Taken From National Mirror Newspapers.
He is simply known as Mr. Kool and has being in the music industry for over a decade. With his second album which is about to be repackaged, Mr. Kool has shown that indeed, he has arrived in the industry, and intends to stay.
Wanted by both girls and guys, Mr. Kool is the guy with that cool voice who sings to bring peace to people’s hearts and lives.
In this interview with UZEZI EKERE, over a plate of fufu and Egusi soup in a restaurant at Maryland, Lagos, where he spotted a blue body hug top and jeans, Mr. Kool spoke on his work, his love and passion for it and women. What’s more, he reveals the fact that guys actually chase him and that it is embarrassing.
Is there any particular reason why you like dressing in white in your videos?
Yes, I’ve always loved white, because it signifies purity. I’m not saying I’m pure, but I’m pure in spirit. I think I’m almost a perfectionist and when you are talking about perfection, it doesn’t mean you are perfect, but you smell perfection. And when something is spotless, it’s got to be white. So I think that’s what inspires my dressing in white.
Why do you always shoot a movie in your music videos?
I like to build a little level of suspense, something you probably wouldn’t think would come, until it starts to unfold. When you watch the new video Trust, you wouldn’t start to imagine what would come at each stage. That song talks about a relationship between a guy and a girl who are constantly suspecting each other, but at the end they find out it was about nothing, because when it unfolds, the viewer would actually see the distrust. You will see the doubt and distrust, things you believe are like this and at the end of the day it’s not. The fact about my movies in the videos is that I write a lot. I develop stories, scripts and I always try to build a little bit of intrigue, a little bit of suspense in everything I do.
You said you write a lot. What do you write?
Stories. I write scripts for my videos, I write concepts for commercials, I write a whole lot of stuff I have not started to use yet. I’ve been writing a movie for a while now but I have not had the time to finish it because when you are a deep person, you get so much stuck trying to break your own puzzle, like you plan and plan and it runs into a jam. I just keep writing and I have a gallery where I put them. Somebody I’ll need them.
From what you are saying, I can tell you give your director advice on what you want in your videos.
Yes. Word for word; I mean he brings in his own interpretation I must say. Sometimes I bring mine and tell him to play around with it, but when I’ve got a message to deliver, I conceive it. We have to understand too, at times that when you are doing something, you are the one who has got a strong passion for it. The director might have been working on some juju or gospel video before yours, so he is not as dedicated to your work as you are. He may not be able to interpret it the way you would, but when you explain to him what you want, you’ll get the best, because it is his interpretation of the story that makes the video.
You have a second album in the market now right?
Yes. My second album – Still Kool.
How would you rate the success of your first album?
Then, I was trying to make my impression felt. I think very successful. Market place, Alaba arrangement – not very successful. But first of all, my first album never got into the market. It was just in some strategic shops. It was an album that established that certain things could be done in Nigeria. I made videos back then that people didn’t believe where shot in Nigeria. And today, we have a lot of these very good videos which people thought were impossible back then. To convince reporters that my videos were shot here, I had to tell them to watch, that they would see a molue passing. So most of the time, my focus is on longevity. Like they say, it’s not how quick you rise, but how long you last. The second album is doing better and I’m so happy for that, despite the fact that the songs in the first album are friendlier. I’ve never been a runaway commercial artist, whose songs are chanted to all and everyone sings along with. No, that’s not me. What I try to express most of the time is have patience, sit down, and make music. I write words you can learn from and not just chanting for people to repeat what I’m chanting without knowing what it means. Though I have nothing against those who do it, but this is who I am and what I do.
That means you are not doing music to make money, right? Because commercial music sells like the spread of fire?
First of all, I’m doing music to make money, but I don’t want to compromise the art. There is something you call the art of music, but because so many people have broken all rule, sang off key and sold, does not mean everybody should sing off key. I am here to make money from music without compromising the art. Besides that, I do other things that bring in money.
Let’s look at the music industry. How have you contributed to the growth of Nigerian music, and how has the industry affected you?
Okay. To all those that know and those who don’t, we had a group – two Nigerians and two Americans – and we released the first hip hop album ever made in this country. The group was Sound on Sound. Back then, there was nothing like hip-hop. Rapping was like a crime; nobody thought it would work. So far, we cleared the path, suffered the rejection and all, but people followed the path. It’s like you cut through a bush, but people coming behind you walk through a path which is a lot easier.
And also, I’ve always been into R&B. Four years ago, people didn’t R&B had any place. When I came out with breaking ice in 2001, people were like, why do R&B in Nigeria when everybody likes Pangolo music? But today where is R&B? Artistes are doing R&B and people are listening. So I don’t think you will rightfully talk about the story of Hip-Hop and R&B without mentioning Mr. Kool somewhere. Even at this moment, I have many young artistes who bring their work to me. There are loads of people who come to me that they like my work and want to be like me, and follow my footstep. Then I ask ‘are you persevering, would you endure the stress of being who I am?’ It hasn’t been easy, but I have contributed and inspired other young artistes. And I advice them to be themselves, unique no matter what that’s what Mr. Kool has succeeded in being for a long time. He’s not the best, he’s not the worst but he’s different.
So how has the industry affected you?
The industry has influenced me to carry on. That the industry can come of age and be what it is today means there is room for greater things to come. It has helped me reposition myself in that I put in extra effort to still hold my own.
Tell us about yourself?
I am Alex Ibeh. Simple and sophisticated and I’m in my thirties. I like intelligent conversation because I’m a deep person. I like to know everything about everything. I am from Imo State; from a family of a lot of academic people who believe in if you are not sound, you are not sound; no room for half measure. My dad is late. My mum is living. I’ve got brothers and sisters. I am married with three incredible children. I think I am a very blessed man and I’m easily content because I don’t need to have everything in the world, but I am happy and basically, my soul is music.
The artiste who braids his hair, has a tattoo, wears an earring. Why does some fraction of the society spell that as irresponsibility?
I wouldn’t say that is irresponsible. Maybe I was too responsible and needed something to burn me up a little. It is the same way people look at the entertainment industry and term it an irresponsible one. It is so because we are in the spot light. My braided hair, my tattoo, my earrings changes nothing about who I am. It’s an image, just an outward appearance. I know people that are totally irresponsible but they are in the noble profession. First of all, people look at artistes and they have an already set impression. Some girls would never date a musician or marry one, but it is who you are that matters. What you are does not make who you are. At a time when I was younger, I was always looked at as the cute little one, so I rebelled. I wanted to look nasty and rude and wild, I had to do something and that’s when the braiding of my hair came, then the tattoo. I was getting bored with the smooth cool look and wanted to be a little bit rugged.
There has been this talk about Mr Kool being gay?
Okay. You can make it your headline I am not Gay and never have been. Its unfortunate that a lot of bad come with the good, like they say about the blessing and the curse. Sometimes you look a particular way and people say all sort of things. Guys send me text messages, I can show you, so I know we have them in Lagos and it puts me off.
Girls admire you a lot don’t you feel flattered that guys admire and want you too?
No! I don’t feel flattered, I feel stupid. There’s been someone actually on me for a very long time. I don’t know who he is and he’s embarrassed to show himself and I ask him if he is sick? I am too much of a male but they don’t want to know. I mean there are too many beautiful women to be gay. When I get all these messages from guys, I really feel embarrassed. They say this guy is very fresh and all that like you are some toy. So it goes back to what I said about when I was younger and having people look at me in a certain way and I’m trying to find a way to put it off. So, if there are people out there who are hoping I’m gay – I’m sorry. I feel their pains.
At the end of your new musical video ‘Trust’, you kissed a girl, and there is this talk in town that it is causing problems in your home?
That’s another source of controversy. Some people have listened to the song and they say it’s a personal experience. Some say maybe I was having problems in my relationship about trust. But that song is about everybody who has been in a relationship at one time or the other, who has been in a situation of distrust. Actually, it’s partly about an experience, so I was writing as an artist and out of experience. It’s a deep song and it had to be interpreted well. People ask me what inspired the song, because it’s about love and all of us. It’s a whole lot of issues concerning love and relationship in any album because I always say that even if it is good to talk about bad road, bad government, stealing money etc there are people whose major problem is being happy; how their emotional life can be fixed, find a good partner that can last. So I’m trying to feel that little gap of healing the heart.
How does your wife react to all this?
She knows that a job has to be done. When I did A Man’s Cry, she saw the rushes before anyone else. What she saw is actually more than what the public saw; because we had to do it again and again and edit for the Nigerian market. We actually cut when the lips touch, we don’t let it go all the way, but I believe everything has to be real. When you have a job to do, you have a job to do and you interpret the script, and she understands me. She knows who I am and the fact that I have a lot of female fans, and even her own friends. I’ve known her for a long time you see. I entered the industry quite young and started getting the female attention at an early age, so I don’t get carried away now. It’s not a big deal anymore. And I most say: I love my female fans; I swear, because they are very reliable. You can depend on women any time. I dedicate all I do to them, I’m sorry but that’s the truth. They can bring their husbands and boyfriends along, but it’s all dedicated to my female fans.