, lots of them are big men and women. You know it’s not all about the boss, you will boss quite alright but what you create for yousrself, the bridges you build for yourself are what will matter at the end of the day when your boss drops, but trust me the boss will drop. It was not pressure for me, I was just happy and always excited when I see young people doing well. The most you do for yourself is just try to be best in it.
I have been dropping music in 2021 I dropped Situation EP, it was basically conscious music. Talking about the situation of the country, I featured Praiz, and also gave a platform for young artistes on the song called “One Love”. I put out online Situation EP challenge. I put out an instrumental I said I wanted to give an opportunity to two young talented artistes to feature on the EP with me. But instead of two I got 8 that I could not drop. So I did “One Love” track 1 and 2, so track 1 has 5 of them on it and 2 singers, Ani D Blessed, Bobbi Phillie, Uchbarz, Deemoe and Leena Martinz, I put 5 of them on one and I put the others on Wazobia Version good.