By Osagie Alonge
Just like Shawn Carter declared in 2005, Banky W is not a businessman, he’s a ‘business, man’.
From his return from the US in 2008, the 31-year-old has risen from a mere recording artiste to a record label executive and mentor to many, discovering and harnessing the skills of upcomers; some of who have gone on to (if we dare say) surpass his own achievements.
From Ebute Metta to Empire State of Mind, Banky W talks with NET about what he’s been up to in the last four years and his plans for the nearest future. He also tells us why he’s not rushing to get Mrs W…
It has been four years since you released an album. What’s taking you so long to release a new album?
Primarily, it has taken a lot of time because I signed a couple of new artistes and I have been working on EME as a company and on the artiste’s individual careers; we started out with Wizkid and then we brought in Skales, who is doing so well, and now we have Shaydee, Niyola and DJ Xclusive.
I actually was supposed to put the album out in 2012, but at that time, we found a new couple of new fantastic acts, so I thought of it like ‘I could put the album out now but then let them wait for another circle to go round or we can flip the script a little bit and just go right into the compilation album, give everybody a chance to shine and showcase their talents,’ still put out some Banky W music, but more importantly, give Skales the chance to showcase his own talent because people don’t really understand what Skales is. I also wanted Niyola, Shaydee and even DJ Xclusive to showcase their skills.
Speaking about EME as a crew, we saw how they performed at the EME concert; what are the criteria for picking the new artistes and how did you blend and merge all of them?
As a company, what we look for is uniqueness, we never sign an artiste to be like an artiste we already have. As an artiste, if you want to come to EME, you must have something different, stay in your lane, do what you want to do, and don’t try to be like somebody else. You have to be extremely talented and have to be different from what is out there. We look for chemistry. We don’t just get sign an artiste, we make the artiste come around, make music with every other person, and if we see the chemistry and similar state of mind, we make an offer. The music business is not like a bank, [where] you just go there, do your work and leave, the music business is your work and character intertwined, so basically we just look for an artiste that will work very hard, stay consistent and have the hunger to do more.
So how often do you hang out with your crew? Or is just an on-set thing?
I think it’s very much like a family, but at times it’s an individual thing; each person has his/her own thing. We hang out together sometimes, because there’s no rule that makes us stick together; everybody can do what they want to do individually.
You’ve been able to transform from being an artiste to working on other people’s careers, when did you start to make that decision and why did you feel the need to do so?
Jay-Z is one of my favourite artistes, and he’s been able to transform other people’s lives; he’s the one I look up to. For me, this was always the goal, to be successful in my career and take on many responsibilities, even at the time we wanted to start signing artistes we did it with our budget. I learnt from high school how to do music, I re-connected with my teacher, and he made me understand that I would be what I want to be, so that has really helped me a lot.
You’ve appeared in a few TV series, like Shuga and Jacob’s Cross; have you ever thought about picking major acting roles?
I think it’s really a matter of time and the right resources. I won’t say because I want to explore other things I should just jump into the movie acting. I think when I have the time, I [will] work on that.
When does Bankole spend time with his family?
It is fun to stay with them, but I’m busy and I try like every two years to spend time with them. It’s sort of difficult because they don’t stay in the country, so I only get to see them when I travel to the States.
We’ve heard about your cooking skills, where did you get them from?
I love food, my love for it is immeasurable, and because of that, I get angry when I don’t get the right kind of food that I want. So I just felt like I could do this cooking thing myself and started looking at recipes on TV, on the web, and then just started cooking! I never really took it serious, but while we were on tour I started; Wizzy and Skales would eat every meal and give their opinion (Laughs). Now I want to open a specific type of restaurant where I will cook once in a week for the customers and sing for them, give them a music-food experience; it’s a legitimate passion in me.
When are you going to let a woman do the cooking for you though?
That’s funny, because some weeks back my dad came into the country to take care of some of his business and was staying with me. I cooked for him and my uncle, and they were surprised it tasted that good. ‘But that doesn’t mean you should not go and get a wife’, he still added. (laughs) I think marriage is one of the most important things or decisions to make in life. It’s something that can help make or break you, and I feel it is important to do it when you feel the time is right and you’ve found the right person, and that’s really a challenge, a challenge of being in the right place yourself. I feel if I rush and it fails, people will criticize me, so why not just take my time and do it when I feel like it is right?
You’ve made quite a lot of money through endorsement deals during the period you didn’t drop an album; Hennessy Artistry, Samsung, Coca-Cola…
Actually, the endorsements started coming in when I dropped ‘The W Experience‘ in 2009, and that allowed me the flexibly to rush out and do some other things, and those other things have also generated some money.
Would you turn down any endorsements?
Yes, I think you should only do deals with companies that will represent what you represent. I’ll turn down some because they don’t align with what we are doing [and] who we are. It’s not just leveraging on music alone, but also on the image and personality.
What inspires your writing?
I don’t know; things happen in life and it triggers something in my brain and makes me want to talk about it. I am a very opinionated person, whether it’s just a little twist, or giving a speech, or joining a process somewhere, or whether I’m writing, so I hope to give a lot more now that I have a website.
How do you feel about the artistes you’ve signed and their level of success?
I feel extremely rewarding; it is a great thing, I don’t know how I can explain it; it feels just as good as if it were you doing it yourself. I think the mark of a true leader is what your followers turn out to be, I think every great leader has disciples. Jesus had disciples, Elijah had Elisha, so you shouldn’t just say you want to try things alone. It’s extremely worth it, and God has blessed me, which I am happy for.