Around 8PM on Tuesday March 18, Peter Okoye, one-half of Psquare called me. I wasn’t surprised he was calling, and I had an idea what the subject would be. But I pretended not to know.
‘Ayeni I want you to tell me the truth. What is your opinion of what happened last Saturday?’
Because I don’t like mincing words, I told him straightaway: ‘I’m disappointed in you guys. I think you are bad losers’.
Before I go on, let me give you a background. ‘Last Saturday’ was hip hop world awards. ‘What happened’ was that Psquare did not win ANY award, despite having five major nominations. The pop stars were nominated for song of the year, best R&B/Pop album, Artiste of the year, best music video and album of the year. They lost to Olu Maintain, 2face Idibia, D’Banj, DJ T and Asa respectively. But since then, the twins and their brother-manager Jude have been crying foul. In an interview with a Lagos-based journalist, Jude made the following comments: ‘That award should have been called Yoruba hip hop awards’. According to him the organisers simply gave awards to people of South-west origin, and I other cases, their friends or associates. Jude alleged that the video for Stylee, which won the Director’s award, was ‘trash’ compared to the video for Do Me, which he directed. So Peter calls me up and asks for my opinion. My candid Opinion, dear Peter, is that Psquare are bad losers. That Psquare (and their brother Jude) need to enrol in Lagos business school for a course in public speaking. My opinion is that Psqaure are tribalists. And that the boys are just a bunch of spoilt, overrated, over pampered superstars.
My opinion is that, as we all saw on March 15, Hip hop world awards 2008 was far from perfect. The organisers had their issues (like not starting on time, like nominating OJB for a song Omololu produced, like omitting Ruggedman’s name from the initial list of nominees for Best Rap album. Like not getting us our IVs on time!). But having served on the jury now for three consecutive years, there is one thing I know: the awards only go to artistes the judges deem deserving. In 2006, Ayo Animashaun, the executive producer did not even see the final list of winners before the show. This year, there was amplified voting, the log sheet are still intact. And in my opinion, any of the nominees could have won. For example, for Next rated category, GT the Guitarman could as well have won instead of Wande Coal. I think he deserves it too. But Wande Won and GT is not crying over the roof. Faze, an extremely talented singer came empty-handed and left empty-handed. The young man deserved to have won. Same for TY Bello, Lara George and others who were not so lucky this year. How come it is only Psquare (who in my honest opinion are a bit over estimated) that’s crying foul, playing the ethnic card, and behaving like nursery school kids deprived of ice cream and pop corn? To say the truth, for the video category, if DJ T had not won, I still believe Asa’s Fire on the mountain or TY Bello’s Greenland would have been a better choice, instead of Psquare’s Do me. Okay, so it was shot on 35mm. Tell me, what’s the concept behind the video, how does it interpret the song’s theme, what’s unusually creative about it? Jude okoye (and whoever he employs to do his videos for him) have a way with pictures. He has a way with clean, unblemished images. But that’s not all there is to a good video. There’s more.
But that’s not even the point here. Ladies and gentlemen, the point is: how come hip hop world awards was not Igbo hip hop awards when Psquare won five awards in 2006? How come the Yoruba acts didn’t suddenly start crying foul? For a couple of desperate wannabes, who, earlier this decade were unsure of where their careers were going, I think Psquare have suddenly started taking themselves too seriously. And it hurts to think they’ll be playing the ethnic card at this stage. A Yoruba man (Howie T) discovered them and gave them their break. They won the B&H competition in 2000, living and schooling in the north, and when they moved over to Lagos, didn’t the Yoruba accept them with open arms? Now, here’s a word of advice for Psquare: please hire a publicist so he/she can coat your words and help you make sense. Because, really, Like Kanye West, you guys have the right to complain if you feel cheated. But why leave the issues and throw up non-issues? What would you guys be saying next year if you win, say, five awards again? That you eat your words? Or that the organisers have ‘repented’?
But then, maybe we should not even be taking Jude Okoye’s careless talk so seriously. Peter told me on phone, during our hour-long discussion that their brother was just speaking his personal opinion, and not necessarily speaking for the crew. But again, maybe we should. Afterall, we were together in London for the MOBOS in 2006. Psquare and Tony Tetuila were the nominees from Nigeria. They lost the award to Ghana’s Batman Samini. While Tony maintained his cool, Psquare went hay-wire, telling all that cared to listen, that Sheilla Okonji (AUMG boss, whose company sponsored the Best African act category) ‘gave’ the award to a Ghanaian. They said they were cheated, and were almost not on speaking terms with Sheilla for the rest of the trip. I spoke with Okonji the night after the MOBOs and she was willing to show me the log. The truth? Batman simply had more votes! It’s bad enough to be bad losers. It’s bad enough to be so arrogant and so ‘high-up-there’. It’s bad enough to forget so easily that only a few years ago, you were some bunch of hopeless, helpless wanna bes, scorned by critics for lack of originality and illegal sampling. What Psquare and their manager should not do is throw their arrogance and amnesia in our faces. Show me an artiste that talks from both sides of the mouth, and I’ll show you an artiste who’s heading for disaster. Ask Eedris Abdulkareem. Anyway, the lesson to be learnt in all of this is that, no award is any artiste’s birthright. I have been particularly mad that Akon did not get even one Grammy this year. Even in life generally, you win some and you lose some. You.Can.Not.Always.Win. Then whatever you do in life, it pays to be humble. Even if you’re not, you can at least pretend to be. (There’s a joke presently circulating about Psquare. Mind you, it is not fabricated. It happened at an airport. Some little kids walk up to them to say they love their music. Guess what their response was; ‘we know. People tell us all the time’) I’ve seen DJ Jimmy Jatt, 2face Idibia, Keke Ogungbe and D’Banj display an excess dose of humility. If Psquare can’t learn from these four gentlemen, maybe they should place a call to DJ Humility. Having said that, I now have a few words for the organisers. I think the screening process should and must be made more transparent; the identity of the judges made public. I think the organisers should treat the talents they’re honouring with more respect. I think potential award subjects (like Sasha and DJ T) should not be involved in the awards. I think the accreditation process should be made less burdensome, and IVs should go out earlier. And I think the quality of production and content could be far far better. I don’t know about you, but me I haven’t seen any edition like the first one, in 2006. Okay, and then one more thing they MUST as a matter of fact do next year: Give Psquare an award. I’m tired of seeing spoilt superstars sulking and crying like little babies.