Raoul John Njen-Njeng, popularly known as Skales, tells Ademola Olonilua why he left EME and his relationship with Timaya
You must be close to your mother for you to talk about her all the time…
We are very close. She is my best friend and she knows everything about me. I am her only child and as such, we are really close. I owe my mother a lot because she sacrificed a lot for me. After my father left us, my mother concentrated on me and even forgot about herself.
Was it really so tough for her to train you?
It was very tough. There was a time my mother had to do menial jobs just to provide for me. Then she was being paid N500 daily. When I went from being the first to the seventh in the class, she came to my school and was crying. She felt I was not focused anymore but there were subjects I never understood like Economics. She borrowed a lot of money just because of me. She used the money to pay my school fees. She wanted me to attend the best schools in Kaduna. There were times I would advise her to allow me go to cheaper schools but she would refuse. I was about the poorest boy in my school. I was in a class where we had children of commissioners, senators and so many rich people but she wanted me to complete my education. She always tried to get me the best things so I could compete with my peers.
Do you even think of repaying her for all she did for you back then?
The first thing I want to do is to buy her a very big house. She works in Kaduna and wants to come to Lagos but I keep telling her to give me time. I am going to tell her to stop working soon. I would get her a big house; buy her the best car and anything she wants.
How about your father?
My parents are separated and I have not seen my father since I was eight years old. We have not kept in touch since then. After their separation, we moved on with our lives.
How was it combining music with your academics?
Honestly, it was tough. I was able to complete my education by the grace of God. I was determined, focused and promised myself I was going to finish school at all cost. There were times I missed exams because of my career. I had carry-overs because I had to travel out of the country for several shows. It is just sacrifice. Music is like a very selfish girlfriend while education is also the same. Both of them require a hundred per cent attention; I did my best and to God be the glory, even though I am from a polygamous family, I sorted it out.
As someone who had to grow fast and be the breadwinner at a tender age, what were some of the challenges you faced?
As the only child and the fact that my mother is getting older, I am the breadwinner of the house. There is a lot of pressure and I have to be thinking all the time of how I would provide for my family and myself. Sometimes she calls me for advice because I am the only one she trusts in the whole world. There has been a lot of pressure but God has seen me through.
What is the significance of the many tattoos on your body?
They all mean something to me. I am still going to have a tattoo of my mother’s face somewhere on my body; maybe that is going to be her next birthday gift even though she doesn’t like tattoos. She doesn’t know I have all these tattoos.
Why did you leave Kaduna, where you were born, for Lagos?
I would say as a young boy, I was very ambitious because I left my house when I was about 16 years old. Right from secondary school, I had started taking care of myself. I paid my tuition fees while I was in the University of Jos. I was working, I was writing songs for people because I have been doing music for a very long time. I was getting paid writing songs for people and also for being a back-up singer as well. I was paying my school fees which was about N15,000 but still it was not so easy to get. I later won a competition and I was crowned the northern champion and from there, I decided to make a move to Lagos. I thank my friend, Tijani, that gave me a free ride to Lagos.
How was it coming to a state where you did not really know anybody?
It was not an easy journey for me. This happened about five years ago. Tijani’s elder brother was my friend and when I wanted to move to Lagos, I just called them to let them know of my decision. They asked me if I knew anybody in Lagos and I said I knew a handful of people. I told them that I did not know them that well and that I was not sure they would accept me. Tijani told me he was also moving to Lagos and I agreed to go with him especially because I did not have money for transport. I came to Lagos with virtually nothing in my pocket but I was positive that things would turn round for me. I was full of hope. I followed my friend and stayed with him. I had to move when he told me that his parents were complaining. I told him I did not have anywhere to go because all the people that promised to help me disappointed me. He told me that he was planning to start a record label, Sweet Noise, and asked if I would be interested. I had no choice. If I said no, he would kick me out, so I agreed. We were working but I did not sign any contract. We worked together for a while until I moved on.
How did you meet Wizkid?
I met Wizkid in Knighthouse. I used to go to Knighthouse to record; Terry tha Rapman was one of the people that helped pay for studio sessions for me. I am forever grateful to him. I eventually recorded a song. It was there I met Wizkid, Osagie, Kels and some other artistes.
Over time, you and Wizkid were close friends. Then when Wizkid had issues with EME, we learnt it affected your friendship. Is that true?
No, it did not affect our relationship. We are still close. We talk and still see each other often. As a matter of fact, last weekend, we were together at a beach in Lagos. We still see each other. It is just that now everybody is busy but whenever we need each other; we are always there for each other.
Your success level is often compared with Wizkid’s by fans. Does that get to you?
To be honest, I am human and the truth is that it gets to me when I am compared with Wizkid. I have come to live with the fact that I can’t help it that they must always compare me with Wizkid. We were in the same label, we started about the same time so they must always compare. It is something I cannot run away from, so I just have to keep working till I put a stamp and let them know this is me; till everybody knows Skales and Wizkid separately.
What happened between you and EME?
My contract expired and we both agreed that we would go our separate ways. I decided I wanted to be on my own, do my music and take my own decision. Nothing happened; people are just speculating and spreading rumours. We did not fight. Right now, I am working on my album, rebranding and taking Skales to the next level.
When you say you are rebranding, does it involve you being a part of Timaya’s record label?
Timaya is my buddy; we are always together. He is like my mentor, I take advice from him and I call him my big daddy. He is a very close friend of mine, we are always together and people would always speculate that I moved into his house. It is because we are close and together all the time. That is why people came up with the insinuation that I moved into his house. It is just all about music between me and him; music and friendship.
Did you move into Timaya’s house?
No, I did not move into his house. We are friends and he has a studio in his house. I do a lot of recordings there. People would always talk.
Would you be signed to his record label?
We do not know for now but like I said, I am working on just Skales, I am focused on just Skales and taking the brand to the next level. We do a lot of music together because we are always together.
There was a time insulting tweets between you and your ex girlfriend went viral online. What happened between you two?
I don’t want to talk about that. Things happen in life and you accept them as they come.
Do you regret the relationship?
It was a good thing but there are always ups and downs in life. I mean something bad happened and we cannot reverse it; so I’m moving on to other things in life.
Are you in a relationship right now?
No. I am not in a relationship.