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My best songwriting ideas come when I’m in the toilet – T.R

Weekend Magazine: You changed your name from Terry Tha Rapman to T.R. Why? TR: I have been away from entertainment for five years and a…

Weekend Magazine: You changed your name from Terry Tha Rapman to T.R. Why?
TR: I have been away from entertainment for five years and a lot has happened to me since then, both as an artist and a human being. I see it as part of the growing process. Besides, there are many artistes bearing Terry, so I decided to abbreviate my name because my fans who know me as Terry Tha Rapman will still get it. It doesn’t change anything.

WM: When writing, what informs your lyrics?
TR: A lot of things, from divine inspiration to what happens in my environment, down to what happens in the society. My fans know me as a storyteller. No matter the kind of song I am playing, I drop lines of particular trending news. I am just that kind of person. I do it consciously. I also read a lot. If I wasn’t rapping, I guess I would have been a writer. I write everywhere, even in the toilet, where my best ideas have come from. The best place to write, actually, is in the toilet. (Laughter)

WM: You took a five-year break from performing. What were you doing in those years?
TR: It wasn’t exactly a break. A lot of things happened in my life, some of which I don’t want to speak about. Most of it was contemplating if I wanted to continue with music, as a lot of things were changing in the music industry. It is so sad that as much as music in Nigeria has grown, it hasn’t really developed. We are still yet to have an all hip-hop or rap concert and it is still being treated as an afterthought.
It is only when you decide to do something with a hip-hop artiste or commercialize your music, with less rapping and more singing that people pay attention. There is something we are still facing till today and I don’t know why this is happening.
I wish I could say it will get better, but it is getting critical. Some things have to change and happen for rap music to be given its due respect in this country. We need more shows and attention. I’m happy that a lot of things have changed and a lot of rappers are now doing international collaborations, and are doing very well.
Rap is still a force to be reckoned with in Nigeria, and we have a lot of people that have broken out, like Phyno, Olamide, Ice Prince and MI, but we need more.

WM: Most of Nigeria’s successful rappers tend to use indigenous languages or pidgin English...
TR: That’s true, but even at that, the sound has been commercialized. Pure, unadulterated rap isn’t being given its dues in Nigeria. Compared to some other countries, Nigerian rap is still lagging behind.

WM: How are you, as an artist, planning to change that?
TR: If I had the finances, I wouldn’t be whining. I’d be doing something about it. On my own I can only work with what I have. People are still having cold feet towards it, when we know this thing could be very successful. A lot of our artists don’t talk. When they drop their albums, they sit down and look for telecoms companies to use them for small campus shows so that they can get money. And that is why we keep seeing the same old people over and over again headlining concerts for the past ten years. This shouldn’t be so.

WM: The first hit you had is actually your first demo is, a cover of a popular Eminem song. How did it feel then?
TR: At that time, it was the vogue to do cover versions of popular American songs. I just decided to do mine. I am an Eminem fan, so I used the song to address societal views and life of a Nigerian man. It was the song that today, aside other songs, has brought me a lot of attention. BBC even used it as a sound track for one of their shows, for which I got paid. I didn’t record it because I wanted to commercialize it, but because it was something that I enjoyed doing.

WM: How would you say your early life in Kaduna shaped the kind of artist you have become?
TR: Not to brag, but the hip-hop point in Nigeria is Jos and Kaduna. Anywhere else is after these places. When I was in Kaduna, I heard of how good rappers are in Jos. Some of the big artists, specifically rappers, came from Kaduna or Jos. I have lived in these two places at a point in my life. We had shows then which shaped me even before I hit the studio. I was ready for the limelight because I already had those shows in Kaduna which prepared me it. It’s a place where hip-hop culture is most vibrant.

WM: Which rapper would be a dream to collaborate with?
TR: In Nigeria, I can’t think of many. I have recorded with all of them, like Mode Nine, 2Baba,  MI, and Ice Prince. I would have loved to record with Da Grin before he died. He was one of the game-changers, even if he wasn’t one of the pioneers of indigenous rap. He took Yoruba rap to another level. We met, but didn’t get to work together. Internationally, I would say Eminem.

WM: What would you consider your most successful work yet and why?
TR: I have to break it down to two, because ‘Na Beans’ was that all-time milestone. That was the first time I rapped in pidgin English and experimenting with the whole Nigeria thing. It has been my biggest song till date. Another song which just came from nowhere was ‘Boys Don Hammer’. It had no video, but it did a lot for me. It is a song I always play around with and gets me accolades, so I think I will be performing it often.

WM: You plan to release a new video this year, from your album ‘Blame Hip-Hop’. What should fans expect?
TR: I just shot a video on which I featured Skales. The song is my most inspirational song till date. It is basically about life and the story of any upcoming Nigerian artist. It is not really a gospel song, but about God coming through when you least expect. The song is called ‘Eledumare’ and it took a lot to shoot the video. I was still not satisfied after like five trials shooting, but I had to let it go since it was the closest to what I have in my mind.

WM: You’re known for your many relationships with Nollywood starlets…
TR: I’m in showbiz, so I meet a lot of them.

WM: You seem to have a soft spot for freestyle rap. Why?
TR: As a rapper, I got that from Kaduna when we attended shows. What they did then was, they played a beat for you and you’d rap to it. Even though now I am a little rusty compared to those days, it is all part of being a rapper. The battling and freestyle is all part of the culture.

WM: Apart from being a performing artist, you also draw. Why haven’t we seen any of your graphic art lately?
TR: It was my first love before hip-hop. We broke up. Now I’m just trying to go back. I recently bought a sketch book, but I haven’t drawn anything in it. Yet.
 

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