The legendary Paul Play was the first on the agenda, but thanks to Nigerian internet, we had to cancel and reschedule. Prayers were up to complete the chat with Ice Prince. Sadly, the internet marred the flow of our conversation, but Ice Prince had way too much positive vibes that we couldn’t cancel.
Even though most Nigerians will whip up Wande Coal’s ‘Been Long You Saw Me’ if they were asked to describe Ice Prince with one song, the man has not changed or been away for that matter. He still has a smile on his face, he’s still incredibly positively energized and on this day, he might have saved me from my internet.
Good vibes, songwriters and charity(?)
Through the cracks and strains of a terrible internet, Ice Prince would strain his ears to get my questions and then without the usual frustrations that come with celebrity status. He says, “I can see that (you have bad internet)… Trust me man, I’m also dealing with network issues…”
In that moment, thoughts of Steve Dede’s threat to ‘murder me’ for my bad internet momentarily left my head. Unintentionally, Ice Prince took away the ‘nerves’.
As former Senior Editor of Pulse Nigeria, Ayomide Tayo always says, Ice Prince will never change – he’s always relatable and filled with positive vibes.
I can confirm that those positive vibes are contagious. One of the final questions I asked him was about Ayomide Tayo’s allusion. Ice Prince says, “AOT2! That’s my day zero guy… Even him, the only thing that’s changed about him is the beard. I’ve known him since… He’s always loved Hip-Hop… He’s one of those smart guys.”
Presumably out of a need to avoid the vanity of praising himself, I had to ask him again. “Ice, how have you managed to remain grounded through celebrity and success?” He replied, “I can’t change… I don’t know if I haven’t changed, but I think God keeps me grounded.
“Sometimes, I feel alone because I don’t have a brother. I only have two sisters… My parents are both gone. The people I call brothers are people like Sneaker Boy, DJ Dino and so forth. It makes me lonely, but it reminds me that all I have is God and that keeps me grounded.”
This somehow led us into a conversation about the lockdown and COVID-19. “During this lockdown, I’ve remained indoors. I’ve always been a studio rat, an indoor person. I’ve been watching a lot of stand-up comedy, TV shows like Flatmates and more.
“For me, it’s just a continuation of the process. What’s different now is that I don’t have my producers, writers and so forth. So, it’s hard to make music,” Ice Prince says.
In that split second, the former Vice President of Chocolate City Music admitted the use of songwriters – something that Nigerian artists find very hard to admit.
Ice Prince himself is a renowned writer who has even written for others. He famously wrote the hook on MI Abaga’s ‘Number One’ featuring Flavour, but here he is admitting the use of songwriters.
The BET award winner says, “Songwriting is an art on its own, I’m a songwriter who also writes for other people. No man is an island, you need ideas from other people. Recently, I’ve been with Blaq Jerzee in the studio and he has like a camp of writers, he is a writer himself.
“It’s just awesome. It’s good to have songwriters around, I highly recommend that.”
Ice Prince: The hook god
Still on the topic of writing, if this writer was going to make a hook and he had to choose between rappers, he would choose Olamide or Ice Prince. Asides the already documented excellence with writing the hook on ‘Number One’ for MI Abaga, Ice Prince’s career is filled with amazing hooks.
This hook took him to ‘Particula,’ a song which he probably took from good, to amazing with his incredible hook. Ice Prince talked about that ability, “The hook thing comes from church and listening to a lot of gospel music, Motolani. I’m a church boy and my hook comes from that.
“Gospel music has a lot of harmonies and melodies and all that. Even during the Choc Boiz era, I’ve always been the hook guy and I credit that to church.”
Days before this chat, Ice Prince had engaged in COVID-19 related charity work. He said that the lockdown with COVID-19 is not a problem for people like him, even though it’s a problem. He’s more sympathetic towards people who depend on daily wages and income.
A few days before this chat, Ice Prince was recorded on camera giving out things in some Lagos neighbourhoods. However, he refuses to talk about his charitable cause. He says, “Charity shouldn’t be about showboating.”
“When I do things for people, I hate it when they say thank you. I’m not doing it for them, they deserve it. I can’t help everybody, but the ones I can help, I’ll do my bit. That’s why I can’t talk about that charity. I hate blowing that trumpet. It’s just my philosophy, you should give without expecting anything in return.”
A friend of his childhood, Sneaker Boy attested to this on camera.Ice Prince had seen issues in his life. Both his parents are late and he has two sisters. It’s then arguable that his experiences have changed his life.
Throughout our chat, Ice Prince was smoking up – he even sought permission, “Hey, can I smoke on this IG live?” That was professionalism and humility working, making a superstar ask questions. Nobody would have stopped him from smoking. In fact, if I could, I might have joined him.
While taking puffs and drank what looked like coffee, I sipped water. The idea was to make him feel comfortable. We continued talking and then I mentioned the ‘comeback.’
Comeback, HHP and more
When I alluded to his ‘comeback,’ Ice Prince calmly rejects it with a dismissive smile, “When you guys say comeback, I don’t believe in the word comeback. I don’t buy that philosophy or buy it because as long as I’m alive, I will always make music.
“‘Boss’ might not be as big as ‘Superstar’ or make money like ‘Oleku,’ but I’m always gonna make music. I was meant to be on my second single of the year, but coronavirus wouldn’t let things happen.”
Just after that, Ice Prince teased the details of his huge new record deal. He’s currently managed by Dapper Dam and he says his record deal is currently one of the biggest in Africa. The meaning of which is that Ice Prince is making money.
When you look at it, Ice Prince has not really been away. In 2016, he released the album Jos To The World. In 2017, he released the impressive 8-track EP, C.O.L.D on which he did some good raps and made some good music. In 2018, he released singles.
In 2019, he released singles including ‘Feel Good’ featuring Phyno and Falz. A remix of that followed and it featured Khaligraph Jones, MI Abaga and more. During the same year, he did a ‘Verse For Jabba,’ a tribute to the late South African rapper, HHP who was his close friend.
On the deceased South African Hip-Hop legend, HHP, Ice Prince says, “I was 100% close to Jabba. Funny that you are talking about this because last night, his long-term girlfriend, Lerato and I spoke. I posted some videos of Jabba on my Instagram stories, so she hit me up to say what’s up.
“During my launch for Everybody Loves Ice Prince, I brought him here and he had an amazing time. When I won the BET Award, he was one of the first people to hit me up and congratulate me. He always gave me that energy and positive vibes.
“This was not a Nigerian, he was a South African being a brother like that. Now let me tell you something, Motolani; when HHP was on a roll and I would go to South Africa to perform. On one of those occasions, he introduced me to a young Cassper Nyovest who used to open for me.
“That was an amazing time in my life because Africans were able to bring African creatives together. It was the same spirit I had in me when I made ‘Aboki (Remix)’ back in the day. I had MI, Khuli Chana, Sarkodie, Mercy Johnson…
“Putting those projects together is very hard, but everytime we put them together, it’s magic. For example, ‘Particula’ was a great moment and I still make loads of money from that song (laughs).”
Wall of Fame: BET International Act, Family
In the late 2000s, Panshak Zamani moved to Lagos with his ‘brothers,’ MI Abaga and Jesse Abaga. Together, they created a label dynasty with the help of Audu Maikori at Chocolate City – they also formed the basis of the acclaimed Choc Boiz era in Nigerian music.
MI Abaga is famed for his father figure to his ‘family members.’ He provides for them and aids them in life. He spoke about some of this on ‘Head of The Family’ off Illegal Music III when he rapped that, “Ice Prince said he was ready, he said just give me a chance. That’s when I signed to Choc City, I did it without an advance…”
While they have since split up, MI Abaga raps about regretting letting things go the way they went on ‘Respect, Loyalty and Honour’ off Show Dem Camp’s Clone Wars IV: These Buhari Times. In his prime, Ice Prince was the biggest African act.
Ice Prince addresses that ‘Head of The Family’ line thus, “MI has always been a very critical big bro to me in the sense that because he’s not such a huge fan of my work. It takes me extra-motivated to convince him about anything. I was always hungry, so I had to prove it. Till this day, if I want to play him music, I’m always nervous and fretting.
“His approval means everything to me till the day I die… MI, Audu, Sneaker Boy, DJ Dino… There’s certain people in my life whose opinions count.”
Even though D’Banj heralded the first wave of African acts in Western and UK pop in these contemporary times, Ice Prince was its golden child just after D’Banj. He was sought out by everybody from that sphere and he was duly named Best International Act at the BET Awards.
On that run, Ice Prince says, “I’m just a boy from Jos who came to Lagos with his brothers, not knowing if things would work. The music took me places around the world to meet people I never thought I would meet. Afrobeats changed my life – I’ve played my part.”
While speaking on that, he got off his chair and showed me his Wall of Fame – a wall which contains pictures of iconic people that Ice Prince has met. If Osagie Alonge is a collector of albums and memento, this was Ice Prince’s version.
The wall has pictures of Rev Run (of Run DMC), Jay Z, Kendrick Lamar, Ed Sheeran and many more. The truth is, Ice Prince didn’t just play his part, he was the head of a movement at some point.
Ice Prince and his own legacy
It seems Ice Prince has learned from MI Abaga’s familial tendencies too. Over the past two years, Ice Prince has given more than 12 young and/or emerging acts verses. Some of them include Magnito, Straffiti, Koffi Jamar and more.
Ice Prince says, “Young people just feel comfortable around me, man. If not for COVID-19, my house is always full. Sometimes, I travel and I come back to meet hordes of people in the crib. The Thirst Gang, dem Straffitti’s group are my guys, bro.
“They know Big Daddy Ice is nice. When they are around, we make music and I also like their company. It was during one of those that Straffitti didn’t know Nate Dogg when I was playing ‘Music and Me’ one day. They don’t make me feel old like birthdays though.”
Ice Prince refutes the rapper tag?
A conversation led me to ask Ice Prince for his top five favourite rappers and he listed them as Jay Z, Eminem, MI Abaga, Tupac and Drake. I then told him that I spot similarities between his story and Drake’s. While he came into the game as a rapper, he excelled as a singer-songwriter.
Ice Prince refutes that claim. He says, “Let me tell you what’s funny. One of the first songs that blew me back in Jos was a song where I’m singing from A-Z. It was produced by E-Kelly. My singing has always been there, but if you want to call me rapper, that’s fine.
“It will also be fine if you call me an artiste, a musician or even a nobody. I just want you to enjoy the vibes, the music… I write from my soul, bro. I don’t write for punchlines or bars. I feel like I’m one of the only rappers who could have written ‘Whiskey’ and tell a story.
“Shout-out to Falz though, that’s one rapper I really admire. He knows how to paint pictures perfectly and that’s poetry… Amazing poetry. I’m that kind of rapper too. I make ‘More,’ or even gangsta sh** like ‘Gimme Dat.’”
Music in Northern Nigeria
Recently, Skales and Ice Prince released their collaboration, ‘Tantabara.’ Ice Prince says that it was just a way for both artists who are from the North to give their people something to vibe to. Ice Prince says that as a boy from Jos and Skales being a boy from Kaduna, it had to happen.
‘Tatabara’ means dove or a bird. This conversation then leads my question whether Ice Prince can see a future where Northern acts don’t have to move to Lagos before they have major success.
Ice Prince replies, “That’s a good question and I don’t want to give a political or evasive answer – I want to be honest from the bottom of my heart. I feel like we need more support from the Northern people, not from the South. The South and West makes us…
“Motolani, when I was growing up in Jos, it used to be so dope. People would converge from all over Nigeria and it was the entertainment hub of the North. We fought a crisis for 13 years and it took the state back. Now, with Boko Haram in Maiduguri and across the North, how many times will any sponsor or brand want to put a show in the North with the problem?
“The North needs to fix itself before we fix the rest. We need to see a bigger Classiq than he is right now.. He’s big and doing well, but I wish him more like I do someone like Morell… Incredible acts, bro. I also don’t think language is a barrier.
“I remember when Jeremiah Gyang came through with a full on Hausa song and the whole country accepted it and vibed with it. I don’t have an all Hausa song because I’m not even fully Hausa. My tribe is called Angas, a minority tribe in Plateau State.
“Language is not a barrier, the people are the barrier.” Ice Prince does say that he doesn’t know if he would ever make music in his native Ngas tongue.
Like a SoundCloud artist…
Ice Prince almost gave it away, but had to cut himself because he didn’t want to risk the ‘wrath’ of his management – as he joked. As noted earlier in this article, he should have been on his second single of 2020 by now, but COVID-19 is preventing that.
Nonetheless, Ice Prince made it known that, “I have some of the baddest Kizz Daniel and Tekno hooks. We got music coming… I want to drop an album so bad.”
He then jokes, “To my management, let me drop my f***king album. Release my album. I always fight with my management because they always have meticulous plans. I respect that, but I want to do it like the SoundCloud or Audiomack artist.
“See, my phone is filled with music… I don’t even have space for pictures and videos anymore. I was about to drop a crazy record with Tekno before this lockdown started, bro. I have the dopest Tekno hook at the moment. I hope my management will not be happy with that, but it’s fine. These COVID-19 times, anybody can sue me – courts aren’t open (laughs).
“The major reason I’m not dropping any songs right now is because I don’t want to drop a record that I can’t perform, push, doing media runs for or go to Abuja and turn up for.”
Ice Prince also noted that the sound off his new album is the Fire of Zamani sound – not from the perspective of repetition, but from the perspective of offering his fans a part of himself. Ice Prince also says that he has three albums ready.
Potential project with LadiPoe
A conversation about the good run that Nigerian Hip-Hop has had in 2020 led Ice Prince to cut a question short with child-like excitement, “Yooo! My man LadiPoe got that fire with Simi. I’m a big LadiPoe fan, that’s my guy. I feel like LadiPoe is one of the dopest to ever do this out of Africa.
“When we were recording ‘Mr. Poe, Mr Ice,’ Poe came into the studio and didn’t take 10 minutes to write 16 bars on his phone. Then, he asked me if he could write more and I was like, ‘Feel free, go hard.’ Then, he wrote a bar about that conversation in his verse – that’s f**king crazy.
“I hope I can get Poe on a song again. I feel like after ‘Mr Poe, Mr Ice,’ we have a creative chemistry that could help us make an EP or a mixtape. Poe is my guy 100%.”
As the conversation ends, it piques on Ice Prince’s thoughts about signing a new act to his label – he might think about signing an artist after COVID-19 is over. We agreed to have another conversation once COVID-19 passes.