There’s a Yoruba adage that loosely translates to “There’s more than one path to the market.” When it comes to chasing your dreams and building a career, there are several ways one can achieve these dreams, and it necessarily doesn’t always have to be a conventional method. Other times, one may set out on the conventional path, and due to choices or decisions life put in their path, they took a detour and forged their own path.
Ifeanyi Ibegbunam also known as FECKO (Formidable Emcees Can Knockout Obstacles), is a manifestation of this Yoruba adage, and he is a hip-hop creative. Fecko has continued to expand the limits of his talents in a bid to knock out the never-ending obstacles the music industry keeps throwing at him. An emcee, youth ambassador, animator, writer, graphic designer, entrepreneur, and podcaster, has made a career in hip-hop via the scenic route that he wouldn’t trade off for any other experience.
Discovering his talent early on, coupled with his love for Nigerian music, Fecko has continued to make music with different acts in other music genres from across the world. His method of growth is collaboration, which he has done with Africans, Americans, and Europeans in his 18-year-career. He has successfully carved out a market somewhere in the underground-mainstream spectrum, that helps foot his bills, puts food on his table, and invests in himself and the people that matter to him.
We caught up with Fecko, and he was kind enough to share some of his stories, lessons, misunderstandings, crush, and the roller-coaster of a ride it has been for him in his professional emcee career.
Let’s kick off with your background and what got you into rap music?
I have 3 siblings. I’m the first. I have a brother and 2 sisters. One is a poet, the other is a model, and my brother is into business and a student as well. My parents are both business people.
I come from a humble background. I grew up in Mushin, the hood, and I spent over 20years there. I moved to the Island in 2018. I attended several schools, but let me keep it within the timeline of my secondary and tertiary education. I attended Lagos State Model College Igbonla, and that was where my passion for music started.
I started making music officially (in) 2005 after I finished secondary school, but prior to that, I was known for doing a lot of social events in school, cuz it was a boarding school, so we had like social night events where we would mime Nigerian music. I remember vividly that the first song I mimed was Sodi E by Baba Dee, 2Face, Sound Sultan – blessed memory – and Lamb the Virus. I’ve always been a huge fan of Nigerian music. While others were miming JaRule, DMX, and all these American artistes, I thought of bringing it back home and doing something more original.
After that, I discovered I could actually write and I gave it a shot. So I recorded my first Demo in 2005 (Naija Beat and Give Him Praise), followed by my first album (The Truth) in 2006. It was an album of eight songs and they were all produced by Dekumzy, a producer based in Enugu at the time. The album never dropped [chuckles]. The album never dropped because we tried to get a distributor and I was signed to a label at the time (Hood Recordz), and there were so many controversies. It just didn’t drop. But I also tried on my own part to get a marketer. I actually came to Lagos all the way from Enugu, I recall. I got into one of these marketers’ shops – I can’t remember his name, I think it’s T-Joe, Yeah! So I went to T-Joe’s shop and he was like ‘Yo, I should leave his shop.” He didn’t even listen to me or even create time to check out what I had to present to him, so he told me to leave. But I recalled some other marketers entertained me, like Abu Ventures and Obaino Music. For some reason, the album was shelved.
I think 2 years later, I became independent. I mean, at this point now I wasn’t signed to any label, so I was working on my own thing. Then I recorded a single with Terry tha Rapman called Nollywood, and we shot a video for that; I think that was 2009. The following year, the video premiered on DJ Jimmy Jatt’s Jump-Off, and that was my first mainstream TV appearance – on Jimmy’s Jump-Off. Then I teamed up with Teck Zilla in 2011. We worked on an ep; The Rap Logic EP. We featured Modenine, Synik… I mean a lot of dope rappers at the time, and I just kept putting out music (kept putting out music), and we’re here now, you know.
I attended Yaba College of Technology, where I studied Agricultural Technology and Environmental Biology, both for my ND and HND.
I worked with the NetNg, owned by I can’t remember his name (Ayeni Adekunle), but he’s a known figure in the media space. Yeah! so I worked with them as the web content uploader. I think I was also colleagues with Osagz – Osagie Alonge – and Olori Supagirl [chuckles], you know, and it was great working with them.
I already explained why I got into hip-hop. It was because I love Nigerian music a lot, and I was a big fan of Hip-Hop World magazine, a big fan of Source magazine… I had all these magazines at home, I even had Hype magazine. I remember I was really excited the day I got featured in some of these magazines, including Hype magazine from SA and Hip-Hop World.
The likes of S.W.A.T Root, Jay Z, Eminem, Trybesmen… They all influenced me at the time. At a point, I thought I was going to be one of the members of the Trybes. You know the Tribes had Sasha, eLDee, Pearl, 2Shotz, Timi, Blaise and co. I was really feeling the group at the time and I thought I was going to be a part of them.
For me, making music stemmed from my passion for the game, you know, my love for the culture, and that was what made me started doing music professionally.
What is the most useless talent you have?
I don’t think I have any talent that is useless because I try to… If it’s a talent, then it has to be useful, you get me? It has to be useful. But if I think of one, I’ll let you know.
Let’s talk about TAKE BACK THE MIC. Would you say you went in as an underdog or with a ‘Win or Nothing Mentality’?
At first when I heard about Take Back The Mic I wasn’t really eager to participate because I’d auditioned for several talent shows before – I can’t remember the names – in the past, and then I got tired of doing auditions and just concentrated on being an independent artiste. But for Take Back The Mic, when I first saw it on my timeline… I think I first heard of the show from a friend in Kenya – his name is Buddha Blaze, an OG in Kenya – and he told me to participate, I was like “Cool, I’ll register”. I was hesitant at first, but later when I saw the post on Beat FM’s page, I was like “OK! I think they’re having media sponsors and it is looking huge,” I thought I should give it a shot.
At first, when I started competing, I won’t say I was relaxed but it wasn’t like 100 percent, but when I saw other talents on the show, I was like “Yo mehn, this is not a joke. [chuckles]I have to go all out.” And the fact that it was community-centric, you know, it wasn’t about just spitting bars. They wanted to see your community, they wanted to see your neighbourhood, they wanted to see how you roll, your lifestyle, what inspires you and all that, and I had to bring them to my hood, we shot a documentary in Mushin and it was spectacular – everyone came out to show love.
The documentary was directed by Chichi Nwoko, and shot by Jay Affluent who also worked with me on some of my music video I dropped afterwards. I mean, it was beautiful creating something like that and I’m telling my story. The fact that I could control my narrative was one of the reasons I enjoyed participating in the show, and it was also a Pan-African docuseries. Anything Pan-African is what I love and what I always wanted to be a part of, so i was honoured to be on the show and I’m glad I won.
And shoutout to everyone who voted for me and everyone who supported the movement. Without them and God I don’t think I would have gotten to this point.
Would you say ‘Take Back The Mic Africa’ opened new doors for you?
Yeah! Take Back The Mic opened new doors for me. Apart from the fact that I won the prize money, I also gained new fans, and it was nice networking with other artistes from the competition. I discovered other artitstes that were really talented – artistes like Angelika_belle and Yung Pabi. I actually featured them on my forthcoming EP that will be dropping on my birthday. It was nice linking up with them.
Also, opportunities like getting to meet other people within the International Music space, like the CEO of RevoltTV – owned by Diddy; also, the CEO of SDGuild, which is a company centred around the Sustainable Development Goals internationally and I was also made an ambassador for them. I was also on Time Square, a billboard on Time Square… I mean I’ve met people that normally I wouldn’t I’ve known or gotten to know if I didn’t go for the competition, if I didn’t emerge as the winner.
Shoutout to Amp Global, they are really doing so much for the African Music Industry in terms of giving artistes the platform to shine, you know. they have this platform called TBTM Tuesdays where they feature upcoming artiste on Beat FM, and I was glad I was the first person to grace the show. I also happen to be the artiste to win the inaugural season of the show, which is also a big deal for me, being a PIONEER [chuckles], you know.
It can only get bigger, like, I’m looking forward to see how the brand would morph into something bigger in the future. So yeah! Shout out to take back the mike and Amp Global for creating a platform like that.
You are one emcee with a lot of collaborations across Africa. Career-wise and revenue-wise, is it an avenue other emcees (and femcees) should explore more?
Yes! It’s actually a good thing to network and collaborate across borders. You know, it’s something I’ve been doing for a while. I remember my first mixtape (First Impression) before I teamed up with Teck Zilla to work on The Rap Logic EP. (In) The first mixtape, I had guys from Belgium, guys from the US, guys from Zimbabwe, South Africa… Thanks to the internet we were able to work on various songs. The internet made it possible for us to collaborate. So technology has made collaborations easier, and I think it is something artistes should embrace more because career-wise, I think it will expose you t a new demographic, a new audience, and… I mean it might create opportunities for you to perform outside the shores of your country, which is a great thing.
Like I said before, I’ve collaborated with so many artistes and most recently, collaborating with Yung Pabi from Ghana was a beautiful experience for me because I had to travel over there and we also worked on the video. I explored the country and the city. It was beautiful and it’s something I intend to keep doing. You know, going to Nairobi, where I’ve worked with Khaligraph (Jones) and Shukid. Linking up with them and experiencing the culture, the community and everything. It’s something beautiful both career-wise and (even) revenue-wise, as I said before, you get shows and you get paid for performing there. It’s actually one step at a time and it’s something every artiste – not just emcees or emcees – should explore.
Even podcasters too, content creators in general, you know. I think they should network with other content creators across the continent because that’s the only way we can build a formidable force that the world can reckon with; through collaborations. Like the world is looking at Africa for inspiration and Africa is actually the future, so, it’s good we start collaborating with each other. And it has to be organic. For me collaboration is organic, I don’t force any of my collaborations.
On to controversies. You’ve had a bit of “beefs” or misunderstanding with (most notable) Vector and Ikechukwu in the past. Do you mind regaling us? Are they squashed or ongoing?
Hmmmn! Beef [chuckles]
Ok, they say “Hip-hop is a young man’s game and beef is a sport for rookies.”
Some of these misunderstandings, as I will call it [chuckles], I think happened when I was much younger; when I was still getting into the game. Haven’t seen Modenine and Ruggedman go head-to-head with each other – who else was beefing each other? A lot of people were beefing each other back then sha. So, for me, it wasn’t something I wanted to dabble into intentionally, it just happened.
Ikechukwu’s own was a result of an online forum back then called AfricanHipHop.com – where you talk about what you feel about Nigerian hip-hop in general. I think he dropped a song that time called My Name is Ikechukwu, and when I heard the song I was like “Yo! This sounds…” It sounded weird to me, you know, and I just had to express my opinion about the song, you know. I didn’t say anything terrible, just an opinion and out of the blues I just got a message from Ikechukwu on MySpace; he slid into my dms on MySpace.
For those who don’t know, especially the Gen Z, MySpace was a social media platform like Instagram. Just think of it as a combination of Facebook and Spotify – that’s what MySpace used to be. There was a section for friends, interacting with people, and a section for artistes to upload their songs on the app. I met a whole lot of people on MySpace back then but I can’t remember the year – I think around 2008, 2009-ish.
Ikechukwu sent me a dm, he was like… it was a long ass dm. [chuckles]A long-ass dm. Then he called me out he was like ‘why was I talking bad about him?’ that ‘I should ask about him,’ that ‘he doesn’t joke around,’ that ‘he was going to teach me a lesson.’ He just went on and on and on, and I was like ‘Ok!’
Later, I think there was a show in Lagos at the time, Channel O Emcee Africa, I think. I performed at the show, and Ikechukwu happened to be a judge at that particular event. I won’t lie [chukcles]I was scared mehn! I was scared because I thought he was going to do something bad and then I was like really young and [smacks lip]… Shit happens! But personally, I don’t think I have issues with Ikechukwu anymore, I don’t know about him. But personally, I’ve moved on from that whole scenario. He didn’t do anything. He saw me and I bet he recognised I was the one. I think we moved on from that whole thing, not like we are on talking terms or anything, but personally, I don’t have any beef with him.
And Vector’s ish was a misunderstanding, you know. I and Vector, used to be cool. We’ve been at a radio station before where we were just freestyling back to back and stuff. I don’t know what happened, but, I think the beef started when – I won’t really call it a beef per se. The misunderstanding started when someone on Twitter tagged Vector in one of my comments. In the comment, I think I dropped a line – it was a line of a song, a random feature I did – on a song that goes “even though you freestyle for 2 hours, lyrically you’re still empty.” But I wasn’t making reference to anybody, it was just a random line.
I think Vector took it personal because people on Twitter were just dragging the whole tweet and saying “…because he did a freestyle on Rhythm FM at the time.” I’m like “Yo, it had nothing to do with the freestyle,” but he took it personal. And one thing about me is I’m not responsible for anybody’s definition of me or expectations about me, so if he took it that way it’s on him. I tried to explain to him that it had nothing to do with his freestyle and everything. He even reached out to Terry tha Rapman to reach out to me and I was like “Yo, I don’t have issues with Vector,” and I don’t know.
Personally, I don’t have (an) issue with him till now (date), but… Also, we’re not on talking terms, but it’s all good. For me, I just want to make good music, I just want to make money, and leave a legacy as an artiste king music and not just hip-hop.
That’s about beef and everything in between.
If you could collaborate with any artist, who would it be and why?
I’d love to work with Tems, Burna Boy, and Koffee. I’ve been saying this in most of my interviews since 2020. These are the three artistes I really want to work with. For me, I really want to make music, not just rap songs.
Those are the three key artistes I’d really love to work with because I really love their sound, I love their… the fact that they’re unique. They have this unique sound. So, obviously, if I’ll be teaming up with them, they’ll be bringing something fresh or refreshing to the table. Also, Tems is also somebody I’ve been crushing on for a while [chuckles].
Yeah, those are the three artistes I’d love to work with.
If you had to switch bodies with another artist, who would it be and why?
This reminds me of Chris Brown and Lil Dicky switching bodies and everything. Maybe I’ll wake up in errrrr… hmmm… Whose body would I like to wake up in? maybe in Kendrick Lamar, ya!
I really wanna know what’s going on in his head, like how he processes his thoughts, his creative process and everything – because I think he’s a genius. So he’s somebody I’ll love to understand how he thinks. So yeah! Kendrick Lamar.
What is the best advice you’ve been given?
Okay, I remember when I did a song with Terry tha Rapman, I think 2009, at Big Lo’s studio, R.I.P to Big Lo. Okey Bakassi was in the studio when I was recording with Terry, and then he asked me ‘what song am I working on?’ and I told him I’m working on a rap song with Terry tha Rapman, and he was like ‘oh, cool. So you’re a rapper,’ I said ‘ye I’m a rapper.’ Obviously, Terry is a rapper, so he was like “As a rapper, it’s good to collaborate with rappers, but it’s better if you collaborate with non-rappers.’ Means having like an afro-fusion thing when you collaborate with singers, where you’d do your rap verse.
I think that advice made me become a musician because in my subsequent singles, I started infusing a little bit of afrobeat or rhythm to the kind of songs I made even though I was a rapper. Yeah, it was actually great advice.
Most recently, when I went to Mavin’s Studio, I sat down with Tega, he’s like the COO of Mavin, and he’s somebody I’ve known for over a decade, though we met the first time 2 years ago. he told me so much about how important it was for an artistes to have a plan. He was showing me slides like Powerpoint slides on how they (Mavin) created a strategy to push Arya Starr. Everything was on paper; from her styling to her looks, how they intend to break into the mainstream market. Everything was planned from the onset. He made me realise how important it is to plan.
Yeah, those were some of the best advice music-wise or should I say career-wise. I think there are other pieces of advice but I can’t remember them for now, but for the context of this interview, those are some of the advice I’ve gotten. And it’s great to be commercially viable as a musician, it’s good to do it for the love, do it for the culture. But it’s also good to do it to make make money or revenue so you can take care of your family, and take care of your bills as well.
Let’s talk about the non-music projects you’re working on. How do these project impact the industry? How do they impact your personal life in terms of growth and discovery of self?
I have this animation series I started doing back in the day, it’s called Adventures of Mazi Fecko – apart from music, I’m also into 2D animation, graphic design, and illustration. That’s something I’ve been doing for a while, but I haven’t really been consistent because I’ve been juggling so much; but its something I will eventually continue doing, moving forward.
Apart from that, I have a podcast called Surviving Eko with Fecko. It’s on Anchor, Spotify, and Apple Podcast, and so far, I’ve recorded 28 episodes and I’ve featured wonderful guests. So everyone should check it out.
I have a clothing line called The Limitless African Youth. We have hoodies, tee-shirts, and we are introducing new designs shortly.
Those are some of the things I’m currently working on. Also, I was made the SDG Youth Representative for SDG ’16 which is Peace, Justice and Strong institution at the SDG Guild.
For now, I’ve not started working on any project regarding that, but hopefully, before the year runs out we should be working on something. So far those are some of the things I can remember for now, because I know I’m working on a lot of things.
Regarding impact, some of these projects have helped push my brand further in terms of a wider audience. For example the animation; I make animation videos for my songs and to a large extent, I think people love the whole idea of creating animated videos. These were the things I was doing before even NFTs became a thing, so it’s only right for me to integrate them into the latest trends of NFTs, the metaverse and all that. It has also helped me to become a better artist because every day I always want to create something new, something better than the last stuff I created before, and it has also made me express myself in multiple ways, which I also think is great.
Most importantly, it has helped me spread the gospel of these Sustainable Development Goals; Justice; Gender Equality; Poverty Alleviation; and other issues that are really important to the society at large.
If you could change anything about the industry, what would it be?
I’d like artiste to have a platform where it will be easier to promote their music, and I think – I’m not saying we don’t have those kinds of platforms, there are social media – it’s limited. Mainstream media will also go a long way to push artistes further. So it is possible for the artiste not to spend so much – I’m not saying you shouldn’t invest in yourself as an artiste. It’s great in terms of production, promotion and all that. Sometimes, people who can’t handle all these expenses agree with publishing companies and record labels. They sign partnership deals where labels will take up 80% of the task and then split the profit made from the sales of those songs.
I think it should be great for independent artistes to have resources they can channel into promotion, because trust me promotion is more – I won’t say difficult – tasking than production. People actually spend more money than production, when it comes to promotion. If I can make promotion less expensive, it’s something I’d really love to change. The whole mentality of every TV station, every Radio Station wanting to collect XYZ amount of money from artiste before they give them rotation on TV or spin their songs on the radio and stuff like that.
One more thing I’d love to change is a lot of artistes should be able to put their egos aside and collaborate with one another. I’m not saying you should collaborate with everybody, but, I don’t think that love or synergy in Nigerian hip-hop is still there. Back in the day, it was all love. I can remember if Overdose, Modenine, or Terry had a show, everybody would come out for that show, the event will be full. I remember Wizkid came for one of Terry’s shows back in the day and I even met him backstage then – it was all love and people came out to support.
Right now, everybody is just thinking of how they’re going to get their next bag, get paid and everything. in as much as we’re all trying to chase that bag, I’d love for the industry to have a community that represents everybody – the underdogs, OGs, and Newbies – in the same space, connecting or learning from one another or sharing opportunities. That’s something I’d love to see happen in the industry.
Should your fans expect a new project this year?
I’m working on an EP. The EP will be out June 17th – on my birthday. It’s going to be 5 tracks, all songs produced by Teck Zilla. Features include Yung Pabi, Villy, Neki, and Angelika_belle; trust me these guys are extremely talented even though their names might not be known yet. It’s actually great working with them. Everyone should look out for that project.
There’s a music video dropping May 30th for one of the songs on the EP; Work Chop featuring Villy and Yung Pabi. We shot the video in Ghana – I’m sure everyone will love it – and it was also directed by Yung Pabi.
Afterwards comes the album. I’ve not started recording it yet, but hopefully, it will drop before the end of the year. Before then, I’ll be releasing singles sha.
Apart from the music, I’m working on an animation series for my podcast, Surviving Eko; I just released one of the episodes. It’s something I’ll be doing often. More skits from my alter-ego, Mazi Fecko; like a comical character. I’ll also be releasing skit videos with that character and possibly a short film as well.
Those are some of the things I’m working on.
What is one message you would give to your fans?
I’d just say they should keep supporting me by watching my videos, listening to music, subscribing to my channels, buying my music, and also buying my merchandise basically. I also want to say that for everyone who has been rocking with me since day one, I’m really grateful for the support to this very moment.
Everything I do is not only for myself but also for these people that are eagerly anticipating whatever project I’ll be dropping.
Shoutout to all my fans and God bless them all.