Interview: Ice Prince
You’d find it near enough impossible to switch on any African music channel and not hear the voice of this cool, calm and self-assured twenty-something-year-old blasting out of your speakers. His song, 'Oleku', has propelled him into the spotlight - joining the likes of D’Banj, 2Face and P-Square as one of Africa’s most sought-after artists...
Ice Prince is a Nigerian rapper who has shaken up the Afrobeats scene in recent months, and The Wrap Up’s resident Afrobeats columnist, Nonny Orakwue, hung out with the Nigerian star after his sell out gig at the Indigo O2 to discuss his UK radio success, the challenges of being an African artist trying to make it in a technologically connected world, collaborations, and more.
The Wrap Up: What kick-started your music career?
Ice Prince: It started when I went to secondary school in the late 90s. I started performing at social events at school and I would mime along to 2Pac to B.I.G songs, and that’s when I fell in love with rap. A few years later, I joined the choir in my church.
TWU: How would you describe a typical day in the life of Ice Prince?
Ice Prince: A typical day for Ice Prince would be to wake up, shower and, if I’m not performing that day, head straight up to the studio. I have a studio in my house. I go to the studio and listen to music that I made the day before and I just try to create new stuff. After that, I reply to my emails, get on Twitter to talk to a few girls and then go back in the studio. If I have a visitor, I go and chill with them and then I jump straight back in the studio.
TWU: You’re one of the first Afrobeats artists to be playlisted on mainstream UK radio stations like BBC 1Xtra, where the likes of Tim Westwood has really been supporting your hit, ‘Oleku’. Why do you think they’re taking more notice of artists like yourself?
Ice Prince: I think it’s our time. Well, that’s what I tell everybody. I think it’s time for Afrobeats and African music to get in. Like I always say, ‘UK music and American music has been everywhere.’ Jamaican music is big all over the world right now and I think it is time for Afrobeats as well. We have good music, we have a good sound and we have something special to offer the world. I think it’s time for the world to listen.
TWU: How did 'Oleku' come about and were you surprised about the storm it’s created?
Ice Prince: ‘Oleku’ was one of those songs that came during one of my recording sessions. I came up with the chorus first, then I called Brymo in and we did it together – I don’t really have a good singing voice. Jesse Jagz produced that track also. So, we finished the song and then I sent it to my record label and they weren’t really excited about it enough to put it out. They wanted us to touch up the song some more –add this, add that – but I was persistent and wanted to put the song out as soon as possible. They eventually got tired of my stubbornness and we’re like, ‘Cool! Just put the song out on the Internet and see how it goes.’ We did that and the rest, as they say, is history. I’m really, really surprised because I didn’t expect it to go this far. Like, I didn’t expect it to reach Tim Westwood. That’s really big! From that one song, I’ve performed all over the world.
TWU: African artists operate in essentially the same way as independent UK urban artists, in that they both have no major label backing. How do Nigerian artists get their music to consumers?
Ice Prince: I’m on a label called Chocolate City and, because they’re based in Nigeria, they understand what the market is like and they work with the structure that they have. They may not necessarily operate like the big record labels in the Western world, but they know how to handle it in their own environment – something they do very well. The music even finds its way outside of the country and the continent. If you’re big back home, then you’re big. How you get big over there is by putting your song out on radio and if people like it, then they like it.
TWU: It can be said that the surge of mobile technology and Internet use across Africa has really helped to export African music to the fans worldwide. From an artist perspective, how has it affected you?
Ice Prince: The Internet has really, really been a useful tool to push the music. I can put up a link of a new song on my Twitter now and, with my 100,000 followers, I can be sure that my song will spread easily and fast. The African music blogs that we have out there have been really helpful also. We, as African artists, are really excited that there are blogs like this really putting the music out there. To be honest, they’re the reason why we get heard outside of the continent.
TWU: You were one of the featured artists on the Nigerian cipher for the BET Hip-Hop Awards last year. How did that come about?
Ice Prince: I got an email a day before the recording. I actually wasn’t meant to be part of it. It was meant to be Sauce Kid, Naeto C, M.I and Mode 9, but I think Sauce Kid was having problems with his flight from LA to Nigeria a day before filming and they thought he wasn’t going to make it, so they were going to replace him with me. But then Sauce Kid made his flight and it was too late to bounce me, so they put all of us together and we went to the studio and recorded. Out of everyone who was on it, I was the youngest. I felt really honoured to be on the BET cipher, it was a good platform to be on and I felt blessed.
TWU: Whilst you were in London, you performed at the Indigo O2. Have you got any more UK or European shows where we can catch you?
Ice Prince: I’m in Dublin on March 23 and then the rest of my tour dates are in Africa: Gambia, Uganda and various other places around Africa. I have a few other dates and locations, but I’m still waiting for those to be confirmed.
TWU: Are you feeling any UK artists right now?
Ice Prince: I hooked up with Tinchy Stryder and he’s quite cool. I generally like UK music. There really are too many artists for me to start mentioning, but I respect them all.
TWU: Have you got any exciting collaborations that we can expect to see in the near future?
Ice Prince: I did a track with Gyptian, which is coming out soon. In terms of Afrobeat artists, I’m not sure yet because I can go back to Nigeria and be in the studio with 2Face, D’Banj or anybody.
TWU: Looking to the Afrobeats scene, who else should we be keeping an eye on?
Ice Prince: Dee Money from Ghana, Brymo and Grip Boys from Nigeria and Camp Mula from Kenya. I can’t wait to see those guys blow up!
TWU: And finally, what’s next for Ice Prince?
Ice Prince: My album, ‘Everybody Loves Ice Prince’, came out in October of last year. This year, we’re putting out videos from that album; we’re putting out more songs, brand new singles and songs that didn’t make the album. Expect some international collaborations as well! I’m trying to take Afrobeats outside of Nigeria, outside of Ghana, and take it to the rest of the world. We’re basically grinding this year.
Stay up to date with Ice Prince on Twitter – www.twitter.com/IcePrinceZamani
Words: Nonny Orakwue (@MisssN)
Online editing: Joseph 'JP' Patterson (@Jpizzledizzle)