The lifestyles of two brothers, Kingsley Chinweike Okonkwo, aka Kcee, and Emeka Okonkwo, popularly known as E-Money, have made the public to query their sources of wealth. In this interview with OLUSHOLA RICKETTS, Kcee speaks on living in abject poverty, how they became wealthy, their disagreement with Harrysong and why they prefer to hide the identities of their mother and five other siblings.
Don’t you feel disturbed when people talk down on your fashion style on social media?
When you post a picture, some people don’t love it while others do. That is life for you. Take the case of former president Goodluck Jonathan for example. A lot of people wanted something new. When they got something new, which they voted for, they are still complaining. If something is not good for Mr. A, it might be good for Mr. B.
For me, whenever criticisms come in, I enjoy them. Formerly, those things used to unsettle me. Back in the days, when I started with Presh, they used to call us different names. They even said we were into 419. If we were dubious, how come they didn’t catch us then? I knew I wasn’t doing anything illegal. I was doing music and was focused.
What is important to me is what God says about me and what I am also saying about myself. I mean my direction, vision and drive. Those are my key points. Whatever I wear has nothing to do with where I am going to.
Sometimes, I wake up in the morning and wear orange all through because I want people to talk and they do not fail me. They talk and I get to be more popular. I even see it as free publicity so they should keep it up.
People have been wondering where you got wealth from…
I have been hardworking. For those that know me, they know that I don’t sleep. I always like to think ahead, put one or two things together and get a positive result.
When we lost our first car, I got in touch with the former Governor of Cross River State, Donald Duke and he gave us a contract to be part of Calabar carnival. Presh and I organised a show in Calabar then and the stadium was full. Duke was excited about it and said if these young men could put this together by themselves, why couldn’t they bring us in? He thought we knew all the artistes.
When they opened the Marina Resort in Calabar too, I single-handedly organised the opening ceremony and was responsible for the artistes. Duke told us that he would not dash us money but we would get it if we work. So, I was doing all these apart from my music and I was making more money.
People didn’t know that part and they kept wondering how we were making money. Apart from the car we got, we even got a navigator. And at that time, most of our colleagues that were attending shows more than us couldn’t even afford the things we had. But some people were saying all sorts because they didn’t know our source of wealth. I did not blame them and I did not even need to explain to them because I owed them nothing. We were living the flashy life; it was part of our stunt then.
Apart from you, your brother, E-money has also been alleged to be into drugs and all sorts. Where did he get so much money from?
We are from a Christian home and we are very careful. The only problem or weakness we have is that you cannot stop us from being ourselves, which is our way of life. Since we are very positive, we show off a lot and we like the good life.
My brother is a hard worker. For those who are saying he does illegal business, they are wasting their time. For about 17 years now, they’ve been saying we do 419 and drugs, among other things. Why have they not apprehended us? When we had issues with some of our team members who left recently, a lot of people were hearing them saying stuffs. But they didn’t say what people were expecting them to say. When people called me, I thought they had better things to say to me.
My brother does clearing and forwarding. He is into oil business and real estate too. In this estate (Magogo Phase 1 in Lagos), he has one full street to himself. He started from the scratch. He used to be my manager when I was with Presh and he left us for clearing and forwarding. He learnt it and started his own business.
If you have the grace of God upon you, no matter what you do, you will succeed. When I was playing soccer too, I was doing very well. I was making money from football and the first time I travelled out of this country was through soccer. Then, music was just by the side. That was because my father was a DJ and I loved playing music with him.
I later joined the choir too. After some time, I formed a group and we registered for Star Quest, which we won. So, I just feel the grace is upon my life to succeed and that is the same grace upon my brother’s life too. When he met Asiwaju (Bola Ahmed Tinubu), he was the one that said he wanted to know him. We met many people and they wanted to do business with him. He does not do anything negative and if he does, one or two persons would have tried to expose us.
Did you grow up in Ajegunle, Lagos?
My childhood was tough. I was born and raised in Ajegunle, Olodi Apapa, Lagos. I went to primary school in Tolu, the heart of the ghetto. My secondary school was classic in Isolo, Lagos; though it was still a government school.
The life in the ghetto, for us, was a teacher and that explains how we learnt how to hustle. Most wealthy kids rely on their parents’ wealth. But for us in the ghetto, our parents have no names so we worked hard. We got the names and money ourselves. A lot of stars came out of Ajegunle, from football to music and more.
Living in the ghetto could shape your life and make you a better person once you are not lazy. We were always working like we lived on the Island already. But it was not easy. My mother had a restaurant and I worked there. I would go to the market to buy meat, ‘fufu,’ and I would also help her to clean plates.
At some point, I started working with my father as a DJ. My father started as a DJ, but when he grew older, he became a pastor. He died a pastor in 2010.
As old as I am, I still listen to my mother. Even before you came here, I was talking to her on the phone and she reminded me of the importance of prayers. The famous kidnapper, Evans, stayed close to us and we never knew. So, we were talking about it on the phone.
As a mother, she was saying that everyone still believes we do something negative because they don’t know us. She advised us to keep our heads up and shouldn’t be greedy.
Was there a time you denied ever living in Ajegunle?
We left Ajegunle in the course of not being able to pay house rent. The landlord threw our things out of the house. I was not wearing a boxer the day it happened. That was because we couldn’t pay N70, 000 for a three-bedroom flat. My father started living with some people. My mum went to her sister’s house. E-Money and I entered the street.
I had already won Star Quest at that time, so we had a car. Sometime, Presh and I would pack somewhere in Surulere, Lagos and sleep inside the car. When they stole our car, it was tough because all our things were always in there. We were always moving from one hotel to another. Sometimes, we would owe the hotel a lot and pay when we managed to get shows. Then, E-Money had moved on to go learn the clearing business.
I think leaving Ajegunle was divine. God just sent that man to push us out. When we came out of Ajegunle, we moved to Ojodu Berger, Lagos. We started with a room apartment and then to a two-bedroom. I was staying with Presh at that time. E-Money was still hustling and stayed with some friends.
Later, E-Money started doing well and we came back together. We rented a duplex in Omole, Lagos. Before we knew it, E-Money bought one, two and three houses and he started building too along the way. The same thing happened to me. There was no time we became greedy and took somebody’s life or money through force or deception.
When was your turning point in music?
Everyone knows – the turning point for me was when I released ‘Limpopo’ and I cannot take that away. It happened like a miracle and I never saw it coming; we didn’t have plans for it. I was doing something else in the studio and the idea came. We did the song and I went to Spain to shoot another video. But on getting to Spain, right there, I changed everything. I told the director that I wanted to shoot the video of ‘Limpopo,’ instead of the planned song. I did ‘Limpopo’ three days before I travelled.
I was in Spain when I released the audio. Pretty soon, my phone was ringing. People were calling me, great people. Kenny Ogungbe called to congratulate me, saying, “This is a master hit piece.” Olisa Adibua called me too. With the calls, I was getting excited.
I came back to Nigeria for AY show. I came on stage, performed ‘Okpekete’ and ‘Give It To Me.’ I was about leaving when the DJ played ‘Limpopo’ and I didn’t ask him. Immediately he played it, Denrele and Julius Agwu stood up and were screaming. When I started singing the song, half of the people in the hall were singing along. Then, right there, I knew I had arrived. If you watch the video of my performance at AY Show in 2013, I removed my jacket and ran to Denrele. I hugged him and climbed the table with him.
I dropped ‘Limpopo’s video, and everyone loved the song. I started travelling here and there to perform it. My story changed, my name became Limpopo.
At what point did things get bad between you and Harrysong?
I don’t want to talk about it anymore. I have addressed it and I feel we should move on. We have signed a new budget for 2017, new chapter has opened. But the honest truth is that most artistes do not understand what a contract entails. Away from breaching the contract, God will not be happy with you. We never did anything wrong to him. We never stole his money. His contract says 50 per cent to be paid to him, but we were paying him 60 per cent all through. Sometimes, he did shows and we gave him everything. The two cars he ever used in his life were brought by us. I don’t know what else you could do for an artiste. I know what I say will be the caption, but I don’t care.
With the fallout with Harrysong, do you still plan to sign up other artistes?
It almost affected it, but it will not. Human beings are different so you cannot judge everyone by somebody’s wrongdoing. I think everyone deserves a chance; everyone deserves an opportunity. But it has to be clear when I do this with other people.
Do you have other siblings?
We are seven children. We have three boys, four girls; I am the fifth child. I still have four elder ones. My elder brother, the first son, is a pastor and I have two pastor sisters. If I have been screaming their names and posting their pictures, you will know them. But it is dangerous and risky. They might not be able to live the way we do. You know how much it takes us to get security and we can’t go to some places. We are restricted. When you see E-Money moving with mobile police, you think he wants to show off? If I am exposing my mum now, I am endangering her life. For the last mother’s day, I didn’t use her picture and somebody questioned if I didn’t have a mother. I was laughing at the person. If his mother had kidnapping value, he would not post it on social media. If I advertise my mum, kidnappers could go after her. The first time I posted my mother’s picture on Instagram, she called and screamed at me to take it down. She told me that I needed to know how many people that called her because of the post. My mum could go in her car to the church and come back home peacefully. She doesn’t need any security because most people don’t know her. But when you expose her, then you must give her security because the country is not safe. This is common sense but some people do not understand.