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The Gospel According To Jagz

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IMAGE: Jesse Jagz »

17. June


By Joy Bewaji

Jesse Jagz walks casually around the place as his team breaks down the set for a documentary session. He seems really calm, and surprisingly handsome in that very eccentric manner that makes him almost surreal. He brings a quality into the room that commands the respect that his brand demands without actually being compelling.

“I’m nervous,” he says before the interview starts; I don’t believe him – not with that air of determination and influence that surround him. Jagz definitely knows what he is about; a little too sure maybe – with that conviction to his art that clearly shows a slight cockiness that many women would find sexually stimulating, and many CEOs in board meetings would define as that distinct edge that makes one artiste more perceptible than others. Jagz borders on genius that is spellbinding.

The afternoon is growing dark as the sun disappears into thick clouds behind us. Jagz returns to the conversation we were having offhandedly before the tape started rolling. It was a discussion about his brother, Jude Abaga; and I had asked the question: “Do you feel like you are being pressured to fit into bigger shoes?”

He handles his emotions well. It is obvious that question has been asked a hundred times and Jagz is simply bored with it, and at the same time amused. “Before the Lagos frenzy I was doing music. I’ve always done my music. The whole impression of being MI’s brother… people expect the Elijah and Jesus relationship. I don’t want to cave into public opinion. I’m doing my own thing; and I’m comfortable in my own ways.”

Jagz has no intentions of meeting up to any standards that is laid out in society. He doesn’t seem impressed with anything around him either. He assures me he has had his fair share of everything the industry can offer, and at the very edge of the whirl he has chosen to make his own rules and build his own identity the way it pleases him and his true fans. “If I am expected to meet up to any laid-down standard, then know that I have failed. I have no intention to be like anyone else, not in my content and not in my delivery. For me, it is all about my music.” He has a smile that has refused to disappear. Jagz refuses to reduce his music to the simple equation of bread and butter. “I don’t do music to make money. You will have a clearer picture where I am heading when my album drops.”

I believe him especially since I, like many music lovers, have tasted the goodness of Jagz. He transcends the average, his wealth of talent leaps out of great works for Ice Prince, Brymo and even MI.

“Music for me is the only thing I know how to do well,” he says. “Music gets my 100% attention. Music is very supernatural for me. Words appear; melody surface. It means more than the physical, material or even spiritual.” And then he goes on to give the best description of his love for his craft with these words: “Music is like a woman; if you stop paying attention to her she stops paying attention to you.” Now I am laughing; he has my full attention 101%.

Staying true to himself stands as the crisp summary of Jagz philosophy. It is apparent that his style is going through a transition. He describes the transition as when you wake up to realise that everything you possess is gone and you are ready to start all over again. He calls it the next stage of maturity and evolution. “My music is deliberate. I am being deliberate not to make the usual commercial sounds. I want to be identified with the kind of music that draws my kind of people. Everything has to be genuine – the people, the sound, my intentions, my music. I can’t deal with deceit. I don’t want to deal with fake people.”
Jagz makes me understand that not every artiste is interested in being the next man-of-the-moment. “There was a time I was 24 and it was OK to have my ambition in line with certain frivolities. I have grown since then- I am expected to grow. Things have happened. I have learnt and experienced.”

The experience would be his forthcoming album, of course. After the release of “Murder Dem” and “Redemption” the public may not be too sure what to expect from Jagz. He has taken a full spin in his music – with depth to his new style that would be rewarding for the artiste eventually.

“People think you have to choose from keeping it real- identifying with a niche, and making commercial music that is considered more successful. Regardless of the path you choose, fame, influence and money can happen anywhere and with any genre. Femi Kuti is very successful but he is not all in our faces or involved in the current media fracas the industry suffers. He is quietly living the life of a true artiste and a legend.” There’s also the track with Femi that everyone is talking about; “the man is amazing. He (Femi) is the only one, in the last couple of years who has made me feel like I need to work harder because of his attention to his work ethics.”

He continues: “You see, there’s too much noise around. The empty barrels will always make the loudest noise. I’m done with the noise. Enough of it! I refuse a certain style at my age.”

Jagz is 29 but with the soul of a 75-year-old man and with experiences that have shaped his decisions. One of those decisions made headlines many weeks back when he announced he was leaving Chocolate City. Why, I ask; and he responds: “Why. That’s the question. But you see, no one has asked me that question from Chocolate City. No one. They may have called for a meeting, but what is going to be the angle or the focus of the meeting if it will not address the simple question: ‘why’. Why did he leave? As simple as that might seem, it was never asked.”

Jagz makes it very clear that he does not want to be perceived as an artiste that is jealous or begrudged. “Breach of contract is not just one act. If the record label cannot take responsibility of the music then there’s a problem,” he states. “I left to protect the music. When money is involved somebody is going to buckle. I didn’t have a lawyer when I started, so how can there be a contract? I am expected to keep my feelings aside to make a club song because adults feel like adults need to party. I’m not going to be part of that gimmick. I know what I am about, I know what I want to produce; and people have to learn to respect that. I am introverted. Not one person has called to ask what the problem is. I am not seeking for a pity forum for people to try and see what is wrong with this artiste. I am a man now, you may not like the man I have become but that is what it is. Don’t say the artiste is aggrieved; don’t ask if I am angry; just ask why I left.” He says this still with a smile, totally unshaken with a buoyant disposition that betrays no emotion.

I am curious as to whether MI, his brother and executive in Chocolate City, has tried to understand Jagz position in the matter. But Jagz shrugs it off: “MI is part of Chocolate City. My grouse is not with an individual; my issue is with Chocolate City.”

Indeed part of the refinement in ideals that Jagz has attained demands that constant explanation to everyone that amuses him. He just can’t understand why people refuse to accept “the alternative”; in this case the alternative in music – a path he says there’s no going back on. “If I’m leaving shallow waters to create a well, I am drawing more people into what I’m doing. I expect it to get deeper. I am not going to satisfy the delusion created by a set of people for the society. I am going to do music from the depths of me, and I want to enjoy the process just as much as people who align with my kind of music will enjoy the outcome.”

Now he needs a smoke, I oblige him; geniuses do have their moments. With a cigarette between his fingers, it was easy to move into the issue of marijuana. How addicted is Jagz to weed?
In that calm demeanour he educates me: “Weed is like sex. When you are a kid you are going to be told sex is bad, but you are going to find out later that it’s not as bad as they all said. If you haven’t smoked weed before, you may not understand. It’s the same thing with alcohol; but there’s that stage when you become an adult and you make your own choices. People say I am addicted to weed; but I am not. I love weed. Weed doesn’t make me a better artiste. Weed makes you have a conversation with yourself. It is like a mirror. For he who smokes weed and understands, we can connect.”

Since sex was already dancing in the conversation, I was curious as to how an artiste with the kind of passion and brilliance he exhibits handles women. He lets it sink in for a minute, approaching the subject with caution: “handling women is tough,” he smiles, “Women are the most prized possession on earth for men. Women are that necessary evil. It’s what you need to keep you through or what will drive you crazy. But you are never going to see me on instagram taking funny pictures and talking engagement things. I am interested in the principles of a relationship. Marriage is no guarantee for anything. I am in a committed relationship with people that I am committed to.”

He shares a love child with Ruby, an artiste under Lupe Records, owned by MI. “We dated for four years after we had our daughter and then decided to go our separate ways. Just because we have a child doesn’t mean we should pretend everything is fine. We are friends. There is always going to be that hate-and-respect of lost love…”

No matter the arguments around Jagz, there’s one part of him that will remain flawless- his music, his ingenuity, the quality of work that goes into his craft. With “Redemption” we have a good idea what to expect of the album that is to drop in a few weeks- dark, different with an identity that is truly Jagz. Like flipping the pages of a book,  Jagz’ truths is set to get deeper as the brand takes hold of its own destiny. “I feel like this is my first album; anything before now was just testing the waters. I want to be identified strongly with the work that is about to be released.”

And is he ready for the praises and vitriol? Oh yes, he is: “Even if I put out an album that the whole world would love there’ll still be people who will not be able to understand it. But it shouldn’t necessarily bother me. If you can’t handle one person’s opinion then you can’t handle fifty. My music is not for every crowd. Really what’s the deal? The whole world knows we are a third world country regardless of the number of limos in a video.”
And we all say, “Amen”!

Article Credit: Thisday Newspaper

Updated 6 Years ago

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