So many people do not know it but Alabai has been in the music industry longer than most of the new crop of celebrated artistes. He started off in the group Def O Clan that gave us the 2000 hit “Kilonso” the group also had Rabbai, Cyclone, Buzzman and Azadus in it, all of who had ruled the industry at certain periods.
Born Sylvester Ekot in Lagos Nigeria, Alabai began to pen down his lyrics from the age of 10. He has a B.Sc from the University of Calabar where he studied Chemistry. While in the University, he worked part time as an on air personality in C.R.B.C the state owned radio station. After his university education, he served a job as yet again, another On Air Personality in Brilla FM situated in Victoria Island Lagos.
Having featured on several hit singles, which included the mega hit “Hard Life” with ex-Plantashun Boiz member Blackface where he took a controversial rap verse that spurred his career, and also Paul Play and Sunny Nneji, he sojourned to pursue his dream collaborating with Paul Play to record his debut album branded “The Calling” “Voice of God” was a big hit off the album.
The Calling which hit stores in August 2009 had a single called “End of Story” where Alabai narrated his ordeal before his mother loss the fight to cancer, how he had to become a man taking care of his siblings.
Due to poor management, Alabai was unable to make a comeback after the success of “Voice of God” till he recently got signed on to DCCR, the record label from where he pushed out is fast rising single “Ogbanje” that has got a spectacular video to it.
Now armed with a good management, Alabai is ready to take on the world again, he shares this with us at OnoBello.com in a chat, where he also touched on his new single due for release “in a couple of days.” As much as he revealed in this exclusive interview, Alabai insisted that he likes to take people unawares as he does not like to allow people see him coming.
OB: So let’s start from the scratch, can you tell us about your background, education, family and where you hail from?
Alabai: Well I’m the first child of four and I hail from Akwa Ibom state. I studied chemistry at the University of Calabar where I obtained my first degree. Sadly, I lost my mum a couple of years ago to cancer.
OB: Really sorry about your mum, at what point during your childhood did it become apparent to you that your talent can become a source of livelihood?
Alabai: My mum used to tell me that when I was a toddler, each time I saw a music video on TV, I would crawl towards the television and watch with intense focus and if anyone changed the channel, I would cry out loud. I grew up with a very colossal music consciousness and I lived a life revolving around music. I discovered at a very young age that I could compose my own melodies and make my own music. I actually wrote my first song on my 10th Birthday and when I rendered it to my friends, they were amazed and that gave the much required motivation to move up with it.
OB: What were your parents’ reactions when you told them you wanted to pursue this career?
Alabai: At first it was difficult for them to accept it but later on they got to realize I wouldn’t give up and that music was my second nature, they had no choice but to encourage me since I had become irrepressible about my career.
OB: So many people don't know but you've been in the industry for a very long time now, if you sum up the years, for how long have you been making music now?
Alabai: (Laughs), it's funny but a lot of people really don’t know I’ve been there for a long time. I started with my crew Def O Clan way back and as the youngest in the group I was compelled to deal with the older guys with a lot of wisdom. This was in 1995 and in 2000, five years later, we released our debut album called “Genesis.” The crew unfortunately broke up in 2001 after the exit of Azadus. I was in the university at that period, working part time as an OAP, in the State owned Radio station called CRBC. When I finished, I got back to Lagos to pursue my music ambition featuring in big hit collaborations like “Hardlife” with Blackface, “Forever” with Paul Play, “Dancia” with Sunny Neji and many more. I dropped my very first hit single branded Voice Of God in 2008, but after that single dropped, I had no management and no backing so it was really difficult for me to operate and express myself like my contemporaries. So I took a break to find a record label and management that could play a functional role in my career and thanks to God, DCCR came on board.
OB: You started with the late 90s crew Def O Clan and won various awards, however, the group folded and you began your solo career, can you compare the changes in the industry now to that period?
Alabai: Then the industry was not as advanced as it is now. There were very little investors then and social media was nonexistent. The change is really much I must say and it's only getting better.
OB: Your first major solo break was on Blackface’s “Hard-Life” were you took a steady pace controversial rap, How did that song change your career?
Alabai: Well that song made me really popular and I must say my career took a rise after that. No regrets at all.
OB: What were the hurdles you faced after that period?
Alabai: So many, one, like I said, searching for a record label or sponsors to work with and that was not easy at all. There were times when I got really frustrated to the point of giving up but I just kept on moving, believing that one day things would change.
OB: How did you meet Paul Play?
Alabai: I met Paul Play during a studio session.
OB: With your several collaborations with Paul Play, which saw him producing some of the songs on “The Calling” album? Were you signed to Playground Entertainment alongside “Ruff Rugged and Raw?”
Alabai: I was not signed to Playground at any time. I was just hanging out with the crew and that’s it.
OB: “Voice of God” that ushered in your first solo album “The Calling” was huge! What inspired such conscious song?
Alabai: Well I just thought about the major questions we as humans would want to ask God in our different lives and I put different scenarios together and made it up into a song and it pretty worked well.
OB: What really happened after “Voice of God” because you seem to be coming back from a long hiatus with “Ogbanje?”
Alabai: Well I had to re-access and reinvent myself musically. Since I happen to be multi-talented, it would be wise for me to express my other talents aside rapping and I happen to have an enviable music talent and thought it would be wise to express that part of me which I did with “Ogbanje.”
OB: We've all known you to be a firespitter kind of rapper, what influenced “Ogbanje” that had Reggae influence and also had you singing the verses?
Alabai: Well, like I said earlier, I wanted to express my singing talent so I recalled this tumultuous relationship I was in sometime in the past and that kind of sparked a concept around the song. I was in a relationship with this pretty girl with a lot of disturbing characteristics and was quite rebellious too so I just thought about her and the inspiration came and that's how the song came about.
OB: Now we've heard “Ogbanje” and we've even seen the video, which other single should we be expecting from Alaibai under your new label DCCR?
Alabai: Well my next single would be dropping in a couple of days and I hope it breaks the ice even more than “Ogbanje” did.
OB: If you had a chance to do an international collaboration which artiste will you be considering?
Alabai: Rihanna! She seems to have something magical about her delivery and that X FACTOR that I always look out for.
OB: Which producer did you work with on “Ogbanje?”
Alabai: A dude called KUKBEAT.”
OB: You were an OAP for CRBC and Brilla FM, what made you leave that for music, is it passion?
Alabai: Yes and excess passion at that! I love radio so much, I mean it's cool to talk and communicate with people but I just had to pursue my dream which is music. It's a calling.
OB: Let’s talk about fashion, what can you not be caught dead wearing?
Alabai: Well, I hate color riot and baggy jeans.”
OB: You are also a model, what made you decide to delve into fashion?
Alabai: Well I’ve been modeling way back and that has been a part of me. I like the run way and taking pictures.
OB: Most models tend to also want to go into acting, have you done any acting job we may know about?
Alabai: I did a movie or two a long time ago but for certain reasons they didn’t come out.
OB: What do you do at your leisure time?
Alabai: I like to watch movies and play chess or shoot pool with a couple of friends.
OB: With the spotlight on you now and Your physique, how do you deal with the female fans and attention?
Alabai: Well, it's inundating I must say but you have a way around it. I stay focused on my career and I take that as priority. Anything after that is just by the way.
OB: If you were to choose amongst the female counterpart in the industry, who would you like to date?
Alabai: Well… I think… Waje, because she's got a great voice.
OB: What are your immediate future plans, any project, upcoming shows, endorsement etc?
Alabai: There's a whole lot of plans ahead that I would like to keep in the closet. I like to be quiet and take people unawares. I don't like to allow people to see me coming.
Watch The Video of Alabai’s “Ogbanje.”
Follow on Twitter: @Alabai_sir
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