I laid down on the bed, spread out my arms and legs in surrender, closed my eyes and said the magic words: “Kuku kill me…”
“Omo no finish that beans oh,” my friend Ayo screamed from outside the house. The sound of his voice told me that he meant it. This small beans that a kind neighbor gave us. It will not even fill my stomach sef. But I have to split it with my friend.
My name is Femi Adekande, but my music moniker is Ollo Jay or Jay for short.
I am suffering. I have been suffereing for the past 5 years now. I am an upcoming artist who resides in Lagos State. I don’t really live in Lagos itself. I live in Mowe, which is a place in Ogun state but shares a border with Lagos. I live here because I don’t have money. I am poor. Poor as a church rat.
I have been poor since the first day I decided to pursue music. I come from the small town of Ubaha, in Okigwe, Imo State. I am the first child in a family of seven. My parents were farmers who barely survived on the proceeds from their cassava farm and Garri production.
We were not properly educated. All of us seven children were put through primary school, and if you show promise secondary school. I didn’t show promise. I hated school. There was something about way those local teachers addressed us and punished us at that small school with dilapidated facilities that made give up.
School was not for me. But I can sing and rap. I was the star of the children choir in church, and everyone keeps advising me to take this music seriously. Sadly, I listened to them.
“O boy, you sure say you remain my beans?” Ayo screamed again.
I knew then that I was in trouble. I had been carried away with thinking while eating, that absentmindedly, I have consumed the entire thing. I looked at the plastic bowl. There was just my spoon, and oil marks in it. Worst part was, I was still hungry.
I didn’t respond to Ayo.
I moved to Lagos when I clocked 18. An Uncle of mine who sold electronics in Alaba had sent for me. He wanted to help my parents by removing me from their care, and teaching me his trade. He wanted help my situation. But I had other plans, I simply moved into his house and pursued my music, until I raised N18,000 to add to pay rent in a face-me-I-face-you one room house.
That way, I was free to chase this hustle and pursue my music. My roommate Ayo, is a producer too. I don’t really know his full story, but he has been producing for 7 years, without a hit song. He has real talent. Once upon a time, he gave a beat to an A-List artist on Twitter. The artist told him he didn’t like it, but 6 months later, used elements from it on his new number one single. God will punish him.
We are both poor. Music has never provided any of us with money. After many years of hustle, the highest amount that we have made is N10,000 when someone invited us to sing at their Grandfather’s burial. It was not the best, but at least it was something. We balled for a month with that cash. We are so poor that having that small money is our definition of rich.
We have not blown after 7 years, but we have suffered. I once had a rich man invite us for discussion over a possible record deal, and we sent him our best songs. He simply handed them over to his son who was also a singer, and the song is generating some buzz right now.
We called and threatened to sue him. But he laughed, called us paupers and threatened our lives. We are poor. He is rich. He can make us disappear and no one will notice. Upcoming artists disappear all the time. No one will notice.
The music industry has been very pour to us. Many nights we have laid side by side, and cried ourselves to sleep. On many days, we spent our day slaving at building sites, and spend the night recording at the neighbourhood studio, with a portion of our earnings.
There’s no new building site around, so we are broke for now. But we will never give up. We will make it.
We look at the numbers and we have hope. A report by auditing firm Pricewaterhouse Coopers (PwC) in 2015 said revenue from music sales in Nigeria, Africa's most populous country, was $56 million that year, and predicted it would grow to $88 million in 2019.
PwC also said Nigeria's entertainment and media industry had an estimated total revenue of $4.8 billion in 2015 and was likely to grow to $8.1 billion in 2019, making it "the fastest-expanding major market globally".
Someday, that money will come to us. We might get signed, and someone will invest in our talents and make us grow. But it is taking too long. We are broke, and it’s not funny at all.
“Oga where is my beans?”
I looked up to see Ayo staring right at me. He had the look of surprise mixed with anger on his face. I couldn’t reply. I had nothing to tell him. But he already knew the answer. His share of the beans was in my belly.
“Jay, where is my beans?" He asked again. This time his voice contained bridled rage. I had nothing for him.
I laid down on the bed, spread out my arms and legs in surrender, closed my eyes and said the magic words:
“Kuku kill me…”