By: Tersoo Achineku Photos: Ken Ehimen and Sunmisola Olorunisola
After the events that transpired that evening, I had no choice but to make a mental note to myself: NEVER LEAVE YOUNG ENTERTAINERS IN THE HANDS OF OLD JOURNALISTS.
My hands twitched in anticipation. My plate of ofada rice had gone past freezing point, abandoned due to the expectation that I was finally going to meet one of my favorite personalities. After weeks of uncertainty with me cancelling twice and his manager once, the day finally arrived for Young John the Wicked Producer to grace the madhouse that is Ovation Magazine.
Two days earlier, I’d gone into that dark part of my psyche that’s reserved for emergencies alone. With barely 2 hours to our scheduled appointment, my camera crew, models, props and mental stability were far from ready. Considering the fact that I had the Obsessive Compulsion perfection, I was this close to hitting the meltdown button but somehow managed in the end to have everything almost organized. Almost. Happy at my feat, I decided to relax and await the arrival of Young John only to receive a text from his manager, Dipson saying that they had an “emergency” and would not be able to make it. I must say, I was relieved but that didn’t stop me from pretending to be annoyed by the text.
Dipson’s call awoke me from my trance and I soon realized with relief that the interview was actually going to hold. Half running, half shambling, I raced down the stairs to usher in the star producer and his manager, but somehow forgot that I was holding a freakishly large machete (a prop for the photoshoot). Stepping out of the car clad in a black top complemented by an equally black pair of joggers, Young John forced the words GODDAMN! From my lips. Happy that the rebellious expression didn’t manage to escape the confines of my mouth, I welcomed the group beaming with smiles and ushered them into the madhouse.
For the benefit of those who are deaf or are confined to an underground bunker, I will introduce Young John The Wicked Producer. Born Udomboso John Saviours, Young John is an award winning producer and sound engineer known for his numerous hits including Olamide’s Story For The Gods, Lil Kesh’s Efejoku and Pepenazi’s Illegal to mention a few. With music production credits on albums including Street OT, 2 Kings and even Y.A.G.I , Young John has been ranked in the top 7 producers in Nigeria by The NET. He has also been nominated in the “Producer of The Year” categories at the 2015 Nigeria Entertainment Awards and The Headies 2015.
My first blooper of the day came when I decided to allow my bosses sit for the interview. Don’t get me wrong, they are seasoned journalists who have sat with the high and mighty but this is Young John, not Elton John. Eager to dig into the personal life of the award winning Producer, I started off the interview by asking about his childhood. According to Young John, “I was born into a Christian Family. My mum is a proprietress and a youth counselor and my father is a pastor. I was born into the church from the onset and that is where my love for music began.” Intrigued, I went on to learn that his eventual decision to become a producer stemmed from his mother who according to him, was a musical genius. “My music comes from my mum as she was a great music enthusiast. She plays a bunch of music instruments and she inspired me a lot” he explained.
“Growing up was fun for me. I lived in an environment where my friends were my siblings and we were all boys. I was lamb as a kid who didn’t really imbibe in any acts of melancholy or trouble.
“My role model as a kid was Micheal Jackson. At a point he was the only person I was into. After sometime, I switched to classic music and Fela before I broadened my horizon. As a kid I began playing drums and I kinda knew that music was in my future. I had a group called AVG, comprised of my brothers, and we are still working till today. I had a small studio in my room where I used to create beats for them, and I believe that served as a background for the man that I am today.”
Already intrigued, I imagined his life. I quickly reminded myself that I could simply ask him since this was an interview for Pete’s Sakes. Smiling with glee, “I was a smart kid in school and I was also, the social prefect. I knew music was something I would be into eventually so I took my time with school rather than deviate. I wouldn’t say that I was a genius per say, but I knew where I was going and what I was doing.
“I’m currently in the University of Ibadan studying Communication. Being in school hasn’t been really easy lately but we’ve been pushing. I cannot always go to class, but I always find a way to complete my assignments and least my exams are written by me. I plan on furthering to my Master’s Degree and finally focus on production full time.”
Satisfied that I had covered enough of his school life, I proceeded to inquire about life before his YBNL link up and then Mr. Martins took the reins, unexpectedly.
“How many major artistes have you worked with?”
“How many awards have you won?”
“What is your biggest hit song?”
Silently face palming myself, I proceeded with the interview, ignoring the questions that had been tabled.
Young John explained that the current state of music in the country has really blown out of proportions. According to him, the tag producer is now an important figure in the industry as the importance of music engineers are now being felt. However he reeled out a few challenges that needed to be addressed to pave the way for even better things.
“I had a couple of jobs beforehand but my first big hit was Story for the Gods. Previously I had done something for Jaywon and Sexy Steele before I moved on to the other hits I’m known for.
“As a producer, our first problem is belief. People do not take you seriously until you are famous. When I first started people actually wrote me off with words like he’s young and he probably doesn’t know what he’s doing. As in all areas of life, there are always challenges to be faced.
“The industry has to take us more seriously. In the Western world, producers are much more respected and even get royalties. In Nigeria today, the system isn’t really tight but we are getting there. People think that Nigerian music is basically dancehall and after a tour of some African countries, I have realized that the perception of music listeners is more important than the artiste. Nigerians like to dance, and if you cannot make them dance you kinda have a problem. Although I believe that not all music should be dance hall. Sometimes you just want to reflect on the things that matter.”
With his words still suspended in my cranium, I wondered how someone of his pedigree manages to juggle between the additives of fame and his career. I pinched myself once more to be reminded that he was actually in front of me, and all I needed do was ask.
“Asides producing, I love football and hanging with friends. I’m not a huge alcohol fan. I have friends that were there with me from the start and I love to chill with them. I love video games a lot also. Everything is about priority and I do not leave work for play. I love balance. I’m currently working with a host of artistes and other personal projects. By the Grace of God, I believe that my plans will work out for the best. Sometimes I believe I do not deserve what I have now, so I guess my future is in the hands of the Lord.
“I’m single. Women will always be around but I’m not the kind of person who is driven to frivolities. To a certain limit I like women but work comes first. When I want to be serious, I believe the right woman will come. The ones I see right now are a little bit of distraction for me. I don’t ever question the choices of every other person, and I believe in my path. I’m richer than I used to be. I used to be very broke but even though I’m not where I want to be yet, I can still afford somethings that I couldn’t in the past. Producing has made me a better person.
“Based on personal experiences, I have realized that getting to the top is easier than staying there. Consistency is key. Some people would have done much more heinous and weird stuff to stay in the spotlight but I believe that the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom.”
Moving on to his YBNL experience, I sought to understand his relationship with Lil Kesh, a musical act of class that owes some of his major hits to him.
“Life has been awesome at YBNL. I was working with Viktoh when I met Lil Kesh before he became big. Viktoh introduced me to Lil Kesh.”
Cutting him short as an idea sprung to my mind, I sought his opinion on the major topic of note at the beginning of this year, the Headies 2015’s Next Rated Award which many say, was bought by the MAVIN crew.
“I believe everyone has the right to an opinion and the Headies award committee believed he wasn’t deserving so that’s about it.
“I also wanted to win the award for Producer of The Year but I didn’t. Headies have been around for a while now and their decisions have not been questioned because they have a system that works. So if Lil Kesh and I weren’t deemed fit to be winners, that doesn’t make partial. I’m still happy for Legendary Beatz for collecting it.”
Olamide recently started working with Young John and to those who know, Pheelz Mr. Producer, another stellar music engine, served as his sole producer. Pheelz and Young John have been the subject of debates as fans deliberate for some reason, who the better musician is. Half congratulating myself for remembering to ask him, I inquired about his relationship with Pheelz.
“I met Pheelz before Lil Kesh and our relationship has been long time. His father is a pastor also and the way he plays the keyboard is awesome. He is a musical genius. I feel both of us have our own special skill sets. He is really dope and all. Me self I dey try too.”
To those who are wondering how the genius that is Young John, manages to cook up hit after hit, here’s a rundown of his production ritual.
“I use Logic Pro and although most people prefer Fruity Loops or Reason, I believe that the end product is based on the idea of the user. There are different approaches of producing and for me I just “vibe”. This gives me a direction of where I should be heading.”
To upcoming producers, he had this to say: “My advice to upcoming producers is to work hard and always put God first. Everyone should know what works for them and I always advise to make sure that you know what you’re doing. Although education doesn’t always play a major role in being successful but I recommend going to school.”
To conclude the interview, Young John gave me a list of his top producers and his favourite track.
“The track that I love the most has to be I Hope Say You Dey Care Money. It wasn’t much of a hit but I hold it there to my heart. My best producers have to be; MasterCraft, J-Sleek, Pheelz, DJ Coublon, Sheezy, Legendary Beats and Don Jazzy himself.”