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By Joseph Akahome
The name Adewale Adepoju may not ring any bell to lovers of music in Nigeria, but mention ‘W4′, and there is more than a flicker of recognition in the eyes of many youths who follow and enjoy urban Afro pop music. This Osun State native is currently the rave of the moment especially with his latest track, a hit single titled ‘Kontrol’.
W4 a.k.a ‘Mr. Wonder’ is steadily garnering attention from fans and others alike especially with his re-branded Fela-esque image even though he has been around the industry for sometime.
In this exclusive chat with NET’s Senior Correspondent Joseph Akahome, he talks about his music, his art, his new image and how he handles the fame and of course increasing attention from women…
What was growing up like for you?
I grew up in a very strict household. My parents didn’t even know I was doing music until my first video. I was involved in a lot of social activities in my secondary school, under curfew you know. I had limited time I needed to be at home, limited time I needed to go out and all that. But I’m an example of a good character, if I may say so. Despite the fact that I was doing music, I never let it get to my head and disobey my parents; because that’s the way I was nurtured.
Your latest single ‘Kontrol’ is currently in heavy rotation in clubs and enjoys regular airplay both on the radio and television. Is this the kind of music you’d be doing now, or simply put, how would you describe your kind of music?
Well, basically, I do R&B, but on my sophomore album which I am about to drop soon, you’ll find a lot of Afro influence in. Basically, after I debuted my first album ‘Temperature’ in 2005, which had the big hit, ‘Solo‘, I was on tour in Europe under the Hypertek umbrella. And while I was touring the world, going to different countries, I used that time to re-think my strategy, on my music, brand and even personality. So basically I came up with the idea of infusing Afro into my music, my art and my dress code, in fact, into my entire persona. So, yes, to an extent, the music has been influenced by the great Fela Anikulapo Kuti.
Indeed it has, at least judging by the new W4 look. Tell us about the costume..
Well I’d say it was of course inspired by Fela, and remains essentially the same, but with a little innovation on my part. Whereas Fela’s pants go all the way down, mine don’t. Fela’s pants don’t come with pockets, unlike mine. And my shirts of course is a bit different. If you call me a ‘trendy’ Fela, I wouldn’t mind much, because I have made so many youths come to love and identify with the Fela brand.
So would one be right to assume you are trying to bring this neo-Afrobeat back to the mainstream?
Afro never died, just like Fela never died, despite the fact that he is not here with us physically. So his relevance in music and the struggle is very much felt. But I am not trying to imbibe the whole Fela persona or character; I’m just mixing that with my R&B style. And you know the word is ‘innovation’, don’t forget, I do music and the business of music. I have love for the art and when you’re doing a business you need to create the right product, the right brand. And for me, creating this brand has given me a bigger niche in the industry and I’m being recognised faster now, if you even see my shadow, you’ll know I’m the one!
So far, how has the new image been accepted?
Of course a lot of people, especially the young ones appreciate it, even those who had not really heard of Fela or encountered him before now. They now take time out to study Fela a bit you know, to understand where I’m coming from. But they are already loving it, I blended the brand perfectly, colours, costume, you know, so yeah, they accept and enjoy it.
Has there been any word from the Kuti family, positive or negative, concerning your look?
The Kuti family and I have good rapport, especially after the release of the Kontrol video. I’ve met with all of them and it’s been good understanding between us. In fact they are proud that someone else is carrying on their father’s legacy and doing it well and they are proud of it.
Okay, so far, has it been so good for you, in terms of the monetary benefits?
Well the brand is fresh and as far as money is concerned, well what can I say? We thank God (laughs).
How has the reception been from the ladies?
Well it’s been fun all the way, the love from both the male and the female fans has been awesome. But let me tell you, if the male fans are going gaga over the brand, you can imagine the reaction of the females. But basically I don’t segregate; putting them together makes me who I am, so yes, I got love for everybody.
What’s the craziest experience you’ve ever had with your female fans?
Well, and this was before even ‘Kontrol‘. I remember a show where I performed in UNILAG, quite a while back, and as I got into the crowd, a couple of ladies just made straight for me and dipped their hands into my pants and grabbed my crotch! I’m telling you. Now with the Fela persona and all, I’ve had ladies all trying to get a feel of me because my pants are a bit tighter and they think what they see here (motions towards his pubic area) is probably stuffed. I mean, dem go just put hand there dey feel am. I surprise no be small, because I even know some of the ladies but never thought they could do that. Some of dem na (Sound) Sultan de tell dem say I put foam there! (General laughter)
What was your reaction when you were groped during the performance you just mentioned?
I didn’t panic or anything, I kept doing my thing, I be man na! (Laughter around).
Okay, ‘Kontrol’ to a lot of people means many things but many opine that it is sexually suggestive. What do you mean when you say ‘Omoge wa gba Kontrol’?
Well, Kontrol is a normal slang that has been around. To me, it just means good things. Everybody needs ‘kontrol’, I do, you do, everybody, even (President) Jonathan sef need ‘kontrol’. When performing this song, I make the ladies forget whatever problems they may be facing and use ‘kontrol’ as an outlet for them to unwind.
Is W4 in a romantic relationship, or are there any signs the wedding bells may be ringing anytime soon?
No, and I don’t have any plan of going into such for now. My fans are my priority, so for me, a long term commitment or marriage is not in the cards for now.
So who are you working with on your second album?
Well, this my second album, which I titled ‘Mr Wonder’, features young and capable hands, very vibrant hands. I’m working with a lot of talented people, like J Fem, who created the Kontrol beat. Very fresh and vibrant. I also have J Sleek, Jiggy jeg, you know, a lot of them. Basically this album should be able to have something for everyone, both young and old.
If you weren’t into music…
(Cuts in) if I wasn’t a musician, I’d be a doctor. No doubt I’d have been a doctor; I always had a passion for that. But anyway, I am already a doctor, seeing as my music heals souls.
The concept for the ‘Kontrol’ video is unique. Was it your idea from the start, what you visualised when you recorded the song?
Initially we (W4 and video director Clarence Peters) had a meeting where we discussed this. You know I’m the brand and I wanted some things to be in the video. I had a lot of concepts but I had to seek the director’s take too, you know, to bring his professionalism to bear. So me and Clarence (Peters) sat down and came up with what you will agree is a perfect video. Already, the song has picked up an award, the NMVA for best Afro video last year (2011), less than a month after the release of the video, so of course, it is sure going places.
So, looking ahead, what are the plans for the future, local and international collaborative efforts and all?
Of course I will be doing one or two collaborations, both internationally and back home, but you know, just keep your fingers crossed and watch as things happen. This is very important to me you should watch out for me, as I constantly continue to re-invent myself to bring out the best, even sixty years from now.
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