Kingsley Okonkwo, who is more famous with his stage name, KCee, has catapulted himself to the A-list, with the release of his hit single ‘Limpopo’. In this interview with the Tribune, he spoke about his early struggles and the benefits of fame.
How do you feel about the success that has been trailing your career recently?
From where I was coming from to where I am today, it has been God. Basically, I always tell people it is God because I have been working harder than I am doing right now, but right now the story is different and I can say that God has been so merciful to me.
You have worked hard over the years, but it seems the rewards have started trickling in, are you surprised about the turnaround?
Laughs… Yes, I will say I am surprised, but if I look at it again from another perspective, I had always known that I would hit it big someday. I already had that determination since I started singing, but honestly speaking, limpopo was a divine song from God. I think God just felt it was time for me to step up my game to the A’list level.
When you were writing the song, where were you?
It just happened like every other song that you want to release. I was in the studio with some friends. We were all playing in the studio and the song just came up. It was not one of those songs that you already have the idea of what you want to do about it, I mean the arrangement and other stuffs. But something very funny happened in the studio that day, after recording the song, we decided to celebrate it as though we knew it was going to be a massive success. As luck would have it, the song became an instant hit in its first two weeks of release. My brother, I was surprised; I could not contain the joy. In less than one month, I was receiving calls from different parts of the world and in two months, it was something else. It is the anointing and the power of God that I have been enjoying since I released the song.
Talking about anointing, are you that religious, considering your style of life?
It is the anointing. It is the power of God. My life style has nothing to do with my religious life. I know where I am coming from. The truth is that you need to recognise God and appreciate Him for what He has done for you. Today, when I am performing and I see the way people appreciate my songs and performance, I don’t need anybody to tell me that this is God working.
You were said to have left the country immediately after the recording, some people said you were afraid the song won’t do well…
No, that’s not true. We travelled out of the country after the recording to shoot the video of the song. I dropped the song while I was in Spain. We came back a week after dropping the video. When I came back to the country, the response to the song was massive, bigger than what I have ever done.
What does Limpopo mean?
To me, Limpopo means let us have fun. It’s just my own way of saying let us go and have fun.
Sometime ago, you were said to have quit the industry. I learnt you went into furniture business. What exactly was responsible for it?
It got to a point that I wanetd to leave the industry. I remember in 2009-2010, I almost quit the industry. I went into furniture business, I started importing furnitures into the country. I got a showrroom in Lagos and I was doing fine with it, but I was not deriving the kind of satifaction that I wanted because I still wanted to do music, no matter what. So, immediately after the break up with my partner, it was a point where I took a decision that I must make my own impact in the music industry.So, I had to put aside every business and said to myself that If I try it this time and it does not work, I will leave. I know it got to a point that I wanted to leave the industry, but I am happy that my determination not to give up has paid off tremendously today.
You went into the furniture business with your partner, Presh but it still didn’t work. Is that why you decided to go your separate ways?
I think our separation was divine. It was divine in the sense that I didn’t just wake up one day and said I was not going to work with him again. We were talking as friends after we started the furniture business, we wanted to do something different. The both of us agreed that we should do separate albums to express ourselves. That was the story behind our break up. It was an agreement between the two of us, it was not because we had any irreconciliable differences.
If it was a mutual agreement that you had, why has it become almost impossible for you guys to come back together?
We are still on the project. We have not released any album since we broke-up. You never can tell. We might come back together. Nobody knows what would happen tomorrow. We are still very close, but you know sometimes, God knows how to come into issues. That is how much I can tell you about our relationship.
Who is frustrating the come back move, is it you or Presh?
Nobody is frustrating anything. Journalists have a way of bringing nothing out of something. I have told you that we are still friends. When the time for us to come back as a group, nobody will stop or frustrate it like you have said.
Don’t you think your current status is one major problem why you can’t be together again; he may be jealous of your success?
You are right. The love might not be as it used to be. There might be some sort of jealousy or envy as you have said, but no matter how you look at it, even if were to be me, it is not going to be all that rosy like it used to be. The bottom line is that you need to find your feet and believe in yourself. For me, I took a lot of boldness when we separated.
Are you saying you expected him to have found his feet like you did?
Well, like I said, it took me a lot of boldness. A lot of people were saying my partner was better than I when we broke up. I read a lot of stories online, but I was not moved. In fact, some people said I should go back to Onithsa and start selling clothes; they said why are we even singing. It was a difficult moment in my life. But I knew I have what it takes in me. It’s like pregancy; only the woman carrying the baby that knows. If it is two or three months, nobody knows. Even the man who impregnated her may not know what the woman is carrying until she tells you or the pregnacy starts developing gradually. What I am trying to say is that you know what you carry inside of you. That was the kind of feeling I had when we broke up. You have to believe in yourself in everything you do.
So, you were never scared of leaving your partner?
It was scary when I wanted to leave. You don’t need to lie to yourself. I knew that I have the passion and what it takes to sell good music, that gave me the confidence. Not because I am the best singer, it is just the determination to succeed and the passion for music.
But you have released some singles and videos before now, why is limpopo different?
It is not like people didn’t know I am a musician. When I did Opeke remix, people did not act like they saw it; I did a remix with a South African artist, we no hear anything; I did one with Davido; Nack me with Harry Song; I did a song with Flavour, nobody said a word. Limpopo was the eight singles that I did since my partner and I broke up. As I am right now, you don’t know if I will be doing a song with Beyonce and Jayzee tomorrow. If I had given up before now, I wouldn’t be talking about all these. I just believe that there was something in me that I need to express; the journey has just begun.
Let’s talk about your deal as MTN’s brand ambassador, how did you come about that?
The truth is when God wants to bless you, He blesses you on every side. Yes, other brands were calling me for deals, but just as were talking about it, the MTN deal came and I was very happy about it. The deal was worth taking, if it was not, I won’t take it.
Is the deal not restricting you in any form?
The deal is good and of course it came with some restrictions. But if you consider the benefits of the deal, I am comfortable with it. I think MTN is just trying to support the industry and I appreciate the company for what it is doing. Limpopo song was just the bridge that connected me with some of the deals and top places I have visited since I dropped it. I was surprised when I heard President Jonathan and his wife, Patience dancing and singing Limpopo at a function. They love the song so much, especially top government functionaries. So, the song is a huge success.
Are you not feeling weighed down under the burden of the success?
(laughs)… there you go again. One thing I know for sure is that God won’t give you the kind of blessing you can’t handle. He had prepared me for it before He gave it to me. He has given me the strength and energy to move on. Success and I are on the same page. When you hear Kcee, you hear good music. I will be dropping my album very soon, when you hear it, you will know why I am made to sing music. My kind of music is totally different from what I used to do; no vulgar words, strictly for mature minds.
How did you support OJB before Governor Amaechi came to his rescue, it was reported that some of his friends ditched him…
I was in Calabar when I heard about the sad news of what he was going through and I called him that I was going to see him when I get to Lagos. It is annoying for someone like OJB to be down with such ailment. He’s talented and I know people really supported him.
Did you support him financially?
I don’t get moved about what people say, I just want to do what I know is right and I don’t have to announce to the world what I have done or what I intend to do for OJB. Where OJB is right now, God knows about it and I know he will surely come out of it alive. I didn’t call OJB because of what people would say, I called him because I had to. But mind you, it is not everyone that will show him love and support. Whatever people say does not count right now, what matters to me is how we can save a dying soul who has done a lot to help change the face of music in Nigeria.
I learnt that you were working with Sunday Are before now, but reports had it that you wanted to leave his management when your status changed. How true is this story?
We were in the process, but we are still working. We need him to do one or two things for us. But there was nothing like quarrel. He’s like a father in the industry, we needed some kind of support from him in terms of projecting the brand, not recording or promoting our songs. We needed some support because of his experience. But it was never a major deal or agreement. He can get me shows and I will pay him his percentage.
How do you relax?
I try to relax, but it has not been easy. You need to work out and work hard.
What is it about your love for exotic automobiles, I learnt you just took the delivery of a BMW BMX6 and a Range Rover. Will you ever stop acquiring cars?
I don’t see them as cars, but big toys. It is normal because those that know me would tell you I appreciate good things of life; clothes, cars, house, videos and anything good you can talk about. I am not complaining about how I live my life. If I buy anything today, I do it because I could afford it.