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Exclusive Throwback : An Interview With Nigeria’s foremost Gospel MC Rhymsta (RHYMESTAR-A)

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Bola Babs:     How did you come about your stage name, RHYMSTA?

AKIN ASALU:     A friend of mine gave me the name in 1990, during that time I was with a rap group called psycho brothers, we were the first rap group inNigeria before I went solo.  We were simply looking for a name that would be befitting for me as a rapper.  We needed something that would rhyme, so my friend gave me the name RHYMESTAR – A.  I liked it and it stayed.  Overtime, I dropped the A, then the STAR as people were finding it difficult to pronounce.  However, it has changed over the years and now my stage name is simply spelled RHYMSTA.

Bola Babs:     Where are you from?

AKIN ASALU:     Osun State

Bola Babs:     How long have you been making music?

AKIN ASALU:     Since 1990, about 21years now.

Bola Babs:     Do you play an instrument? 

AKIN ASALU:     I can play chords on the piano to come up with a tune.

Bola Babs:    What is your favorite cologne? 

AKIN ASALU:     “Dior Homme” by Christian Dior

Bola Babs:     As a child growing up, would you say your choice of music has changed compared to your choice selection as an adult? 

AKIN ASALU:     Growing up, I listened to Michael Jackson.  It was and still a favourite, but today with lots of stuff coming out, I just listen to a lot more variety of great music selection.

Bola Babs:     Did you have a favourite musical icon growing up, perhaps a musical inspiration? 

AKIN ASALU:     Michael Jackson!  Though, it has changed to Dr.Dre, who is more my style of music.  Michael Jackson is pop and Dre is Hip-Hop/ Rap.  Moreover, Dr. Dre is a great producer who makes hits after hits.  He is always on point, most certainly, a musical genius.

Bola Babs:     How would you describe your musical genre to those who have never listened to it? 

AKIN ASALU:     It is Hip-Hop; Gospel-Rap.

Bola Babs:     If you were to summon up your newest album in one word, what would you call it?

AKIN ASALU:     Classic.  You should be able to listen to it everytime, anytime.  And for all the time you do listen to it, you will dig it!

Bola Babs:     Do you sing live? 

AKIN ASALU:     Yes, in church, concerts.

BOLA BABS:     I have had the opportunity to listen to your music.  It was your album –  “A Love Letter to GOD” and in that album was OYIGIYIGI, it was my first time listening to that song(a classic) and it became one of my personal all- time favourite.  What inspired you to reproduce that song though it wasn’t an original piece? 

AKIN ASALU:     It is a Yoruba folk lore, folk song.  My grandmother used to sing that song.  And the feeling I get every time I hear that song, it just had to be included in that album – “A Love Letter to GOD”.  I figured if I can feel the same way about the song every time I hear it, imagine what heaven is like, and imagine what others feel when they listen to it.  It is an ultimate praise song!

Bola Babs:     How do you select you c0-artistes? Are they seasoned artistes?

AKIN ASALU:     They are friends of mine, like-minded friends.  There are many new artists on my track, who are yet to be heard & this is an opportunity for them to get their spotlight.

Bola Babs:     How long did it take you to come up with your current album? How many albums do you have till date? 

AKIN ASALU:     My first album “Surrender” was in 1996.  In 2001, “Love Letter to GOD” was released.  In 2004, “Dig it” was released.  My first single in North America is Superstar, it was released on Tuesday, Nov 15, 2011.  It took me about 2months to complete it.  And my album “Made for the Struggle”

Bola Babs:     Describe what music is to you? 

AKIN ASALU:     It is food for the soul.  Though music means different things to everyone but in any given day, the right song for a not so great day makes your day better.

Bola Babs:      Did you have a nickname in school? What was it and why?

AKIN ASALU:     Yes.  In high school I was nicknamed Shaggy after the character in the cartoon – Scooby Doo.  Shaggy was the owner of Scooby Doo. I was given that nickname because apparently, I walk like Shaggy.

Bola Babs:   What is your favorite dish?

AKIN ASALU:     Pounded Yam with Vegetable Soup or Okra Soup

Bola Babs:   What is your favorite color? 

AKIN ASALU:     Red.  Red states a lot of emotions.  I am an emotional person and in Red, you have every single emotion, Red for Love; Red for danger; Red for anger.

Bola Babs:   What is your favorite ride? 

AKIN ASALU:     SLR McLaren

Bola Babs:     So I take it your car is red? 

AKIN ASALU:     Yes, actually one of my cars, also a favourite is customized, and in red.

Bola Babs:     What 5 words describe and/or summon you up?

AKIN ASALU:     Great! Classy! Emotional! Funny! Aggressive!

Bola Babs:     Is your current and upcoming album a message? 

AKIN ASALU:     It is a message, the time has come for people to recognize the presence of GOD.

Bola Babs:   Who are your target audience? 

AKIN ASALU:     Young People; Unbelievers.

Bola Babs:   What steps have you taken to promote the upcoming release of “Made for the Struggle” on 12th June 2012? Does this date have a special significance?  And is it in any way related to the political history of June 12 in Nigeria?

AKIN ASALU:     I have spoken to record labels; radio stations in North America.  I plan on shooting a video, to be aired in Africa & a tour is certainly coming up soon as well.  The release date has no political affiliation.

Bola Babs:  Are the songs on this album personal testimonies, connections of yours? If so, which ones?

AKIN ASALU:     Yes.  An example of such is a track on the album “Life or Death.”

Bola Babs:      With studio time and all the preparations for release, how is your family coping with this?  Do they support your musical interests?  Does your family share the same passion with you in music? 

AKIN ASALU:     They share the exact same passion as I do in my music.  My family want the album released as much as I do and they are all doing everything they can to support it.

Bola Babs:      Aside from the recent release of your single and upcoming much anticipated album, are there any current/ future projects in the works? 

AKIN ASALU:     Yes, starting a record label, signing other artists.  I am looking to recruit new artists that are ready to go out there with their work.

Bola Babs:     Are there any differences between your previous album and the newest one? 

AKIN ASALU:     It is a new sound, in 2011 music has changed it has taken a different form now – we have got new music.  As a matter of fact, music is the only battle GOD is losing in this world.  Everything else is taking care of by the church through the use of such medium as a pastor, minister or a leader etc.  But with music, there is not enough of gospel music.  However, we have got too much of circular and the quality of circular is way better.  There is not enough effort being put into gospel music.  For example, in awards shows, I did like to see Gospel as a category alongside circular music.  After all, we have got Gospel-Rap; Gospel-Pop etc., so why is Gospel always shoved aside in a category all by itself.  I want to see Gospel R&B competing alongside Beyonce’s R&B.  The only way we can change the power of gospel music is to invest in the quality of gospel music that is being produced.  We need to put in as much effort as the circular music do into theirs in order to be heard as loud and clear out there.  We must create gospel music beyond church borders, because as long as we keep making music strictly for the church by the church, gospel will remain irrelevant.  The bible states in Matthew 9: 12 — it is the sick that needs healing!

Bola Babs:     If you had the opportunity to change the music industry, what would you do?

AKIN ASALU:     I am not going to sit back and say I want everyone to become a gospel musician.  I would say go back to the basis for making good music, it is not everybody that should be making music, even rap was way better before , richer well coordinated now everyone just makes sounds and release

Bola Babs:      What difference would it make to you if music was not a part of your life?

AKIN ASALU:     I would probably be a nerd hanging around computers, writing programs all day long, if I didn’t have music.

Bola Babs:     Do you write your own songs?

AKIN ASALU:     Yes, for sure.

Bola Babs:     How do you get the inspiration to write your own songs?

AKIN ASALU:     From God, I write what GOD says & call it gospel.  I couldn’t write anything else & call it gospel, so it has to be according to what GOD says.  He places a theme in my heart, in most cases they apply to me & it is through what I am going through or overcoming that I generate my lyrics & write them out.

Bola Babs:      How would you describe a successful musical artiste?

AKIN ASALU:     Someone whose album doesn’t fall short of good quality.  It gets better and better after every album.

Bola Babs:     Where do think your largest fan base will be situated and why?

AKIN ASALU:     In Africa, mostly in Nigeria, because that is where I am from and people know the quality of my music over there.  Also, we are also more into gospel.  Over here, in this part of North America, they hate GOD  and come to think of it, that is the more reason why gospel singers strictly sing for the church as they get their acceptance and support within the church, but that is not going to stop me.  I plan on forcing it into their ears – the gospel of Christ needs to be heard.  From observations, I have found people enjoying my tracks over here and immediately they find out it is about GOD, then there is an automatic disinterest.  But, if I were singing about demons, vampires, people would be more accepting of my music here in North America.

Bola Babs:      When one looks at  the cover & title of your latest single “Superstar” which was recently released on   Tuesday, 14-Nov-2011, it appears to be more of  Rap & HipHop genre.  Do you think it could be misinterpreted as non-gospel.   Is there a specific reason why you chose this cover & title for this single ?

AKIN ASALU:    The cover is more about getting an observer to wonder about what I have got to say.  There is a mystery behind that cover, which draws your attention to wanting listen to what I have got to say.  If you notice, I have got 3 different facial shots of me in different angles.  The main one is staring right at you; in the left profile,  I  have got my eyes closed; and to the right profile, I happen to be smiling.  These faces represent the many phases of the life of a Superstar.  While one may be happy; the other may be sad.  But I am a Superstar, a different breed of superstardom.  Although, I understand and experience what other superstars go through, I do so differently because I am with GOD.  For example, one of my profile shots on the cover where I have got my eyes closed can be interpreted to mean serenity.  The title ‘Superstar’ was meant to give the single a flare; it gets you to think about something hype, something flamboyant.

Bola Babs:     How did you eventually decide on the cover and title of the single ‘Superstar’?  i.e. the realization that this is it and nothing else.

AKIN ASALU:      I have been through so much physically and spiritually.  As a man losing his father; as son; a brother; a husband; a father; some could have gone into depression, committed suicide as a result, having gone through so much, but I am still standing and here to testify, that despite all of those things I have gone through, I am still here today.  I have made it through it all, simply because I have been made for it.  So for every challenge that a man faces, that challenge is not meant to take the individual under.  But rather, you have been made to take it under because you are fashioned for the struggle, otherwise that challenge wouldn’t have come your way.  Through my album “Made for the Struggle”…I am a living proof that every challenge faced, I face because I have been made for that struggle and they will see it.

Bola Babs:     What has evolved from the RHYMESTAR-A, the rapper people knew back then, to the RHYMSTA of this revolution?

AKIN ASALU:     The old one (RHYMESTAR-A) is also part of the new one (RHYMSTA) today.  RHYMESTAR-A was a much younger person; not as mature; still evolving and cannot be compared with me today.  This RHYMSTA has been through a whole lot with GOD, has had more experiences, is more spiritual which is the sole basis of what I write today.  This RHYMSTA is certainly the complete package.

Bola Babs:     Besides your music, what is the one other thing you are passionate about? 

AKIN ASALU:     Soccer & European Football…Manchester United all the way!

Bola Babs:     Truly inspiring indeed.  Thank you for being an inspiration.

AKIN ASALU:     My pleasure.


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Comments

comments

One comment

  1. Hi, this is a pretty great interview.
    I\\\’d been trying to track down this artist Rhymestar A and his work for a while now. Does Akin Asalu have a website or a way to contact him? I\\\’d like to get access to his music particularly the first two albums.

    Please holla back.

    Thanks.

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