Do you remember the birth of Nigerian hip-hop? Before these crop of young crooners filled the airwaves? Do you remember when it was Ras Kimono’s ‘ayagayagayagayo eh!’ and Alex O’s ‘baby walamkolombo’ that filled our air waves and black/white TV screens? Or the lady with the jerry curls that sang ‘look your left, look your right, look your left before you cross?’ That was way before the Daddy Showkey’s and Daddy Fresh’s entered the scene. Oh! There was Blackie, and there were the Fremedies who were pretty popular at some point. It consisted of Eddie Brown, Tony Tetuila and Idris Abdulkareem if I recall correctly.
Personally, I think Nigerian Hip Hop came alive when the Plantashun Boiz hit the stage. Black-Face, Faze and the subject of this treatise, the one, the only, the famous Tu-Face Idibia!!! ‘Plantashun Boiz, keep following your dreams, reach for the stars…everybody say ayah, yah, yah, somebody say plantashun boiz…” Hahahaha!!! Slowly, people started taking notice of this group, and gradually, their popularity grew. Until Tu-face went solo and went sky high!!! But wait! How did Mr. Innocent Ujah Idibia, the 37 year-old Benue State indigene and college drop-out, son of a Civil Servant and Teacher become the household name he is now? Let me educate you.
Born on September 18, 1975 in Jos, Plateau State, Tu-Face had a childhood ambition of becoming a professional footballer. How far he pursued this dream I do not know, but as a student of St. Gabriel’s Secondary School, Makurdi, he formed his first music group, the Black Universe. Bad Manners replaced Black Universe while he was in Jos for a one-year remedial course in 1994. He went on to attend the Institute of Management & Technology [IMT] in Enugu State where he did his preliminary National Diploma course in Business Administration and Management. Tu-Face planned to pursue the Higher National Diploma (HND) after he completed his Ordinary National Diploma (OND) programme. However, paying his fees was an uphill task, so he decided to supplement by organising and performing at shows with Augustine Ahmedu (Black Face). Then, Tu-Face was known as L.A while Black Face’s stage name was Pirate. Before long, his musical prowess had made a name for him, and he was soon invited to neighbouring schools such as the University of Nigeria and Enugu State University of Science & Technology to perform. Well, one doesn’t need to be a rocket scientist to decipher that books and ‘shows’ are strange bedfellows.
His major breakthrough at the time was composing and singing the jingles in the famous radio show GB Fan Club in Enugu State Broadcasting Services (ESBS) in 1996. Perhaps propelled by and riding the wave of his success, he relocated to Lagos, and there formed the Plantashun Boiz with Black Face. At the same period in time, he began to refer to himself as Tu-Face/2Face. About the name, he says, “The name to me just refers to the outside and inside: when you first see me you see the outside but when you get to know me, you see the inside,” [as reported in an interview with the BBC].
Their budding group which later included Faze [Chibuzor Orji], faced severe difficulties which included lack of accommodation in the new city, lack of financial support, and being newbies, they were not getting sufficient airplay. They reportedly jumped buses, begged radio DJs, squatted with friends and sometimes, starved. The group recorded two albums and was brought to lime light when they were featured in Tony Tetuila’s song, “Omode meta”. Tu-Face recalls “From our first show, we got N3, 000 from Jimmy Jatt and we felt like it was N3 million because then, we played a lot of free shows. Uncle Jimmy was the first to actually pay us. The highest we ever got was N10, 000. To be honest with you, that money was like millions to us.”
The Plantashun Boiz grew in leaps and bounds and some were more than a little puzzled when the obviously successful trio dissolved the winning team on the heels of Tu-Face’s departure in 2004. Little did we know he wanted to fly even higher; perhaps he had no need for extra luggage. The Plantashun Boiz did however reunite briefly in 2007 for an album titled, ‘Plan B.’
Now a solo artiste, Tu-Face set about making some of the most memorable songs to date. His first solo album ‘Face 2 Face’ has sold over two million copies, and the hit song, “African Queen” [Who can forget this song?] from that debut album is considered his best and greatest hit. The hit track, was the first ever video to be played on MTV Base when it launched in 2005. Tu-Face’s music videos including “True Love”, have rarely been off the MTV playlist ever since.
In 2005, Tu-Face became the first African artiste to win the Best African Act category at the MTV Europe Music Awards in Lisbon, Portugal, and in 2009, he took home the trophy for Best R&B Artiste at the MTV Africa Music Awards in Nairobi, Kenya. “African Queen” also featured as one of the soundtracks of the Hollywood movie ‘Phat Girls’ and made him an international celebrity. The track fetched him the Best West African Video Award in 2005 as well as the Best African Male Artiste Award. He also won the MOBO Award (an acronym for Music of Black Origin Awards), Ghana Music Awards, City People Awards for Excellence, Global Excellence Awards, Awards for Music Excellence in Nigeria and outstanding achiever’s award amongst many other international and local awards.
Tu-Face is the only Nigerian Artiste that is a part of the Airtel All African One8 Project alongside seven other musicians across Africa. They recorded a single with R. Kelly and Prince Lee titled “Hands Across the World” in which he was a lead vocalist. He is the first non-Liberian to become an honorary member of the Liberian Music Society in recognition for his outstanding contribution to the growth of music in Africa. Tu-Face is the first Nigerian artiste to have an appropriately priced international album. A man of many ‘firsts’ is our darling Tu-Face.
Come 2009, Tu-Face was appointed an Ambassador for the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control [NAFDAC] in Nigeria. He released a single, “Man Unkind” in order to raise awareness of the dangers of fake and sub-standard food and drug products in Nigeria. That same year, he was presented with the prestigious International Youth Ambassador for Peace Summit and the Nigeria Youth Merit Award by the National Youth Council of Nigeria in recognition of his contributions to youth development in Nigeria. Wow. Tu-Face opened the doors his colleagues are proudly passing through. His personal success upped the ante of Nigerian music, and made music an attractive proposition for the young and talented…erm a few of the untalented too. Nigerian music is dominating Africa and streaming to the wider global audience because Mr. Idibia made a difference.
Tu-Face bade farewell to Kennis Music, and set up his own record label known as Hypertek Entertainment. His discography includes 2004: Face 2 Face, 2006: Grass 2 Grace, 2008: The Unstoppable, 2010: The Unstoppable International Edition and 2012: Away & Beyond. He has had innumerable collabos and singles quite apart from his released albums.
Tu-Face has too many awards. Of course, there is really nothing like too many awards [one can never have enough of a good thing], but for the purposes of listing them all…hmmm. I will list the most recent. Here they are:
Artist of the Year MTV Africa Music Awards 2010
Best Male MTV Africa Music Awards 2010
Most Gifted West African Video 2010 Channel O Music Video Awards
Best Pop Video for “Implication” 2010 SoundCity Awards
Best Western 2010 SoundCity Awards
New Champions For An Enduring Culture 2011 16th edition of the Annual THISDAY Awards presented by former U.S. President Bill Clinton and Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger
Best International Act: Africa BET Awards of 2011
Album of the year 2011 Hip-Hop World Awards – “The Headies”
Artist of the year 2011 Hip-Hop World Awards – “The Headies”
Best R’n’B / Pop album 2011 Hip-Hop World Awards – “The Headies”
A lot more where that came from.
Tu-Face has established an NGO called Tu-Face Idibia Reach-Out Foundation. Its motto is ‘Service to humanity’ and it is intended to reach out to the less privileged.
And onto personal things: in May 2012, Tu-Face Idibia and Annie Macaulay, a Nollywood actress, got married in Lagos, in a private ceremony. Glad to hear that aren’t you? I sure am.
And so you have been educated. Tu-Face sang, “As you see me so, Edumare [God] don bless me…” from hustler to hotshot; I would agree emphatically with him.
Finally, don’t drop out from school; we are not all Tu-Faces.