The importance of being ‘innocent’; 2face Idibia
Do we really know how integral 2face Idibia is to New Nigerian music? Better still: Does 2face Idibia realise what he is and what he has done?
Yes, he’s the nation’s, and possibly the continent’s, biggest pop star. Yes he’s perhaps the most humble musician you will come across in a long while. Yes, no Nigerian singer straddles pop, soul, R&B, funk and reggae like 2face does and none seems as comfortable in his skin as 2face is. It will be saying the bleeding obvious to say 2face has that X-Factor that sets artistes apart from stars… 2face is a megastar.
Here is a common scenario that occurs with precise regularity if you ever hang out anywhere 2face hangs out. Before his arrival, a couple of Nigerian artistes are holding court one a couple of tables in one corner of the bar/lounge. Hangers-on, aides and groupies are all attentive and focused on the artistes. Then 2face steps in. He approaches the tables almost prostrating, his charming smile glued to his face like a mask. He’s calling everybody bros, including the young man yet to get his demo into the hands of a label executive. Greetings done, he quietly moves to the most inauspicious corner, almost as if he’s afraid of the limelight.
In the next 5 minutes, everybody on the tables, including the ‘stars’, will somehow find their way to 2face’s table. Having witnessed this more than a couple of times, I now call it ‘A Season of Migration Towards the Lamp‘. 2face Idibia is the leading light of New Nigerian music and the lamp lighting the paths of many of the artistes that have taken Nigerian music from the periphery to the core centre of our musical engagements on radio, television, clubs, concerts, in our cars, homes and hearts.
In 1999 I was president of my department’s student association at the Lagos state University. I contracted Plantashun Boiz to perform at our annual departmental dinner and awards night. TuFace (as he was known then) Blackface and Faze agreed to come to the campus a couple of days before the awards night to help with publicity for the show. I paid them N20, 000. We sold out tickets for the event, which was holding for the very first time. The anticipation was amazing. This was well before Plantashun Boiz became perhaps the biggest male group of the modern era in Nigerian music. This was long before that classic Plantashun Boiz album; long before Face 2 Face, 2face’s debut solo album, an album that is yet to be beaten as a first album by any musician in this country in almost a decade. While many moaned when he left the group, I saw it as creative destruction necessary for him to fulfill his true potentials.
Is this where we insist that 2face was born a star?
The last Nigerian musician who had the kind of influence 2face has today is of course Fela. In a peculiarly Fela manner, Fela rode the Nigerian music space like a colossus. 2face is doing the same today. Five successful albums and numerous hits later, 2face is the representative voice of New Nigerian music. His influence is easily discernible in styles, mannerisms, delivery and eclectics that are abundant across the sphere of what is popular music in Nigeria today.
But 2face’s influence goes above and beyond style and eclectics. There’s something alluring in the story of a young man from Benue state who never finished school but came to Lagos to take over his world and wow a generation with his abundant talents through hard work, dedication and humility. That talented young man/woman out there sees 2face today and sees possibilities. He/she knows that with hard work, dedication and divine mercy, all his/her dreams, hopes and aspirations are possible. This is what great people do: they make us feel that we can be great too.
In a couple of years 2face Idibia will hit his 40′s. For how much long will he be relevant?
Nobody can truly say. I wonder though whether it is necessary for him to be relevant forever. I fear that even if we try very hard, it will be impossible for us to write 2face off Nigeria’s music space at anytime today or in the future. That is the stuff legends are made of and that’s why 2face Idibia is a legend.