For over a decade now, Keke, D-1 and I.D have maintained a model business partnership that has done remarkably well in the entertainment industry. But beyond show business, the trio has also managed to maintain an excellent relationship as friends. What is the secret of their success? And what is responsible for this great friendship that appears not to have suffered any pain? A while back, they spoke with YES INTERNATIONAL! Magazine Publisher/Editor-in-Chief, AZUH ARINZE, on that and more. Much more.
EVERYTHING ABOUT US IS ENTERTAINMENT – Dayo Adeneye
Your relationship with Keke has come a long way, what has sustained it?
We were friends before business. That helps when you understand each other and have suffered together. It is easier to stay friends when the going gets tough.
Why do you think partnerships don’t work in Nigeria?
I don’t know. In our part of the world, especially in Africa, I think people don’t want to be selfless. One person wants to be the chairman, the CEO, the MD. I think it’s a matter of ego. Ronald Reagan once said there is no limit to how far a man can go so far he’s willing to let somebody else take the credit. Look at the works Abraham Lincoln and Bill Clinton did. They didn’t stand up to put up posters of themselves on them, but it’s the black man that wins, puts posters for fixing bore holes and roads. So, I think in our part of the world we like the ego thing. It is my company; nobody can do it better than me. That’s not our style here.
So, any time you disagree, how do you resolve it?
Contrary to what most people think, we disagree a lot. But we understand we are going the same direction. We are trying to achieve the same goal, which is to better our company, move it forward, raise the entertainment bar and do something for Nigeria and contribute our own small quota to nation building. So, we might disagree on how we get there. He might say let’s take left, I might say let’s take right, provided at the end of the day, we meet in the middle and say okay, we know this is where we are going. Whether we get it wrong or right, we don’t say I told you. We just dust our shoes and try again.
How did you come in contact with music, entertainment show business?
Do you want me to be honest with you?
Most people don’t know that Kenny and I read Accounting and Business in school. But we actually lived in Hollywood. When you live in Hollywood, the entertainment capital of the world, everything about you is either music, movies, entertainment. That is why California is the fifth or sixth largest economy in the world. They sell music, they sell movies. That, kind of, endeared us to entertainment. MC Hammer was a guy we met in the club. He had nothing then. He later hit it big. And we said let’s go and do this back home. We thank God we were able to do this with Raypower and AIT. But we don’t like to take the credit that we revolutionized the industry.
What has kept Kennis Music and Prime Time Africa going and what makes the company different?
To be honest with you, we just get the job done and let Nigerians and Africans comment on it. When you say you will do this and that in five years’ time, you raise the expectations higher. Just do it.
What are your dreams and aspirations for the two companies?
We continue to pray that God continues to bless us. To be honest with you, I feel very blessed to be able to do what I do. I have people that admire me for it. I have people that congratulate me and want me to be their role model. It also puts food on my table. I am able to pay my children’s school fees while doing something that I love. It’s a tremendous blessing. Some people wake up not wanting to go to work, even though they make a lot of money from it. They wake up and it’s like this job again. But I thank God I am enjoy it. I feel I am one of the best, if so why should I give it up? I am like palm wine, I get better with age (Laughs).
A whole lot of artistes have passed through Kennis Music, how do you feel each time an artiste comes and goes, especially the successful ones?
Well, it can be a bit painful at times. Sometimes, it’s discouraging, I can’t lie to you. It is like watching a child you’ve raised. He goes through college, university; then gets married, somebody takes them off you. It can be saddening at times. But you have to let them go, if you love them. Most of them show appreciation. It can be annoying when they don’t appreciate and don’t remember where they were coming from. But we try to play it down. But sometimes it can be a big deal. Fame and fortune are very difficult to manage. Somebody that didn’t see N20,000 yesterday starts seeing N4 million per show, he’s going to quickly forget Kenny and D-One. But we thank God we still remain relevant in what we do. And we will continue to do what we do as long as we love it.
Who among the artistes that came and left do you still miss and why?
Personally, I was very close to Tony Tetuila. I was very fond of him. He wasn’t the most talented. He didn’t have the best voice, but he had the drive. He had this resilience. He wanted to prove people wrong, that look, I can do this thing. Coming out of a group where he was more like the rejected stone, he became the corner piece. I kind of miss Tony. And I pray he can make a comeback and we are willing to support him.
What do you people normally consider before signing on an artist?
It’s not just about the voice or the talent. You look at other variables. How much is he going to invest in himself? How much passion do they have for this? It is not enough to have a good voice. If you have a good voice and you are not using it, you depend on me, the promoter and producer to go and do everything for you. At the end of the day, it’s not so good. What else do you bring to the table besides your voice and talent? Look at D’Banj, he has energy, he has drive. He has that something that when he’s on stage, you just have to stop and watch him. Those are the little variables we look out for. Look at Goldie, she had that drive and willingness to say I am going to do something different.
When you were leaving America, what gave you the confidence, the audacity to abandon America and come home?
(Laughs) Till today, I still ask myself that. To be honest with you, it was never easy. I actually tried to go back three or four times, but we thank God for Dr. Raymond Dokpesi, who always encouraged us. He told us his own story as well. He came from Poland and said look, I am going to make it in Nigeria. And I always tell myself, if the Lebanese and Chinese can come here and make it, why can’t we make it in our fatherland? The story of the lady who owns Big Treat is always told. She came to Nigeria with N500, but she believed this is the land of opportunity. So, I was like, if these people can make it, I believe as a son of the soil, I can also make it. I am just happy that I made that decision to come home.
Do you once in a while entertain any regret for leaving Dr. Raymond Dokpesi at some point in your life to be on your own?
Azuh, you are trying to put me in trouble (Laughs). I don’t think it was a question of leaving. You know you go through phases in life. It is just like going to school. If you are a bus conductor, you want to be a driver one day. If you are a driver, you want to own your bus and if you own one bus, you want to buy two, three. Later, you want to be like Ekene Dili Chukwu. It’s every human being’s aspiration. If you don’t aspire for those kinds of things, you are a failure in life. You want to aspire to be bigger than what you are. It was a natural process. We thank God we were two of the founding members of Ray Power, AIT. I don’t think the history of AIT and Ray Power and entertainment in Nigeria would be written without putting one or two words about Keke and D One. It was just a time to move on and expand our horizon and I don’t think anybody can fault us on it.
What kind of relationship do you have with Dr. Dokpesi now?
Oh, he’s our brother and father. He is still our boss. He encourages us. Honestly, he still calls us. He advises us. He is a very, very intelligent man. If you can sit down with him, you can learn a lot of things. I have to be honest with you, apart from God; we have to give him credit for where we are today, because he actually came to my apartment in America and said come to Nigeria. And I said what for, why should I leave this good life? He said look, come to Nigeria and you will see what I am talking about.
What has kept your marriage to Caroline going?
We love each other. We respect each other. Marriage is in sickness and in health, for better or worse. Of course, I offend her on a daily basis, but she has a forgiving heart. She’s a very sweet person and I love her dearly for it.
Tell us about your kids.
I love my kids: Ashley, Jasmine, Nicole and Bryan. They are wonderful. They are Americans. They also have their Yoruba names. They don’t see me as D-One. They see me as their father. I love them because they welcome me home and they make me happy. When I get home, no matter how frustrating my day has been, when I get to that house and I see them, I see the reason I am working.
What do you like most about what you are doing now?
The fact that I am able to do it. One is able to do it and make it look easy doing it.
So, what don’t you like about what you are doing?
Because you are in the public eye, you don’t have privacy. If you spit on that road, it is going to be in the newspapers tomorrow. You’ve given away your privacy. But at the same time, you can’t complain about it because it’s part of the fame. The fame brings you the fortune, the money and puts food on your table. So, you have to take the good with the bad.
I AM A MAN OF MANY FIRSTS, SAYS KENNY OGUNGBE
What is the secret of success?
Believe in yourself. Have passion for what you do. It doesn’t matter if you are a tailor. If you have passion and you do it so well, you will sew clothes for presidents. If you are a driver, you do it so well; you will be a celebrity driver. Consistency is also important.
What is the biggest mistake that most people who are into your kind of business make?
Listening to people that are passing comments. Everybody has passed comments about Kenny Ogungbe. From my OGBC(Ogun State Broadcasting Corporation) days. Newspapers even wrote about it that he is not supposed to be on radio. I was on radio. They said I was a manager and should not be talking, I should manage. I went on TV; they said no, he should be in the office. Even when I went into music, they said I should be reading news or business. I still stayed with music. They were even abusing me on AIT, but passion kept me there. When I now left, they said music is my passion. At my age, so many people are older than me and I am about to start singing. And people are talking. They will still talk because I am used to it. They have second-guessed me all my life and whenever they second-guess me, that’s when I make it. So, people that are second-guessing me about singing now, let them watch me rise.
When you invested on the Remedies then, what gave you the confidence and courage?
It is the passion, because hip hop was not in Nigeria then. Everything I did from the beginning of my career, I will do now. Hip hop was not there. I did it. When I was on radio, I did it the way it had never been done. At Ray Power, I was part of 24 hour radio broadcasting which has never been done. Even when I was on TV. It has never been done. When I started Kennis Music, nobody was doing it then. Now, a lot of people are doing it. Now, I am a boss, a CEO, holding the microphone, nobody is doing it. I am the first CEO in Africa holding the microphone, and I am making it.
What prompted you to set up Kennis Music?
Passion. Anything I start, they will abuse me. They have abused me. You know their names. They ended up doing what I am doing. Now, they are abusing me that I am singing. The majority of them want to sing. Editors want to sing. CEOs want to sing. They have money to do it. In five years’ time, when I have made everything soft, they will join me. I can bet everything I have on it.
So, what’s your dream for Prime Time and Kennis Music?
Global stock exchange. Billion naira industry. It is coming soon.
Your relationship with Dayo Adeneye has been on for years. What has sustained it?
The glory of God and of course, the ability to respect each other. It can’t work without trust and respecting each other. We argue, we resolve. We disagree to agree and we love each other too much than anybody can tell. That you don’t see me with him at one event does not mean we are fighting. It’s because we are getting busier. And we are going to get busier than ever. He would be in London and I would be in businesses that don’t even have to do with talking on microphone.
Why do you think most partnerships fail in Nigeria?
They need to see successful ones. When they see successful ones, people would then be able to accept it en masse that partnership can work anywhere in the world. Warner Brothers have been there for hundreds of years. Look at the makers of Mercedes Benz (Daimler and Benz). The history is there. Partners should also avoid being greedy.
What has been the hardest decision you have taken as a human being?
Coming to Nigeria from Hollywood because if you have tested Hollywood, you would never want to live even in New York, not to talk of living in Magodo.
What then prompted you to leave Hollywood for Nigeria?
My brother-in-law (Dokpesi). He asked whether it is in Hollywood I will stay for the rest of my life. When he told me to come home, I said send me a ticket. I was just joking, but he sent me a first class ticket. That was about 20 years ago. All my life, I never flew first class. Then, I just finished from the university. I flew first class, Lufthansa. I will never forget. Los Angeles to Frankfurt. I was the only black person on the plane. I was in my late 20s. Everybody was looking at me, then from Frankfurt to Lagos, first class.
Leaving Hollywood for Nigeria was a big gamble, why did you take the risk?
My family (my brother-in-law and sister, Moji). They just said come for a week. If you don’t like it, then you go back. I took permission for a one-week vacation. I spent one month. I got a doctor’s report that I had malaria. Then, I called my boss, but they said if I don’t come back in two weeks’ time, I might as well kiss the job goodbye. I told my sister and my in-law, Dr. Raymond Dokpesi. He said if you want to go back now, your ticket is in your hand. And I said no;that was the beginning of my success in life. It is the biggest move in my life.
Do you regret eventually leaving Dr. Dokpesi to be on your own?
No, I never left Dr. Dokpesi. How can a young boy leave such a mentor? But that time so many things were happening. As a younger one, you can’t talk. I am a Yoruba boy, full of respect for my elders. My sister was also there. So, I can’t talk. Rather it was more like step aside and shut up. Since then I have never said anything, and I am not going to say anything. If you push more, I won’t say anything.
How would you describe your stay in Hollywood? What exactly were you doing?
I was living in the studio. The studio is where everybody that works for Universal Studio, Warner Brothers, Sony, Columbia Records live. If you work there, you wake up in the morning and go to the studio in the morning, you comeback at night, either as a director, camera man or DOP or creative person. That is why I can never watch any movie and be moved. I have seen all the behind the scene rudiments. Everything to me is not real. It is like somebody that drank garri all his life. An Ijebu man that has been drinking garri and you think he would get scared because you want to prepare eba for him with coke. Basically, I was exposed and my exposure now helped me to manage myself now and to make things happen for myself, for the future and for the industry and for the country.
Nearly all your siblings, with the exception of your sister, Aunty Moji, is into showbiz.
Sister Moji is our pillar. And she can sing. My mother sings. The fact that sister Moji is not holding microphone does not make her ignorant of the goings on in the industry. She is already dreaming of going into music with all the millions singers are now making (Laughs).
So, how do you feel inspiring all your younger ones?
It feels good. All my life, I have invested in human beings. And I took that from my mentor, Dr. Dokpesi. If you invest in human beings, forever and ever, they will remember you. Even their children. That is what I do. And I am thanking God today that more people are making it than before. Before, we were just on for one hour on AIT Jamz, when we were pushing the likes of Tony Tetuila, Remedies, Eedris Abdulkareem, even 2Face. We were just on one hour, Friday night. Now, we are on air every day. We have enough to push.
How does it feel that some of the big stars who started with Kennis Music areno longer there?
Because their contracts expired. You need to see our new artistes. People will come, people will go. If you feel you want to work with us, fine, if you feel you don’t want to work with us, fine. I am not trying to make anything, but that’s the fact because artistes have the tendency to blame other people for their inadequacies. If their record does not sell, they would say it is label. It doesn’t have to be Kennis Music.
Which of these artistes would you say you enjoyed the sweetest of relationship with?
They are all different. I love Eedris because he is straight forward. So many other ones are also straight forward, but not all of them.
What do you normally look out for in your would-be artistes?
You have to be good and different. Before Eedris came, the industry was getting monotonous. He came in and he is going to change it. Others are still coming.
How did you meet D-One?
We met in school. Southern University in Louisiana, Wales, USA.
What was the attraction?
Two Nigerians in Los Angeles, far away from Nigeria. We were in our very early 20s or late teens. All but white people. We were just two and my brother, ID. His own brother later came. It was like a bond, a family affair. From there we built a relationship.
How did you meet your wife, Bola?
Through my sister, Kenny St. Best, at a wedding. My sister said “I have a friend for you”. And from there I told her to marry me.
And what was her response?
She smiled. I was nobody then. I was not in Ray Power. I was not in OGBC. That’s why I have so much respect for my wife. We didn’t meet when I was popular. I used to walk to her house, and we would walk back to my house. We used to jump on Okada.
So, what would you say has sustained your marriage this far?
My wife allows me to do my work. She doesn’t worry. And she is too blunt to a fault. If somebody steps on her toes, she will kick you. And she is the only person that will say Kenny, sit down there and shut up, even when I was not married to her.
Now, let’s talk about the kids.
I have lovely children. One sweet 12 year old, Yvette Ifeoluwa. And I have two boys, twins, Calvin Ikeoluwa and Kelvin Iseoluwa.
What’s your philosophy of life?
Respectful and approachable because you don’t know when your blessing is coming.
WE’VE ALWAYS BEEN FRIENDS –I.D Ogungbe
What gave you the audacity and confidence to leave America and come back to Nigeria to do what you are doing?
I wasn’t a movie star in Hollywood. I lived few blocks away from Hollywood Boulevard. I was not Arnold Schwazenegger. I cannot even be the mayor of Los Angeles. Somebody has to come and do it. You acquire all this wealth of knowledge. So, you got to come and impart them on some other people. If you have the trick to do something on TV and you keep it to yourself and do not pass it on, you have failed yourself.
Ever since you come back, how would you describe your stay in Nigeria?
I was never too far away from Nigeria. But I would say it has been wonderful. I have not even done anything. Like Dagrin said, we should ask for more. I am not greedy. I want to do so many things, but some challenges are there. Give me some eighteen months and you will see better things than this.
How has it been working with Keke and D-1?
It’s work, work. We lived together. People say the chemistry is there. So, coming to work is like we live in the house.
Each time you people disagree, how do you sort it out?
It’s just O’boy, wetin dey do you sef (Laughs). How far now? Let’s go now; you don pop that bottle of champagne in the fridge?
How would you describe Keke?
The guy is a genius. He doesn’t look it. You know everybody is a genius at one point, at least once a year. The moment you do something and you hold a tight fist, yes, I got it, that makes you a genius. But he’s holding his fist more than once a year.
How would you describe D-1?
They call him Sexy Boy. He’s a genius too. He is a good friend. But that doesn’t describe D-1. I need an adjective. Can I buy one? D-1 is a gentleman. He gets upset, he leaves; he comes back. And you are waiting for somebody to be on fire, and you will see ice. That makes him a gentleman.
What do you think makes Kennis Music and Prime Time Africa work?
You have a technician, you have a manager. Don’t ever let the technician do the work of a manager. You are cut out to do this, you do that. We are not looking at competitions; competitions are actually looking at us. Forget the world famous. I actually gave them those names. If you call Keke by 4am, he would answer you. If you call me by 4am, I will tell you; ‘O’boy, call me during business hours’.
What are your dreams and aspirations for Prime Time and Kennis Music?
You can write a book on that one. It is big. I dream big. If you dream small, you will achieve small. Imagine yourself enriching lives and making money.
You read Architectural Engineering, how come you are not into engineering?
How many architects do you know? Who designed this building? Chances are that you don’t know the guy. Now, who is the executive in-charge of productions, Prime Time Entertainment? ID Ogungbe. It is a beautiful name. If you find fulfillment in an area other than your area of specialization, you go there.
So, when was the last time you drew a building plan?
I only draw sketches, hoping to design them. Not building. I design so many things now other than buildings. I have toys. I have some toys. Watch out for my toys soon.
But can you still design buildings?
Yes. If you can ride a bicycle, you can’t forget that. It is like riding a bicycle. It is a design. Even if you can’t do it and you sign it and you tell the architect and structural engineer what you want, it will still fly.
A whole lot of artistes have passed through Kennis Music…
Our office is like City Hall (Laughs). The door no dey lock.
When is ID coming back to the streets?
A lot of people want ID to come back to the streets, but ID has grown bigger than when he used to give N2,000 away on the streets. I will rather be talking to high school kids and college kids to impart knowledge.
Let’s talk about ID, the family man. Tell us about your wife, Funbi.
My beautiful wife is at the camp right now.
How did you meet her and what attracted you?
The height, the beauty, the smartness. She is the Research and Development type. She advises me on my projects.
How long have you been married?
Going to 10 years.
So, what would you say has kept the marriage going?
She is good in bed. You want me to lie (Laughs).
Let’s talk about your kids.
Primeaw. The second one is Cevon and the third one is Dimette. Don’t ask me if they are French.
How does ID relax?
I stay in the toilet. When I wake up and go toilet, I must play chess. I have a chess game on my phone. I play chess anytime. That relaxes me. The more I win, the more I want to play. But watch out for the computer beats I am coming out with. So, if you are the next in line waiting to use that toilet, forget it.
What is your favourite food?
Rice and beans.
Which drink is your favourite?
Good wine or good champagne.
What’s your philosophy of life?
To impact lives. That is the best invention. You know what Albert Einstein said; the best invention is the power of exponential. How can you multiply anything exponentially? A teacher teaches her, she teaches the next person, who teaches another person.
What’s the nicest thing that you’ve heard about yourself?
A guy sent me a mail in one of our segments in Prime Time Africa. The guy called me Isaac Newton.
What about the worst thing said about you?
When the guys say ID only talks to girls on the streets. But they forget that when we meet them on the street, they form. But when the girls see you, they co-operate more with you.
Who are your role models?
If you are doing wonderful, I look up to you.
What are your strengths and weaknesses?
I listen to what you say and develop it. I can improve on what you’ve done. For me, there are no short cuts.
What are your fears?
When I am alone in the car. I am more comfortable when we are two or three.
NB: First published September 2014