Friday, April 10, 2020 8:22 pm
By Nehru Odeh
His fans call him all sorts of aliases: Opumulero, Ruggedy Baba, Mr. Controversial etc. But the one that has stood the test of time is the stage name he gave himself: Ruggedman. Of course, the first-rate Nigerian rapper, born Michael Ugochukwu Stephens, has proven over the years that he is truly rugged. The political science graduate from Lagos State University first gave a hint of the sterner stuff he is made of when in 1999 he launched himself into the Nigerian music industry, produced his own songs and released two tracks which enjoyed massive air play on radio. He also went on to establish his own record label, Rugged Record.
Since then, the Ohafia- born artiste has released many award-winning songs, featured many local and international artistes, have many spats with fellow artistes, been embroiled in several controversies notably, the accusation against him by another popular Nigerian artiste, 9ice, that he slept with his then wife, Toni Payne (though six years later 9ice debunked the accusation, saying it wasn’t true).
Ruggedman, as an activist, has also been very outspoken mostly on issues concerning the youths, SARS, and his fellow artistes, one of which earned him an assault in a London restaurant, when he was attacked by four masked men. Ruggedman later alleged that the assault was due to his verbal attack on fast-rising Nigerian artiste, Naira Marley.
Rugged? O course, given that he has weathered those storms unscathed. However, the multiple- award winning rapper who blazed a trail on the Nigerian music scene is finding the lockdown imposed on Lagos, Abuja and Ogun State by the federal government a hard nut to crack. In a telephone interview with presenters of WakeUp Nigeria, a breakfast show on TVC on Thursday 9 April, 2020, Ruggedman revealed that the lockdown has thwarted his plans.
According to the artiste, he had planned to release an EP, but can no longer do so because of the stay- at- home order given by the government. .
“I am supposed to have dropped an EP by now had aunty corona not shown up. So I am still contemplating whether to drop one song now or not, because I don’t want to be perceived as being insensitive. How can someone release a song when there is a pandemic? But then, again, when you take it from the business angle, everybody is at home right now; everybody is on their phone 24/7. It’s is good time to dope a song, download and stream. So we are still contemplating. I don’t want to be seen as a bad guy,“ he explained.
Asked how he has been holding up during this period, the controversial artiste said he has been staying at home. “I am normally used to staying at home if I don’t have anything that is important to do outside. So for me, as long as I have my internet, I have food and I have my sweet (what my friend will say sweet mouth). As long as I have that and I have my movies and of course with all the craze on social media. Above all that I am good,” he said.
However, responding to whether he still intends to release the songs during this period, Ruggedman said he was treading cautiously. “I am thinking about it already. You know, sometimes when it involves Ruggedman, let me say it in pidgin, ‘dem dey carry my matter for head.’ So I just want to be sure, be careful, so it doesn’t go the wrong way,” he maintained.