Nigerian Singer, songwriter, and recording artiste, Olanrewaju Fasasi, best known by his stage name, Sound Sultan, is regarded as one of the pioneers of hip-hop music in Nigeria.
His showbiz career began in the 1990s when he hosted shows in order to raise money for studio sessions.
By 1999, he had won numerous local talent-hunt shows and released his monster hit, “Jagbajantis” in 2000.
After independently releasing other singles and featuring in hit songs of other artists, Sound Sultan was signed by Kennis Music.
More than 20 years after he launched his music career, the 43-year-old musician remains relevant in the industry. Here, he tells PREMIUM TIMES about the journey so far
PT: You recently released your eighth album. How do you feel?
SOUND SULTAN: It’s a great feeling when I have to share something good with my fans at a time like this. You know, with the situation of time we find ourselves. A lot of songs will do justice to how a lot of people are feeling, and it is good for the time regardless of the situation.
PT: You launched the album on YouTube, was it a weird experience for you?
SOUND SULTAN: I had already booked a venue and everything. I already paid for some technical partners. So, when the lockdown was on, I had to think fast, I had to do something virtual and at least get the fans informed to let them know that the album is out. It was really a great challenge and when the opportunity came for me to do that thing, it was welcome. It was a welcome idea because it was a novel idea. Just a way of us thinking forward. It is a new reality that we have to adapt to.
PT: COVID-19 has not been fair to the entertainment industry. How can Nigerian musicians and entertainers stay afloat and break even this season?
SOUND SULTAN: They have to pay me for that, for consultation. It is another idea. You don’t give ideas for free. A lot of people that get things for free, for cheap or for favour do not appreciate it. Let them come and pay me. If you are a label or a new budding artiste and you are reading this, come and I will give you the code and the koko (the real deal). That’s another way of diversifying. Your network is your net-worth.
PT: With the situation of things, are you worried that artistes might be unable to hold a concert in the next two years?
SOUND SULTAN: People do stuff online already like virtual parties here and there. There are things that you can do, the sponsors are still there. I have my ideas, I don’t want to share it with the world. There is a new reality on the ground, look at what Big Brother is doing, the online audition, it’s a new reality. You have to tap into that. They need to start looking at new things, there are new innovations and challenges bring about new innovation. This is the best time for great thinkers to do the best things differently. That is what I see. You just need to start thinking around situations and by God’s grace, ideas will come.
PT: Why do you think record labels fail in Nigeria. Where do you think we are getting it wrong?
SOUND SULTAN: Failing is a strong word. When you say record labels failing, I don’t want to look at it like that because it’s a worldwide situation. Bigger labels are the ones affiliating themselves with those smaller ones to make things work.
Unlike Nigeria, the labels spend a whole lot of money and I think some of them bite more than they can chew sometimes. Musicians take advantage of the labels sometimes.
I know a label that spends more than a hundred million on an artist throughout his tenure. Think about it, if you spend that kind of money, would you be lenient when the musician says he wants to walk away? This is what I tell a lot of people, they should not spend too much on a musician. Let the musician grow organically. Let him or her be responsible for the growth.
Then they should know that they are more like partners in this business. Record labels aren’t failing, some musicians are so unprofessional. So many things are involved and there is no law to uphold it. You cannot blame the artiste or the labels. I don’t like thinking like an artiste sometimes because so many people also invested in me.
I know how painful it is for someone to invest in one person without knowing what will happen tomorrow.
You don’t need to think like a musician even if you are an artiste, knowing that equity is all that matters and not how much manpower you are putting into in. The people that write for you, the people that you carry along with you, let them also have a stake in your success or wealth when it comes in, so we will know you are being fair on both sides.
PT: Are there sanctions for violating these contracts?
SOUND SULTAN: Before you can uphold the law in some cases, it will turn into a battle of the underdog and the oppressor and people will start public preaching while the family will beg. I know a female musician who wrecked her career because a label splashed so much money on her. Before you sign any musician, you need to take care of some things and who wants to do that? I am talking like ten years ago so imagine doing that for all artiste, it won’t be favourable.
PT: Do you think you are underrated as a singer?
SOUND SULTAN: No, I don’t think so and I will explain. Is oxygen underrated? Is it spoken about every day? I rest my case.
PT: How would you describe your music?
SOUND SULTAN: My music is my story. When you listen to me sing or talk, you can tell that I have been influenced in the direction of that song so I don’t think I am singing fiction every time. Sometimes, I can give you a part of the speech that will look like art or a picture.
PT: You have been in the industry for twenty years. What is your secret?
SOUND SULTAN: I have managed. It has really been God all this while. A year in music is like twenty years in real-time because every song has three months of life span. If you don’t put a strong topic or reason behind the song, the song will go with the season. Like my ‘Motherland’ song, I don’t remember the number of times I listen to it, when I am home or abroad.
The inspiration has been great too and God has been able to breathe life into my music and God has been able to help me till now. The first thing is that if there is no life, what are we talking about? Alhamdulillah. And if the voice then goes, the people will be like “that time when this guy voice dey sweet” and then the love is there and it’s just like the love originated from heaven.
I would never trade the respect I have for anything, I would never trade the respect I command as an artiste, a person, as an individual in the industry, I would never ever trade it for one billion dollars because it is inexhaustible and I can always tap into it and get anything I want.
PT: Do you have any career regrets and what would you do differently if you began your career all over again?
SOUND SULTAN: Absolutely no regrets and there’s nothing at all I will like to do differently.
PT: Do you feel threatened by younger artistes?
SOUND SULTAN: Maybe if they put a gun to my head.
PT: How have you managed to stay scandal-free?
SOUND SULTAN: I use humility in paying my ransom, so anyone that has dirt on me will just look at me like “that guy is not like that, let’s just consider him.”
PT: Your hit single, ‘MATHEMATICS’ turned twenty this year, how do you feel knowing that some of the issues you addressed in that song are still relevant two decades after?
SOUND SULTAN: I feel sad. I don’t want to be making money from the ills of society. I am not like that. The song was meant to raise awareness and correct some things, that does things are still happening twenty years after makes me sad. That song should have gone extinct by now, but some people have made sure that the song will be evergreen.
PT: Do you have any plans to remix the song?
SOUND SULTAN: I do a little remixing whenever I am on stage and it is called further mathematics. I have also done a remix of some bits of the song with Johnny Drille and its included in the new album. I will be remixing others, that is what I told a lot of fans that asked when I’d do a remix of the songs, that is what I will do definitely.
PT: What will you say is the biggest blessing for Nigerian musicians?
SOUND SULTAN: The blessing is that we have plenty of numbers here and nobody can ‘shakara’ us anywhere in the world because our people will support us.
PT: Talking about numbers, where do you think young musicians are getting it wrong in their careers?
SOUND SULTAN: I don’t know how you want me to answer this o because they are doing too good. I think these artistes are doing well, just that content-wise, they can improve.
PT: Even their lewd lyrics and raunchy music videos?
SOUND SULTAN: They are the mirror image of the decaying society. The society was not as decayed when we were there, we were the mirror image of the society at that time. The moment the society itself frowns at that, it becomes less commercial, but if it is commercial and it is bringing money to them, they will continue doing it.
If tomorrow, the society frowns at all those things, trust me the people that are even sponsoring the artiste will start telling them, “sing in this direction, go like this.” because they know that is the only way they can make money.
But now, when you sing a song with sense, nobody buys it, and they don’t even want to hear.
These days, sponsors even tell artistes to sing commercial songs. Even me telling a boy what to sing, he will be like, “Baba you don’t understand because you don make name now.” So, a lot of them don’t want to take that risk.
PT: Any advice for newbies in your industry?
SOUND SULTAN: Right now before you get popular, take note of the people that make you happy and the things that make you genuinely happy. Your desires in life, write them down and remind yourself every now and then.
When you get popular, you forget your values, you won’t start chasing validation from people that don’t care about you. People that will jump from you to the next hot thing.