Although priding himself as a versatile entertainer, his acting debut chiefly dissected his fan base in two. One is a movie-inclined faction in whose minds Makanaki — a menacing, ruthless, and eagle-eyed criminal overlord that became his role in the political thriller ‘King of Boys (KOB)’ — remains vivified. Another is the music wing frenziedly cheering over his lyricism from the auditorium of his sold-out concerts and eagerly scrambling over every one of his hit songs, collaborations, and studio albums.
Reminisce reprised his role in the seven-part series that is the blockbuster film’s sequel, masterfully delivering on his embodiment of the character with the deftness of a thespian who had years of acting experience tucked under his belt. In the film, KOB for short, he is — far from the musician he is in person — a gang leader who orchestrates the robbery of top politicians to claim illegally acquired cash stashed away in untoward places. Cigarette in his hand, a gold-plated chain glistening around his neck, his character proceeds to usurp the boss, utterly defying the norm.
Movies aside, Reminisce agreed the KOB character Makanaki shared certain attributes with his real-life persona. In a burst of laughter over his condenser microphone, the rapper adds the caveat: “I’m a Makanaki without the guns.”
His hair and beard died brown, the rapper continues: “I told Kemi Adetiba the character shared certain similarities with me. I can be uptight; a stand-up guy. I’m very firm and masculine too. Minus the guns, of course, the character is just me. I’m introverted; hardly ever comfortable around people I don’t already know, not like I don’t like them. I walk like [Makanaki], talk like that too. You can have a little bit of temper here and there when provoked. That’s it.”
The KOB sequel, directed and produced by Adetiba, quickly garnered rave reviews, dominating social media discourse for at least three days after its premiere on August 27. Reminisce is one of the three rappers in the KOB project. However, he had turned down the offer to play Makanaki thrice, having not had any prior experience starring in series or feature-length movies.
Declined KOB role thrice; went on set blank-headed
“Banky W messaged me explaining that Kemi Adetiba was trying to reach out,” he says, explaining how he got on the project. “I was joking like, ‘oh, I know her. That lady with fine legs! Fine girl is looking for me? Cool!’ He sent my number. Kemi called, bouncing her idea of the movie off me and the role I was to play. I told her I wasn’t interested. I think she was trying to use people the audience will connect with. What she saw in me I still don’t know. I didn’t want to do it. I did enough for her to not call me back, like when you’re intentionally trying to piss someone off.
“But she was persistent. I turned her down thrice or so. She insisted I read the script first. I had a rethink. I always wanted to do something new, so I decided I would give it a shot. After that, I still didn’t believe in it. I didn’t attend the premiere just because I thought it was going to be all backlash, only for people to come back and say I aced it.”
Arriving on the movie set for the first time and seeing Sola Sobowale, the lead actor, doing her thing, Reminisce says he became even more certain he wasn’t the one for the role.
“It was awkward at first,” he recalls, “I saw Sola Sobowale in her full elements. I was scared; told Kemi straight up, ‘I don’t know how to act. I can’t do what this woman is doing’. She insisted, ‘don’t worry, you’ll get used to it’. To tell you how disinterested I was, I didn’t even read the script. On the first day on set, I didn’t read a thing. I got there blank-headed, tipsy. Clearly, I didn’t care. I had that dismissive attitude. But once I decided I was going to commit to this thing, I gave it my best. I started learning the terminologies and everything I needed to play that character.
“People have that underlying perception that musicians are rude and might snub you when you accost them. Also, I looked scary. People are scared of me normally. It was sort of like two-factor authentication for me. What I did was to ease everyone. I started with the crew members, got them drinks. That way, I eased them in to see that, ‘oh, he’s actually nice’. That eventually rubbed off on the cast and the entire process. It felt like a work environment. I also did not ask for special treatment, because that’s what starts toxicity. Of course, you have to ask for certain things.
“Musicians are used to certain treatments. You can get there and, when you don’t get those, you start to sulk up. For me, I understood the same stuff is what we all get. It made a lot of stuff easy for us all. There was no toxicity on set.”
Between Reminisce & Makanaki
Reminisce had proceeded to adjust Makanaki’s diction and mannerism to his taste, as against strictly following the dictates of his script. He notes that there are aspects of his upbringing that naturally blended into the character. Asked how much of himself crystalised into Makanaki, the father of five shrugs and goes ahead to open up on his non-conforming nature as a child. Reminisce says he defiantly left home against his father’s wish to pursue a career in music — one that didn’t yield the expected result of ushering the rapper into stardom until he clocked 30.
“Yes, I had a background in Lagos as portrayed in the film; lived in Yaba at some point. But the influence, I would say, was just like that of every normal kid in high school. You’re writing final exams. Of course, you’d have friends with whom you mixed up, smoked on occasions. It’s like what every kid on the street does. I wasn’t some ghetto kid unlike what people think. I had a dad who was willing to school me. Yes, I had my struggles: losing my mum which took a toll. Promiscuity was something I decided to do, not that I was forced into it,” he explains.
“My parents wanted me to become a doctor, so I ran away. It paid off; I hardly fail. Like every other kid, I went to boarding school, came back home on holiday. I was popular in secondary school. My colleagues weren’t surprised I became a singer. I decided I was going to be a rapper and my father laughed it off like, ‘you’re kidding’. He forced me to write my university entrance exam, insisting I had to be schooled first, even if I wanted to be a porn star.
“I had to obey, and as soon as I wrapped up, I started chasing music. I finished secondary school at age 14 or so. It was pretty fast. People say I spent a lot of time before I hit stardom. That was at age 30 after I started at 22.”
The filming of KOB2 took place amid the EndSARS protest that rocked Lagos in 2020, posing a major risk for both the cast and crew of the Netflix original series. Reminisce was away from his children when hooligans hijacked the protest and seized the opportunity to loot private properties and mete out violence on unsuspecting citizens.
As gunshots of security operatives crackled, staying cooped up in a hotel, limiting movement, and hiring extra security was a no-brainer. The Makanaki persona and its seeming invincibility was something for the movies, not Lagos’ rough terrains at the time where a reckless show of bravery could send even the most buffed-up guard on a free ride to an early grave.
“We were directly in that environment when the [Lekki] tollgate situation happened,” Reminisce says, adding that, “not less than a kilometre away. It was really bad. There were like three lootings on our street. Aunty Sola Sobowale was scared. I remember going to her room every morning and she would cry. I was scared as well. My children were home and I couldn’t go back and be with them. My assistant, friend, Nse Ikpe-Etim, and I were stuck. It was emotional for us all. The cast and crew were stuck on the island and there was a lot of uncertainty as hotels were being broken into.”
Reminisce’s rap legacy & the Afropop craze
Reminisce — real name Remilekun Abdulkalid Safaru — is by many standards, one of the most accomplished rappers in Nigeria, having sold millions in copies of four rap albums just as pop maintains a chokehold on consumer choice. His sound defines a great deal of Nigeria’s hip-hop, occupying the major seat in street music and indigenous rap. Ten years in the game, Reminisce’s lyricism and legacy are unrivalled. His mastery of multiple genres is self-evident.
In the web of Nigeria’s rhythmic music market, it is easy to find many creatives who started out as rappers drifting towards pop music, with many noting that Afropop’s overbearing influence relegates their kind to the background. Reminisce doesn’t share that opinion. Exuding unbridled confidence, he argues that the problem is about rappers not better communicating and connecting with their audience in a way that commands attention and creates new fans.
“That’s what I think the problem is. Mode9 still has his fans, from almost 20 years. Pop stars don’t get that, 20-year dedicated fans. For pop stars, once they don’t have a hit, the fans move on. We as rappers have an advantage but we don’t know how to utilise it, instead, we complain all the time. People have followed me for 10 years listening to my music, engaging with me on Twitter each time I have new projects, and even preordering. Pop stars don’t get that,” Reminisce says.
“It is what it is. Nobody allows anybody to thrive anywhere and no one owes anyone anything. People just need to learn to survive. I’m 40 and I’ve survived many eras. You learn to survive, not complain. That’s how it is globally. No one is ever going to give you the room to rule. You have to look for ways to do what you do such that people will accept you more. I put out one verse with Olamide and that is doing just fine. I’m not a fan of all these complaints.
“Nobody gives anyone anything in the real world. We just like to do this woke thing and deceive ourselves. If you’re at a disadvantage, that’s because you want to be. The industry doesn’t owe you balance. We just say certain things to make each other feel good. You create balance yourself. Are pop stars going to stop creating music because rappers feel relegated? No! You need to find a way and get up there.”
Reminisce is seemingly charged and further absorbed in the conversation — gesturing, occasionally reeling back and forth in his chair, and rolling his eyes.
Music, acting, business, broadcasting… politics?
Beyond music-making and acting, Alaga, as he’s fondly called, had delved into sports broadcasting in the first half of 2021, which makes him an OAP brimming with an obsession with football. His business acumen and inclination to trying out new ventures are particularly admirable. Like many others, Reminisce embraces versatility. He argues that the multiple sides to him as a creative aren’t a function of desperation but will.
“I don’t see myself at any disadvantage,” he states, clarifying why he tries out new things. “My numbers are decent. I don’t say it enough. Stephen, do your research. At my age, people are still willing to offer me advance [deals] on my catalogue. That should tell you something. Beyond that, it has been a decade. You would want to try out other things. It’s just normal. It can be lonely and boring being at the top. You wake up every morning trying to record the next song, attend to clients, shoot videos, drop albums, go to shows & parties, embark on cross-national tours.
“I spent seven years this way; woke up one day to realize I hadn’t gone out with my kids before. I didn’t even know them. I decided I was going to change my energy. I wasn’t going to put out music for a year, that was three years ago, at which time I went on hiatus. I wanted to connect with my kids. Life was just too fast. I started to engage with my kids, take them to school, and find out what’s going on. There was a time when I didn’t enter my kids’ room for two years. I got there to discover it was painted a different colour. I was like, ‘wow! And we live in the same house?’
“It was that bad. I decided I wanted to be present in their lives, so I prioritised that. It was basically being a better father and trying other things. Delving into other businesses was because I wanted to, not that I had to. Of course, I love the money. The end is just the money if I’m to be very honest. But did I start a broadcast show because of that? No. We didn’t even plan to get sponsors that quick. I already started spending to get the job done. I watch football and loved talking about it. I told myself I wanted to do things I enjoyed doing henceforth. And that’s what I did.”
Reminisce is done being bound by the music industry competition and scrambling for the next hit. He has had far too many experiences to be trapped in that hamster wheel. The hitmaker had scheduled the release of his fifth album, ‘Alaye Toh Se Gogo’, for August but cut himself slack on the release date. In an industry where fans can easily decide to see him as no more than a rapper, Reminisce is pushing the boundaries and flexing his creative prowess.
He’s a record label boss. He sings, runs a radio show. He’s into business. He acts in movies; dares directors to make good offers and watch him deliver on his role in their projects. Who knows what Reminisce has next up his sleeves?
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