Africa: I had to steal uniform to go to school- Skales
Raoul John Njeng-Njeng otherwise known as Skales rose to fame amid thorns and thistles. But not too long into the hustle, he became an ambassador to MTN. The songster speaks to LANRE ODUKOYA about how he struggled to get an education, living without a father, why and how he was frustrated at Banky W’s Empire Mates Entertainment among several other revelations.
Is it true that you left rap music because you could not make succeed in it?
The reason I switched my sound is because I travelled round the world and I saw that hip hop is not our culture. Our thing is more of afro beat, a sound the late Fela Anikulapo-Kuti created. That travel experience opened my mind to many things and it changed my style. Right now, I do more of happy music, a sound that changes the mood. You could play my music in parties and still have one or two messages. I even rapped in most of the hit songs I did in the past. I never left rap and I still compose rap songs as I speak to you. I am a businessman who is trying to make money, so I do not see myself as a rapper alone; I see myself as a full musician. I make music and I write for people too.
How did you come about your new single, ‘Temper?’
Most songs I do not take seriously are often accepted by the public. When I recorded ‘Shake Body,’ I hated the song so much. I appreciate DJ Kentuckey, who said if I did not drop the song, I was a fool. I planned to drop another song and my ex-manager had approved it also. But at my 22nd birthday party, I played ‘Shake Body’ and everyone liked it. I told them it was done by an artiste; I wanted to know their sincere views about the song. That was the defining moment for me. For ‘Temper,’ I had an issue with my female friend and I started joking, singing “baby cool temper, baby no debate” And there was Fela’s song playing at the background. After releasing the song, many people reached out to me for a remix. But everyone knows that Burna Boy is my favourite artiste in Nigeria. I called and sent him the beat to create his part. But he did something else and insisted it should be left like that. He took it to another level that blew my mind. He took it to the streets.
Some have alleged that you love to court controversies…
Everybody knows I am a very cool person. I just wake up and see stories I do not know about. There was a time I woke up and heard that a lady was pregnant for me. But the person did not show herself even when we sent out messages to the source. I was 16 years old when Banky W signed me and those days were like a learning period for me. It was something that I was not ready for. I was just a talented boy that Banky tried to groom. I learnt most of the things I know now from him and I still learn from him. But like 2baba and MI said in a song, ‘if no one talks about you, then you are nobody,’ I am used to it now. I am, however, more careful of what I do. I am not an ordinary person anymore, and whatever I do, people take note. Most people just like to have fun by attacking me on social media. I call it a compromised love. But it is good because it means that they have me in mind. I used to take things personal but I am growing every day.
Do you have a ‘baby mama’ like some of your colleagues?
No, I do not have any. I do not live a reckless life. I am a lover boy, I stick to one woman. But now, I am more focused on how to take my career to the next level.
How did your background influence what you do today?
People do not know that I came from a very humble background. My mother was a teacher, her salary was very poor. Basically, I struggled through education all my life. It got to a point I had to look for money to pay my school fees. My bursar, who is late now, was also helpful at a time because she felt I was intelligent and had a great future ahead of me. It is painful I never got the chance to say thank you. I am an only child and my mother is supportive of my music. She wanted me to go to school and get a degree. I did get two degrees: banking and finance from University of Jos, while I obtained another degree in business administration at Leads University, Ibadan.
Where is your father?
I do not know really. My father left us when I was six, so it was basically my mother and I. I actually do not care if he reaches me or not because I am used to my mother playing his role. If he even comes now, it would be a weird situation for me and I do not want that. I do not have anything against him. I have forgiven him; he only has to settle with my mother. I am a grown man now, and hopefully in the next 10 years, I would start my family too.
How did growing up without a father affect you?
There was a time I used to envy my friends who had great and supportive fathers. I have cried many times. But my mother did a great job in ensuring that I had everything I needed. Even when people try to play fatherly figure in my life, it looks strange to me because I do not know how it feels like. Definitely, my mother is one of my biggest inspirations in life. She taught me that I should always provide for and be there for my family when I grow up.
Can you recall some things you went through before stardom?
Like I said, my father left us when I was really young; I do not even know what he looks like. My mother and I were sleeping in a shopping complex at a time. I am talking about primary and secondary school days in Kaduna. Then, the only hope for me was music. At some point, I told my mother I wanted to work and support her. I was chased out of school because I did not pay school fees. I had to steal uniforms because mine was bad, and I would tell my mother I saved money for it.
Also, my mother would go to my friends’ houses to do their laundry, which was embarrassing to me. I had to deny my mother. I also did not let my friends know where I lived because most were children of politicians. When I told my mother I was moving to Lagos, she asked me to finish my university education in Kaduna. But I convinced her I could cope. From Kaduna to Lagos, I got a free ride and the first place I stayed was Orile. I lied to the person that gave me free ride that I would stay with him for a couple of days and it turned in to months. He later started a label with some friends; they knew some people but it was not easy. I later met Banky W at a show at Silverbird Galleria, Lagos. Before the show, nobody knew me, but I thrilled the audience and MI performed too.
At what point did you get signed up by EME?
I met Wizkid in a show too and we got talking, although we were not really friends. He then sent me a message that Banky saw me in a show and he would like to meet me. I told them that I did not have any money. They sent me some money and that was it. It took months for us to reach a conclusion. The agreement was that they would introduce me, but the main focus was Wizkid. I dropped a single, but they couldn’t push it and people thought nothing was happening to me. I did a lot in Wizkid’s first album. I wrote a couple of songs and I never got credit for that. Things are fine now and we are all successful in different ways. If I could be signed by MTN twice, what else is success.