The ability to bring out deep lyrical music with decipherable contents has no doubt placed 9ice among the group of recognized artistes in Nigeria today. His proverbial punch lines can be traced to the doorsteps of his aged step mum known as ‘Iya Hakeem’ who took care of him in Ibadan when his parents hit rough times. Cornered in Abuja penultimate week by TOPE OLUKOLE during the media parley to announce this year’s MTV Base Awards, indeed the chat was really ‘Gongo Aso’ as one of the tracks of his chart burster album implies. Excerpts:

“I grew up with this woman and whenever she wants to talk to me, she talks in proverbs and it was from her I learnt all the adages,” says 9ice.

While he traces his proverbs to his surrogate mother, he owes his vocal style and delivery to Haitian-born Wyclef Jean whom he says is one of his mentors, among the likes of Bob Marley, Fela, Ebenezer Obey, Ayinla Omowura, among others.

Born Abolore Adegolu Akande to Alhaji Abdul Azeez Akande of Ogbomosho, Oyo State, and Mrs. Florence Bolanle Akande, from Epetedo, Lagos, 9ice’s first taste of education was at Abule Okuta Primary School, Bariga, and later CMS Grammar school, Lagos. Back then, he was called ‘Nice Guy’. From that point on and until he gained admission to pursue his childhood dream (Law) at the Lagos State University, 9ice has remained his chosen name.

Like many artistes who dropped out of school to pursue a career in music, 9ice soon dropped his Law textbooks, waved fellow course mates bye and opted for a career in music. Now, having hit his break in music, he’s already dreaming of returning to school to bag the degree he abandoned years ago. “I knew this was what I wanted to do. It was a dream away from my childhood fantasies which was to become a lawyer. I may still go back to read Law but for now music is a calling I cannot drop.”

If he was happy to do music his parents were not in the least impressed. “They were not in support of me going into music.”

Since he set his eyes on studyingLaw and music took over, he has been single-minded. So in the late 1990s when demo recording was the norm for numerous aspiring artistes, he joined the fray to record his first demo single in 1994 titled Risi de Alagbaja. But that single produced faint acclaim. He moved on and in 2000, met a lad called Yomi at Nigerian Opportunity Industrialization Centre, Lagos, and both of them formed a duo group they named ‘Mysterious Boyz’. The union did not last as the boys parted ways almost as soon as they came together. “I knew there was something bigger out there waiting for me, but I didn’t want to be limited.”

He later initiated another group called Abinibi. Along with 2Snow and Double E, they recorded two songs Ma gbe keke e lo and Sayo, both songs got unappealing airplay on radio either because they did not push the ‘joints’ or simply because it was not 9ice’s time to blow. After two years of working together, the boys decided it was time to pursue solo careers and so, took the solo routes.

After sometime, his potential endeared him to TuStep, who had a couple of friends in radio and TV stations. TuStep took 9ice around for people to hear what his friend had to offer. He later recorded his first “Collabo” with TuStep and the tag team.

His steady rise to fame was, however, met with doubts over assumption that he punched harder on Collabo than on the songs he kicked alone. He knew the debate was rife and needed to prove doubters wrong. Sometime in December, 2007, Gongo Aso dropped and like ants on sugar, the song kept pulling both the young and old to the dance floor, as well as slashing smiles across numerous faces.

Wishing to become a cultural ambassador comes with a price and “Adigun”, as his label mates call him, is already paying the price for being 9ice. Nowadays, he no longer walks freely without drawing attention. “Anytime I go to see my dad, both the old and young follow me from the start of the street to the house. They hang around even till I would want to leave. I can’t walk freely anymore,” he notes.

Talk of the Nigerian factor, these days everybody wants to share in his success, even those who were not privy to when he was burning candles, racking his brain to pen the adage-infused songs back in those days. “Sometimes, I get calls and texts from people I don’t know, asking me for money and recharge cards”, he comments bitterly.

He tasted the bitter side of the fame in March, 2008 when he was robbed on his way to attend the Most Beautiful Girl in Nigeria Pageant. Despite the incident, the “Ghetto Soldier” does not see any obstacle huge enough to barricade his destination and has set his eyes on one of music’s biggest prize. “I will bring a Grammy Award to Nigeria. I believe so and I will do it.”