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With ups and downs; good, bad and ugly things said about Orji Kelechi Obinna [aka] Kelly Hansome, the Eziobodo, Owerri West LGA of Imo State born singer cum music producer is still kicking. Kelly Hansome who has been described as one of the greatest talents to emerge from Nigeria is not giving up on what he has been called to do.
In this interview with CHINEDU HARDY NWADIKE, he bares his mind on the struggles of the days before his glory, the challenges and the plans to get Kelly Hansome back to where he belongs as the king of Afropop in Nigeria.
What were you called before the invention of Kelly Hansome?
Why make it up to Hansome?
Kelly Hansome as a name was actually born in Madonna University right after I was called Madonna Michael Jackson, because I used to perform Michael Jackson’s songs back then in Madonna University and even won several dance competitions outside the school. At a point I didn’t want to keep singing and performing other people’s songs. I wanted to sing and dance to my own songs, written and produced by me and that was how the name became popular.
The Hansome part of it came from my dad’s name ‘Mr Emma Hans’ as he is popularly called by friends.
How did your dancing career begin?
It was Michael Jackson from nursery school to my primary school. When I started playing the school organ from primary 4, it changed to ‘The Boy’. Then came ‘Orshi’ generated from my surname. Orshi was actually started by a friend called Arab and then Ifeanyi Nwude, Ogbonna Njoku and everyone else just took it from there. We were very close friends who studied and attended ‘Mgbaratu’ [parties] together. From Kelly Hans, to Madonna Michael Jackson, to Kelly Hansome. My parents still call me Kelechi.
I started dancing at a very tender age. I always won a price dancing at birthday parties. One day Uncle Sunny, one of my neighbors who loved me so much took me to a dance competition and I won. That was actually how I became popular in school because many of my school and class mates were there. After then I was asked by the school to perform at our PTA [Parents Teachers Association] end of the year party and ‘I killed it’. That was it. I danced all the way to Madonna University and even my first album had videos where I did ‘break dance’.
What does Madonna University remind you?
When I hear Madonna University, I remember the conscious efforts made by my parents to have me concentrate on my education. I remember learning how to manage money, my provisions and all. I remember getting into trouble in Madonna University because I wrote a petition to the school authority to allow us have performances once in a while since we had no social life and it was initially misinterpreted but I had to make that speech that had everyone clapping and hence it gave birth to recreational activities in the school.
For the first time, the Chancellor approved our performances on the eve of every matriculation and convocation day and so on.
I remember the discipline the school installed in me, waking up early, compulsory exercises and jogging.
It was a lovely experience which we did not appreciate while we were in campus because we felt the conditions in school were too harsh; but trust me, now that we have passed out, we appreciate it the most. It was a wonderful experience indeed.
The music journey from Madonna University
I had a record label then with 5 artistes: the Kindreds, a group of three rappers who loved Wutang Clan; Double O; The Legends, with Rex Idaminabo, Goddy Idaminabo and one other guy and Onyinye [aka] Oniel James who was dating my friend Obiora back then.
We were the best thing that was happening in school. I also had dancers who performed with me like Sammy Wine (Madonna Usher) and we always took permission to go out of school during weekends to record songs at Harida’s studio. Because I had a deal with his dad on studio sessions,
I produced and managed these acts and got them booked to perform in different parties and shows, outside school.
How did your Madonna days end?
I got a deal and left. So many people rumored that I was expelled but that’s nowhere near the truth. I am still in very good terms with Father Edeh who mentored, monitored and advised me on several occasions.
School was fun, I gained lots of experiences while working with my team until I left. Before I left, I handed the mantle over to another guy [Chuks Areh] who was coming up strongly as the next Michael Jackson and I zoomed off to Lagos to look for a record deal.
Did leaving school bring trouble between you and your parents?
The decision to leave school and move to Lagos brought a very big issue between my Dad and I because he didn’t understand how such a brilliant son of his (actually his first son) could leave a private school to Lagos in the name of music. I started off working as a producer from studio to studio, sleeping in the streets because I initially had nowhere to stay until I went to stay with the Onojas who are still very close family friends of ours till date.
It was a tough experience, I lack words to describe my ordeal on the streets. I literally met the streets, she fell in love with me and we dated. I learned more in the streets than in any institution I had attended but that doesn’t mean education isn’t important or wasn’t beneficial to me. It totally was.
I met Blackface and he took me in and I started running the first blackface’s official studio – Loud Houz Studios with the help of AYK and Tuebaa in Festac town. I later got employed as a studio engineer for Myke Records which led to a production deal that gave birth to several songs from artistes under the label like Freewinds, Bumpa Clash, Mamuzee and Zyon, amongst others.
I got signed on after the CEO Evangelist Myke Ikoku heard my songs. I dropped my second album, ‘Simply Kelly’ and made a couple hits in the South East but it wasn’t nationwide until I recorded ‘Maga Don Pay’.
This is just a summary, it’s a long story.
How did your first hit come?
I made the first hit before Kennis promoted it. I printed the first one thousand copies all by myself with Richez as my marketer. It was already everywhere but I didn’t have a video until I signed with Kennis. They did a great job in pushing the whole thing down to other African countries and even inside Los Angeles and other American States largely populated by Africans.
Do you deserve signing on for Kennis?
I really deserved the deal because it was a dream come true. It was actually after I had promoted it and it became popular in Nigeria that I left the country to resume my studies but then came the deal.
Do you think kennis showed you the world in your dreams?
We hadn’t even started the big plans we had before issues arose. The album we made in some local studio went international, sold over a million copies. Some bullion van of money came and then came a little disagreements here and there which we would have settled amicably but a whole lot of people were threatened by the sudden positive turnout of events and hence the ‘Rise Of Kelly Hansome’. They started putting things in different ears, accusations flew around, the misunderstandings grew stronger, angry words that should have been unsaid poured out, but for some reasons we just couldn’t hold the business bond together, even though we still maintained a cordial relationship till date.
The actual issues are simple but for the sake of confidentiality, I will not share the details because it will only be my own view no matter how you look at it. We have settled and left it within and behind us for good and so should it remain.
Why did it take long to settle with Kennis?
It took so long because the media took sides instead of mediating professionally as supposed. It became a messy face off and off course you know how it goes.
I was also way younger and less experienced in dealing with such corporate issues than I am right now, so it was just a lesson for me and I don’t regret any part of the experience. I have learned to overlook certain things and move on.
Did your fame favour people around you?
I had barely made it off the streets to carry anyone along but a whole lot of people especially artistes benefitted from the connection.
I cannot begin to mention names for some reasons, but trust me, even Jesus who gave his life is still not appreciated by some of the people he died to save. It’s only natural for people to say that I didn’t help anyone and of course I am human. I can’t help everybody no matter how much I would love to and moreover in life, you have to stand on your feet before you can start helping people.
Are there things you would have done better now?
I don’t think I would have done anything better because I didn’t know better then. We can only talk about the future and not the past. I have no regrets so far because my only regret was not finishing school but I am done now and there is nothing to worry about on that side.
A man is not judged by his experience but by what he does with them
People say Kennis ghost is still hunting you
I don’t see ghosts. I am a mere mortal but of course I don’t know what I am going to do when I see one. I believe that everyone has moved on. I personally have.
We all are human, nobody is perfect. I used to hold grudges back then but when I think about it now, I just smile because some of those things now look childish to me.
Once you’re a celebrity, certain things about you go public and hence public opinion and judgments follow suit but nobody is perfect including the celebrities.
What’s next for you?
I have a lot of projects coming up but this time I will not talk about them till they are ready to go public. Youth empowerment via Education is one of them and my next album is also in progress.
I have a new single dropping soon titled ‘Akunatakasi’ and a song featuring an American rapper from Philadelphia in the pipeline. Right now, talking is not on my agenda, I will let my work speak henceforth.
Can your experience be used to inspire younger artistes?
Of course yes, a whole lot. I have written about 3 books to that effect and trust me, as usual the books will make a huge inevitable positive impact on the younger generation and generations yet unborn. My books are simply blueprints. It’s an honest and blunt timeless intellectual masterpiece that will be celebrated hundreds of decades even after I am gone. Some of these books will be turned into movies with highly contagious positive messages and energy capable of illuminating and setting so many minds free intellectually.
Will you still go back to Owerri to support younger artistes?
I have been doing that and I won’t stop.
Do you think the public know the real Kelly Hansome?
No they don’t. They know the person in the media, which is obviously not the real me. It’s like seeing Super Man in real life, you would expect him to fly and save people right? People have been mentally programmed by the creators of the movie to see him that way.
Does this arrogance the media painted of you affect you in anyway?
It used to affect me a little bit because sometimes you can’t stand people having a weird impression of you especially when they act a certain way towards you as a result of what the media had programmd in their minds. That was then, but not now, not anymore.
To young people being approached by labels and those doing music
All I have to say is decide where you want to be in life and don’t stop till you get there.
Secondly, don’t drop out of school because you want to pursue a career. You need all the education you can get, trust me.
Thirdly, it’s not an easy road, prepare for the worst but hope for the best. Whosoever told you it’s an easy road lied to you.
Fourthly, don’t hate what you want to become, support anyone who is doing well and believe in yourself. Nobody can stop your shine. It’s not how far but how well.
Lastly, you have to know your role and the role of God and the devil. Give unto Caesar what belongs to him and unto God what belongs to him. Do not give God what belongs to Caesar and vice versa.
Kelly was in many scandals then but none with women why?
[Laughs] Well like I said earlier, I am not perfect but just favored. It so pleases God, the great architect of the universe in whose hands we are but pencils.
Any relationships or wedding bell