P-Square has come a long way, music wise. In this encounter with Busola Afolabi, the sensational singers, Peter and Paul Okoye, speak on their new album, Danger, their background, challenges and vision for the music industry.
What makes your new album, Danger, distinct?
For the first time, P-Square did an experiment which is bringing a kind of song that doesn't exist in Africa and we were happy when we heard it was number two in the African top 10 countdown. Also for the first time, we did a 'Collabo' with the necessary people just like the one we did with 2Face. Africans demanded for it, so we decided to give it to them. We are now matured, it is not like the “Do me I do you” song, this is more of facing the real life. We tried to portray the African side of women and their pride. So it is the maturity in it that stands it out.
So who is Peter and Paul?
Paul is a rude boy, though not physically, music wise. I don't joke with music so when it gets into me I become very rude. I don't live the life of P-Square anywhere I go, so the way you know me inside is the way you know me outside. I don’t pretend, there are so many things I have done in the public that people look at me with disgust and they ask me if I don't know that I am a celebrity. I live a normal life like every other person. There is no difference between Paul of P-Square and P-Square of Paul.
Peter is a simple boy who doesn't have class, he doesn't select people to talk to and a friendly person. But it is difficult for people to understand me. But attitude wise, people say Paul is the friendly and quiet one, but I feel he is more reserved than I am. Some people even say it is better to meet Paul so he can bring you to Peter but if you meet Peter first you might not like it.
So what was childhood like for you?
We are the last boys out of eight children. It was not as if we grew up with a golden spoon, it wasn't as if everything was rosy. I could remember when I wanted to buy my first bicycle, I told my parents even though they bought it when we were younger but when I was about 10 years they didn't buy for me. I also remember when I was about 15 years old in secondary school, because I love electrical works, I started working for someone and I was getting money, I bought it. Though my parents took care of us, they provided the basic things like food, shelter and clothings.
What are some of the challenges you encounter on the job?
Where I think we face challenges is with elder brother Jude, who is our producer, because he racks his brain everyday especially with this new album because he doesn't want to disappoint. He is trying to take Nigeria somewhere and for us, we had to do better than what we did before. Another one is that we had about 20 songs and at the end we came out with only 10. P-Square is not looking at songs only in Nigeria right now, but we have to do something to satisfy people. We are not looking at Africa only, because we have conquered Africa, but the world. You don't say because you are Nigerians you just have to do songs basically for Nigerians. Thank God for songs like “Do me”, “No one like you”, “Ifunaya”, “Bizzy Body” despite the fact that they are Nigerian inclined, we try to maintain the standard. If you listen to our new music “I love you” it has the limelight of Ifunaya, even the “Possibility” we did with 2Face has the style of “No one like you” in it. 'Do me I do you' is a Nigerian slang but outside the country they still understand what it means. So now we are doing songs for Nigeria and beyond.
And another big challenge in life was trying to convince our parents to support us at the early stage in our music. Mum did but my dad was difficult then. So the major challenge is that we are not even challenging ourselves but our dad because we want him to know that this thing he thinks is nothing we are going to make it something one day.
Before we had the problem of choosing between football and music because we thought of the one that would earn us more money. We reasoned that in music, if you sing they would 'spray' you money but in football you we realised that we are the ones who will buy our boots, and we even have to pay the coach training us because when we want to play in any championship it is the players that will pay the fee, so we opted for music
Can you share some of your childhood memories with us?
Paul: I was the one that made my mum to stop wearing the same clothes for me and Peter because I never liked it even if we are born on the same day or look alike; it doesn't matter. Then in our area, they see Peter as a trouble-maker. If he should cause trouble, he would go inside and hide and then when I come outside they would think I am the one. It happened so many times, then I told my mum to allow us do it in colours. So if she buys red for Peter, she would buy blue for me. I know we wear the same clothes on stage but it is because of my dreads, if not I will never allow it. I decided to keep the dreads even if Peter is no longer stubborn. I am keeping it because of the media so that you can differentiate us. Many times when they write that one of the P-Square is sick, that is Peter, but when they want to put the picture they would end up putting my own picture. So, I got tired of it and I decided to change it totally. Now it is either the one with dreads or the one that is on low cut.
Peter: I remember I love to dress like a girl, anytime they wear me a male outfit I would always like to change it to that of the female.
What inspires your music?
Before it used to be a day-to-day thing - things that happen in life. But now, especially in this new album, the lifestyle in Nigeria is different from the one in Uganda and so many other countries like that, when you go around you see things and get inspired. You need to go around to know that Nigerians can achieve more than they have if only they can have five per cent of what we see in other African countries. When we were writing this album, we had to travel out of the country because that is when we can be focused and relaxed. But here your generator is on and the noise is disturbing you, then you are timing yourself so that your fuel doesn't finish. For instance, we use a kind of generator whose engine will knock, if the diesel runs out; air will enter because it is a caterpillar sound proof generator. I hate those kind of things. So, when I go outside the country, I feel more relaxed then the inspiration can come freely.
What is your feeling about the performance of this new album?
We are 100 per cent satisfied. When we came out with “Do me” then we were performing outside the country, so it took some time before Nigerians got into the song. But this new album is totally different because if you look at the Guinness Show where we performed. It was seven days after the album was released and we performed “Danger” and people were singing it word for word. Even when people said we are putting our career in danger because we call the album Danger, we told them that when we came out with Bizzy Body, it took it three months to sell one million copies. But we were happy when they told us that Danger had sold one million copies in eight days.
We will be having a show in Abuja next week and they tag it “Danger Nite with P-Square.” That means Danger is now everywhere, because when “Do Me” came out, we had a show in Lagos called “Do Me Nite.”
Danger can stand out anywhere because it is different from anything you have been hearing. Now we have made Nigerians to fall in love with Highlife beat in hip-hop. So, we are satisfied because we have achieved what we wanted. We wanted to see how the fans would react to the new motive behind the album and we got them caught up.
Are you not satisfied with the money you have made so far from the album?
Like I said, I am satisfied. But the right things must be done. The government must step in and control piracy, so that we can sell our CD's at the normal price. Do you know how much we sell our CD's in Tanzania, Sierra Leone and even Ghana? We sell between N800 and N1,000 when the money is converted to naira. In Senegal and Abidjan, it is sold for N2,000 but in Nigeria even the marketer who is selling our album is selling it for N60, that is an insult.
What has helped you to withstand competition in the market?
To us we don't see it as competition. Which market are we even talking about; is it the Nigerian market or the international market? Because there are artistes that are worthy of being outside but are not. There is only one person I know – TuFace. It is either we are going out of the country and he is coming in or we are coming in and he is going out. He is not a competitor to us, he is our senior colleague. Without TuFace, nothing for all of us. It is his achievements that opened ways for all of us. So we don't see any competition. Just do a good job and live the rest for God. Music is a way of passing message across to the people. So, if you pass the wrong message, then you are corrupting the mind. Today, I don't see parents allowing their children to watch the kind of videos people make these days. It is a problem that needs to be resolved now.
What is the special thing that your twin brother has done that makes you happy anytime you think of it?
Paul: I won’t even call it a special thing, because the fact that God brought him to me is enough. If I was doing this group thing with another person it would have been something else. But he is my brother, he is good and I am also good, so that alone is a blessing to me.
Peter: He brought up the idea that we should form P-Square, that is the one I can remember.
What stands you out from other musicians?
Whatever is standing us out is consistency, good songs, video, good packaging, even our performance - everything generally stands us out.
What is the most surprising thing a fan has ever done to you?
There was a day somebody was banging our gate when we came out it was a woman and she was shouting ‘I have to see P-Square because my daughter is in the hospital and she says she will die if she doesn't see P-Square.’ We thought she was joking but she sat on the floor and said she won't go anywhere, so we followed her to the hospital. When the girl saw us, she started smiling. We were there for about an hour then we told them we wanted to leave. The girl started crying so her mother begged us to stay. Later the doctor came and gave her sleeping pills before we left. At the end of the day, she succeeded in making us spend about four hours in the hospital. Another one, there was a girl who is an artist so she drew us and presented it to us at a concert in Benin. Even though she was not very perfect, we were surprised and we appreciated and loved the portrait.
Tell us your happiest moment
Our happiest moment was when they told us we sold one million copies and when we completed our house in Jos but another one is on the way.
Most embarrassing moment.
When we were young, our house was opposite the football pitch, our mum was watching over us so that when our dad comes back she will send somebody to call us. Unfortunately one day when our dad came back our mum did not see the person, when he looked around and he did not see us he came directly to the pitch and sent us out of the pitch. It was very embarrassing.
How do you unwind?
I am not the outgoing type, so I guess if I want to relax I will prefer to travel out of the country. So when some people tell me they are going for holiday in Abuja I just look at them as if they are not alright because to me you are not going to relax.
Is there anything you will like to change about yourselves?
No. we are satisfied with the way we are; except if there is something people want us to change but I don't think there is anything they want us to change.