CHRONICLES OF SAINT SAMI GANJA- SLIMCASE
Dusk silently creeps over an orange sky in Lagos as I pull out my recorder to have a sit-down with Slimcase. I had been trying to figure out a way to put on a crazy facade to keep up with the pace of Slimcase’s established street-filled convo.
Here’s something weird about Slimcase. His calm demeanour became an obvious contrast to the crazy I had in mind. Not long I had to uninstall the crazy persona I had stressed to put on.
To the music industry, Slimcase is anything but standard business. He’s nothing like anyone you’ve ever seen. But he’s different. Everything he does look more orchestrated rather than a spill over of his identity.
Oluwafemi Oladapo Oke-Eko talks about his background, fueling his acts and why the new king of the streets, prefers to be regarded as the Otunba Lamba.
You’re everywhere these days with such a tight schedule; do you ever have time to create new materials?
The materials fuel the show. No material no shows. Recordings are perhaps the biggest part of the hustle. Most of the bookings I get are in the night. That means, I work at night and still go for recording sessions in the morning. I’m basically a vampire! (Laughs.)
All this must be tasking how do reactivate yourself?
It is tasking to be honest. I sleep a little, read some books, check out social media a little to relate with my fans. I always find time to do everything I want to do. It’s just that it has effect on other areas of my life, mostly personal, especially my relationship with my mother and spouse. Time is so scarce.
How is your family relating with the situation?
They understand. The music business is time consuming. The problem is I don’t have enough time. I would have time later. I wish I could add another 24 hours to the day to make it 48 hours. Hopefully, that would be enough. But for now, it is all about the music.
Looking forward, how do intend to balance everything, do have a strategy?
I honestly have no strategy. Lots of new and unplanned stuffs come up every day that requires attention as well. I’ll take it one day at a time.
That’s funny because I was going to ask why your song titles are mostly weird, do you receive them from a fifth dimension?
(Laughs…) I got the inspiration for the title Gucci Snake from the controversial saga at the jamb office where a snake was accused of swallowing thirty-six million Naira. I figured that snake can’t be ordinary; it had to be a designer snake to swallow such amount, hence – Gucci Snake.
If you could be a Gucci Snake capable of swallowing money, how much would you swallow?
How about I swallow where the money is minted – The central bank. You can’t swallow more than that.
Let’s go back to the inception, tell us about your background?
I’m originally from Ikorodu, I rep Ikorodu. But I’ve lived from Mushin to Lagos Island to Surulere doing my hustle. The street is in me. My parents weren’t that buoyant to afford goodies but they taught me the true meaning of hard work and self-worth. I’m probably more grateful now that they (my parents) weren’t rich. There most likely wouldn’t have been a Saint-Sammy-Ganja or a Gucci snake if they had been.
There were speculations that you’re originally an hype man and that you developed your vocal delivery in the process, can you validate that?
I hear that too. The truth is that I have never ever been a hype man in my life. I was however; always awed by the dexterity of these hype men when I go clubs and gigs. They were very charismatic with their talk. I got inspired but then I created my own unique sound. That’s how the drunken styled music act was born.
Did you start out as a singer?
I actually tried to be a comedian. I thought i was funny. I cracked a lot of jokes in front of my friends and they would laugh uncontrollably only to tell me “guy ko funny” (meaning it wasn’t funny). This was about around the turn of the millennium. Would you believe I also tried to be a pastor too? I actually became a cell leader in Christ Embassy and was feeling like Pastor Chris Oyakhilome. I really wanted to be a pastor, but back then, I wasn’t buoyant. As a cell leader, you had to rock suits, be a power giver in the church and several other things. I couldn’t afford these things and then became intimidated by all the big-time members. In the end, I had to move on.
At what point did you decide to settle for music and what series of events gave you the conviction?
I followed the music of the top acts from the 90s in the 2000s but never did it occur to me that I would be a superstar. One day, I watched Dr. Dre Live In Concert with Eminem and Snoop Dogg on a VCD my brother brought home. I was awed by the performance and even more so, the crown acceptance. It mortified me and I believed that registered music in me. I was always a Michael Jackson fanatic as a kid – Grew up listening to him. I even got spanked one time by my mom for watching Michael Jackson videos when I should have been asleep. I would even dream of making a song with Jackson. I thought it would be easy to become a star (Chuckles.) But I’m glad with where I am today. It’s a testament to the fact that I wasn’t wrong to dream.
Your stage name is quite ironic; seeing you’re anything but slim, what’s the story with the name?
Slimcase is just a character. It is an alter ego to my original self. Most people expect to meet a crazy, chain-smoking “Kpelenge” guy only to realize I’m actually a reserved, non-smoking, non-drinking chubby guy.
Are Saint Sami Ganja and Otunba Lamba also alter egos of yours?
Yes. They’re characters inspired from several books I read. They were created intentionally and not just an incorrect “Lamba”. Saint Sami Ganja, which is saint, and the ganja” connotes “the good and the evil.” Similarly, in “Rubylanshi,” the ruby is a precious stone and “lanshi” stands for learn shit. Together it means ruby learn shit which figuratively means Posh becomes street. In fact, Saint Sami Ganja is officially the first “Lamba” in Nigeria, to be launched on Oxford dictionary in London. It’s like an award for me.
People say you’re crazy, do you agree?
I’m quite the opposite. I keep to myself mostly. Crazy is just the business. Most people hope to meet a mad guy but end up disappointed because I’m nothing close to that. Superman is always Clark Kent until there is problem. I’m always Femi until there is a stage for Slimcase to perform on.
When you were coming up, which artistes were source of inspiration for you?
I grew up listening to Michael Jackson. Beyond the music, I always marvelled at the manner at which he did things. People would cry and faint just by watching him perform. That mysterious part always inspires me a lot. I tapped into that mysterious aura.
Do you consider yourself the new voice of the street?
Every street artiste out there is the voice of the street. Olamide is the voice of the street. Reminisce is the voice of the street. Small Doctor, Zlatan, Danny S, Slimcase, we are all the voice of the street.
Who’s the King of the street then?
Man! Its still Olamide. I don’t consider myself the King. Olamide was already a big deal before I started music. That’s why I call myself, “Otunba” and not the “Oba.” I’m here to make a name and good fortune. I have no interest in becoming the King. I don’t want to be involved in a game of thrones (laughs.)
But some might feel you deserve the title of King for the feat you’ve achieve for the last one year?
I don’t know for sure. If it is so, I believe I have to work for it and have a valid proof. I have to work more than I’ve done. That means more hits after hits perhaps even international collaborations. I have to put in all these before I can think of the title of King. If someone told me sometimes ago that Wizkid would feature me on his joint, I wouldn’t have believed. As of now, I happen to be the only street artiste Wizkid has featured on a song. Most others feature him. I have to stay humble. It is very key.
You’ve tried to be a comedian and pastor in the past but music was the curtain raiser, what does music mean to you?
Aside from being a way to tell stories and relate, Music was like a yoke breaker and a way out of suffering for me. Music was the hard way and the only way. It was like a game of chess. I played and I won.
Now that you’re in the spotlight, how does it feel to be famous?
I don’t see myself as a famous person yet, at least not in view of where I am headed. It’s true I can’t just walk anyhow on the streets without being mobbed but that’s nothing compared to where I’m going.
How has fame changed your person?
I feel like a prisoner at times. Fame creates a wall around you. There are things I did before that I am unable to do anymore. My every move is orchestrated to a plan. This famous version of me is like an alter ego. Fame is an act – an expensive act.
Do you feel fame is worth it?
To several extents, it is worth it. It is what every artiste prays for before hitting the big time. The key is to be ready for the challenge. It is damn right challenging.
Let’s talk about your music making process. What are your recording sessions like?
It’s actually simpler than most people envisage. I just sit in front of the mic and request the beat from the producer and it just flows from my head.
So, you don’t get to write any of the lyrics?
I don’t physically write any lyrics. Only artists do that. I don’t consider myself that kind of artist. I see myself more like an industry hype man; at least that is what the act is about. Play the beat; the inspiration starts falling like rain.
Do you see yourself evolving to something different from this in the nearer future?
Sure! Yes! I see myself now, as the new industry Timbaland. You can’t say Timbaland is a full-fledged artiste, but he has his own vibe on every song.
How do you relate the industry hype man act to inspirations from let’s say Michael Jackson?
Its different on the surface. There is a wise adage, which says that everybody that jumps into a river has his or her own intentions. Some jump into the river swim, some to cover their nakedness, some others to drink of the river, while some to defecate. Michael Jackson is like a river. So many people tap into different aspects of him, from his voice, to his performances, to his fashion and his magic. For me, it is the magic that draws me.
How do you know a song is going to be a hit when recording?
I don’t! No one does really to be honest. I just put in my best on all songs like they’re all going to be hits. I’m thankful to God that this year alone, I’ve had about thirty collaborations and twenty of the thirty are well known. From “Oshozondi” to Shepeteri” to “Diet” to “Issa Banga,” all these are super hits.
I knew you were one of the most featured artistes in the past one-year, but with 30 collaborations, I think you are the most featured?
As a matter of fact, I am the most featured artiste in the past one year. Just go to iTunes and you’d be amazed at volume. Additionally, I was featured on all these songs and not the other way around. It is divine grace when I think that I actually haven’t featured any artiste myself.
Which record would you say changed your fortune?
In the streets of Lagos, it was “Oshozondi,” while in the streets of Nigeria, “Shepeteri” did it. “Diet” and “Issa Banga” even took it further to whole different level.
Do you believe in propaganda as a strategy for promotion?
I believe if one becomes famous via propaganda, there’s every chance that the same propaganda will be the one’s undoing. It is difficult to be regarded without the view of the propaganda itself. I don’t subscribe to it at all. You’ll never hear anything propaganda related to me.
What’s the secret behind your energy whenever you’re on stage?
It is mostly in-built. Plus, I learn things from a lot of people. D’banj for instance, once told me that if I can do a class performance and wow the audience, I would perform songs of 4 years and nobody would care. Most times, it’s not all about the songs.
The performances have a way of creating the unforgettable memories. Check out Beyonce’s and D’banj’s performance at the global citizen concert. Epic! It is disappointing when artistes can’t match great songs with great performances.
You get mad love from the streets; how do you relate with the hoods?
The love is pure and I reciprocate because without them, there’ll be no me. Sometimes I disguise and go into the streets to relate with my people and show them love. From those encounters, I pick a lot of stuffs that are very useful to my act.
How much of an impression does education play in the entertainment?
The truth is that education is the best legacy. However, the better legacy is to educate one’s gift because a man’s gift makes room for him. Most often, we spend time educating other areas of our minds and ignore our true gifts in the process. Nothing is more of a waste in this world than time spent on educating what’s not our gift.
What have you learnt about yourself during this journey that up and coming artistes should key into?
Too numerous to mention. Music is about discipline. You have to watch and evaluate every action, from what You say to what you post to what I wear. Everything has to be consciously decided. That discipline to stay focused has been my biggest lesson so far. It really is impossible without discipline.