Ayo Animashaun, the owner of Hip On TV and Publisher, Hip Hop Magazines, as well as the creator of the Hip Hop World music awards, was 40 years old last week. He shares his experience on the path to success with ‘NONYE BEN-NWANKWO.

Now that you are 40, do you feel any different from who you were before?

There really is no difference. I am just the same person. I just make sure that everyday, something is fresh and new. Outside that, I am just the same old Ayo. Some of my friends who have not seen me for a long time still tell me that I have not changed.

Are there things you wish you had done differently these past 39 years of your life?

I do not think so. I have taken some decisions that didn’t seem okay initially. But now they have turned out well. For instance, when I wanted to get married, a lot of people were so scared for me because I was just a publisher of a music magazine. They saw me as someone who was not serious. But then, failure was not an option for me. If all the things I planned to do did not work out, I would have been regretting it now. Now I can look back and say I know for a fact that things have worked out well for me. I give God the glory. I worked hard. I did not get rewarded like the other people; I was better rewarded for my hard work.

You used to be a writer in a magazine back then

Yes. Back then, I used to collect lyrics. I knew all the recorded songs that were in demand by heart. It was so cool then. Later I started writing songs for my friends. A popular song will come out and many people would be begging me to write the lyrics for them. So I decided I would just write the lyrics of songs and if anybody asked for them, I would make a photocopy. But I discovered that I was spending so much money on photocopies. So I decided to sell the photocopied materials. Somehow, since I knew all these songs, I decided to do a compilation of them and sell them. That was how it all started.

When was this?

That should be around 1991. I was so young then. I read a lot. I was on fire then. I set a standard for myself. I decided that I could actually do a magazine, which eventually took like four years to happen.

Where you living in Lagos then?

No. I was in Kaduna. But one day, I picked up the phone and I called Kunle Bakare of Encomium magazine. That was in 1994. I was meant to be on national youth service then. Bakare invited me to Lagos. I started writing a column called Showbiz Now in his magazine. There was no money to start off what I really wanted to do. I came with my book of songs and even the plates. I upgraded but there was no money to print.

So what did you do?

Dele Momodu came to the office one day and noticed that we had a lot of letters from people who wrote in. There was a competition I started and people were writing in to be a part of it. He learned that the letters were for my column and he was amazed. He said that if people could respond just to my two-page column, that meant that there was really a market for what I wanted to do. KB now started taking my idea seriously again. We now went scouting and we found a press that agreed to print for us on credit. The newsprint man agreed to supply newsprint on credit. All the cash we had was like N25,000 for Hip Hop magazine. When the magazine came out, the first five thousand copies that we printed sold out. We had to reprint and it sold out. I was the sales boy. I would carry the magazines in a wheelbarrow and sell to the public.

When did you hit the limelight?

I started getting attention. I was on NTA for an interview. After the interview, I came back to Oshodi with my magazines on my head and I was shouting, ‘Kuro mbe, (get out of the way). I didn’t care. I sold the magazines even under the rain. But after a while, it started making sense. Artistes started coming for interviews. Artistes were now endorsing the magazines. After a short while, there was a change. That was how we started.

Back then, did you think you would become this big?

I don’t think I am big now. But I can’t remember thinking how big I will be. I just wanted to do what I was doing and do it well. I didn’t think about being big or small. The magazine meant so much to me.

When did the idea of Hip On TV come to you?

I wanted to veer into television in 2000, but I couldn’t do it well at the time because we were still struggling with many things. In 2008, I now decided to give it another try. Just when I was putting my plans together, Joke Jaiyesimi walked in and told me she wanted to leave MBI and she asked me if I was not going ahead with the plan for the TV. I told her what I had in mind and that she should come in with me. I told her my concepts and the way I wanted it. It became easier and we started putting ideas together. That was how the Hip TV started.

Did your Hip Hop Awards kick off before Hip On TV?

Yes. We knew we had to acquire our own television channel. We couldn’t just push so high and sell the awards the way we wanted on other peoples’ channels. We had challenges. The awards really prompted the television idea. We were lucky because the people who put their money on the Hip Hop awards thought we were doing a lot of good work with the magazine and the awards. Even before they saw a pilot of the TV channel, we got sponsorship. It was not a hard sell at all.

What is the reason behind giving out a car prize to a category in your awards?

That was our own way of rewarding promising artistes. We wanted to put the winner on another level. It is our own way of supporting the artiste. The industry is not so fantastic, except for a few lucky ones. Even how many of the lucky ones can afford to own a house in Park View Estate? They are still struggling. Nigeria’s population is huge, but how many CDs do these artistes sell? They don’t make their money through CDs unlike their counterparts abroad.

We wanted to give a prize to the Artiste of the Year. But when we checked the category, we realised that for you to be the artiste of the year, you have to be critically and commercially successful. That means you must have made a lot of money. We decided to give the prize to upcoming ones who would appreciate it more.

Since you know so much about music and musicians, have you thought of becoming an artiste?

I cannot sing to save my life. Trust me. Nobody will buy the album. I can’t sing and paly it back and listen to it. It is that bad. I also know people who can’t sing. I have a good judgement when it comes to music. I will not do what I cannot do well. I will not ridicule myself and sing like some others who cannot sing but still go ahead to do so. There are some things I just won’t do.

Things like what?

I can’t own a records label. I already organise a music awards and it means, no matter how objective I may be, that if I own a records label and my artiste is being nominated, people might say the artiste got nominated because he is signed on to my label. So I won’t get into all that. Then again, I will not manage an artiste. No matter how dispassionate I may be, people might say that he got nominated because of my influence. So, I will not sing, I will not own a records label and I will not manage an artiste.

Does it mean Hip Hop Awards is here to stay?

Whatever you do, you always would not want that thing to die with you. We are not going anywhere.

Which one is dearest to you, the TV, the awards, or the magazine?

That is very tough. I can say I am emotionally attached to the magazine because you might say that is the bedrock, the mother that gave birth to the rest. For the TV and the awards, I can’t tell. I really can’t say. It is a tough question.

What else should we expect from you, now that you have clocked 40?

I will take a day as I see it. I don’t know how it feels to be 40. I am just who I am. I can’t see it as if I am crossing from one level to another. As for my passion and dream and what I want to achieve, I, as a rule, do not announce pregnancy. I can’t say there is something in the pipeline. I will just do my thing and people will see it. I have got things I am working on. I will do better on the things I already do.

What were you doing in Kaduna in those days?

I attended a polytechnic there. My uncle was there as well. I speak Hausa very well. That was actually how I got to the North. But now, that place is a no-go area for me.

How was life when you were growing up?

My dad was doing very well until he died. He was a contractor. I am a Lagosian. My dad was big. Everything I saw that blew my mind, I saw it in my house first. We lived in our own house, on our own street before we moved to our estate- Animashaun Estate.

Was your dad a polygamist?

Oh yes. But we were comfortable. He took care of us because he had the means to. Unfortunately he died when I was 15. I have vowed that I won’t let my kids experience polygamy. When my dad died, I just didn’t want to be a part of the property sharing business. I was just beginning my life then. When they were sharing his property, I told them to do it the way they wanted. Up till date, I don’t think I have gone there to collect a penny and I don’t think I will ever go. In fact, I don’t even know my own house or houses that were allocated to me. I did not ask either. I don’t even remember to ask which one is my house.

Have you always been nonchalant about your share of the inheritance?

Oh yes. Even when I didn’t have a dime. It didn’t mean anything to me. It is not now that it will mean something to me. Maybe later, I might get interested. That is, when I want to show my kids what my father left for me. The inheritance means nothing to me because that is the way I conditioned my mind. I love the good things of life, I love beautiful things; but there are some things I don’t attach importance to.

Were you this successful before you got married?

No. I still do not know why my wife married me. She was in University of Lagos then. When I met my wife, I was driving a Volkswagen Beetle. My Beetle was not like the ordinary type It was a terrible kind of Beetle. The fender was bad. I couldn’t start the engine unless I had to push it. She was never bothered. If the car didn’t start, my wife would push it even as we were just dating. She still has this mark on her hand that reminds me of the day she fell down and got bruised while she was pushing the car. She never cared. She would insist I park my car in front of her hostel. She comes from a comfortable family. There was a day she was travelling abroad with her parents and I said I was going to take her to the airport. Her dad wanted to take her, but she told her father she was going to ride with me. Her father just looked at me and at the car and said, ‘car indeed’. The man insisted he was going to drive behind us. But when she came back from her trip, I had bought a smaller car. Her father congratulated me. At least, whenever I got to their house, I wouldn’t need to announce my arrival before pressing the bell. Once I am on that street, you will definitely hear the sound of the Beetle.

Apart from the car, I had to move from the boys’ quarters where I lived. The people living in the main building decided they wanted to use their BQ. So I had to move to my office. I had staff working for me, but each time they were leaving for their homes and they said goodbye, thinking I would go home as well; they never knew the office was my home. My wife would leave her house and come and sleep with me in the office. The office was just like a shop. I was always amazed at her behaviour. For God’s sake, she had a very comfortable home, but she would leave it to come and manage with me on the floor. I always ‘yabbed’ her that she actually went to Babalawo to find out about me and the Babalawo told her that the future would be very bright for me. That was why she stuck with me in those hard times. She knew I would take care of her, otherwise, there was really no reason for her to have stayed with me those times.

Even back then, you never thought of leaving her for another woman?

When I met her, I was just getting out of one relationship. The day I spoke to her about a relationship, I just asked her to be my wife. I didn’t want a boy/girl relationship. We started dragging it. You know girls will always drag for a couple of weeks. I was going to do an appendicectomy then. I told her I was not going to be operated upon unless she agreed to be my wife. After one week of dragging, she didn’t want me to die. So she agreed. I just knew she was my wife. I am a loverboy. Once I start, you will get tired. I didn’t see any other person for a couple of months.

So how do you cope with attention from women, especially now that you are so comfortable?

I have to be disciplined. There is no ‘holier than thou’ attitude here. If you are not doing it for your wife, then you have to do it for your children. You don’t want them to have half-brothers and half-sisters, especially in this country. Some people may argue that it does not matter. But I, in particular, do not want trouble from another woman. It is always rosy in the beginning. But it is really tough when it comes to marriage. The person I seek her opinion most of the time is my wife. When we started, before the children came, we might stay days without talking to each other. But it cannot happen now. At least if for nothing else, you must talk about the children. I have been married for eight years and I think it grows with maturity. The first few months, I said I was not doing any more.

Are you fulfilled in life?

I am. I am happy. It is not all the money in the world that makes people happy anyway. I give glory to God that I am comfortable. I can take my children to the kind of school I want them to go to and I can take them to any part of the world I want them to be. You don’t need all the money in the world to be comfortable. I still wonder why some people steal millions and millions of naira. What you need to leave a good life is not so much money. I am just happy that I can afford what I want. It is selfish to think the whole world revolves around you. I have a mum who is still alive. I have brothers and sisters. I have friends. Whatever I can extend to give to people, that will be my next level of fulfilment. However I can extend help to people will give me joy. I don’t have any reason not to thank God. I have every reason to look up and say, ‘Bros, you don try for me.’