Inside The Mind:- Eclipse Nkasi Discusses Coming Up In The Rap Game,...

Inside The Mind:- Eclipse Nkasi Discusses Coming Up In The Rap Game, Publishing A Book, Releasing Debut Album And The Challenges Facing Nigerian Hip-hop

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Words By:- Obinna “Fazillion” Ifechi-Fred
It’s not every day you come across a rapper who is adept at music production, sound engineering, record label administration, role adaptation in Films and book publishing and with regards to the Nigerian Hip-hop scene, Lagos based rapper Eclipse Nkasi appears to be a solitary anomaly within our creative space as the rapper happens to possess all the aforementioned qualities.

Hailing from Abia State in the South-east region of Nigeria, the rapper, born Nkasiobi Chukwu began his foray into the Nigerian music scene in 2015 when he released his debut single Gentleman which set the stage for his ascent up the totem pole of the Nigerian Hip-hop scene. He went on to drop numerous singles and videos all of which helped increase his popularity within the Nigerian Hip-hop community and also developed his reputation as a fiery lyricist who had more than enough to offer the scene and rival the very best that the genre had to offer. His stellar musical capabilities began to earn him the respect of his better-known counterparts and led to numerous collaborations with artistes like Eva Alordiah, M.I Abaga, Demmie Vee, LadiPoe, DJ Jimmy Jatt, Evaezi and Ruby Gyang and eventually culminated with the release of his debut body of work City Of Dreams, a 9-Track EP that was released in 2016 and not only reinforced his growing positive reputation, but solidified his position as one of the emerging stars of the Hip-hop scene.

With all the stars seemingly aligned and everything working out in his favour, it came as a shock to his burgeoning fanbase, when that same year, due to numerous creative disagreements with his erstwhile record label, he decided to take an unexpected break from recording and releasing new music and decided to explore other creative avenues to express himself-a decision that opened up different doors for him and gave him a new lease of life for the next couple of years.

As an actor, he scored well-received roles on “Tinsel” and “Hotel Majestic”, two popular television shows on the pan-African cable network, MNET. In a wider scope of the music business, he has also worked with major brands on advert campaigns and other media contents such as:

  • “MTN Pulse” in 2016 which he produced the official theme song [TV and Radio]
  • “Airtel Trybe” theme song in 2014 which he wrote and rapped on [Radio]
  • “Hennessy VS Class” and “Hennessy Cypher” in 2014, 2015 & 2017 [Radio, TV and Digital Media]

In May 2018 he became the Head of Promotions for Chocolate City Music which is one of Africa’s biggest record labels. Between then and May 2019 he planned/coordinated the promotion of numerous projects including the L.A.M.B August campaign which housed the release and launch of M.I Abaga’s fourth studio album “Yxng Dxnzxl”, BlaqBonez debut album “Bad boy Blaq” & the collaborative album by Loose Kaynon A-Q Crown”, The remix EP “Bad Boy Blaq Re-Up” by Blaqbonez and the 2019 L.A.M.B Martell Cypher.

After his time with the label he went on to write and publish his first book “No Rice On Sunday”, a collection of fictional short stories. Hinged on important subject matters that are insufficiently discussed in today’s society. Such as discrimination, jungle justice, drug abuse and more.

Having returned to the rap game late last year, armed with his independent label imprint The Wild Bunch under which he released his debut album Child Of Destiny in February, I caught up with him to discuss a wide range of topics, including his musical influences, early days as a struggling Hip-hop artiste, functioning in various musical and creative capabilities, as well as what the Nigerian Hip-hop scene needs to become a true global force in the international urban music market.

 

Nigerian Sounds:- Nice to meet you Eclipse. Could you please introduce yourself, who is Eclipse?

Eclipse Nkasi:- I am a multi-creative. A rapper, singer, music producer and author. When I’m not making music I am a P.R specialist and I have worked with quite a number of brands including Chocolate City Music and TikTok

N.S:- Could you tell us more about your upbringing, educational background(if any) and geographic history within Nigeria?

E.N:- I’m from Abia state but I was born in Kaduna. Due to schooling and the fact that my family moved around a lot I spent some time in Lagos, Owerri, Calabar, Abuja & Enugu. I studied Mass Communication at the University of Nigerian Nsukka and later took a course in project management.

N.S:- At what point in your life did you make the decision to become a part of the Entertainment scene, with respect to hip-hop music.

E.N:- I started writing music as early as 2004 ( i was in JSS3 at the time) but I recorded my first song sometime between 2007/2008. For me, my love for music was my main drive. I found making music interesting and therapeutic. As a music producer, I am self-taught. I pretty much installed FL Studio on our old Dell Pentium 4 desktop back in 2007 and kept fiddling with it until I figured out how to use it. In my early days of rapping, I was heavily influenced by Modenine, G-Unit, Trybesmen and Ruggedman.

N.S:- That’s quite revealing. Could you tell me what the impact of living in different, diverse geopolitical zones in Nigeria have on you, your music and your worldview?

E.N:- Living in different parts of Nigeria that are so culturally diverse opened my eyes and mind to various ethnic groups. It’s sad to look at Nigeria today and see that our greatest divide is hinged on our tribal differences when those differences could be such a strong uniting factor. My music is very reflective of my experiences and you don’t have to listen very hard to hear melodies and lyrics that are influenced by all these cultures. From Igbo rap lines in “I Need You” to the Hausa chants in “Salamalekun“.

Nigerian Sounds:- Having recorded your first track and began learning production in ’08, at what point did you decide to make it a career and what was that one determinant factor, if any?

Eclipse Nkasi:- I honestly don’t remember any particular point at which I decided to make a career out of music. I just know that I wanted to keep making music and there was a hunger for a new challenge everytime I accomplished something. So one minute I’m just a kid making beats on a laptop and writing songs on any possible topic my mind could come up with, next minute I’m battling rappers across the South East and I was great at it all.

N.S:- you were born in Kaduna. It’s a generally held belief that the nicest lyricists in Nigeria haves bit of Arewa influence in them. Do you agree with that assertion and could you give us a brief insight into what the hiphop scene in Kaduna was like when you were growing up?

E.N:- YES! A lot of amazing rappers came from the Arewa side of the country and hip-hop in Northern Nigeria was very vibrant when I was growing up. I was introduced to the genre and culture by my elder brother and there were a lot of people who were big on it too at that time. We all wore baggy jeans, oversized shirts, Timberland boots and had our Sony Walkman cassette players with us at all times.

N.S:- I had no idea you also previously dabbled in battle rap. Tell me more about that aspect of your craft. Did you battle any now known names in the game while you were on the come up?

E.N:- My first ever rap battle was back in the University Of Nigeria Nsukka (sometime in 2010), I was pitched against a guy from Igbinedion University named “Mascot“, it was impromptu but in classic hip-hop fashion it held at the basketball court. I won and that boosted my confidence and in a few months I entered a contest tagged “Battle of the beasts” which had contestants from across the south-east and I won that too. In 2012, I entered for the nationwide rap competition “Nokia Don’t Break The Beat“. I won for the southeast region and went on to Lagos for the finals. That contest was won by a rapper called TKO.

A year later, in Nov of 2013 I faced off with TKO in a different battle organized by M.I Abaga called “MADC Fight Night” which went down at “Get Arena” Lagos. That was perhaps my most interesting battle and it was my last. After that win, I just wanted to move to something else. I wanted to evolve.

N.S:- You eventually came to public consciousness in 2014/15, when you were signed to Aboriginal records as their marquee artiste. what was the process like with regards to the label discovering and signing you?

E.N:- I got my first record deal in 2012, just after the “Nokia Don’t Break The Beat” competition. I guess, even though I didn’t win that one my performance was enough to spark someone’s interest.

N.S:- Your stage name Eclipse Nkasiobi is quite unique and catchy. Could you explain the inspiration behind adopting such a distinct rap name.

E.N:- I know a lot artistes have a unique back story about their stage names but mine isn’t very deep. “Eclipse” is a name I picked up when I was deep into battle rapping, I simply wanted a name that I felt commanded some respect and had a sense of mystery to it. “Nkasi” on the other hand is half of my first name “Nkasiobi” and it wasn’t until 2018 that took the name “Eclipse Nkasi“.

N.S:- On your single “You Go Know“, you rapped about sleeping in cars before inking a label deal, could you expand more on the details of your grind after you began chasing your dream in Lagos.

E.N:-  I feel like the details of my grind in Lagos is long enough for 2 books but the period you’re referring to is sometime between 2011 – 2013. It was indeed a really rough time for me as I had pretty much had left home on my own with no support from my parents who at the time were displeased with my decision to be a musician. On arriving Lagos I stayed in a friends family house and after about a week his father asked me to leave because like a lot Nigerian parents he saw “Musicians” as possibly a bad influence on his son. I had no place to go to so I would sleep in my friend’s older brother’s car that was always parked on the street (I referenced this in my song “You No Go Know“). I would wake by 5am, sneak back into the house to shower and spend the rest of the day walking around the streets of Surulere, waiting for nightfall then repeat the whole cycle.

Audio:- Eclipse Nkasi – You Go Know + I Need You

Nigerian Sounds:- You featured MI Abaga on the official remix to your single Salamalekun, which I presume to be one of your biggest songs till date. Tell me a bit about how the collaboration came about and what it did for your career.

Eclipse Nkasi:- Working with M.I was a major boost for my career and the EP  (City Of Dreams) I was working on at the time but more than that it was a personal milestone. It’s always a dream for every artiste to meet or work with artistes who at some point in time inspired or are role models to them. For me, M.I was one of those artistes and I’m blessed that when the day came it was worth it. A lot of people don’t know this but I had an original version of “Salamalekun“. Same beat, different verses and of course no guest artiste. I performed it one of the “Industry Nite” events and M.I was present. After my performance I went to say hi to him, he said he liked the song I  just performed, I asked “Can we make a remix?” and he said “Sure, come by the studio“. After 2 or 3 weeks, a lot of phone calls and follow up with his team, we finally found time within his schedule for us to meet up and when the day finally came I remember feeling so sure that nothing would stop me getting the song done. When I got to his office my resolve was tested by the universe because I had to wait from 2pm till 10pm before we finally entered the studio to start working. It was long day but I don’t regret it at all

N.S:- Shortly after you released your debut project City Of Dreams, with everything going smoothly, you seemingly disappeared from the scene briefly, was there a specific reason for your musical hiatus?

E.N:- I acknowledge that I was off the scene for a few years and it was mainly for 2 reasons. First, after my debut EP was released and I had pretty much come to the end of my promotional campaign for it, I was also approaching the end of my record contract with the label. I was sure I did not want to extend my term so we began conversations about my exit and that took longer than I imagined.

Secondly, by the time my exit from the label was done I was left with a bit of sour taste in my mouth because the process wasn’t exactly as smooth as I would have liked. So I decided to transition to other aspects of the media and entertainment industry and tick off a few things from my creative bucket list. In the years that followed I worked as a country rep for a Kenyan music streaming platform called “Mdundo“, Head of promotions for Chocolate City Music, P.R Strategist for the social media platform TikTok and Published my first book titled “No Rice On Sunday“. So now I’m back to making music but on my own terms and solely just for creative expression.

N.S:-  that’s quite inspiring. Could you explain the difference between being signed to a label as a recording artiste versus being signed as an in-house producer/Engineer.

E.N:- I have only been signed to a label as a recording artiste but I have worked with producers from the label’s perspective and I believe they are quite different in a number of ways because they are two very different art forms so the needs of both talents will differ. However, what’s similar is the need for management, promotion and monetization.

N.S:- You mentioned your debut novel “No Rice On Sunday” which was released and makes you one of the very few contemporary musicians -and to my knowledge, the first Rapper in the country to publish a book. Could you give a brief synopsis about the book, and also where your fans can pick it up.

E.N:- My book “No Rice On Sunday” is a collection of fictional short stories they touch on various topics which I think are insufficiently discussed in today’s society. Such as discrimination, jungle justice, drug abuse and more. The stories are set in various times (past, present and future), with uniquely compelling plots that are creatively unorthodox. The book is only available in digital copies on various online stores including Amazon’s Kindle, Okadabook, iBooks and my website eclipsenkasi.com

Audio:- Eclipse – Ogini Di Featuring Eva Alordiah

N.S:- Recently, you released your debut studio album Child Of Destiny, which I think is one of the best rap albums of 2020 so far, what challenges did you face releasing the album independently, and what lessons did you learn in the process?
E.N:-  Thanks for the compliment on the project and you’re absolutely right that putting out an album independently is difficult but I guess it was easier to deal with because based on my experience and knowledge I already knew what to expect. Don’t get me wrong it was still a lot to deal with because I had to be my own label in addition to being an artiste. This meant functioning as a songwriter, artiste, producer, P.R agent, distributor and project manager. Like any human, I had my moments of doubt while trying to get the project out. Especially because funding was a problem. I didn’t have a big enough budget as I would have liked to, so it all came down to a game of strategy. One solid lesson I learned in the process is that anything is possible if you really put your mind to it. I know it sounds like some cliché motivational speech (aspire to perspire) but it’s real. I had to deal with a lot of disappointments from people that ranged from issues with graphic designs to distribution (all of which I ended up doing myself) but in the end I pulled it off and when the album dropped I crossed my progress milestones faster than I expected.
 N.S:-  You are also known for your acumen as a record producer and you actually produced a bulk of the album as well. Which of these processes do you prefer as far as your output goes.
E.N:-  It’s a tough choice but I think I enjoy being an artiste more than being a producer. But then it’s not very black and white for me, they both help me in different ways. But when I think about it deeply I sort of see a divide because I’m happy I worked with almost anyone as an artiste but I’m picky as a producer. I enjoy experimenting with sounds so I prefer working with people who are creatively open-minded.
 
N.S:- As a rapper, who performs in three major Nigerian ethnic languages, as well as in English, what is your take on the seeming disconnect between rappers who perform their music in their local dialects and those that perform solely with the English language.
E.N:-  Hmm, this is one situation that has gone on for a long time in this country and I think that it’s not necessary. A huge part of the disconnect or issue is hinged on the belief that rap in local dialects are more commercially successful but in my experience, what people want more than anything else is relatability. Now, local language can be a tool to achieving that but it’s not the only option. Another powerful tool is storyline/context. I’ve seen people create rap hit songs in English which people love because it talks about things they can relate to.
N.S:- What do you think is the biggest challenge facing the Nigerian hiphop scene at the moment, and how do you think the genre can be taken to greater heights.
E.N:- This is a topic I can give a Ted talk on anytime lol, for now I’ll have to just summarize my thoughts. There are several challenges that Hip-Hop in Nigeria is dealing with but there are two I would like to mention and suggest possible solutions for. First, there’s the issue of marketing and promotions. The Nigerian music promotional system is largely designed for Pop music. This makes it difficult for anybody making any other kind of music, be it Jazz, RnB, or Hip-Hop. What we need is to create more channels that understand and push hip-hop as a genre and culture. The second issue is that more hip-hop acts need to understand how the music business works. A huge chunk of artistes revenue comes from the corporate scene in the form of brand endorsements, event sponsorship and synchronization publishing. The guys in the suits and ties only understand one thing and that’s numbers so in order for more hip-hop acts to achieve a greater level of success we need to communicate in a manner that more people can relate to (similar to my earlier point on language). So merge these two points I have mentioned and imagine what will happen when there are several platforms curating and pushing hip-hop content and the statistics of listenership is very available and properly presented to the corporates.
 Eclipse Nkasi’s debut album Child Of Destiny is currently available for purchase and streaming on all online retail platforms, Check it out HERE