Sultry songstress, Yemi Alade, has travelled round the world, performing and sharing the stage with top international superstars, such as Mary J. Blige, Shina Peters, M.I, Wizkid, Waje and lots of others. She also headlined the Super Diva’s Nite at the 2013 Calabar Festival, and opened the 2013 Headies Awards, popularly referred to as ‘Nigeria’s Grammy Awards’. In 2014, Alade teamed up with award-winning cinematographer, Clarence Peters, to create a music video for her popular single, ‘Johnny’, which now has over 30 million views on YouTube. ABIOLA ALABA PETERS engages the Yoruba- Igbo born star in a chat on how she started, career and lots more.
Kindly share with us your humble beginnings?
Well, my challenges can’t define another man’s own. You know music is a very intensive financial project. Omo, the hustle tough then oh! Money no dey to even use record the song wey you wan use blow. Then I’d meet with producers, beg them to help out. I’d volunteer to buy fuel for the generator so that at least they can help me do a song; you know that kind thing? However, I thank God for Effizy Music Group for believing in me and investing what they had in my career. Since then, it has been higher and higher.
When and how would you say music started for you professionally?
I have been doing this music thing for like seven to eight years now; I was in a girl group called Naughty Spices and my stage name then was Ginger, but I kicked off my career three or four years ago, just after winning the Peak Talent Show.
When writing your songs, what factors do you consider as source of inspiration?
Everything I do comes from the heart. I always try to make sure that a piece of me reflects in all my songs. Secondly, the producer has to lace a perfect beat that gives the song the direction I want; if it’s a club joint song, I give it the club banger approach and if it’s a ‘silky sheet’ beat, I would give the beat the pillow case and all that’s needed to go with it. Inspiration is from my environment and experiences.
What exactly is the idea behind your breakthrough song, ‘Johnny’?
The inspiration came from an OAP in Abuja who suggested carelessly that I sing a love song for once with someone’s name and I said ok I would give thought to it and it worked out.
What are you currently working on?
I’m seriously busy working; there is so much more for my fans to look forward to.
Kindly share with us your view of the present state of the Nigerian music Industry.
The industry is growing fast and we are close to where we wanted to be. Generally, among ourselves, we need to eliminate the greed factor and start thinking for all of us as brothers, but if we keep thinking about ourselves alone, we are not going to have a system or structure that would work for us. Greed, for example, when I release a song and I put it on iTunes and someone downloads and makes duplicate copies through other means; that’s greed. My album was compiled under four years, that’s four years of work and someone just sleeps and wakes up and sees my link online and starts to share it; that’s wickedness and greed.
Nigerian music industry is majorly dominated by the male artistes, and only few females are at the top, does that put pressure on you?
The pressure is there because I have to keep up with what my male counterparts are doing. It’s also tough and challenging because in Africa, women are always looked down upon. So, there are lots of physical and psychological issues that we tackle as African female artistes, whether you are A List or Z list. Well, I have chosen to be on God’s list.
What’s Yemi Alade’s staying power?
It’s definitely God all the way; day in, day out. And also, I’ve a team that doesn’t sleep. Shout out to Effizy Music Group. Then, also there’s passion because money can’t buy passion.
Give us a list of female singers that inspire you and why?
Well, I have listed them on several occasions; there are just three of them in Nigeria-Waje, Tiwa and Omawumi. Waje is a classic example of a perfect RnB diva, Omawumi is Afro, Tiwa is a perfect Afro Pop singer. But outside the shores of Nigeria, I listen to Maria Carey; her voice is like a projection for me, I always try to match her. I love Beyoncé’s stage craft but I still take it back to Whitney Houston. I also listen to Etta James. I love listening to old songs; so yes, my playlist is long.
Yemi Alade is among the top ten successful music stars in Nigeria and has been endorsed by different brands, but when is she getting married?
Well, God’s time, the best time. Whenever God is ready, I am ready.
You have remained with African hairstyles; would you ever try another style, like Brazilian hair and the likes?
The truth of the matter is fixing of hair is not normal. The normal ones are African hairstyles.
You have maintained a clean slate in an entertainment industry filled with controversies; how have you been making it happen?
I’m just being myself and not going about looking for someone’s trouble.
It has become a trend for some female celebrities to date their male managers and you have been listed to be a part of this, what’s your take on that? Male managers no be human beings?
The managers are there to take care of the careers. But seriously, if I had a female manager, would you be asking me all these?
Did you ever know you’d come this far?
Well, I never knew but all the same, I’m still a pencil in God’s hands. I’m a moving train.
Did the challenges of the past get so bad that you almost thought of quitting?
I have a BSc in Geography. So I told myself, if worse comes to worst; I dust up my certificate and pick up a white collar job. I thought about that alternative several times.
So what actually kept you going then?
God! Then the passion! They kept me going higher and brought me to where I am today.
You are always staying strong, beautiful and elegant, what is the secret?
Na papa God o! I work hard and I drink a lot of water plus I eat right. I also do more of proteins than carbohydrates and I smile always too. 2016 was a fulfilling one for you, as you got endorsed by many brands.
Does it often get to you, making you feel it’s becoming too much work?
No oh! It doesn’t! It’s better to have so much to do than to be idle. And you know one can’t get endorsed by two similar brands at the same time. If after one or two years, your contract expires, then perhaps a competitive brand would want to take over.
What message do you have for your fans?
Thanks for your support and prayers. Continue to believe in Yemi Alade and I promise never to let you all down. The best is yet to come.