Shifi Emoefe of Styl-Plus speaks with OLUSHOLA RICKETTS about his career and relationship with his group members
How have you managed to stay relevant over the years?
Above any other thing, it has been by the grace of God. Before we joined the music industry, we worked very hard in developing and preparing ourselves for the challenges ahead. We made sure that we had key music elements such as the ability to write songs and play instruments. We also tried to make evergreen songs that would stand the test of time. Songs like Olufunmi, Run Away, Ima, Always on my Mind, Imagine That and Four Years, sound fresh anytime you play them. After the release of our renaissance album, Back and Better, in 2008, 2017 was one of the most eventful years of our career. We were signed to a new company, Eskimo Records, and there was a lot of hype and publicity about the deal.
We’ve not really had terrible years as musicians except when Tunde left the group. Then, people had the wrong impression that Styl-Plus was no more. But since we were into other things, it didn’t affect us much.
How many songs did you release last year?
We released only a single, Aso Bora.
Don’t you think releasing just a song in 12 months is too insignificant for the Nigerian market?
At the moment, we are more interested in the music business; we don’t have to release songs every other month. The young musicians may need to do such because they are in direct competition with one another. However, that is not the case for us because we are not competing with anyone. For now, our priority is to make sure that we put out world-class music that can stand the test of time. We are not interested in songs that will be relevant for just three months. Releasing six or seven songs in a calendar year is not our style.
What other business are you involved in?
Earlier in our career, we ventured into real estate and we also did a bit of oil and gas. In recent times, we have been involved in sports management.
Did you come across reports that Styl-Plus is broke?
If one pays heed to the stories that are posted online, you would become very confused. We often read stories about footballers or musicians going bankrupt, but some of them are untrue. When you look at the criteria Nigerians use in assessing wealth, you will find that it is quite superficial. They only visit Instagram pages of celebrities who flaunt big cars, houses and other material things. But we have never done that and we can never do that. I believe many people think we are broke because we don’t do that. I have even seen reports that alleged that one of us had died; so, things like that are not new to me.
What are your plans for this year?
We initially planned to release an album this year, but we later had a rethink. However, we will release about three or four singles. If the singles do well, we can then go to the studio and complete an album. Basically, recording an album depends on the success of our singles.
What has changed about Styl-Plus since Tunde left the group?
Now, it is easier to do music and decisions are being made faster, which is normal. When a group of people do things together, one person cannot make decisions because everyone must be carried along. Whenever we need to travel too, we spend less money on logistics. However, we will always give him credit and I would be dishonest if I say we don’t miss him. He is a good musician who produces, writes songs and plays instruments. With him, our live performances were always exciting and we could do acappella comfortably on stage.
However, Styl-Plus, as a brand, cannot change its sound because we know our strengths and weaknesses. Though we have experimented with other sounds, even when Tunde was around, we came to the conclusion that we should stick to our original sound. We plan to work more with different artistes and producers. We believe working with other artistes with different sounds will make us more flexible.
Why do you think music groups in Nigeria don’t stand the test of time?
It is not just in Nigeria; it happens all over the world. It is difficult for me to answer the question because Styl-Plus has not broken up; one person just left the group. The same thing applies to Boyz II Men; one person left the group. Music groups are not designed to last forever. It is a platform to showcase people and when they get to a certain level, they would want to do things on their own. This happens in business too, not just music. There are many people who started as partners in setting up a company but later went their separate ways.
Do you have a favourite song?
My favourite song is Run Away. When I was writing it, I poured out what I felt at that moment. I also enjoy performing it on stage more than any of our songs.
Do you sometimes wish that you were not famous?
To be honest with you, I am still quite ordinary. No doubt, it is troubling when you see negative and false stories about you, but fame has done more good than bad for me. Also, the way you carry yourself determines the way people treat you. I am like any other person where I live and my neighbours don’t treat me like a celebrity. In the morning and evening, I walk my dog. When people greet me on the road, I return their greetings. But if I am always walking with bodyguards or a team of people, I will make things difficult for myself because it will come with undue attention. People around me appreciate the way I live. Whenever they see my interviews or music videos, they tell me too. Even when Styl-Plus was the biggest music group in Nigeria, I lived an ordinary life. I believe that you need to draw a line between your personal life and the one that you live in front of the camera. When I want to go to the cinema, I go alone and I drive out once I am done. If anybody asks for a photograph or an autograph, I will grant it. It does not take anything from me.
What do you find disturbing about the music industry?
I feel the government is not doing enough to protect artistes. When it comes to royalties, we don’t get what we are supposed to get. As a result of this, artistes have to depend solely on what they make from shows while they are still relevant. Once they retire, problems start. That is when we discover that they are not really making money from their past efforts. If the likes of King Sunny Ade and Ebenezer Obey retire, there is no reason they should be broke. A lot of artistes of our generation will suffer the same ordeal unless something is done about it. I know that the Performing Musicians Association of Nigeria and the Copyright Society of Nigeria are trying their best, but they need the full support of the government.
Do you get royalties on your songs?
We get royalties, but it is less than what we are supposed to make. There are many platforms where people download our music for free. I cannot blame the public. Why do they need to buy songs when they can get them for free?
What are your regrets?
I am not the type who thinks about things like that.
What’s your relationship with your female fans?
That is not a big deal; they are an essential part of what we do. It was not easy when we were younger, but we survived it. Every one of us had committed relationships and we didn’t end up with baby mamas.
Are you married?
No, I am not married. Zeal and Tunde are not married too. We all hope to get married this year.
Are you not under pressure from your parents?
There is no loving parent that will not mention it once in a while, but at the end of the day, you will accept what your child presents to you. If you force him to get married and for any reason, the union ends in divorce, you would feel sad. Inasmuch as they want grandkids, they trust us too. One must not get married to the wrong person as it is also crucial to the future of the unborn children.
Source: Sunday Punch