DJ Wiseone Ijaya: A Long Journey To Djaying

 

My mother passed away when I was three. No one really cared much for me going to school – education wasn’t such a priority; it was just a mere life activity. When I got to JSS2, my dad’s new wife was pregnant and the pregnancy took a strange turn when nine months passed and the baby wouldn’t come out.

Considering the strangeness of it all, she was taken to a church and at the church, and while at the church, she needed someone to stay with her. I was the child designated to stay with her. She would eventually carry the pregnancy for two years and for those two years my education was put on hold. In fact, my whole life was put on hold.

In those two years when I wasn’t going to school I had begun to mingle with big brothers on the street and I had begun to learn survival tricks on the street. When she finally had the child after two years, my father wanted me to return to school but for me, I had lost all interest in school. In fact, I was a conductor somewhere along the line in those two years.

I’d work as a conductor from Oshodi-Sango that year so going to school wasn’t a cool idea. I’d take whatever money I had made in a day and I’d use the money to buy cassettes. I had earlier saved to buy a Walkman and then, subsequently, every money I made was just to buy cassettes.

When my father realized that I wasn’t willing to go back to school, he wanted me to go learn a handwork: the whole aluminum works but my mind was never in it. I never love aluminum work and so I never really focused; instead, I was just drawn to music. Anything music caught my attention.

The street was rough but music always saved me. Music was what I escaped into away from the horrors of my childhood. Na Tiger battery dey burn my money that time. At that time, Oritshefemi was a street artiste and was popular at Ajegunle axis and many times I’d just fantasize about working with him on projects.

A hotel opened not far away from our house in 2008. Whenever my dad was not around, I’d go to the hotel and just stand next to the DJ and watch. As I watch I’d try to figure out what every button was for and how he was operating the turntable. For a whole year, I will go the hotel and just stand by the DJ and watch. I’d then return home and begin to use our table as a turntable and practice all the hand skills I had seen the DJ display that day.

I wasn’t the only person hanging around the DJ with an interest to learn and to the guy we were just tools to be used and he used us well. Whenever we turned up anywhere he had to perform, we the learners would be the ones to carry speakers, turntables and other equipment for him but he never put any of us through the skills; he only used us. I did this for about a year.

When I felt confident with myself, I began to go from house to house, friend to friend telling people that I was a DJ and that I was available to perform at their functions. Even though I didn’t have equipment I already knew where I could go to rent them from and I just had the belief that I could hold down an audience with my skill even though I never operated a real turntable.

In 2009 I began to take on my own gigs. At the time, it was not about the money, I just wanted to do music and I wanted people to see me and the first thing that will come to their minds is music -djaying. In fact, at the initial stage I wasn’t making money, there were shows where I was being paid 5000, in fact I was being paid as low as N3000 back then. I had no equipment and so for every gig, I’d rent speakers, turntables, CD-bags from whatever peanut I was paid.

At that time, downloading of songs wasn’t a commonplace thing and so the only way to get songs in your library was through Tin Deck. That time, we used to go meet one bros like that to burn songs on CDs for us. A CD could take as much as 12 songs and it cost us N500. That was the way you got the latest songs by Dbanj and other popular artistes then.

This was the beginning of a journey that would be a very long one.

 

From my parents’ place at Alagbado, I moved in with a bro of mine in Okokomaiko. This my brother used to work in the popular Alaba market – his work was putting CDs inside CD jackets.

I started first by going with him to the market and joining in what they did and then I decided to do a mixtape of my own. I did a few copies and I distributed it for my bro’s friends to listen to. I shared my mixtape and shamelessly pitched myself as a DJ in case these new friends had gigs. From my gigs here and there, I scrapped some small money together, and finally I bought a laptop.

For me, with my mix-tapes going round, I began to meet new people who had so much faith in my skills. These new guys – young chaps like me – became my new circle. Gradually, I began to drift away from that bro whose place I had moved to originally and I began to have my own friends. My new friends were different from my bro’s friends and because they always told me I was good with the turntable and that I should not give up, I stuck with them and soon, I was living and rolling with them.

At the time, there were not very many DJs releasing mixtapes: there was DJ Real, DJ Malik, DJ ShollyPee and that was mostly it. Back then, it was DJ Malik and DJ Shollypee that Alaba people will give contracts to, to make mixtapes of hit songs for them which they, in turn, will put in flashy jackets and put up for sale.

The whole time I was living with the bro whom I moved with from the start, I had no idea what kind of environment I had thrusted myself into. I was just a young boy who had left home with a dream to become one of the greatest Djs in Nigeria. It was not long after I moved away that the police raided the former place where I lived and found sophisticated guns and ammunition under the bed we all used to sleep on.

They rounded everyone they found up and today, they are all in prison. While I was living with this bros in Okokomaiko, I never knew that the whole time that I was living with this bros and his friends they were armed robbers.

My new friends and I took my mixtape to Alaba and they funded the production of a CD jacket for my compilation that year and they began to sell. Guess what? For all of that work, I wasn’t paid a dime. I really didn’t bother much at the time because for me, I was just glad that my work was out there and I wanted to keep going up and up.

For the next three years that mixtape was in demand in Alaba and environs. Time passed and I had moved on to be on my own away from the new friends I had made. After 3 years, I stumbled into one of the guys. He told me my mixtape was a hit and that they’d been looking for me to make another mixtape for them.

We went back to the market and this time, I was introduced to the big-time marketers in Alaba and I was commissioned to make mixtapes for them. It was this time that I began to make money. I will make a master mixtape and give it to the marketers to duplicate and make multiple thousands of copies from it.

 

I was paid N2000 for every master mixtape I created. For me, at that time, that was a lot of money. One marketer can commission me for 10 master mixtapes – that’s N20,000 at a go! Another marketer may commission me to create 20 mixtapes for them, N2000 per mixtape.

One interesting thing always happened – the marketers will usually bring one or two unpopular songs and compel me to ensure that those songs by these unknown artistes were slotted into the mixtapes. After a while, I realized that the money I was making was not even really enough. I did my research and found out that those marketers used to collect money from upcoming artistes in order to slip their songs in those mixtapes and those upcoming artistes paid a lot of money to the marketers. That was why they always compelled me to include those songs.

When I discovered this, I began to grow tired of the marketers and their unfair deals. After a while, I decided to approach the artistes directly and tell them I could create mixtapes for them. I didn’t have equipment to work with but I was determined to try and hustle for a big part of the pie too – just like the big time marketers.

In 2013 I went for a DJ competition in Ghana, I was the first runner-up. I was given a generator, a DVD player and a sum of N300,000. Then, I got a call from folks from my late mother’s side to inform me that my mother had inherited a parcel of land which had been sold and they wanted to hand me the proceeds of the sale. The land was sold for a million naira but everybody don chop so that in the end, what got to me was N500,000.

I saw that as an opportunity to buy so much needed equipment and launch fully into the entertainment business.

 

With the N300,000 I was given from Ghana and other small cash I had with me even before travelling, I was good. My father wanted me to use the N500,000 to buy land and gradually build a house of my own but I had my own plan. I went to Alaba and purchased all the standard equipment that I needed to push my craft to the next level. From then on, I pushed my dad to the back-most seat in my mind.

The popular DJ Kaywise was my guy back at that time, we were hustling through the DJ business together. While me I was focused on compiling street music and all those isokuso songs, Kaywise focused on the Island artistes – Iyanya, Don Jazzy etc. Back then Kaywise would call me and say ‘Baba, all these street artistes whose music you carry for head, dem no go fit help you.’

I believed I had connected with the streets and that the street was going to be my domain. What he was telling me at that time did not make sense because if I should leave and try to delve into making mixtapes of the hip-hop, Island guys, then I’d lose my audience. The street is wild my brother – to ba ti jabo, street o ran e o. Once you get off the scene for a minute, the street leaves you behind. With my topnotch equipment, I defined my niche as street music and so I ignored Kaywise.

I was getting shows every day, I was in high demand on the street and I totally forgot DJ Kaywise’s advice. A show here, N100000, a show there N50000. All I saw was money and more money. Me wey never see money before, I just focused solely on that money venture. As I was making money, ladies began to flock me.

There was a girl I used to toast before I began to make good money and stepped up my game; she never agreed to date me. She was from a financially stable home and I really needed her at that time for whatever support she could render during those tough times. It was because she turned me down that I vowed to be a worldwide known DJ and make tons of money while getting the fame.

As I was becoming known in the DJ-entertainment circles and I was getting gigs, this girl reached out to me. Because I had once set my focus on her, when she reached out I just couldn’t turn her down – I needed her to see my success.

My father somehow knew that I had begun to make some decent money and he had somehow associated the girl with me. From his perspective, a man making the kind of money I was making should just get married and start a family. He believed she was a good girl and that I should settle down at that time, I didn’t believe in that.

The girl, in her own way, was a good girl. She stayed around and she really cared for me. She’d cook my meals, sort out my laundry and just take care of my interests for me while I was out hustling. She really made me feel like a king.

In 2014, she got pregnant and even though I never wanted to keep the child she refused to abort the pregnancy. It became an issue between us and eventually she had the baby and we decided to stay together. She had a second child for me and after that, we began to have issues again. There were things she always did at that time which always irritated me and me, because I never wanted things to degenerate, I’d just leave the house and pursue my gigs till the tension cooled down.

One day in 2014, my phone rang and to my surprise it was my childhood idol – Orishefemi – calling. That was after his song “Double Wahala” blew. I really couldn’t tell how he got my number but he got my number and began to get me on projects with him. We began to work together and we began to make some good money.

One day, my lady and I had a misunderstanding and so I left the house – this time I was gone for a short while. Upon my return, I discovered that this girl had left. Not only did she leave, she sold all the equipment I had bought with the N800,000 in 2012! Now, she is gone and my life is back to square one.

I look back and I regret having her in my life. I want to blame my dad for forcing me to stay with her but I can’t. He honestly believed he was doing the best for me at the time. I may not have made the best choices too but at this point, my only concern is moving forward, not looking backward.

I am trying to get my life back together again. It is like starting all over again but I am determined to be successful; nothing is going to stop me.”

(Ibadan, 2020)

 

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