Meeting and working with Tu-baba, the iconic Nigerian singer/songwriter also known as 2Face Idibia, is hands down one of my career highlights as a Publicist. About a decade ago, a time when I wouldn’t even imagine meeting Mr. Idibia, Nigerian music was synonymous to 2Face. I remember that time fondly as one of my aunts used to live in Nigeria and the only export I would always ask for when my cousins would return to Kenya was 2Face and P-Square albums. They would always squeeze in other great acts at the time like M.I, D’Banj and Naeto C. Amazing how today’s greats wouldn’t even fit in this blog post.
As fate would have it I would meet 2Face on the set of Coke Studio Africa last year during my stint as the show’s Publicist. Before that I actually met him soon after his arrival in Nairobi at his exclusive welcome party. Agitated by my silly camera and the darkness at the club, one of his managers Frankie asks me what’s wrong. “I want to meet and take a photo with 2Face but my camera is shit and I don’t know where to start … We will be working together soon anyway,” I respond. He is quick to introduce me – and the rest is history.
On a fine evening, together with my colleague and good friend Abi, we sit him down for a one-on-one chat with his Coke Studio Africa fans via Twitter. In person 2Face is very patient, very humble, very attentive, sweet and super hilarious! I wish each and every one of his fans would get to experience this first hand. On a different afternoon, I sit him down after rehearsals for a small person chat. It’s been such a hectic week but 2Face seems quite relaxed and not bothered by this interview. I never crafted what I would want to ask 2Face on meeting because I can only imagine the number of interviews he has conducted. I decide to freestyle and make it brief. We talk about his new musical direction, passion for peace and secret to longevity.
I am a total sucker for his earlier classics; my best still being his second album Grass to Grace (2006). He has also done a number international collaborations with several artistes including Akon, Bridget Kelly, Mary J Blige and T-Pain. Then and now – 2Face still is one of the most celebrated and successful afro pop artistes in Africa.
You should have seen the pandemonium when 2Face walked into the backstage at 2015 AFRIMA Awards in Lagos: read about my first Nigerian experience here. Total hell!
From the start I identified his star power by the fact that despite his music going mainstream and pop, his composition and direction always remained original and true to his core R&B and Reggae with African influences. Some of my favourites off Grass to Grace include True Love, If Love is a Crime, No Shaking, Instance and I Dey Feel Like. I also really loved Ole off his debut album: Face 2 Face. 2Face’s latest album The Ascension dropped in 2014. He says of his transformation, “The Ascension is me graduating from my old pattern of doing music, I wanted to enter music that I am really comfortable with. Which is more of reggae and some of my traditional music. I am simply doing what I missed to do. The album The Ascension is an eclectic collection of songs that are African. Some songs I just did to cut across Africa.”
With most East African countries going through elections, it’s obvious that our artistes need to play a role in sensitizing youth and voters now more than ever. 2Face is quite passionate about promoting the message of peace, something he has done during Nigeria’s election period and continues to do over his free time. He says of his initiative, “Vote Not Fight, Election No Be War started with a million voices for peace – which was basically a cry for peace. I had to go to all the grassroots and meet displaced people and donate relief. We also did rehabilitation of changing the mindset of the youth who are prone to being used as tools for violence. During the election period, we stepped it up and went all the way out. My foundation’s motto is service to humanity – we try to make life good for all.” In late 2015, 2Face was crowned a Tafindan Kaduna (Peace Ambassador) of Nigerian Kaduna State. We actually missed each other during my December 2015 Lagos trip as he was always in between business and Kaduna State, but he was always kind enough to update me on his whereabouts.
Hailing from a humble background in Jos, Nigeria – 2Face remains one of the most bankable African artistes today. Throughout his career in music he’s evolved to also become a successful producer and entrepreneur. What has got you this far? I want to know. “I think it’s the grace of God because some things you can’t explain. I also try not to let the hype get to me [because] I know that before I was an artiste I was still known as me, so I always try to be me all the time. I just try to get work done and play when I can.” As for all 2Face fans around the Africa, here’s your special message, “My fans are the most loyal fans. They are the greatest fans in the world. I am loving the spirit of one love coming out of Africa and it is our generation that is changing that forever. May the children of our children continue to extend that spirit. Let’s bridge the gap so that in the future we will be speaking one language, there will be no demarcation but respect for every region.”
BONUS: I am excited that there is a 2Face x Sauti Sol massive collaboration coming this year. You can also read a shorter version of this story published by DStv here