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Real Life Stories
By: LuRae Iwenofu
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2 Face has made his ride to stratospheric rise to stardom look easy.

Many of us know him as 2 Face, to family and friends he is just Innocent Ujah Idibia. Born September 18th 1975, 2 Face is a strikingly goodlooking man of 35 who hails from Idoma, Benue State, in the South Eastern region of Nigeria (West Africa).

Formerly a member of now defunct boy band Plantashun Bois, he has carved out a successful solo career and has been nominated and won a slew of awards both in his home country Nigeria and internationally. The hit single that brought him notoriety on the international platform was“African Queen”, which was used as a soundtrack to the movie Phat Girlz in 2006. Asked in an old BBC interview why he chose the name 2 Face, he stated: “The name to me just refers to the outside and inside: when you first see me, you see the outside, but when you get to know me, you see the inside.”

For a country that churns out singer/songwriters the same way a rice mill churns out grains of rice, 2 Face has managed to achieve what so many Nigerian artists have not achieved in the past 4 years internationally.

DivaScribe got the privilege of meeting Mr Idibia in person whilst he was in the midst of a London tour over the summer and boy, were we bowled over by his humility! There was no huge ego in sight that needed massaging — his entourage was next to nil. He just hangs with a few friends and his manager/friend Efe Omorogbe.

In person he is just slightly under 6 feet tall, lean in build, and his features somewhat androgynous. We were opportuned to meet under informal surroundings and our perception of 2 Face is that he is playful, a prankster, a loveable rogue who has the innate ability to rev up a party/ company if things get dull. Not wanting to delve into his personal life, which has seen widespread rumours in the press, we talk music, family and politics.

If you could tell us in your won words, how did you get into the music business?
Music is like breathing to me. Right from when I was a young boy, I always had a great love and talent for music. I didn’t learn the ropes as a manufactured artist, everything evolved organically.

So when exactly did you decide to go professional with your talent?
I performed a lot whilst I was at university, and decided in 1997 to go into music full-time. However the first official album that I released was when I was part of a boy band called Plantashun Bois in 2000. The group was made up of 3 guys and we had a blast.

It is now the norm for groups to splinter, do their own thing and then re-group. Does Plantashun Bois have any plans in the pipeline to reunite?
There’s always a possibility of another Plantashun Bois album.

You won your first award as a solo artist here in the UK for Best African Act – MOBO Awards 2005. What was going through your mind when your name was called up?
That was totally massive. I think the shock must have got to me when I went up the podium to give my acceptance speech and the statue slipped out of my grasp (chuckles) I was mortified.

Were you tempted to use the ‘F’ word?
I thought it, but never said it (laughs). In actual fact, I remember saying something in pidgin (patois English): “People dey break records, me I dey break award.” (laughs again)

We hope that you get the opportunity to break many more in the future.
Thanks for that. I definitely hope so, but there won’t be any more breaking!

What genre would you put your music in?
I wouldn’t really want to pigeonhole my music, my style of music is quite universal and unique: it blends a lot of musical elements together to make the perfect musical aphrodisiac. I will leave the pigeonholing to the listeners, as they can interpret it personally to what they desire. Saying that, the Nigerian media would class it as Nigerian hip-hop. That’s a bit secular isn’t it? (He muses on this rhetoric)

The song “African Queen” that won you the MOBO award, did the inspiration for the lyrics come from personal experience?
No, it didn’t actually. I get inspiration when creativity strikes. The song came about as a result of my love for the African woman. The song celebrates her strengths, and the roles that they play within the family. It was just my way of saying I love, appreciate, and respect the positives attributes of the African woman.

Your recent single “Implication”, was that something that you experienced personally or just a creative strike?
Sometimes when I write, I just choose a topic and write about it. For the song “Implication”, I wanted to write something in my language — the chorus “Olele, olele Ole jelapooloo lele! Ole wua olewua, ole jelu bu lewua” means: “she ate she ate she gave to her husband”. You could say it’s a sort of biblical reference to Adam and Eve and how Adam/man became implicated in the whole origin of sin debate. In the first verse, I was talking about being scared of going into an unknown journey and scared of being implicated in a situation that you have no control over. The song generally gives the message that people shouldn’t get themselves into situations that they can’t control — and to be careful.

You have made it into the big league and your stripes are well-deserved. Has this had any effect on your personal life with regards to how you are treated by friends?
No, not at all. I still hang out with my homeboys from back in the day and they still treat me the same.

Are there things that you miss doing or feel that you’ve missed out on now that you are not just any Joe Bloggs going about his daily business?
Not really, besides the fact that there are certain things I can’t just do or places I can’t go.

What has your family got to say about your success?
My mum doesn’t look at me as a celebrity. She would say to me (switching to patios) “Wetin I hear say you do for that place, you dey craze o – come here now”. She doesn’t really give two flying monkeys about the whole celebrity thing. My dad on the other hand is quite a gentle person and all he has ever said to me is “make sure you behave yourself son”.

Currently in the UK, black African brothers have been representing positively on the international musical forum. We’ve got Tinnie Tempa a.k.a Patrick Chukwuemeka Okongwu creating waves at the moment and many others. Are there any UK-based artists that you would like to collaborate with?
Wow! (laughs) All of them, all of them! I am feeling Taio Cruz, N Dubz, Chipmunk, they are all great artists, and it would be lovely to work with them. Hook me up (this is said cheekily — 2 Face definitely doesn’t need our help).

You just released your latest album Unstoppable in London. Are there personal favourites in it that your fans should know about?
Not at all, all my songs are personal favorites — depending on my mood.

Jay Sleek produced the album. How did you find your working partnership? Were there chinks in communication or did you creatively flow as one?
J and I flow pretty well together creatively — in the studio, it’s all about feeling the love for the music.

African music videos are slowly evolving and looking more American by the day. What’s your take on this? Do you think there is a lack of originality?
It’s a good thing that our videos are coming out better and to the point of being compared to American videos in terms of quality and standard. I don’t think that means a general loss of originality. People copy, people innovate. Some Americans copy concepts from other Americans and viceversa. I don’t see it as a general loss of originality.

On a different note, there are people out there who wish to make a success of their lives in their chosen careers, and some of them have been inspired by your success. Are there any words of encouragement that you have for them?
Something that worries me a lot is the fact that in Nigeria (Africa), so many talented people leave the country for the West because of the poor economy. This exodus will affect positive change coming about quicker. If we all become vocal and speak as one, slowly, surely, incrementally, positive changes will come from our politicians who will then start to invest in their people. I know that this doesn’t directly answer the question, but a lot of our bright brothers and sisters in Africa tend to look for a way out as they feel that there is no hope with the current situation in their countries.

Is there any situation, apart from the socio-economic palaver, that is getting on your craw at the moment?
Really, it is the absolute lack of concern and total disregard that the government and people in power are showing citizens. It is shameless, sickening, and sad that a country so rich in natural resources have got its people living below poverty lines. It is honestly a travesty and something needs to be done to address it.

So how do you think this change will come about? What can you do personally to add to the process of positive change and growth?
I am self-employed and do not have a big organisation behind me to spread the message. But I will always use my music as a tool to be the voice of the people. Through it, I hope to bolster the voices of the people, give them courage and encourage them to stand up for what they believe is right. The roar of millions of voices will surely be heard if we all sing from the same hymn sheet.
Corrupt politicians just monopolize, extort, appropriate and mismanage funds specifically allocated for the welfare of the people. Basic resources are lacking. (He says passionately) Now check this out: if the old US President George Bush were to fall ill, he would seek treatment in the United States right? However, our politicians know that they haven’t invested a kobo (old extinct Nigerian coin) in our health care system so they travel abroad to get the best care available. I think they should be really ashamed of themselves. No water, no electricity, school system is poor, security is poor — you name it (he gestulates with his hands).

This has been a revelation to us, as you rightly said, you’ve got 2 Faces: the Artist and the Man. Your insight and passion for change is exemplary and we hope that other artists follow suit by resonating the same message through their art. I can confidently say on behalf of the DivaScribe team that we are incredibly proud of you and what you stand for — and a big thank you for giving us these few minutes.

Good luck to you guys, DivaScribe looks hot and fresh and I hope things play out well for you.

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