Jesse Jagz is an award-winning rapper, singer, producer and songwriter. During an award ceremony in Soweto, South Africa recently, Jesse Jagz, 30, opened up to FUNSHO AROGUNDADE on why he left Chocolate City, his new album Thy Nation Come and what he thinks about marijuana
Your new album Thy Nation Come has been acclaimed to be too spiritual. Could you explain the direction Jesse Jagz is going?
I see myself as one who is more into music and less of a celebrity. I do my music for ordinary people who hustle everyday and not people who have a nice life and enjoy all the luxury of life. For me it is not about the message because I can not really write the things that I really want to write. It is more about the spirit and soul of the song. When you listen to them, there is always something that will make you want to think more and reflect on them.
How has the feedback been?
It has been amazing because I put in a lot of work and having people listen to and appreciate it has been very encouraging.
Unlike what many of your colleagues do, you had a free album launch at the Afrika Shrine recently. What informed this?
The launch was free because I would rather prefer to have people listen to the music and like it than asking them to pay. If they like it, they can take it up from there. More so, we make music, first for the people and not specifically because of the money we want to make. Everything I do is people-oriented because I know that at the end money will surely come. I quite understand that this is business but the people who will listen to the music should also be considered first. The people make it happen, so it was just a way of taking the music back to them. I do not think it is right to just bill people to come listen to your music when they are yet to accept it. But if you live in a third world country, what do you expect? Money is more important to most people. For me, it is about remembering the things that are important. If I wanted to have tables for N1million or N500,000 I could, but then, why should I do that? I have made the music for the people so; they do not need to pay me to come listen to me. That happened to be my own publicity for them.
In your Redemption Song’s video, you are seen puffing out thick smoke from a hand rolled wrap of we.ed suspected to marijuana. What message are you trying to pass across?
For me, that scene was just a way of pushing people’s perception about some certain things. It was just about making some people feel uncomfortable. People sing a lot about love but can they love as much as an armed robber? Segregation leads us nowhere so the we.ed was just to offend people’s thinking.
Don’t you think people will see it as promotion of we.ed?
I do not see anything wrong with we.ed; just the same way I do not see anything wrong with money or women. I just think anything done in excess is bad. However, if I have never married before, I cannot say anything about marriage whether it is right or wrong. It is about someone else’s life. To those who smoke, some condemn the area boys (social miscreants) and see them as smokers, though certain steps and experiences may have led them there. So who am I to judge anyone? If I was born on the streets of Lagos, probably I would have been an area boy too. None of us is better than the other. That is life. Yes, I have spoken about marijuana in my music. However, every other artiste have made allusion to marijuana in more demeaning and derogatory ways than I have. Others have sang ‘Give me the lighter; pass me the ganja’ but my own message is not about that. People should listen to the message in my music not the marijuana. If you really listen to the truth in my music, you will not have a problem with the marijuana in my music. I am not promoting or condemning people who use it but I guess everybody wants to evade the truth that I talk about in my song.
So, do you smoke we.ed?
I have stopped answering this particular question because I do not want to take it personal.
But smoking cannabis is illegal and you do this in a recorded video.
Like I said earlier, I knew that I was going to offend some people with the smoke scene. I have not done anything illegal. My management and I sat down to push this image graphically irrespective of what people were going to say about the music and the image.
A lot of people were surprised about your decision to quit Chocolate City. How easy was it?
It was not really about me, I made the move because of the music. They (Chocolate City) are a business company and I am a musician. At some point, I had to choose what was more important to me, music and not money, because I am not a businessman. That was the major reason I left the label. Secondly, Chocolate City was just like a drop in the ocean of my life. I felt as if the whole of my career was being boxed around Chocolate City. It was looking like ‘our’ thing and I was not being myself anymore so I needed to move out for the sake of my music.
Was your elder brother, M.I. aware that you were taking such a decision at the time?
He was aware but I did not really inform anybody before taking the final decision. I did not want to mix family with business. When I signed, I did it alone so if I was to take any decision, there was no need to tell him so that people do not ask my brother to come and beg me. M.I. will always be my brother irrespective of what I did.
Were you shocked that Brymo also left few months after yours?
I was not shocked because I was aware that they had been having some issues and thus been discussing back and forth. But I was taken aback a little bit when it eventually happened.
Some people have labelled you guys as rebels. Do you think that tag is fair?
I like to be called a rebel. Musicians are rebels and music itself is rebellious to the human psyche and consciousness.
You have been busy lately as a singer. But you are vast as a producer, how much of that are you doing lately?
I stopped producing for a while now because I had to work more on my album. Even after I was done with the album, I still chose to slow down. For now, I am just producing myself.
Are you not challenged by the new wave of young producers coming into the music industry?
There is no problem at all. I do not think I am missing out on anything in anyway. I still produce and write. Production is very emotional for me, not just for the money. I like to find space for myself and focus on what is really important, so that is the more reason I have had to cut off the extra appendages. I cannot produce everybody, so I just try to do what I have to do, very well.