Ruggedman, born Michael Ugochukwu Stephens, is a Nigerian rapper, singer and entrepreneur. Ruggedman, also known as Ruggedy Baba, launched into the music industry in 1999, eventually becoming the most featured rapper in Nigeria. He has performed worldwide alongside international acts such as Sean Paul, Wyclef Jean, Akon, Maxi Priest, Kanye West and LL Cool J. He speaks with NANSEL NIMYEL (ZDON PAPORRELLA) on his growing up years, his PlayStation tournaments and sundry issues
You’ve been quiet in recent times, what have you been up to lately musically?
Thank you Zdon, I have been recording a lot lately but I slowed down a bit to focus on my clothing line because I have new designs I want to put out soon. Musically, I have new songs featuring the likes of Falz, Small Doctor, Harrysong, Solidstar, Mr. Real and more. A song or two will drop soon and before the end of the year, a Ruggedman album will be released.
Should we expect to see music videos for the new singles as well?
Of course and there will also be a Ruggedman Tour in different states as well to promote the album.
What was growing up like for you and a little bit about your background?
Growing up wasn’t a bed of roses. I was born in Abia State and my parents got separated when I was six. So my mum and my siblings had to move to Lagos. We stayed with an uncle at first then eventually got our own place. I attended St. Joseph’s Primary School and Atunranse Boys High School in Surulere, Lagos. I studied Political Science at the Lagos State University. I have lived most of my life in Lagos and only briefly in Benin when my family relocated for a while but I only visited during the holiday because of school.
You have always championed one cause or another, do you think the challenges you had growing up have anything to do with your rebellious and activist personality?
We were always there for each other as a family, so personally I can’t stand to see anybody being bullied without standing up for them. I am a no nonsense taking person, so I am wired like that. My father was never really there for me so I can’t say I’m trying to live up to his image. I believe attitude is an individual thing; there are orphans who turn out great and kids from good homes who turn out bad.
You are one of the major protagonists of the END SARS campaign. Please what inspired and motivated you to champion this cause?
Segun Awonsanya started the campaign and someone who had seen my tweets and posts about police brutality connected us. Even though I have never had any personal experience with SARS, I have seen too many pictures, videos and reports of their activities. I am doing this because it’s the right thing for any country citizen to do. Injustice to one is injustice to all.
Your recent single titled, ‘Is the police your friend’ comes across like a sarcastic question, was that your intention?
I just wanted an interactive title that would start up a conversation once you hear it. They say the police are your friend and the next second a member of SARS is beating up, brutalising and extorting an innocent citizen. Today alone, I have received four different calls with reports of people being brutalized in Lagos and Ondo States by the police.
Would you say the results so far since you started the campaign meets your expectations given the new reforms by the Inspector General of the Police force?
There is no reform. The I.G or commissioner verbally telling officers to behave themselves is on paper but we need action. They need to make the dismissals public because if the citizens are crying out this much, then it’s not a joke. The reform we want is for the I.G to get SARS off the streets. Let them be the special units they are supposed to be and come out to fight serious crimes beyond the control of the police.
A lot of ladies are curious as to why you are not married yet given that you are good looking and very comfortable financially. Can you please tell us why?
Marriage will happen when it will happen. I have had my fair share of relationships and even one or two that I thought were going to lead down the aisle but didn’t. At least two of those breakups weren’t my fault. It was just a family thing from the ladies end that didn’t make it possible. It is unfortunate that many ladies still do not trust entertainers; not like I blame them. The same way I don’t blame them, I can’t be blamed for being an entertainer and doing my job.
What are the qualities you look out for in your ideal woman?
I am attracted to a woman with brains and a bit of beauty. I like a woman I can have a serious conversation with and not just about spaghetti or designer wears all the time. I like a woman with a good head on her shoulders who knows how to take responsibility and say sorry when she needs to. One that understands that being with a man is not competition; crazy with a good sense of humour and knows how to cook Egusi soup.
What inspired your fashion career, boredom or the want of a new challenge?
Fashion is something I’ve always wanted to go into and 20th September Wears is named after my birthday. So far I have been selling via online platforms and outlets. The feedback has been great. We have a new set of designs coming out in August. I had a photoshoot with the likes of Beverly Osu, Teddy A, who are both ex Big Brother Naija housemates and Brian Okwara, former Mr. Nigeria as the models for the new designs.
What does style mean to you?
Style is how you wear what you wear. It is how you put it together to achieve a particular look. For me, my style is simple. I love casual wears a lot.
Tell us about your computer games league?
It’s called the Rugged Premiere League and it’s a FIFA PlayStation competition. I have done two tournaments so far in Lagos and Calabar. Between that, I have had some celebrity challenges. We’ll be having one soon again tagged ‘Rugged Premiere League Dine and Game’ in a lovely restaurant in Victoria Island.
Finally, any word for your fans, friends and supporters?
I want to thank everyone who has supported me from day one till today. They are too many to count or mention. To everyone who has spent a dime on Ruggedman and to anybody who has spent a minute of their energy on me, musically, with a pen, radio, TV and online, I say God bless you all for supporting me.
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