The rise of Ice Prince is somewhat meteoric; he went from being just a passionate music lover in Jos to an award winning rap artiste. In four years, Panshak Zamani has carved a niche for himself in the Nigerian rap music scene. The Aboki crooner, who won the 2013 LEADERSHIP Entertainer Of the Year award, is unarguably one of the hottest rappers in the industry, with two albums already in his kitty. The JOVAGO cum ETISALAT ambassador, in this chat with SAMUEL ABULUDE talks about his music, non-governmental organisation and his best kept secret.
You won a BET award last year, how has it been like?
BET opened up a new platform for me. The interesting thing is that it was not aired in US alone; it was also aired in UK, Asia and Africa. As a result, I got to do stuff with a couple of US artistes. Off the BET awards, I did a song with French Montana, Wale and I also did a song with Chip from the UK. I did a song with Joel Ortiz. All these songs are in my Fire of Zamani album released last November. Winning the BET African Act award put me in some international festivals as well. At this year’s award I had the honour of performing live and presenting the award to the new winner which interestingly is Davido. All these have really put the Nigerian hiphop music on the global stage.
That makes you the hottest rapper currently, right?
(Smiles) I don’t see myself like that. I still see myself as an upcoming musician. I still see myself as having not arrived yet. It’s not even about humility. That is how a man should see himself. I don’t think as a human being you should ever get to a place that you believe you have arrived. That’s why I still see myself as upcoming. I don’t think Dangote thinks he is the richest African, that’s why he’s still making money. You shouldn’t believe that you have gotten there yet because that is way down- you get me? So there is still much more from Ice Prince. It’s like I haven’t even started.
How much work have you put into your music since you gained recognition?
I don’t sleep. That is the honest truth. I’m always working- especially at night. You met me on a weekend like this, normally there are a lot of boys here making music; I record every now and then. There is a studio downstairs. There are always artistes in the house. We are always recording. The more you do that the more you improve as an artiste and I’m always trying to improve on my music. I don’t club.
You hardly see me club unless it’s necessary. If it is someone’s birthday or I’m supposed to perform, that’s when you find me in a club. I”m a very reserved person.
So what has Ice Prince been up to recently?
Like I told you earlier, I’ve been making music. I’ve been trying to perfect my art as a musician; trying to learn more; trying to rap better; learning how to sing better and how to write songs. I’ve been shooting videos for my album as well. Just shot a video in South Africa. The song was produced by Don Jazzy and features AKA, a South African musician. I was in London recently and shot a video with Chipmunk, a UK artiste known now as Chip. I shot the video with him called Mercy. I just dropped Risky, a video featuring Sunny Neji. I’ve also been going on tours trying to put my Zamani foundation out there, an NGO aimed at caring for orphans. I’m an orphan- my parents are not around anymore. I want to help people in the society that don’t have a voice. To be honest with you, I don’t talk about it because I don’t blow my own trumpet. I’m not the kind of person that’ll donate to charity and start making noise. Apart from Zamani Foundation, I just came back from Jos. Every time I go back there I connect with the youths, organise concerts and seminars. I also just came back from recording a song people paying tax, for the Plateau State government. It has all the legends in it- Jeremiah Gyang, Panam Percy Paul, Adudeme, Dorcas Bentu and other indigenous artistes. These are some of the ways that we give back to society.
You just Dropped Can I Talk, what inspired it?
Can I Talk is a freestyle song, a free vibe. I just thought of putting out a hiphop song. I’ve been focusing a lot on trying to make people dance and excited. I’ve been dropping tracks like Aboki, VIP and Jambo- all club songs. So I wanted to do something different with a little bit of rapping, I had this track that me and my boy, TMXO did. So, I spoke to Joel Ortiz. He’s an artiste under Eminem’s outfit. He jumped on the beat and as soon as I heard his voice, I didn’t want to release it as an Ice Prince song. I drove to MI’s house straight and told my boss, MI to bless it. MI killed it and ripped it apart. So Can I Talk is free for download. People have been commenting about it. There is another one I dropped, Tears For Naija, which is a song about what it is going on in the country right now. It’s about changing our ways and gettimg this country back to the way it used to be in ‘97-’98. Short On Short is another freestyle song with Sarkodie. I went to Ghana and we shot the video.
Since releasing FOZ, how has the sale been?
FOZ is an 18 track album. It is doing well. I wouldn’t say it is selling more than my debut album. Everybody Loves Ice Prince sold quicker. The fans love Fire of Zamani and they feel that I took them by surprise. They didn’t expect the angle that I came with. In terms of sales, it’s a different thing and I think that is how the market is right now. If you look at all the albums dropped so far, it’s the same story, compared to those released last two years. Now most people want to download their favourite tracks on their phones and that’s it. It’s not just a FOZ album issue, it’s a trend across the globe. Jay Z has dropped an album, Wale has dropped an album, a lot of artistes have dropped albums, Kanye West has dropped an album but I have not even seen a hardcopy of it. It’s a global thing. Physical sales of musical works are being overshadowed by online downloads. Even the Alabas dey cry, dem no dey make money (The pirate market in Alaba are also bleeding because they are not making sales from musical CDs again). So now if a song is released you download it, folks also download the tracks of the album. But it doesn’t stop the album culture from thriving. You have to give people a body of work at the end of the day. I’ll definitely drop more albums. Whenever I’m inspired, I’ll drop an album. Right now, I have already a body of work to make two albums, just waiting for the right time. I’m working on my 3rd album and 4th one already. I record everyday so I’ve songs already for those. I even take my studio abroad sometimes when I travel. I pay for the fare of my music producers, engineers and we carry our systems along like we did in South Africa recently.
What are the details of your Universal Music License?
It is for the distribution of my song I Swear which I recorded with French Montana. It is a deal that Universal Music has the rights to distribute that music. When I made the song, it got recognition and the music company came into the picture and wanted to push it. We are releasing I Swear on the 27th of July. So they will promote it on radio, major TVs across the United Kingdom hopefully. I’m signed to Chocolate City and managed by S.O.M.E. Universal Music handles the I Swear song abroad.
How did you come about the name ‘Ice Prince?
Music found me when I got into secondary school. I loved hiphop and just wanted to explore and sing. But at a point in my life after secondary school, I met some folks whose lifestyle I admired as singers and I wanted to sing. Along the line rap came my way because I love the English language and starting working with rhymes. The name “Ice Prince” came in my SS2. Going to St Murumba College in Jos was great for me. I went to school one day wearing a DMX Ruff Ryder chain and it had blings on it. A new student who just came to my class started calling me ‘Ice’ because he didn’t know my real name; and so ‘Ice’ stuck. I added ‘Prince’ years later. Now I call my music ‘super cool cat music.’