...But not any longer- Naeto C
Naetochukwu Chikwe, popularly known as Naeto C has undoubtedly carved a niche for himself in the music industry. This graduate of George Washingtin University is the son of the former Minister of Transport and Aviation, Dr. Kema Chikwe. In this interview with FUNMI ELUGBAJU he talked about his fondness for music, his relationship with his mum and Ikechukwu and how he combines music with his academics. Excerpts:
Can you tell us about your background?
My name is Naeatochuwkwu Chikwe, and I am popularly called Naeto C. I am a hip hop artiste and a producer. I was born in the United States of America and I'm a Nigerian by origin. I guess the most important thing about me is that I am the only MC with an MSC. I am finishing up with my Masters from the University of Dundee in Economics. I got my bachelors at George Washington University. I got my BSC in Biology. I intended to go for further study and become a medical doctor but after some deep self-searching I changed my mind and decided to pursue my dream and develop my talent as a musician. I went to Atlantic Hall Secondary School. I have a long educational background but beyond that I have been in the music industry since 2006. I became very popular with the song called ki ni big deal and I will continue to thank God. I am the last child of my mother. I have three biological siblings. My mother’s name is Dr. Kema Chikwe, she was the first female Minister of Transport and Aviation. My father’s name is Chief Herbert Chikwe.
You studied Biology at the university, so how did music come about?
I was always into music but while I was at my first university, I met a friend Uzi (Ikechukwu’s younger brother) who was really into rapping and becoming a hip-hop artiste. This influenced me in a way because I was also into hip-hop but not that seriously. Over the years I got more into it while I was in school and that was how it all started.
The initial reason why I started playing music was because I saw it as a way to get extra pocket money, to be honest. I didn’t really want to be a musician but the more I did it I couldn’t pull out because I didn't want it to be like it was a failed attempt or a one hit wonder. So, I just kept doing it and always wanted to do it better and I kept getting into it until it reached a stage where I can no longer drop it.
What were your early years like?
I spent my early years in the city, in a household influenced so much by music. My fondness for music grew fast and was articulated into other creative art forms, most specifically poetry, which took me to various competitions and earned me accolades as a young poet.
You are under Storm Records. What is it like in the studio with all the other artistes including Sasha?
It’s really cool; my partner and I, TY Mix own a production company called Cerious Music and we produce a lot of records for Sasha, Dare & Tuface, Jazzman, Shank, GT, myself and Wande Coal. It’s definitely fun to work with quality talents out here both as an artiste and as a producer
Was your mum in support of your chosen career?
My mum wasn’t really in support of my chosen career because she thought it was a phase and she wanted me to really focus on school. So, I had to work extra hard when I decided to do music to actually show her that I could still do it and it would still look reputable and I can still be respected just like every other person in the society.
What is your relationship like with your mum?
My mum is my number one fan. I have a very good relationship with her. I talk to her about everything. She is very supportive.
Apart from music what else do you do?
What I am focusing on right now is finishing my Masters and recording my second album. It is difficult going schooling and doing music at the same time. I am focusing on my studies for now and once I get that out of the way I can now concentrate wholly on my music and do other things.
What inspired your song Ki ni big deal?
What inspired the song was just me realising the fact that I had to step up to a level if I really want to do music. I felt I should do it in a big way and create a name for myself and also the bone of contention is entertaining people; so you have to make a song for the people. Ki ni big deal was a song that I made for the people. Luckily it was well received even beyond Nigeria.
Apart from the fame the song brought to you, did you also smile to the bank?
Well, I really did and I am very grateful to God.
Ki ni big deal was a song that gave you leverage and you obviously won a lot of awards for it. How do you feel about it?
It is very good to be acknowledged and appreciated because it gives you more confidence and also boosts your self esteem; it makes you want to do more and even greater things to climb that ladder of success.
Which is the best award to you?
It will have to be MTV award where I won the best artiste of the year 2008 because it was my first major award and it was one of those awards that gingers you and makes you want to continue. On that note that is my reference point.
You are a very stylish person. What informs your style?
I just like to stay up to date and be comfortable in what I am wearing. I especially like to look respectful. If I am not wearing a suit, I am wearing jeans and blazers and my Nerd glasses because I like it. Also, my sense of style at the moment is pretty much. Jeans, t-shirts, sweaters, kaftans, and whatever I wear I keep it simple. Key accessories add spice to the ensemble as well: cufflinks, glasses/shades, scarves etc. Also, I hate looking like everybody else so standing out is important to me.
Is your style sense innate? Were you born with it?
It is all about a belief in self and conviction. When you study yourself, you should have a realistic understanding of what you are good at. When it comes to being me, I’m the best at it. So, I’m really just being me and anyway a good sense of style sometimes means a good stylist but that’s not me though. Certain things just have to be innate, you can’t buy “P” you know? (laughs)
What is your take on the Nigerian music industry and what do you think can be done to improve it?
I think they are doing wonderful things and they are making Nigerians proud both home and abroad. As long as we have more people in different fields working hard towards achieving perfection and professionalism and standing up for the people and pleasing the people, talking about raising awareness about piracy and the likes. As long as we continue to grow in that positive direction I think the Nigerian entertainment industry is going to be a dominant force to reckon with across the globe in the area of professionalism, awareness, hardwork and recognition. We need more recognition from the government to actually help us. Like certain things need to be legislated properly so that the business can grow. One of this is piracy, there needs to be a strong policy to curb it and royalties should be paid to artistes so that when your music is played you are getting paid. What people don’t understand is that music is actually one of the hardest jobs because anytime you hear my song I am working; even sometimes I don’t even know I am working.
Do you have any cabal in the industry?
No, I just work with my people, even beyond that I have friends in different record labels.
What is your favorite Naija spot to go for a good time?
It depends if it's in Abuja or Lagos, I’m simple though, wherever there’s fresh air, good food, good music and good company is good for me. I am a very coded person.
What is your most embarrassing moment?
Luckily I don’t have a most embarrassing moment yet but I have fallen down on stage before. I was embarrassed but the show went on.
Where do you see yourself in the next ten years?
I know somewhere nice, somewhere I can look on and be happy, a place I will be proud of and be happy I did what I wanted to do and lived my life to the fullest, made impacts, inspired others and created a legacy for myself.
If you were to make a wish now, what would it be?
I would just wish for happiness because money is not necessarily happiness. I could say money but with money comes problems.
Are you in a relationship?
I am very single and once you are single you have to be searching.
In the league of top Nigerian artistes how would you rate yourself?
People will have to do the rating for me. I am very good at being myself.
What is your relationship with Ikechukwu?
He is a very good friend and a brother as well. We worked a lot together but we don’t work together anymore. We went different directions. He had a direction he wanted to go and I had my own directions too but nothing negative. I don’t have to talk to him all the time but I wish him the best in everything he does.