As a journalist with over three years experience in the entertainment industry, I guess I can tell you with great authority that musicians are the worst time keepers. Really, they are. If a musician were to be given the opportunity to govern a football match between Chelsea and Arsenal, Arsene Wenger would probably be cremated by the time the celeb realizes that 90 minutes has turned to 16 years.
And so was the case with Mr. CDQuality. After a week of communication with his manager, a few fits of panic attacks on my side, and a host of planning activities, the day finally arrived for my big meet with the Woss Wobi crooner. I wasn’t exactly brimming with confidence as it’d been a while since I’d interviewed a music star, as such I took solace in organising three of my close peeps to accompany me, a move that would later turn disastrous.
Why the crop of Lagos based celebrities have decided to cook themselves up in Lekki is still a phenomenon that baffles me. I mean, the place is literally on water! Yes, maybe I suffer from acute aquaphobia and yes the place is serene, but still, why the Island? I pondered this as our driver, Peter went past Lekki. The first hurdle of the day actually was caused by CDQ’s manager. You’d think that finding the address of the Yoruba rapper’s home would be the simplest of things but not when his manager gives you directions. After he was done spewing what could only have been a mixture of Yoruba, English and German, we decided that if we didn’t consult Google Maps, we might end up driving to Badagry. Relief was visible on my face when we finally drove into the compound, I mean, it could have been worse right? We could have driven to Alaska.
Entering his plush home, we found one of his ‘homies’ trying (in vain) to beat his CPU opponent in a game of FIFA 16. As everyone who knows me, I do have a soft (acute addiction) side for video games and as I stood, entranced by the game play of the Playstation 4, Leonard, my good friend smacked me into reality. Pretending like I wasn’t seeing stars, I proceeded to pretend like I was in control and ordered my crew to unload the equipment, looking for the right spot to position the camera. After a few minutes that consisted of camera hoisting, sound checks and a few jokes from my crew/friends, we settled to await the entrance of Mr. CDQ.
To those who do not know CDQ, let me do a brief summary. Sodiq Abubakar Yusuf is one of the biggest names in the Yoruba rap music industry. A graduate of Economics from the Lagos State University, CDQ became prominent after being signed with hit maker, Masterkraft. He came into limelight with the hit track, Indomie, alongside Olamide. And he’s been on a roll ever since with tracks like Woss Wobi and Salaro.
It literally took 2 hours for CDQ to come downstairs. Within that time frame, Leonard had hissed 748 times, Cuebitz had taken 9, 021 unnecessary pictures, Emeka had lost 6 pounds and our driver, Peter had made himself at home (By taking off his shoes and dozing on CDQ’s couch).
Looking dapper in a black shirt complemented by a pair of jeans (same colour), CDQ stepped out with the candor of Kanye West. He took out his pair of Ray Ban as he went round the whole crew to apologize for his bad case of time keeping. After being satisfied that we had accepted his apologies (like we had a choice), he took a seat to kickoff the interview.
My first question was to ask if he had a clock upstairs, but I held my tongue and urged him to explain his childhood. As I’d read on so many of his interviews, I was expecting a short and simple answer, but that was not to be case as it seemed like he was going to reward my long wait with in depth information about himself.
As an ambassador of the streets, it wasn’t really a surprise to learn that he’d grown up in Orile, to a sub-urban, run down part of Lagos. After adolescence brought out the stubborn part of him, his father, Mr. Yusuf decided that it was time for him to switch environments before puberty hit and sent him to Ilorin, Kwara State, where he attended Secondary School. After he’d completed his learning process, he came back to Lagos to attend the Lagos State University.
Piqued, I pressed on to inquire about his best childhood moments and wasn’t disappointed as he actually showed that he grew up in the 90s. In his words: “My best moments where playing with those small horse toys that you’d have to pump in order for them to jump. I also remember licking some really excellent candy that was locally baked.”
CDQ also revealed a very interesting part of his childhood in that he was once a very big bully, which is a bit of a surprise as one of his role models included the late Micheal Jackson and Lionel Ritchie (and not Sani Abacha).
“I never knew that I would become a musician to be frank. I thought I’d become a basketballer as I played for Milo and NIS at the National Stadium. I eventually started dancing with Kaffy, and we had a group called EMagnito. I was the social prefect in my school at that time, but that was it, I wasn’t really a musician. Most people do not even know that I almost stopped doing music when my father died in 2008. But Masterkraft convinced me that passion beats everything and I decided to push for what I love. In all, music was never my first choice for a profession.”
With a passion for music, and sudden freedom, I thought about how his first semester in LASU might have been. And he laughed as he remembered nearly being disowned by his father when he started to come home by midnight.
“It was awesome to the extent that I nearly got carried away. I must admit that it was very interesting because I didn’t allow the school just pass through me. My first show was organized by me. I had Da Grin, Naeto C, Wizkid and even Jesse Jagz around then and it was a hit, even though I singlehandedly organized the whole gig. I loved music then so much but at the same time I loved schooling, so when my music started affecting my school GPA, I had to slow down a bit till I obtained my B.Sc.”
Perhaps a point of note is that Mr. CDQuality actually remembers the name of his first sweetheart. Jumoke Oladele was the first babe to slay the heart of our Salaro crooner. He admitted that music affected his relationship and he fondly remembers that she was calm and understanding about it all. He also explained that they eventually grew apart due to distance and growing up. And I must say that the elders were indeed right when they said ’20 children cannot play together for 20 years.’
Most parents frown on the children going into music so I inquired if his parents where in support of his musical career. “My father had passed away by the time I decided to become a musician, and my mum was a bit unnerved by my decision. She was concerned about the whole business of performing before a crowd and all the attention. She knew that with Fame comes friends and enemies, and I guess she decided that the best she could do was pray for me always.”
As an upcoming artiste, it is a bit hard to compete with the top dogs of the business and such was the case when Jesse Jagz performed in LASU. CDQ explains while laughing that his most embarrassing moment as a musician came when he and the Chocolate City hit maker took to the stage at his (CDQ) show. “I was all over the place while he was performing and when he couldn’t take it anymore, he was like, ‘Guy how far nah,’ right on the stage”.
I decided to push things to another aspect and asked him to explain how the educational scene of now was different from his time. He responded by lamenting that the cost of education has seriously gone skywards. “During my time, our school fee was minute and very affordable, unlike nowadays. I heard that LASU pays up to even 25, 000 now which is a huge increase from out time. Let’s not even start with the private Universities. How do you expect the less privileged ones to go to school?” To all of those who don’t know, CDQ used to be an English rapper. His switch to Yoruba actually was engineered by the late Dagrin who explained that he would bounce better on beats if he rapped in his local dialect. According to Dagrin, it would be better to appeal to the people rather than try to copy a style that has been mastered by the likes of Jay Z and Eminem.
It wasn’t really easy for CDQ to adjust to the Yoruba style of rap music but he admits that he was happy he’d done the transition. I decided to ask if he thinks he would still be accomplished had he not switched to Yoruba and he replied with the words: ‘To Blow Na God Hand E Dey’
CDQ remembered with sadness that he was distraught when he heard that Dagrin was dead. He explained that he was out with friends when he got the news and just jumped into the first bus he could find, not knowing where it was headed as he was overcome with grief. “I didn’t even know where I was heading, his house or Sossick’s studio. I just wanted to go far away from where I’d heard the news. As his protégé, I guess he would be proud that I’ve become what I am today thanks to a musical style he’d made popular. May his soul rest in peace”
The journey to limelight for CDQ isn’t that different from a fairytale. He got signed by Masterkraft in 2012, shot the video of his first single Bizness, in South Africa and even got an endorsement from top dog, Olamide. Unlike what is circulating across the Nigerian blogsphere, CDQ wasn’t discovered by Masterkraft at a rap battle during the Industry Night Talent Hunt Organized for the late Dagrin. “I met Masterkraft in 2010, two years before the Talent Hunt. So even if I didn’t attend the event, I would still have gotten where I am today.” He also quelled rumors that HKN tried to sign him by stating: “Davido put a call through to me that he wanted to sign me but I already had a deal with General Records, so we opted for a patnership instead.”
To music lovers and club goers, the track Indomie stands out as a real hit. Released in 2014, the song is still a banger even till date. What people do not know however, is that the track started off as a freestyle.
“Olamide and I were at Oriental Hotel with some friends when we started drumming on the table. It was all out of playfulness but soon enough, we realized that we might actually be unto something. So I called Masterkraft to turn up immediately with some studio equipment and there and then, he produced the song. That was the first song I wrote off the top of my head. I used a few words from our environment and before we knew it, a full track was done and we all know what a hit it turned out to be.”
Most people raise the question that the song was helped by Olamide’s fame but CDQ objected by borrowing a few words from the mouth of the YBNL leader, ‘Even if nobody had sang on that beat, it would have still been a hit.’ Moving on to his next hit, I was impressed that unlike most artistes, CDQ actually reads his bible. He explained that the concept of Salaro came when he came across the part where David danced like a mad man and was chided by his wife, whom God would later curse. “I wanted to recreate that scene in a way that the streets could relate to it. I wanted people to dance in the way that David danced”
Woss Wobi is another song that features Olamide’ once again and I decided to inquire about the relationship between the two of them.
“I’d never even met Olamide even after he endorsed Bizness on Twitter. It was during a show, I was being interviewed by a Hip TV at Inyanya’s birthday and someone just jumped on me and was like, I’ve finally found you! Ever since, we’ve been really good friends. Some people say that he has lost his touch but I would say this, he has evolved to florescent. If he has lost his touch but is still cashing out, where is the loss?” The interview would have been useless if we didn’t talk about Masterkraft, the leader of General Records and creator of multiple hits. CDQ gave us a brief explanation of how they compose songs. “We have reached the point where we have gotten enough chemistry to not even be together to create a hit. He could create songs off the top of his head and I’ll jump on it. Also, in the same vein, he could be creating a beat and I’ll just rap to it. Kinda like Salaro. We’re currently working on my album which should drop in May on my birthday, by God’s Grace.”
I decided to end the interview by asking how he relaxes, a bit clichéd, yes, but I had a reason. I asked which video game he preferred and much to my own disappointment, he picked FIFA 16. I wasn’t happy with that, at all. But I’ll spare you the reason, maybe for another day.
The shoot turned out to be more successful than I’d expected, even though the Keke Marwa driver ran away and I had to chase down another one under the terrible sun. Happy that we’d done a more than successful interview, I and the crew jumped into the car, and as I blasted a bunch of cray tracks through the car speakers, one thing tugged at my brain, CDQ was actually cooler than I’d expected.
“Turn off that damn music!” Cuebitz screamed.