Safin is one of the children of late legendary high life musician Chief (Dr.) Oliver De Coque. Safin, who is wearing his late dad’s shoes as a musician, is however a hip-hop artiste signed to Dosage Records. He spoke with MORAKINYO OLUGBIJI about his musical career and life as a child of Chief (Dr) Oliver De Coque
When did you start your career as a musician?
I started from when I was young. I think I wrote my first song when I was 10 years old. Since then I’ve not looked back. I’ve always loved music from the beginning.
What was your dad’s reaction when you told him you wanted to do music?
He was so proud of me because I was his only son that showed interest in music at the time. Although dad advised me to go into highlife, but I let him understand that hip-hop is my calling; it’s my passion.
Why are you just coming out fully into the industry after all these while?
I’ve always been in the industry, but I think coming out fully this time is good because this is the same time the industry is buoyant. Nigerian artistes are now getting all the international recognition anyone can dream of, even Femi Kuti keeps getting nominated for Grammys.
Is there going to be any influence from your dad’s highlife music in your hip-hop style?
Absolutely yes, because I wouldn’t want my dad’s Highlife legacy to die and that was one of the reasons I remixed one of my father’s most popular songs, “identity.” I also shot a cartoon video for the song. It’s really a good animation video. Right now I’m in the studio remixing “Biri Kambiri.” I want to add some hip-hop flavours to the song and modernize it. That’s apart from my own original songs I’m working on. Right now, I’m also done with my song “Son of the Soil” featuring Phyno in the video as well.
Could you remember a time you almost felt like dumping music?
Yes. There was a time I travelled to the East to perform. The crowd was very massive and the MC had hyped me to the crowd that Oliver Decoque’s son is about to come up stage. He said “If you see this guy, it’s just Oliver Decoque reincarnate.” So they kept cheering anticipating highlife from me just like my dad, but I only did my remix of “Identity.” They started booing me, but at the end of the day I was able to pull through with the show. Now people are beginning to recognise the difference between Oliver Decoque and Safin Decoque.
What do you remember the most about what your dad used to tell you?
He used to strictly warn me to try and stay humble, and remember the son of who I am. He also said, “If you are trying to remix any of my songs, just make sure that the remix is better than the original version if not just leave my songs as they are.” Also, some people will look at me and say to my face, “but your father is Oliver Decoque now, what’s with all this noise you are singing?” I must tell you my mind right now; it’s a big challenge for me being Oliver De Coque’s son. That’s the bitter truth. I can’t afford to come out with rubbish even with the hip-hop I do. I just can’t do it.
Did you ever follow your father to a show?
I followed him to USA 94 World Cup. I think he was like an ambassador to the Nigerian football team then. Asides that, I’ve also followed him to different shows but I only performed once on stage with him. I used the opportunity to showcase my rap skill when he was singing one of his songs. I rapped to the song live. It was a surprise to him because as he was singing I went to his drummer and begged him to change the beat to a little hip-hop, he did it and I came on stage rapping to my dad’s song. He was initially lost, like what’s this boy doing, but the crowd loved it and started screaming. And I guess that was the moment my dad started seeing that rap thing in me.
If you are not singing what would you have been doing?
It could have been acting. I studied Theatre Arts too, though not because I wanted to be an actor. I just wanted to go to the university to perfect my craft as a rapper. Theatre Arts is about stage and all and not necessarily movie acting. I wanted to perfect my stage craft. I find music easy because of my pedigree.
What is the best thing music has done for you?
Music changed my story; it changed my life. Like when my dad died, I felt really pained, so much in pain. I had to go back to my dad’s music archive to listen to his songs and immediately, I felt he was talking to me. I think this is a big privilege because many of my mates lost their father and can’t even see his photographs, but here I am being able to hear my dad’s voice over and over again. That means a lot to me.
Being that you are Oliver Decoque’s son, how do you handle the pressure of women?
I have always been used to women from time immemorial, but I wouldn’t want to make the same mistake my dad made with women. He was a polygamist and he personally advised me not to make that same mistake. It doesn’t pay, he said and it’s normal for every son to learn from their dad’s mistake. I wouldn’t want women to becloud my sense of reasoning. I need to focus on my career right now.
What’s it about polygamy you don’t like?
I hate everything about polygamy – a man marrying more than one wife and having too many children. The quarrel will be there no matter what. You can’t shy away from that. I’ve seen couples of one husband and one wife who quarrel bitterly not to talk of a marriage consisting one man and many wives.
How many girlfriends do you have?
I only have one. Her name is Stephanie. She is studying in London at the moment but will soon return to Nigeria fully. That’s my only girlfriend.