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Sweet Distractions Of Skales

By Chinonso Ihekire
26 February 2022   |   4:20 am
Everything is going to be alright/ I know my stars are going to shine so bright/ It ain’t by power or by might,” his stretchy vocals boom in the opening record, Hope, Freedom and Love...

“Everything is going to be alright/ I know my stars are going to shine so bright/ It ain’t by power or by might,” his stretchy vocals boom in the opening record, Hope, Freedom and Love, offsetting a downpour of emotions as you listen.

With every bar, chorus and hook, Raoul Njeng-Njeng, professionally known as Skales, sojourns on an intimate, vulnerable and emotive pilgrimage with his just-released fourth studio album dubbed, Sweet Distractions. And while, the singer/rapper easily soaks his craftsmanship in the spotlight, his musical superpower has always been the zen-feeling attached to his melodies, which has earmarked his discography since his earlier hits in 2009 till date.
 
On Sweet Distractions, Skales opens up on a myriad of personal challenges. With the opening track, he delves into his struggles with several stressful situations, like his financial crisis, his mother suffering a stroke, and other issues. He maintains this emotive momentum on several of the album’s prime records – As Always (featuring Kabusa Choir), Katapot (featuring Zoro), Nobody To Somebody (N2S), Leave Me Breathless (featuring Stonebwoy), I Dey Miss You (featuring Imanse), among others.

On Sweet Distractions, Skales subtly reignites his rap persona, a part of himself that has increasingly become blurred since his records started taking over clubs and dance floors in the early 2010s. Altogether, the album becomes a significant landmark in Skales’ career, bringing him closer to the limelight like ever before. With flourishing collaborations, intimate storytelling, and sonorous vocals, Skales levels up with Sweet Distractions, redefining his vocal prowess and unlocking more melodic delights for his fans.

Born and bred in the Northwestern axis of Kaduna, Skales always edged closer to the music. He continued to draw influence, thriving in the Northern climes of Jos and Kaduna, which was a Hip-hop/Rap hotspot in the late 90’s and early 2000s. His winning stints at the then Zain Tru Search rap contest, in the University of Jos, around that time, as well as meeting the music veterans Jeremiah Gyang and Jesse Jagz, before finally being discovered by EME records’ honcho, Banky W, in 2009, all became fated steps in his journey to fame.

Now, catching up with Guardian Music, the introspective lyricist whose name is an acronym for (Seek Knowledge Acquire Large Entrepreneurial Skills), talks about the inspirations behind his latest album, his creative process, balancing his rap and singing personas, as well as incredible fan obsession stories.

Congratulations on the album. Firstly, why Sweet Distractions?
SO, basically, it just hit me right now, you know. I just realised that my last EP was called Healing Process. Just like the term goes, I was going through a lot of stuff that I was healing from, and I was making that EP at that time. Even when I’ve been explaining to people, I even totally forgot that I had an EP named Healing Process.

So, for me, Sweet Distraction was like the search of love – because I always believe in having a family, settling down and all other stuff. And of course, there’s the search for love, there’s betrayal, disloyalty from people you least expect, all those kinds of situations.

You know, as young man, it is about normal life challenges. For me, those were my distractions, and those distractions were either made to break me down, but it turned out to be really sweet, because that’s everything that has built me to be this version of myself that I am now, hence Sweet Distraction.

From Healing Process to Sweet Distractions, you maintained a level of intimacy. Why?
For me, that’s what really inspires me to keep making music, honestly. The fact that where it’s coming from, like there’s a place where a lot of songs are coming from, whether they are party songs, or other kind of song. And people keep asking me, oh like Shake Body, for instance, you’ll need to read what I was saying in the verses, you know. The whole song was actually like an affirmation for me.

So, my whole life turned out to be what I sang about, you get me – like my life turned out to be that. Basically, it comes from things that I go through. For me, it’s like passion. So, I guess that’s why I keep doing this music thing.

On this project, you brought on the hip-hop side a bit. How did it feel for you?
Well, it’s been a while since I put out any rap song. Also, for me, I felt like it was time and I was comfortable to do it. That’s how most of all the songs came about. So, I just felt like it was time for me to do rap and I felt it in my spirit that I was comfortable now to do it.

How long did it take to record this?
I have so many versions of this album. So, for this album, I probably started recording like September 2021. I started recording the first version of this album in 2020. Sometimes, I will record a version and cancel the whole thing. I probably did that for five to six times.

Sometimes, the album would be like 20 tracks, and I would delete 15 or 16 or even 17. But this one happened when I ran into a bunch of talented people who just changed my perception about a whole lot of sounds.

You like making lengthy project. When do you know that an album is ready?
When I listen to something and every part of it just – I mean for lack of better words, I’ll just say ‘turns me on.’ Like when they make me feel so good, I’ll say ‘okay, this album is ready.’

Can you share some of the struggles and challenges that influenced your creative process on this album?
Oh yeah. Like I said, every song comes from a personal experience for me. So, for the Hope, Freedom and Love track, it was I talking about how no matter how dark the situation is, there’s always light at the end of the tunnel. You know, there was a time when I had to leave my label with nothing. I had to start afresh and you know, I’m really old and I don’t want to talk about that part. Basically, I had nothing. I had to start from zero again. I don’t want to go deep into it, because it’s really personal.

From that, I had my mum having stroke at the same time. You know what it is when you get into that kind of situation, you can’t take care of the family and you are the only person your mama has. I had to depend on some kind of substances, just to feel good and alive. And because I was also too young, as I was going through things that were like ten years older than me. So that’s how that one came about.

How’s your mum feeling now?
She is good. She is getting better.

You collaborated with some fan-favourites on this album, how did you select them?
Yeah, for Stonebwoy, it was just a DM on social media. I was like, ‘I’m working on my album this is the sound I want you to be on,’ and I sent it to him. He sent me a message and he was like in a couple of hours, I’ll get it. To my surprise, I woke up the next morning and just saw it in my email.

And then for Blaqbonez, he’s my neighbour in real life. His house isn’t too far from mine, so it’s like we just walking to each other’s house, where he has a studio. I went to his house and I’m like, ‘Yo, I’m working on my album,’ because I am a huge fan of his, by the way. So, I played a couple of records and I played the instrument for Pants on Fire, and he just freestyled. While he was free styling, I just picked like some couple of things that I heard and was like this is it man! That is how the track was made.

By the way, we had Cheque on the track, but due to certain reasons, he didn’t make the final cut; we couldn’t clear up some things.

With this album, what exactly are you trying to say to people?
Well, it’s simple. Like I explained to you about Sweet Distractions, whatever the situation is, just always look at it as the best for you. You know, it’s either you let it destroy you or you let it furnish you to shine brighter and better, you get me.

Do you feel yourself progressing towards the newer and trending sounds in the industry?
Well, I feel like music is such a beautiful thing. I feel like as an artiste, especially an artiste that is really talented, it’s good when it’s like so many sounds keep coming in. You know, you can just try out different things and end up doing beautiful music and stuff. So, for me, it’s never challenging, it’s just like, ‘oh, this is new and stuff. You know, it makes music a lot better for people to listen to.’

So, music is not the same thing again, it keeps evolving. As an artiste, it helps you to evolve. So, for me, it’s really interesting and I keep track of everything, because I’m always out there, either I’m always on Soundcloud and YouTube; just listening to everybody, seeing what’s new.

Speaking of new, who are some of the new artistes that you could work with?
It’s actually a lot of them, but it’s just few I can remember now. My favorites, people I always think are really special is Joeboy, Fireboy, Blaqbonez, Tems is fire. There are lots of artistes that I can’t really remember. BabyBoy AV boy is another one as well.

I listen to a lot of people, a lot from these kids, even the ones that are not yet blown. I even have some records that I ran into on YouTube that I don’t even know who the artiste was, but she is Nigerian. I am usually wowed, like this is such an amazing music, you know.

Coming from someone who’s done this for a long time, what keeps you going in the music industry?
Most importantly, I would say the fact that I have people listening to my music; the fact that I have a big fan base- shout out to them. The fact that I have people who support me, and of course passion. This is me; this is what I love doing, music really makes me happy. So, for me, it does.

Currently, we are experiencing growing decline in rap music in the country. Do you think you are going to make a comeback as a rapper?
I’m not sure. I can put out a rap project, but it’s not going to be 100 per cent rap, of course. However, it might, because I have like three to four rap albums already, but you know how it usually is – business! We have to plan and know when it’s time.

Not everyone is trying to take a risk, you know, especially because it’s not just you taking the decisions. However, it’s definitely going to come out. I don’t know if it’s going to be soon. But, in a week, I probably record at least three to four rap songs every time. This is no lie.

Do you think you are a core rap artiste, having started with rap music?
I don’t see myself as a core rap artiste; I just see myself as some artiste that has no limits; that can do everything. Honestly, I don’t mean to brag, but I could say this confidently, it’s like only very few people like me that can really sing and can really rap. So, you know, it’s really not an easy thing, but for me, it’s fun and easy like a talent. But I don’t know, 100 per cent rap? Fingers crossed!

Tell us a bit about your journey to fame?
I started music from Kaduna, because I was born and raised there. So, like every other person (as much as I don’t like saying this) I started from church, because of my mum. My mum was like a church worker, so we were always in church and she had a CD cassette store in church where she sells music and stuff.

Just like every other kid, I wasn’t able to like see TV every time, because what I was listening to was radio and a lot of music all around me. So, I fell in love with music and I started writing music, you know. I joined the group in church and all we do is just wait for programmes for the church to ether perform and I was growing like that, and a couple of people that changed my life.

To cut the story short, I went to Jos to school and that’s how I met Jesse Jagz and Jeremiah Gyang. I just kept growing in music. That’s how my music started growing. My music started growing and I was performing there, like one of the stars in Jos and there was a competition in Jos, which I won and I was crowned the Northern champion in the competition. So that was like what became my drive to move to Lagos.

It was challenging, one way or the other, my mum agreed; I came to Lagos. I didn’t know anybody, I started the journey and started performing events, and upcoming comedian events also, you know, kind of getting my own fanbase eventually. And before you know, I built a buzz that was around town in Lagos, and when they signed me, that was how the mainstream journey started. And after Banky, of course, you know the rest.

What are your thoughts on people breaking out from the North, because it’s like it almost never happening again?
I mean, you know what’s funny is that there’s actually a lot of talented artistes out there. It’s just that you know, nobody wants to keep shouting in the north anymore. But I mean, a lot of artiste coming from Abuja – I categorize Abuja as part of the north, because from where I was born (Kaduna), if you make it in Abuja, that’s like your own Lagos.

Definitely, there have been artistes; I just can’t put together those names now. I know there are artistes that are just blowing up to have big songs- like Ckay; he is from Kaduna. So, I feel like there are lots of artistes, but nobody is pushing that kind of the regional stuff anymore, everybody is just like one Nigerian, one artiste.
 
On creating this album, what are some of your most memorable moments?
I would say having the choir. It was actually one person that sounds like a choir, and that is Kabusa Choir. So, I was in Abuja, I was re-recording the album again, like I started the album afresh, new songs, new producers, new vibes. And one of the producers was like, ‘oh, for the song, you know we could put a choir’ and I was like how do we put a choir and he said to hold on, and called someone.

So, this guy came and he started recording- and this guy recorded like parts of close to twenty- something people. Only him, different kind of vocals, different kinds of voices and I was like wow! He sounded like a real choir, the melody and everything was perfect and it really gave me goose bumps. That’s like my most memorable.

What’s the whole vision for Skales now?
The whole brand of Skales is really about to be global, it’s really big. There are lots of big things coming, but I mean, I can’t let that out now. But definitely, the album has, like you know, this is just a tip of the iceberg. There are lots more for me, I’m going on tour and I am starting with Europe, and definitely America.

Tell us about your fashion style.
Well, I just love having this shirt and nice pants- I mean, free pants that doesn’t hold me really tight and just some nice fancy snickers. That’s just how I like it.

What is your wildest fan obsession moment?
My craziest fan experience was this one time we came out from a club or something, and somebody was on top my car. We didn’t know and we drove to my house, before this person now came down and was like he wanted to like talk to me. You know, he was in my house; imagine all the security we passed! This guy was on top of my Range Rover and we didn’t know, you know because we were like tipsy. That is the craziest one.

Tell us your top three dishes you can cook?
Is boiled egg a dish? I can also cook, rice and noodles.

Finally, tell us two facts people don’t know about you?
Well, I’m a vegetarian. I also have a French background, and that’s why my name is Raoul.