Singer, producer and video director, AbdulRasheed Bello aka JJC Skillz, talks about his career and marriage to popular actress and producer, Funke Akindele-Bello
When was the first time you knew you wanted to do music?
I think I have always wanted to do music from when I was a young boy. I used to have an area group in Kano, and we used to do Apala music from door-to-door. I actually thought I was going to become a Fuji star. We’d go to people’s houses, knock on their doors and when they opened, we made them laugh by singing some funny songs. From then, I knew I wanted to become an entertainer. When I moved to England at 14, I became a hip-hop artiste. Meanwhile, I formed my first group in school called Secret Weapon, and it has always been that way. I was always forming one group after another, until I had a successful group called Big Brovaz signed to Sony.
How did you coin the name JJC?
Back then, I had a heavy Nigerian accent, and everyone used to laugh at me. Hence, the reason I gave myself the name JJC which is an abbreviation of Johny Just Come, which is used to describe someone who just arrived a place. When I realised that they weren’t going to accept me, I decided that the best thing to do was to bring people from the neighbourhood together that had the accent and the swag. I created my own group, signed them and started promoting them, even though I was about 19 at the time. Two years later, we won the Music of Black Origin (MOBO) Award as the best unsigned artistes from London. From that point on, all the record labels wanted to work with us.
You have an affinity for being in groups, don’t you think you can stand alone?
I will say I am inspired by many people like Dr. Dre, Puff Daddy, Timbaland etc. Those people have their own identity, just like if anyone sees me, they will know that’s JJC of We Are Africans fame. But more importantly, it is about being able to transfer that knowledge that I have to other people. I do not see myself as just an entertainer, but as someone that can develop people. And that is why I have been developing groups and artistes.
After I got Big Brovaz signed to Sony and we went platinum, we travelled to America to do the movie, Scooby Doo. After that, I stepped out of the group because I felt it was becoming too oyinbo-like for me. I wanted to create something a bit more homely, because right from when I was a child, I was one of those guys that went about saying Nigeria is the best land. Then, people used to think I was crazy for saying that, but I knew that one day, I would come back home, and here I am. Anyway, while Big Brovaz was still big, I started another group called JJC and the 419 Squad, which was very successful as we had over a million album sales and won KORA award. However, most of the members later moved back to Nigeria, while I stayed back in the UK. I then decided to start another group called Mr Skillz and the Crazy Girls, which got signed to EMI Records. After that, I left the music scene and went into video production which is my other passion.
Of all the groups you have worked with, which did you have the most chemistry with?
I think I had chemistry with everyone I had worked with. Right now, I am having the time of my life with Scene One Productions, which is a new record label I’m working on with my wife, Funke Akindele-Bello. Read more from PUNCH