After introducing YCEE to Nigerian music lovers as an amazing music talent, Tinny Entertainment has spotted another young artiste who has a knack for making the kind of music that gets Nigerians to cheer. This artiste is of the mould of creatives with good understanding of art. She learnt to express herself through poetry, and now that she has found purpose in music making, she uses elements of poetry to make spirited rap verses and bubbly melodies. Her music has brought her out of J-Town, to the center stage of the Nigerian entertainment industry, where she is now growing her followership. The wonderful artiste being talked about is Bella Alubo and she comfortably wears the title of “First lady of Tinny Entertainment.”
Below is the excerpt of Ibironke Oluwatobi’s interview with her;
Hello, I’d like you to tell me about yourself
Hi, I am Bella. I am the first lady of Tinny Entertainment. I am a Jos girl. I call myself the Queen of Jos, because I consider myself the most prominent female artiste to come out of Jos and I about to conquer Nigeria.
So what is your followership in Jos like?
A lot of people were listening to my music and showing support on platforms like SoundCloud and on the internet before I moved to Lagos. Many of them were Jos people or Northerners like Kaduna and Abuja. Also, I graduated from the University of Jos, where I made a name for myself.
Tell me about your childhood
I grew up in a very academic family; my dad is a professor and my mom owns a primary and secondary school. So from the jump, I had always been interested in education which is perhaps why I got interested in writing poetry. I started to write poetry when I was 12, until when I was like 16, which was when I wrote my first rap verse. Since then I started making music. I grew up in Jos, and the way Jos is, the weather, I feel like it is a very conducive environment to encourage creativity because young people are always looking for way to do with all that.
What is the title of your first song?
It was a freestyle of Kanye West, Therapy beat, which I uploaded on SoundCloud and people liked it, so I just kept uploading.
From listening to your songs, it is noticeable that you can sing and rap. How do you respond to being often seen as a rapper rather than a balance of the two?
As an artiste and as a person, I like exploring several aspects of myself. At first I used to do poetry which was not rapping at all, so when I introduced myself to music, it was easy to go from poetry to rapping, since a lot of it was rhyming and delivery, but I was not very familiar with melodies, that was something I learnt along the way. If you listen to Bella in my early days, it was just freestyle, just straight rap. Then after that, you’d see that I attempted singing my hooks, I just fused melody to it, now I sing-rap. I feel like it has all been me, that I am just finding more aspects of my music.
Who are your musical influences?
By the time I started I would say Lil Wayne, Nikki Minaj and Angel Haze played a very major role. I think what sparked the interest in me, had to be the activities of the OGs from Jos; M.I, Ice Price, Jesse Jagz, even Terry Tha Rapman from Kaduna was making a lot of wave that time and so many other people. Generally now, I like people like Tiwa Savage, I like Burna Boy because of his flow. I like Wizkid because his work ethic is mad. I like YCEE, I have so many influences.
What was the reception for your EPs like when you dropped them?
The first one, I would say was my first ever project because before then, I had only put out very few singles and materials, I was surprised at how far it went. I feel like that is what made the groundwork for me to be here right now. So many people supported me; I remember people like Adekunle Gold posted on Instagram, Ice Prince, M.I, E-Kelly, and so many famous people who I was not expecting, XO Senavoe.
The second one was like solidifying the ground I had. It was like, oh yeah, I have introduced myself and now I’m trying to show the guys what I can do, that I am not going to fade away. The reception has been quite good; people have been supportive of my music.
What has changed for you music-wise, now that you have a record deal, compared to when you were unsigned?
One of the things I like about being signed is the structure that it has given me generally. I do everything related to my music better. I have a sense of direction when I’m in the studio, I know where I am going, I think about the listeners, I think about my target audience, I think about the vibe I’m trying to pass across, I think about if the music fits my brand and it generally makes me sound more professional. I am also trying out several new things music-wise, I am improving every day, so that is one thing I appreciate about my label because they are pushing me to be the best that I can be in quick time.
A lot of female rappers did not get to stay for long on the music scene, what do you plan to do differently?
I have been making music for 5 years, and in those 5 years I feel like I have accomplished a lot and I feel like my effort has been quite commendable, that I have shown that I am not going to be a one hit wonder, who is about just the fame. If you follow me closely, you’d notice that I am evolving, I am showing different sides of myself and that is how to stay relevant, I guess. You have to remember to evolve with the times; you have to remember to stay fresh, you have to remember to stay new, you have to remember to appeal to people. So my plan is to evolve with the times.
Like the Remy Ma/Nikki Minaj face-off going on, what would be your reaction to a diss?
Personally, I feel like I have grown quite tired of people pitching females against each other. I am more about positive energy, I am more about uniting with other women, and I am more about hustle. I am more about supporting each other and knowing that girls also can collaborate and run things. So if I get a diss now, I would be very surprised if I respond because I don’t like to encourage any sort of negative energy at all.
Would there be any direction of feminism in your music or perhaps your activities off the mic?
Oh yeah. On my song, Radio, you’d noticed I mentioned how I do it for my girls, you’d notice how I’m always talking about how we can make money, how we can buy Benzes. So I want to be the kind of artistes that encourages my peers, not just girls. I want to encourage young people to work hard and be the best they can be.
There seem to be a bond of J-Town artistes in the industry. What is your relationship other J-Town artistes, tell me about the bond?
Yeah, the way Jos is, Jos is a very small town, so those of us who make music or do any form of creative art like to support each other. There is no way you are making music in Jos and you do not know the next dope guy making music. So that is one thing I like about Jos. M.I & Ice were friends with my brother and that is how I knew them. I remember I used to listen to them and ask them about music. I always mention the Grip Boys, Endia and Yung L particularly, they helped with my music, and I would send my stuffs to them. Even when I started writing I would send my writings to them on BBM, and they would respond and tell me what they thought about it. They would tell me what to do, to make it better. I remember then, my lines were whack but they were quite supportive and encouraging.
Is there something about the J-Town culture that encourages creativity?
I always tell people that what is happening in Jos is how the seniors show the younger ones how it is possible to follow in their footsteps. Also there are cases like the museums in Jos. I think it is on Sundays, we had this art and crafts show where singers go to perform, people go there with their guitars, they used to have jam sessions, those type of things, I believe, helps the music culture in the area. I recall that there is an entertainment-type school there too, that contributes to the love of the culture. Basically, I think it is the first guys that did it, and showed that it is possible.
Culled from Issue 17