Ubi Franklin vs Iyanya: An Uncut Q&A with Iyanya (Part 2)
As promised, this is the second part of Joey Akan’s Ubi Franklin vs Iyanya series. This segment of the story features an uncut interview with Iyanya. The artist goes into his side of the story, opening up on strained relationship with his former business parter, working with other MMMG label mates, moving to MAVIN and his new management deal with Temple.
By Joey Akan
Over the past months, I have spoken to Iyanya and Ubi Franklin extensively about this. The men speak from a vulnerable position. Iyanya, as a hurt soul, seeking to turn his sad story into fuel for a rebirth. This Q&A has been left largely unedited, in an effort to convey the emotion and all the nuance of the conversation.
Joey Akan: How Did MMMG Start?
Iyanya: We started that label from scratch. I was the major sponsor of the label till my last day. I was in charge of everything. Yeah, once in a while here and there, he go support when he fit, but I was in charge of everything; house, videos, everything.
I was in charge. I was actually the boss of the Triple MG, but I no carry am for head. I dey believe say e get where I go come out now tell you say I be boss, you no go even need spell the ‘boss’. All these guys wey dey rush CEO, I no dey crazy about am like that cos I know say na something wey you fit get. Time no dey wey them go talk say you no be boss. So I just focused on the music, say make I focus on the music, make I focus on my performance. Let me just focus on being an artist, believing that we don turn brothers, we don turn family.
People go dey come meet me tell me these things. People wey dey close to me go come dey meet me. But in the past, most of them too been don reject me. So it now started sounding like “oh maybe them dey beef us, or them dey beef the guy say now maybe him don come make am’. Ubi, go con meet me say ‘remember that guy wey been no give you show.’ So e go come make sense to me say the guy just dey talk him shit. Because, the same people wey dey come report am to me, I dey see them with am dey ask for favours. Him go dey do them favours. So I was just like ‘okay, let me wait.
When it dawned on me that I was just in a mix of some fucking guys, na that CAC thing. I just dey like this for my house like one number dey call me, dey call me
Joey Akan: What year was this?
Iyanya: Bro, I can’t really remember what year it was but I think it was like 2012 or 2013 around there. I didn’t pick up the call. The guy messaged me saying “you don’t know me o, but I’m trying to save you.” Na one of those messages wey go touch you. I come reply am say ‘who is this?’ He now said, “just pick your call.”
I picked, and he said, “Bro, I’m a big fan. I love your person. I’ve never met you but I’ve heard good things. I love your music. But this thing I’m telling you, I can lose my job. That’s why I won’t tell you who I am. But I’d tell you what to do’.” Till now, I do not know who that person is. He said, “bro, demand for your CAC.”
I no tell Ubi. I buy ticket, fly go Abuja. As I come reach Abuja, I come demand from the girl wey na one of my control wey dey there. She come facilitate am fast. After two days e don come out. We bring am come my room. Ah bro, when I read this thing ehn, bro, I shock. As at that time We don dey make bar, we do “Kukere”, do “Ur Waist”. When we dey make that bar, because we no get any investor, and because as I dey see am say as we dey put we dey progress, so I now focused more on just building the label and building everything. So I put all my investment there. And him too, if I no approve money for song, if song no do well him go con meet me say ‘you know say I tell you to approve this money.’ Since then I con feel say make him no dey give me that excuse, so I con dey approve moni, I no know who say everything wey I dey do all these years, all the shows. Even that Dana flight, na God use me save the whole Triple MG from that Dana flight wey crash.
You guys were supposed to have a show?
Bro, that Dana flight wey crash, we were not far from 18, 20 minutes to the airport. In fact, the guy wey book our flight don call us say him go delay the flight small cos of us. Because say him wan collect him ‘egunje’ (commission). Bro, we dey go airport- you see me ehn, my instincts no dey lie. E never lie to me before. I tell them say make we turn back. Everybody con complain. I remember for car that day everybody con dey say ‘ah Iyanya you don get one babe wey you wan fuck’. I actually get, but that was not the main reason. I just ask say ‘what are we going to do in Lagos?’ they say ‘nothing’. I say ‘why can’t we just do a Sunday evening in Abuja and go back tomorrow morning and start work? Na Sunday now, you just spend your Sunday for air dey waste time dey go dey delay flight. I just use idea turn that thing down. We no reach where we dey go. We try one place to eat, e no work. Before we reach the next one, my phone dey ring, everybody dey call me ‘Are you okay?’
I say wetin happen? them say flight don crash. I say which crash? Them say the Dana that took off from Abuja. As I dey answer that call, Emma Nyra dey call me for inside that restaurant with tears con hug me say ‘I love you, you just saved my life’. Emma dey cry, she no fit hold that tears, Emma dey look me say, “G, I could have been dead today.” It was a very emotional time.
That one con pass. I no know say all these things wey dey happen when these CAC papers come, my name no dey anywhere. So if I bin die for that flight, nothing, ehn? The people wey Ubi pack full Triple M G documents na him brothers. I keep quiet, I no tell am. Na one of our egbon (Godfather) wey dey show us love, I come go meet. He shock! That time I dey date Freda Francis. I tell Freda. She shock too! Everybody shock. That our egbon con call am come I con talk say I wan leave. Him always dey get one way of convincing our egbon and because say na he dey support us that time, he con say make I no leave, make we just settle am.
But from the day my interest, my happiness, my zeal, ended.
What did he say was the reason why he did it?
He didn’t say anything
How was his disposition when he entered the room?
You know him ehn, he always has his ‘bro i’m sorry.., you know…it happened…and it happened because I was not very sure.’ I was not very what? You brought me a paper and I signed it. You took the one I signed and did whatever you did and put your own. Long story short, we went back and forth they now corrected it. But by that time, I don already give up on everything. I con dey live with one kind fear say men, this guy can actually kill you. If this nigga dey watch you dey spend all this money, this nigga dey watch you dey put in all this creativity, this nigga dey watch you dey do all these things, this nigga know say you get two sisters wey you dey take care of wey no get papa. This nigga knows all this shit but this nigga still kinda thing. So if say, God no use me save us for that flight, all of us go die, him family go enjoy all my sweat. At that point too, the label was shaking. People didn’t want to invest because people don already know the story. You know, from that day till I left Triple MG, Ubi was my enemy, but we dey together. I played safe because I saw what he did to Emma Nyra. I saw how he oppressed her when she left him. You understand? I saw all the stunts wey him go dey do. You know how all this industry shit dey be.
How did the people in the label feel about the Emma Nyra situation?
We were not happy yeah, nobody was happy. My own advice to Emma at the time was: “Yo, if the nigga is treating you like this, I’d support you to leave.” But sometimes when you give people that kind of advice, they may think you’ve actually been wanting them to break up since
You understand me? Instead of seeing you trying to save them. Cos I was like; ‘look, this shit is getting out of hand man, we no know the next one wey go happen where they go hit your head somewhere you die.’ Before that time, I dey tell her say, report to your parent. let your parents step in. She no dey tell them, because them too don’t dey get their relationship, so it was almost like, Emma is a real one. Emma na Akata. (Local slang for black American Woman). And you know say akata dem dey loyal. Akata girl, her boyfriend fit beat am now, enter this dining here dey do cocaine. Akata go enter here tell am say ‘You motherfucker, the cops are out there, get your shit’. You understand, but naija babe no dey loyal reach like that. So she just feel say ok.
Emma dey for the table when we dey try form that name Triple MG. In fact, na Emma suggest ‘Made Men’. Na she bring up the name actually. Emma say ‘I just see you guys as young guys, very hard working.’ Bro, this hard work wey you see me dey work now, no be forming o. na who I be. I no dey carry work play, ask them. I no dey carry work play. So she just come up with the name.
How was your relationship with Ubi Franklin at this time?
From that time wey I see that CAC paper, even after them correct am, me I don dey look am. This man, my brother, I no think say I wan share anything with you. Ubi came up with all kinds of business ideas after that CAC thing. I refused to do anything. I always told him to his face that, ‘bro, this one that I’m doing with you, I never see result. So I no go fit do anything.’ Me and Ubi dey enter plane, dey sit down next to each other, but we no dey talk. When we see people, you know how industry be. But deep inside, we know say, man, me I dey look this nigga like, “who the fuck is this nigga? like, how heartless can you be?
Where was Tekno in all of this?
I dey for Europe, I no even know say him don sign Tekno. Because na him actually invest in Tekno. When him wan invest in Tekno, when him wan sign Tekno we never dey alright. I tell am say make we try make our money first. Make Iyanya brand stand so we go fit do more. Him say no, him believe in Tekno. I say no wahala. Na two of us get label, so feel free to bring in your boy if you want. I go push am with my own platform, which is what I did. His first tours, his first shows, he opened for me.
One day, I dey with am for America, Tekno say – you know as I dey na, playful, laugh everywhere. I con dey play with am, dey laugh, I just notice say him quiet, him say him just dey confuse because say the way I dey play with am, dey laugh with am like say him feel say I hate am. I say ahn ahn, wetin happen, wetin you do me. Him talk say Ubi bin dey always talk say I hate am na. Say I dey jealous am. Say I dey feel say him get talent, him go con blow.
God wey keep me alive today, all those boys, everything I did. Bro as you see me ehn, I get free spirit. If you hurt me I’d tell you. Because I need to dey happy to dey fit function for this job. So I no go allow your stupidity or your fault or your negativity to come stress me. I tell am say, ‘boy I got love for you man. I’ve got love for you and I’d always have love for you. It’s nothing. I don’t have anything to struggle with you. You’re Tekno, I’m Iyanya. No matter how many songs you do in this world you’d never be Iyanya, I’d never be Tekno. You can’t say’, oh because you are Tekno, I’m no more Iyanya. I can’t say because I am Iyanya, you can’t be Tekno. I say no worry, just dey patient, you go soon dey make money.
Omo, Tekno say ‘baba I don make like N30 million. That was just for “Duro”. I shock! Him say ‘Duro’ alone, him go don make 30 million at least. Like, after Ubi comot him share, Tekno own na 30 million. That means he made more. We dey America, I con call Ubi say, is this true? Him say ‘I invest money.’ You know e no dey hard am to cry crocodile tears. I con say, this tour wey I dey do sef how far for the money? I never see the money, I just dey do these shows. Big A (A top Afrobeats show promoter in the USA) dey give me small-small money. I con go confront Big A.
Before that 2face rendition wey I do for AFRIMMA, Big A don already plan me, don already write am for the program say Iyanya go do a rendition for 2face. I go meet Big A say ‘I’m not doing this shit unless you tell me what is happening’. Big A tell me say, “Bro, I’d tell you the truth. ‘Part of your tour money, I sent Ubi a car.” Guess who the car was for? Selebobo. It was a Camry. I was doing my tour, Ubi was giving Selebobo car just to prove that he was the CEO. Sele would come to me and say, “Ubi said I don’t like you.” So imagine where I was in the midst of these guys. Ubi, Sele, Tekno. All negative vibes. There were times in the house that I pay for rent. Those boys go wake up, dey form like say them no greet, I go call Ubi and I’d tell Ubi, “Ubi, see, talk to these your boys I’d chase them out.”
Him go talk to them, them go come meet me for back say, “Baba no be like say I get any beef o ..” Him go make am be like say na the boys hate me. But the boys go come meet me say, “Na lie o. This guy dey constantly tell us say you no like us.” In fact, the way he was training them, he dey give them that motivation wey be say for inside their heart, they go dey reason say ‘I must blow fuck this guy up’.” That’s why Tekno would see me today pass. Then when him wan form social media hype him go con post picture, me and Iyanya are doing a song but we no dey talk. Me sef I go, go under go answer am na, ‘brother let’s do it.’ But this nigga would see me outside and not greet me. I dey look am dey laugh because you sing Pana or because of what? That’s by the way.
Tell me about the day you decided to leave?
Exactly. So it was BET week, out in LA man, with one of my boys. Before I went for that BET trip, because I had some shows too, I don already call Ubi say, ‘Man how far?’ I don already tell am say my contract don expire. Because what I did is, before my contract expired – because I know how cunning he is, you know – what I did was that I added extra two years. You know why I added extra two years? Because I wanted to see how he would come out and tell me that we signed something that was eight years or six years. So I added extra two years, so we couldn’t do anything. So, immediately I gave him that info that my contract is expiring, he started his underground battles. People con dey post some negative things about me. At that point, Instablog con dey target me badly.
Since I left him, the battles no be here. People wey owe money sef, wey Ubi talk say make dem no pay. Some of the money wey I collect, him need to talk to them before them go even pay me the bar. Some songs wey I suppose release, him go call them, tell them say make them no give me the song. Say him wan give another of him artist. Bro it wasn’t easy for me. You know how I dey feel when you dey see somebody wey you live your life for, dey try destroy you.
I con text am. I tell am say, “See, let me tell you the problem wey you dey make yeah, you no fit fight the dragon wey you train. If you be criminal, make you train another criminal, you con hear dey hear say na him be the baddest criminal for the city, you need to dey careful. Because him know where to come find you. Na you train am. Na you tell am say if somebody hold gun you suppose shoot left. So If you come no change wetin you train am, him go escape your bullet shoot you.” I tell am say, bro don’t try me. I no want to fight you. But I can destroy you. Na why, you see all these things now, normally artist don come out dey talk am up and down, I no talk am. You know why I no talk am? cos even me sef, I dey try just focus on my own new life. Try get my own life right.
Did you give Ubi all your MMMG shares?
Bro, I gave that company to Ubi. I signed off my shares. You know why? I was so broken that I said to myself, “I don’t want to wake up in the morning and see any email saying Triple MG. I said to myself ehn, this is where God is going to prove to me if I did this on my own or he did it for me. Those are the only two reasons why I left. I left so I can find my happiness.
I remember when Temple signed me, I dey with Idris for office. Idris dey sign me, I say baba I no even know as I dey like this, if I fit sing. I dey broken. I’ve been so hurt wey be say, I’ve been in that situation wey be say, I go dey ask myself wetin I fit do to pass out come back. After I don give you company, I no come out con talk your dirt, he even still fight me, still dey block my ways, make people for industry dey see me like ‘after all Ubi did for you, you left him’. But they no know the inside story. Some people no know say I give am the company. So he dey go round dey tell people say, Temple sign me give me millions. Temple no give me shit. They wan give me but I say I no want because they be investors.
Imagine say I tell them say I need 150 million, they con give me 150 million, I con start to dey spend all that million. Now like this, my debts go dey go haywire. So I don reason all those things ahead say look. Let’s build this shit together.
Did they pay you for the shares?
No. I didn’t want.
Did they offer?
Would you consider working with Ubi Franklin again?
Ubi is a born manipulator. Him con enter the industry wey need manipulation. Him con dey use am very well. E get so many people wey no dey talk.
See ehn, instead make I work with Ubi again ehn, I’d go and start farming. That one na suicide wey you just go carry. You no hear the people wey him dey with already? This one get court injunction, the one fight am yesterday. You see Tekno own na him even worse. You know wetin him dey do now, he dey do the same thing wey I do. Of course na, he get where him post say he’s too frustrated, blah blah. See as them dey like this, Ubi no dey touch him money o. Them dey give Ubi him shares.
So now, you have a joint venture with Temple Music?
Exactly. I can show you my contract. In Temple, I have a right to bring my artist and groom my artist there, not one, not two. Even, I can bring 40. E dey my contract. So it was not even like a label way. I be boss for Temple too. Na why I fit talk, them go answer. Na why I dey fit chance them dey go keep quiet, because you don see say, them put money, but them no put the kind money wey I put for myself to reach where dem sign me. But them don see bar. They know, them dey tell me say na good business. I play you Chairman (Temple CEO) voicenote wey him say ‘Since you came, it’s been amazing’ cos they know, the brand is so strong that’. You dey see me, I no dey stay one place na. You dey see me I dey travel everyday. I dey go Europe in the next three days, one month per 10 shows. I still get things wey dey lineup. And I still never drop any new jam, just old songs and “Iyanu”. So imagine now make we drop these new songs and shit, the guy still dey follow me everywhere.
How would you describe your life post-Ubi, with Temple?
Life with Temple, honestly. The thing I like about life with Temple is that it’s visible. It’s a transparent business. As you dey make your money, you dey see your money, they no dey cut you. I dey get statement every month end and Temple no dey do anything without my approval. My only problem, they no dey want make you dey spend money like every other artist. You know, them no believe in am. Na our only fight be that. Them want make you drop video with OAP them, drop am with letter. Or they want say e be say maybe the video na N6 million now. Them go say, “No, we are your management now, we can’t encourage six million video now. We are making you spend too much. You know you need to make money, we need to make money.” Na our fight be that since I join them. Nothing else. Nothing do them. Everything is transparent.
Joey Akan is an award-winning music journalist based in Lagos, Nigeria. He is a public relations consultant and commentator on African music and pop culture.