Until a few years ago, multiple award winner, 9ice was your regular boy next door. He was not born with a silver spoon, neither was he offered one in the years following his birth.
9ice whose real name is Abolore Adegbola Akande may not have had a privileged childhood, but by dint of hard work and with a little bit of luck, his music career has placed him on a pedestal of fame and honour.
He is still ecstatic about his most recent laurel won at the MTV Africa Music Awards where, for the umpteenth time, he was crowned the best hip hop act clinching the award ahead of the likes of multi-platinum selling American artistes, Lil Wayne and The Game.
”The year 2008 has been a particularly rewarding one. I am humbled by the numerous awards I have received this year alone. It only goes to show that I am appreciated out there which is even more important than money to me. When I won my first award this year at the Hip-Hop awards, I did not know that the plaques would keep pouring in,” was how an elated 9ice summed up his feelings at the string of awards that have trailed his person.
The name 9ice is an unusual one, it does not show affiliation to any of the three major or the over 300 minority ethnic groups we have in Nigeria.
”I am from Oyo State. It was a name given to me when I was in school – Nigerian Opportunities Industrialisation Centre (NOIC). I was privileged to be in charge of the Computer Studies practical room and I gave my colleagues the chance to come and make use of it on Saturday and Sunday for their assignments and that is how they started calling me 9ice till the name stuck.”
For 9ice, it was tough growing up in a polygamous home. Relaying his experiences, he said, ”I spent most of my life fending for myself. Although my parents are still alive, they tried their best, but it seemed it was not good enough. My parents were there for me but their support was limited by some challenges.”
It was for this reason, and not music that he had to drop out of school. ”I was in 100 level but because I could not meet up with the financial obligations, I had to let go of my educational pursuit. It was a painful decision but I had to chart another course for my life. Thankfully, I will be going back to school in Los Angeles soon.”
Giving more insight into his background, he asks, ”Do you know my mother left me when I was 8 months old?” Ignoring your look of bewilderment, he continues, ”I did not get to meet my mother till I was 19. All that while, I thought my step mum was my mother.”
He interrupts my thought. Teeing off, he adds, ”I have a good relationship with my biological mother. You know blood is thicker than water.”
If you call him a Jack of all trades, you are not far from the truth. “I learnt air conditioning and refrigeration [repair] for three years somewhere in Anifowoshe in Ikeja and learnt bricklaying in Agbado. As I am sitting here, I can mould blocks.”
According to him, he does not shy away from his culture which explains why there is an infusion of Yoruba lyrics in his music. With his first solo song, Little Money in 2000, this would-be music star had to wait till 2005 before he and his music started gaining recognition in the Nigerian music market.
The first major break for 9ice came after a remarkable feat in 2Shotz‘s Make Dem Talk. It was not long after then that he officially released the first single, Little Money, off his Certificate album. In 2006, 9ice produced Ganja Man which was dropped in December of that year, and in no time, it became very popular within the space of a few months.
No one envisaged what he would become in the year that followed the release and success of Ganja Man. The ground breaking release in the last quarter of 2007, of Gongo Aso, proved that he is no push-over. Little wonder artistes are now lining up to do collabos with him.
”Some people said getting married will be my albatross, they said my career would crash,” he confessed. Continuing, ”Even you can testify that the reverse has been the case. I think I have won more laurels after marriage than before marriage.”
Contrary to insinuations that he was dragged to the altar because of his then fiancée‘s pregnant state, he had this to say, “I have always had this thing at the back of my mind that if I have small money, I will just marry because I can drop dead tomorrow. At least, I will have a child to carry on the family name.”
Like a single off his album, the expectant father is gearing up for fatherhood, expecting his baby to drop anytime soon. ”My wife underwent a scan and we are expecting a boy child whom we have pre-christened Zion Islam Abolore Akande.”
9ice is of the opinion that he has no reason to engage in extra marital affairs. ”Because I and my wife live thousands of miles away from each other does not give me room to frolic with ladies. It‘s not everywoman that you sleep with; some just want to be your friends. This is very unlike when we were dating when there were some subscribers, but she was my main babe.”
His first trip outside Nigeria for Mandela‘s 90th birthday tribute concert in London mid 2008, he said, was an eye opener. ”We were put in first class. I remember that the Zain guy who accompanied us helped me set and adjust my seat and they were bringing all kinds of food that I could not eat. When we got to the UK, it was too cold for me. I had to borrow a jacket. The man was just showing me around like ‘this is Wembley Stadium, Stanford Bridge,‘ like the JJC that I was. But now, I am no longer a JJC. Do you know how many times I have left these shores since then?”
From zero to hero, gone are the days when he could not afford to keep himself in school. Now he is a millionaire. ”I am comfortable. Corporate bodies pay me between 2.5 and 3 million. Individuals- 1.5 to 2 million. From colleagues like Basketmouth, Julius Agwu, we do it for free.
“My plans for 2009 are no longer under wraps,” he quipped. ”I am working on a new album that will have Asa and Akon in it. A single off the album will be released in the first week of January.”