Justice Okechukwu Martins was relatively unknown until he released his debut album, Get Serious in 2008. With hit tracks like ‘Good or Bad (Owey),’ J.Martins, as the Abia State-born musician is fondly called, seems not to have forgotten where he is coming from. He tells Reporter, Gbenga Bada, about his life, music, relationship with ladies, bond with P-Square and family.
After a successful 2008, would you say you are fulfilled?
The most important thing for me is what you have been doing, and how much people love you for it. Achievement is a continuous process but one thing in my mind is being able to do much more than many can think of and I’m trusting God for help because He’s responsible for the success of the current project while he has again taken me far ahead of others at the moment. What I’ve got at the back of my mind is how do I come much more stronger than I did in order to be more consistent, relevant and still maintain the originality that I’m known for. If you listen to my songs well enough, you’d find out that I talk more about values and not just sing anything because I want to sing.
Do you sincerely think you can surpass the success of your debut album?
The first thing I tell people around me is that I didn’t bring myself this far; the Hand that brought me is more than able to sustain me beyond now. I’m talking about God. He plays His part while I play mine in the success story. He is a Man of excellence and was responsible for my job. I have never been a good talker but one thing I know is that I do my work the best way I know how to do it and when I’m done with my own part, I leave the rest to God and He makes it big. That’s the formula that has been working for me and I abide by it. Many people have advised me to leave the path that has made me who I am but I believe it’s all rubbish. I know my next album will definitely be my best because I do it with God and together we make it big.
From what you said and what has been said about you on being godly, it won’t be wrong saying you are towing the gospel path. What genre of music would you say you sing?
I have always been a church boy. I’m still a church boy and would continue to be a church boy. I’ve heard most of my colleagues saying we all started from the church and all that but for some reasons, they just have to deviate. That’s all rubbish as far as I’m concerned. That’s why most of them don’t know where their problems come from. I know my roots, I know where I’m coming from and that’s why I’m who I am. Many have said I sing Afro gospel but I don’t categorise my kind of music because others say it’s hip-life. I sing to add value and meaning to people’s lives, it’s left for the fans and people to place the song wherever they feel or know it belongs. Being godly doesn’t mean you are not human or that you can’t do anything. But the ability to add value to people’s lives through the music you play and also praise God, while giving hope to the hopeless, are some things that make you godly. I go clubbing when I want to and rock when I feel like rocking with my friends but that doesn’t take away my core values.
You just talked about clubbing, hanging out and rocking with friends, isn’t that secular judging from your perception of being a church boy?
There are lots of people who don’t go clubbing but drink, smoke and do all sorts. I go clubbing not because I want to drink or smoke or do other things; I go because I need to draw inspiration from other colleagues, not necessarily copy them but being in tune with what your audience wants from you, what you can sing about to add value to the lives of people. I hangout with friends, but does that make me ungodly? I don’t smoke or drink; neither do I have a girlfriend at the moment. For now, what is paramount to me is my career. I’m giving my career full concentration. Is it said that if you drink or smoke, you’d go to hell? Isn’t it the same Bible that said you can drink a little but when you get drunk it is a sin? Some priests even smoke because of their country’s weather condition, does that mean they would go to hell or make them sinners?
You just said you don’t have a girlfriend, how then do you cope with the bevy of ladies that would definitely throw themselves at you knowing fully well that you are a star?
That is part of a musician’s life and it didn’t originate from Africa, it’s been there all along. This is why some parents don’t want their daughters to marry entertainers. But you should also understand that every artiste isn’t the same. They would definitely throw themselves at you and it’s left for you to know how and when to draw the line. I don’t have a girlfriend but I try to always use my head, though no one can say he can’t fall because they could be tempting but again, you look back and say before now, these ladies didn’t care about me but now, they are throwing themselves at me because of stardom. That sends you a signal and you just have to control yourself and be strong-willed. I’m not saying I can’t fall but I try to always draw the line and I thank God for always being there.
Are you saying you have fallen in the past?
I didn’t say that. We’ve all done things that we pray God to forgive us but making a mistake is not the problem, the problem is letting the mistake repeat itself all over again. Nobody is perfect and anybody can fall but I try as much as possible to be the best I can be at all times and I have God by my side.
How then do you cope with friends and people around you who sing secular music?
First, you have to understand that music is what I love, from production to performance.
Second, our fans need to understand that we are human beings; we have our career and personal life. Your celebrity lifestyle is what fans expect from you while your personal life is strictly you and it’s different. You can’t please everybody with whom you move with or hang with or call your friends. One thing should be pointed out clearly and that is J.Martins is more interested in adding value to the lives of people. Who I hang with or who my friends are or what they sing has nothing to do with that. It’s just for you to know them, that’s our career life and we know ourselves beyond that. Moreover, my friends also add value to people’s lives through what you call secular music in their own ways.
You’ve been known to have always been around the P-Square family, what is responsible for this?
My relationship with the P-Square brothers-Peter, Paul, Jude and everyone dates back three years. It has grown from a working relationship to that of brothers. Though not from the same parents, we have gotten so much into each other over the last few years and we’ve became one. I worked on their first album and responsible for some of their hit tracks, I also worked on the ‘Bizzy Body’ remix. We are so close that I can do just anything for them and they can do the same for me. They are nice and good family. I’m not saying this because I stay in their house or because I just want to praise them but it’s simply because that’s just the way it is. I love them and they love me too. But that does not mean that we don’t have our quarrels. I am working on their next project. One thing I love about them is their immense talent and desire to want to always do more.
You just said you are responsible for many of their music productions but there are insinuations that P-Square’s elder brother, Jude ‘Engees’ Okoye is responsible for the twins’ music production from inception. Can you clear the air on that?
There isn’t anything to clear on this. Jude is responsible for all P-Square’s music video productions and he also supervises the music production. I do the music production. It’s not really one person doing one thing or the other because it’s a family thing. Paul is responsible for the lyrics and songs although Peter also contributes. Peter, however, is responsible for the beats and dance steps and they do all these individually and bring them to me to combine and infuse everything together to make it complete. With Jude’s supervision, it becomes the hit they’ve always churned out. But basically, I do their music productions; Jude does the supervision and music videos productions.
Tell us some of the artistes you’ve worked with.
They are quite numerous but many of them are not the known ones and are not located in Lagos. The popular ones include P-Square, Soul E, Waje, and Resonance.
What was growing up like for you?
Growing up was tough because I had to choose between what I want and what my father wanted for me. I started my romance with music in the early 1980s when musicians were perceived as never-do-wells who lived in brothels. My father never wanted me to tow that line believing it’s not the right thing for me. As a matter of fact, because of my insistence, I got disowned three times by my father. He never wanted the life of a musician for me, he wanted something bigger but God was there watching, and through my pastor he picked me up from the streets and I went back to school and today I’m where I am. I obtained my OND in mass communications at the Institute of Management Technology (IMT), Enugu and later business administration at the Enugu State University of Technology (ESUT).
What is now your father’s position on your career?
He’s cool with it and we’ve been able to resolve our differences. Who won’t be proud of his son doing good things and buying him cars? He’s happy and we are cool but all thanks to my pastor, who God used to stand solidly me to achieve my aim. I respect him a lot and refer to him as my mentor.
Would it be right to say these contributed to your resolve to sing songs that tend towards the gospel line?
Well, yes, I would say that but I had always wanted to add more to people’s life through music and maybe my experience further made me realise how important that was.