Yemi Alade, a graduate of Geography from the University of Lagos, Akoka, is a fast-rising Afro-pop and RnB singer. The beautiful songstress first served Nigerians and, indeed, the world her rich musical menu when she contested and emerged the winner in the 2009 edition of Peak Talent Hunt Show. Interestingly, she has not looked back ever since. In this recent encounter with BABATUNDE SULAIMAN, she talks about her rise in the music industry, love life and idiosyncrasy, among other interesting issues.
YOU were once in a group called Naughty Spices, where your stage name was Ginger. Could you tell me what really happened to the group and why you quit?
Yes, you are very correct. We formed that group when we were in the secondary schools. Really, we were all in different secondary schools then. We were partially signed on by Storm Records at that time and we started recording. But the split happened when we gained admission into different universities. As a result, we were in four different parts of Nigeria. It just took a natural dive; so, it is not as if we said we were not going to do it anymore.
Are you from a music-inclined background?
Yes, I can say so because I was surrounded by music. My mum was always singing, my dad was always dancing to Sunny Ade’s music and my elder ones were always grooving to the latest music. Apart from this, I used to be a chorister in the church.
In most of your past interviews, you spoke mostly about your mum. Could there be any special reason why you rarely mention your dad in your interviews?
That is a good question. But honestly, it is not for any particular reason that I don’t talk about my dad in my interviews. It could simply be because my dad is a more relaxed person than my mum. I guess I got the gra, gra from my mum. My dad is from Ondo State and you know how the Ondo men are; they are very calm. However, I love them equally.
You started your musical career while you were still in the university, but didn’t your academic suffer in anyway?
It was not funny because they were two big masters. The school needs all your concentration and time. Those four years were a very difficult time for me. At a point after I had entered for the Peak Talent Hunt Show, I thought of applying for deferment of my examination, so that I could participate in the grand finale. I just had this conviction that I might win. But luckily, it happened that the grand finale was moved forward, so I was able to sit for my examination. It was a tough time for me because a lot of people condemned my action. But I tried to be strong because I knew what I was doing. Really, I didn’t expect anything less from them because they were not the ones wearing the shoes. Though it wasn’t a difficult time for me, I will encourage anybody who has a musical career to still obtain his or her degree. To me, it makes a lot of sense.
Did you see yourself winning in the Peak Talent Hunt Show?
Not at all! We were five that partook in the grand finale. But there was a guy, Flingo, who was a very strong competitor. In fact, the entire audience loved him. After the first round, I told him that he had already won and that he should tell the organizers to just give him his money. But as I was praising him, I just heard, from the stage, “And the winner is Yemi Alade…” I couldn’t believe it. It was a breath of fresh air and I really appreciate the opportunity that Peak gave me.
What did you do with the money?
The money? 80 percent of the money went into my career. I started attending aerobic classes; I went into vocal training under one of the best coaches around (he trained the MTN’s Project Fame contestants) and I also shot my video, Fimisile. I am sure you know it is no small money to feature a great artiste like El- Dee. Apart from all this, I also recorded some songs then. So, I didn’t really spend much on myself.
What have you been up to lately?
I have been up to a whole lot. I just got back from a nation-wide media tour. I got a whole lot of acceptance and I am really very grateful to everybody I met during the tour. I also released a mix single called Johnny with Solebobo and the acceptance has been unbelievable. After this chat, I will be heading for Clarence Peter’s studio, where we intend to shoot the video with him. I am also doing something for Peak because I am one of its ambassadors. Also, we are doing the Go-back-to school programme for kids. As I said before, it is important to have your career at heart, but you still need to stay in school. I am also involved in an awareness campaign for women against cervical cancer and HIV / AIDS.
But you were supposed to have done that with Uti Nwachukwu since December 20?
No, Uti’s project was for the less privileged, but I couldn’t make it because I went to Calabar. The cervical cancer and HIV/AID campaign is my own pet project.
Why did you embark on the media tour?
As at that time, I had only released both Birthday song and My head. Those were the new songs, so we thought of a different way to promote them and we actually thank our fans. Some know the name, but they don’t know the face and vice-versa. Some even know the song, but they don’t know who sang it. Also, at that time in the industry, there was really much going on, so we had time on our hand to go on the tour. We had some shows in the process and we just killed two birds with one stone. The acceptance was unbelievable and I thank God I was able to release Johnny during the tour.
Johnny has come under a lot of reviews since it was released. So, what really inspired it because you sang about a cheating and lying man?
Yes, you are correct.
Are you talking from some personal experience?
Certainly, all my songs are borne from some experiences.
Okay, tell me about the song.
I think the song already says it all. The song says Johnny leaves me follow Cynthia/ he give Uche belle/ he go marry Nene. Of course, I have been in a situation, where I was dating someone seriously and he gave me the impression that he cared for me, but he still had interests in some other ladies. When I was recording that song, I had no intention of talking about that topic. I was going to record good music and the lyrics just came from nowhere. After two weeks of the tour, people started asking me about who Johnny is. And then, I realised that the song is actually from inside of me. You know how music just wells up in you and when you get the opportunity to voice it out, you don’t know what comes out; so, that was what happened.
Will I be right to say you are very much relieved now from whatever you must have suffered after the breakup, having got the song out of you?
Yes, I am. I can laugh at the situation now. Before now, it wasn’t funny. It is a big relief and the fact that people are laughing at the situation even makes me laugh more; so, I say, ‘Johnny, your loss, not mine.’
Was that the first time any man would dump you?
You see, I just realised that the relationship was cancerous to me; it wasn’t working for me because I wasn’t doing what he was doing. That was the first time I had found myself in that kind of relationship, where the guy just ran off.
What have you learnt from that experience and how will you guide against such a thing in your future relationship?
Well, the truth is that these things are not written on people’s foreheads. You can’t tell by mere looking at someone that he is a liar or a cheat. But over time, you get to find out. I have, however, made up my mind that whatever relationship I find myself in, personal or business, I will not hesitate to bring out whatever bothers me to the open. It is good to confront your issue. I didn’t confront my issues in most of my past relationships.
In Johnny’s case, I didn’t have proper closure. During the period of these relationships, I saw these things happening, but I didn’t know how to confront them. I didn’t what to spoil what I knew was already getting spoilt. I think we should all be real with ourselves. There is more out there. If someone doesn’t appreciate you today, another person will surely do some other time.
Were you heartbroken at that time?
Before nko? Johnny broke my heart!
Is Johnny the guy’s real name?
No, I couldn’t have used his name. As I said, I didn’t plan to do the song; otherwise, I would have used his name.
Now that Johnny is longer in the picture, it is being rumoured that you are having a sizzling affair with your manager…
(Cuts in) Everybody says it. But I keep asking that if my manager were a female, would they ask me the same question?
Of course, nobody will say such a thing.
Certainly, you are right. So, I just ‘chill (pauses).
I am sure you are aware of some female acts who were saying the same thing until it came to the open that they were getting married to their managers.
You see, immediately my ‘sister’, Tiwa Savage, got married, that was when people started pointing fingers. All eyes now seem to be on female artistes who have male managers. I guess it is a phase and it will soon pass by. I am still looking for my Johnny( general laughter).
How have you been promoting your new song?
At the moment, the song seems to be promoting itself and I appreciate people for this. We are doing a lot of radio push and we will soon release a competition for DJs. It is called the Johnny DJ Match-up Battle. What you have to do is to just get the Johnny song and match it up with any of your favourite instrumentalist. You stand the chance of winning N500 and a new DJ turn-table. The judges will be Olisa Adibua who has great ear for good music and DJ Jimmy Jatt. Many other things are going to be rolled out in 2014.
Recently, it was reported that you kissed the poster of Flavour and that set tongues wagging.
(Laughs)You know what, that picture was at Dream FM in Enugu and I did it after my interview. I cannot explain why I kissed the poster; it was very spontaneous. But the truth of the matter is that I have always had a crunch on Flavour. If people ask me who my crunch is, I say it is Flavour. You know what, you have a crush on someone and after a while, you get over it. I don’t know who else I will have a crush on. I was just having fun. But really, the kiss was very sincere!
Yes, but I was just having fun.
Did you envisage the kind of reactions it would generate?
I was so surprised when I saw it on some blogs.
You seem to love the guy so much?
I think his genre of music is very interesting. I like the way he dances and he is a good-looking.
Have you ever had the opportunity of telling him you love him?
No, I have met him at several shows, but I have never told him so. No, I am a girl and he is supposed to come and tell me and not the other way.
If he walks up to you and says he loves you, will you accept?
Ha! Good for him now…
I am asking you a yes-or-no question?
I don’t know. Maybe when it happens, I will have an idea. You know, I am very spontaneous
Can you date him?
That is a little too much and I have not thought of that. I just have a crush on him, but I have not thought of dating him.
Is that a possibility of that happening?
Well, my mum is Ibo and I can always speak Igbo to the guy. I know he is a very good Igbo-speaking guy. I don’t know if we can date each other because I don’t know him personally. But what I see now is awesome.
What do you want in a man?
It has to do more with his personality. He must have a great sense of humour; he must be a god-fearing person; he must be clean and I don’t like men who have body odour. You must have a sense of direction.
Why do you keep changing your style?
You can call me a fashion Chameleon. I don’t like to bore myself or my fans and I dress based on my emotion and environment. At the moment, I just want to be graceful with my style. I am also working on my album and it is titled King of Queen. It is a man’s world and the only way to succeed is to do it like a man; and the way to do this is to also look like a woman because you are a woman. So, I am trying to bring out the feminine side of me as well as my masculine side.