Michael Collins Ajereh (born November 26, 1982), better known as Don Jazzy, is a Nigerian multi award-winning record producer, singer-songwriter, musician and CEO of Nigerian record label Mo’ Hits Records founded in 2004.
Recently rated as the 36th “Most powerful celebrity in Africa” according to Forbes Contents, Don Baba J as he was more fondly called by artists on his label tells his story.
Often mistaken for an older man, Jazzy tells Saturday Vanguard that he is haunted by matured and often married women who want his love.
He also clears the air on certain issues that have become a subject of discourse in the entertainment industry.
The first time we were to have this interview ,you said you had nothing to say . So do you have something to say now ?
I still don’t have much to say. It’s just a turning point when I suddenly decided that having finished a lot in a short while, many people want to know why I’ve stopped for a while. So I just got the confidence to talk to the press or anybody who wants to talk to me .
It’s not like I don’t have anything to say. Most times when my boys go for interviews and I get to read them or watch them on TV, 30% of what they say has to do with me. So, there’s no point granting interviews where I’ll have to say the same thing they’ve said about me.
Also, I’m a music producer and director and we’re not supposed to be in the public’s eye. I don’t see reasons why I should bring myself out when there are those who need the publicity more.
But right now, everyone is an individual and got good things going for themselves. D’banj, Wande Coal and others have songs and albums which they can be identified with.
Will it hurt if an album you produce doesn’t sell?
That’s one place where I know God has given me the talent, to always shine. Every producer can put out albums, but there’s a difference between a producer who can put up an album and one who can build an artist. It’s also another thing to have a producer that can make a legend. There are different stages in life and I know that God has given me the gift to look at someone, know the kind of music that’ll fit him and do all it takes to make such a person big.
In the music industry, I make my own rules because the way music is done outside the country is different from the way I do my own job.
Outside the country, the producers and artists get royalties from TV, radio stations and clubs. So there are rules that apply when an artist records a single. But here, we don’t follow those rules because we don’t get any royalties.
So what are your rules?
I make up my rules as I go. If I want to release a single now, I don’t just put out one single. We wait for the video and put it up. If you’ve noticed from when I started, from the time of D’banj’s Entertainer, I put out three songs like Mo Gbona Feli Feli, Olorun Maje and Too Much. These are markets for both the Yoruba, Igbos and others.
At that time, 9ice’s Gongo Aso was out too. Mo Gbona Feli Feli was for the club. Olorun Maje was more like gospel then Too Much was more like a gambling song and they all had their markets.
And if you look at Wande Coal too, we put out three songs too-Bumper To Bumper, Jehovah, Bananna was more like an R & B. I do my things the way I want and from the response I get from people, I decide whether or not to shoot the video.
For D’Prince, we did Omoba, Good Morning Your Highness, Walahi Talai and Ulu. Ulu was a kind of dance in vogue at that time. It was a slow dance for big boys. And it was the dance reigning around the world as at then. Omoba is a club song in Nigeria anytime anyday. Walahi Talai is more like a street song which we gambled with.
Mo’Hits is like a cult where other aspiring artistes are not welcome…
I don’t believe in biting more than I can chew. What’s the point of having a huge catalogue of artistes without enough songs to go round? I decided to build the artistes one after another. D’banj is gone already, Dr. Sid is still coming up, D’Prince is still coming up too. I haven’t even got a song for K. Switch so why should I go get other new artistes?
So why hasn’t K.Switch taken off yet?
I haven’t got a single for him yet. The reason is that he had a problem with his mum in the beginning when he wanted to start doing music. D’banj too had a problem with his mum because he is a Mechanical Engineer. So, me picking that boy to do music wasn’t easy because he’s D’banj’s younger brother.
So you were seen like an enemy?
Yes. Even when we were doing the Mo’hit crew album and we showcased everybody inside, the mum didn’t know that K.Switch was part of the album. At that time , he was still in school.
By the time she found out, she told us she didn’t have any problem with it since I’d already turned D’banj into a musician but that I should allow K.Switch to finish school.
D’banj stopped school at his 300L and they are the only boys in the family. So the parents just wanted to make sure K.Switch graduated . That’s why it affected K.Switch.
I thought you are supposed to sign on to your label, the winner of the Enigma competition?
I’m working towards bigger projects. Enigma and the Oliver projects were test runs for the bigger project that I’m working on, the Entertainer /Koko Mansion show. So they are going to be the fore- runners for what we called The First Lady.
For over three years now, people have been accusing us of not having females in Mo’Hits. I don’t buy that idea but at the same time, I have to study the market and know how to take care of a lady. Because the way you cater for ladies in the industry is different from how you take care of the guys.
When we all started Mo’hits for the first three years, all of us lived together. We could wake at midnight depending on when the inspiration comes. But I don’t think a woman can go through such stress. So I need to understand how to work with females. Then with the Enigma concept, I also wanted to do a reality show that’ll be different from what everyone has done. So, I’m still looking for songs and artistes because none of our reality show winners have really grown to P-Square and D’banj’s level
Except for K.C Presh?
I wouldn’t even say K.C Presh is there yet. They have a couple of hits but I think they did better than almost everybody. But the important thing is that they tried. So basically, I don’t want to do what others do and if I put out information for girls to apply, there would be many of them. But then, in order for us to do the competition and maximise it, I decided to start from the internet rather than have the regular crowd come over and listen to us and then we’ll start giving them time and all that. All that strategy even put fear into people.
So the internet thing allows people to record with their phones or call a camera person to guide them and post it on the internet. The Enigma was a trial on the internet. The difference is that it will help us minimise the number of people that’ll be called at the end of the day.
I’ll then create a website like the You Tube where people can visit and record a one minute video, sing, rap or play instrument and upload it and I’ll give my comments on them. So the person that wins eventually becomes the first lady. I’m going to take her and everyone that’ll work with her from the internet.I’m picking her backup singers and her full band, her stylist, hairdresser, bodyguards, writers and others. First of all, it’s going to start from the internet. Then we’ll move to Koko Mansion.
What’s the new concept of Koko Mansion?
It’s D’banj’s house that hosts different kinds of reality show. Today Koko Mansion could be searching for the biggest entrepreneur and tomorrow the greatest banker. The first one was looking for the ideal woman. But then, everyone that’s going to work for that first lady is going to have an entourage from day one. She’s going to have a house, car, makeup artistes and others.
Is she ready yet?
Yes she’s ready
When is that going to be?
We started it from August and it’ll be till the next quarter of next year.
What’s the real deal between you and Kanye West?
Kanye West met D’banj in Dubai. D’banj played him some of his songs and Kanye liked what he heard. So, he invited us to New York. When we got there, he said he likes D’banj as an artiste and me as a producer, and that he’ll like to work with both of us. Then I got signed on as a producer under Good Music. So Kanye is now my boss.
He can call me up at any time to do one or two things for him. I already have lot of stuffs I ought to be doing over there but I’m just using D’banj as an excuse not to be there right now. In fact, I’m working on D’banj’s new album as well.
If an artist gets signed in America, he’ll probably be signed on a $1m . This means, they’re going to spend $1m on the artist’s project.
The artist gets may be $250 000 for his welfare and the remaining $750 000 will be for the recording and marketing of the album. And of course, the record company will at the end of the day recoup the money spent on the artist. But then, they sent us the contract for the signing of D’banj. We liked it because we’ve been looking for an American record deal.
So the first thing they said was that they were going to spend about $8000 000 to $1m for the deal. But when we looked at how the royalties were to be shared, it didn’t make sense because it’s a typical record deal they’ll give to an ordinary artiste in America.
There’s something they call the 360 deal where they’ll take some of the artiste’s endorsement and merchandise. But we told them we’re ahead of that and we didn’t need their advance payment because it’s not as if we’re poor. We told them we wanted a partnership. And that we wanted us to come together and do the album.
We offered to give half of the money and they also would put down the other half. So they asked us to give them time to think about it. Later they came back and said they didn’t really know that we were so big in Africa, that they’ve done their research and saw that $1m wouldn’t be enough for the kind of project we’re looking at. One of Kanye’s manager is also managing Lil Wayne, Drakes and others. So he gave us the same budget they’d give to Drake. It’s massive attack on promotion. We also took that opportunity to study how the market runs over there. We agreed. It’s a 60-40 and the contract has since been signed.
As a producer there, can you bring in other artiste beside D’banj on board?
Yes. First of all, they signed me as an artiste although I’m now under Kanye West as a producer. But on D’banj’ project, I’m a partner. So the deal is Good Music/Mo’Hits Records. For now, they don’t know the people under Mo’Hits Records. All they know is that the project on ground is D’banj’s album. I can bring in anyone I feel like bringing as long as the same percentage we agreed on is still on.
I read somewhere in the papers that you’re members of a cult called Iluminati. What is lluminati in the first place?
If you go to Google, you’ll find out who the members of illuminati are. It’s supposed to be an arm of what we call the Ogboni here. It’s Ogboni affliated. From what I’ve read, it’s a group of people that control America and it has members like the present and past presidents of America. They come together to help each another and at the same time, they worship the devil.
Kanye West, Beyonce, Lady Gaga and other big artiste in America are alleged to be part of them because they’re successful. They’ve always said Jay Z, Gaga and others are part of it because their videos look devilish but I don’t agree because all they do is an art.
What about the story that you and D’banj were caught with drugs?
It’s ridiculous. My father has called me more than ten times to find out where I was because he heard the rumour that I was arrested and locked up in London for drug pushing. I’ve never seen drugs in my life and I don’t even smoke weed. But I smoke cigarette.
What’s your experience with the ladies like ?
They don’t react to me as much as they react to D’banj and others. D’banj and others are good looking with nice bodies.
What makes you think you aren’t good looking?
I don’t think ladies are attracted to me.
What makes you think they are not attracted to you ?
My face is hard and a lot of people try to guess my age. Some said I’m 35, 36, 37, 38 years. Some even said I’m 39. The fact is that the name Don Jazzy is always respected and they see me like an old man. I actually get advances from older women.
Because they think I’m old.
Sure your face looks really mature?
Yes, it does. I actually grew up faster than my mates. So I’m wiser than the average human being and even when I talk, people would think I’m an old man. So I get more advances from married people.
So how do you handle them?
It’s a vow D’banj and I made a long time ago. We vowed never to date married women because it doesn’t go down well with our religion and core values. So it’s just a few young people that come around.
Is Ikechukwu still on your label?
Was he ever on your label?
I’ll say yes and no, because it’s not like we signed a long term deal. We basically signed some sort of single deal and a single deal, are the three songs that we normally put out. For me, I look at him, he’s 36 something and he isn’t getting any younger. But he has grown to be D’banj’s friend and he’s having problems with Storm Record. And Storm Records wouldn’t just let go of him. So D’banj asked me to help him and I agreed to give him a single deal. When we started the deal, I decided to extend it to an album. But then, we had a few misunderstanding along the line and called off the album deal.
And what about Duncan Mighty?
I like his music and he’s talented. And everybody knows I like to attend concerts. Once anyone has good music, I’ll be there to support. I didn’t get that much love from artistes when I was growing and I would have loved that. If I could attend Tuface, Daddy Showkey’s concerts, that’ll encourage us to move on. I also give them advice on a daily basis. So whenever I see someone with good music, I go all out to support him and it doesn’t have anything to do with competition.
Anytime my boys go to perform in Port-Harcourt, they always tell me that those guys there love Duncan Mighty. So I invited him to Lagos and he came to the house. I told the boys that I’d like to work with him. We had a meeting and I wanted to sign him or do a promotion deal with him. And since he’s also a producer, maybe he’ll be as a sort of co-producer for my label to help reduce some work load. But now, the same thing that happened with Terry G at some point happened. Because if it’s Mo’hits Records, everybody gets excited.
We haven’t signed any deal and he went ahead to tell people that he’s been signed to Mo’Hits. I was in America when I read on the internet that Duncan Mighty has been signed to Mo’Hits Records. And I hadn’t made up my mind yet about him. When I read it, I had to deny on the internet. I was hoping that after I’ve signed him, then I could tell everyone about it, but he took shine away from me. I called Bankuli and asked how the gist came about. I was told he’d already granted interviews saying he’s been signed on by Mo’hits to work as a producer and vocal coach. I ended the deal.
What about the JJC thing?
We were working together but had a misunderstanding. I don’t want to start defending myself or say it’s his fault. I’ll gain nothing by putting him down.
Your father was also a music producer. So how much impact did he have on you?
Most of the people in music today always say their parents didn’t want them to do music. Mine was easier. Every member of my generation is in support because they were also into music. They wanted and knew that I would end up doing music. When I was younger, I used to play drums, guitar and they’ve supported me from day one. My family is my biggest fan.
Source: Vanguard Newspaper