Interview: I Am Makanaki Without The Guns — Reminisce on ‘King of Boys: The Return of The King’

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Reminisce, born Remilekun Abdulkalid Safaru, came onto the music scene in 2008 with a verse on Bachelor’s Life, a song off 9ice’s sophomore album titled Gongo Aso. His next songs Ever since and If Only quickly established him as someone to be reckoned with on the underground street music scene.

Nine years later, mainstream recognition came for him with Kako Bii Chicken, a Sarz-produced party record. The ‘local rapper’ starts the single by confidently boasting: “O ye rappers, I’ve moved on to greater things, I will see you in a jiffy…” And that’s exactly what happened for Reminisce who went on to put out four top-selling albums, countless hit singles and became an OG in the street music and indigenous rap game laying the blueprint for new guys like Zlatan and Naira Marley.

These days, acting is his next greater thing. The award-winning rapper (known on the streets as Alaga) made his acting debut as Makanaki, a notorious gang leader in one of Nigeria’s highest-grossing films, King Of Boys. 

Taking his street credibility to the big screen, he delivers a commendable performance complete with a gritty voice, scowl, and general badass demeanour in the 2018 political thriller. He took the same energy he put in 3rd World Thug when he rapped, “To ba be, ma ko won wa ba e pelu 40-seater’’ [If you trespass, I will come with my goons in a 40-seater] into the movie.

We caught up with the legendary rapper, and now two-time actor ahead of the recently released King of Boys: The Return of the King. He touches on the music career, his character and what people can expect from the seven-episode series:

Your background is primarily music. What caused you to transition from music to acting?

Is it a transition? It’s not really a transition. I’m just someone that likes to try out new things. Sometimes I want to be a host. Sometimes I want to act. Sometimes I want to do sports. So this is just me wanting to do other things. Acting is just one of them. So it’s not like I’m primarily transitioning, it’s something I can do. I told myself at a certain age, a certain time in my career, I would try out other things. I just want to try them out and see what it feels like, you know. I grew up watching rappers like Ice Cube and Will Smith doing these things. I see LL Cool J hosting the Grammys and I’m like, I want to do this. So I’m basically just living out my dreams and I’m making sure I’m getting them done properly. You know, choosing the right platforms or making the right decisions, you know, while achieving my dreams.

What are the key similarities and differences between both fields?

They share almost the same audience, the same set of people. And of course, the reaction is the same. It’s very similar. It’s just that not everybody likes music and not everyone likes movies.

Walk us through the process of joining the original King of Boys project.

It’s Kemi. She reached out but I didn’t want to do it. She kept insisting. People were suggesting other names but she said, ‘no, this is the guy I want.’ I had never met her before. I even kept her waiting but she still insisted. Eventually, I said okay.

Last time, you said it took them some months to convince you to be part of the movie especially after you saw Sola Sobowale in her element, was it easier this time around considering how well you performed last time?

After all that work? I didn’t have to think twice. I just asked her to let me know if I had to come back and to make it a great story. She was like, ‘okay, I’ll send you the scripts.’ She sent the script, I read it, and ‘I’m like, Oh, this looks good.’ I’m happy to be on board. I’m happy to finish the Lord’s work. I did such a great job in the first part. Why would I allow somebody to come and chop the benefit? The fruit of my labour? I am going to be a proper Nigerian and max it out, you know?

King of Boys unravelled the underbelly of violence that pervades Nigerian politics. As someone involved in the creation process of this great franchise, what lessons do you think young Nigerians interested in politics should be taking?

King of Boys is a reenactment of whatever is going on in the country. I believe every movie or every production should have a bit of your environment. Kemi wrote the story of whatever’s going on here. That’s what Nigerian politics looks like. Whatever lesson people will learn is what they should learn in real life as well. Get up and vote so your voice counts. You need to start making decisions. You need to stop sitting back and allowing people to make decisions for you. You need to stop allowing the worst of us to rule the best of us.

Do you have anything in common with your character because you totally embodied the role of Makanaki?

Yeah, Makanaki is me without the guns. That is how I normally talk. It’s how I walk, that’s how I look. Maybe not how I dress. My nephew tells everyone, ‘that is my uncle without the guns.’

You often hear actors say they go through a rigorous process to embody their characters, did you do anything for this sequel?

There was no process per se. My sister, me, I don’t really have a process. I’m not into all those dynamics. I just see everything as a task, a job. When I have a job to do, no matter how bad I feel, I try to make sure I get myself in the mood to get it done. A few drinks here and there, listen to music and I’m good to go. I tell myself every time, I have a job to do so I have to do it even if the environment doesn’t suit me. I maximize what I have and get it done. I don’t like excuses. There was this time on set when we had to film during COVID. Soldiers were around and it was during the Lekki tollgate incident. We had to shoot where soldiers were posted and I remember it wasn’t a conducive condition. You couldn’t go out to pee because soldiers didn’t want anybody walking around. But I still got it done. Shot there for six hours. As a creative you know, you’ll have difficult moments but what makes you better creative or a great creative is being able to overcome these hurdles and get your job done, rather than complain. I just want to do my job and go home to my kids basically.

What is your most memorable part of the series?

I am not sure if it made the cut, but my favourite scene is the explosion. It’s my favourite because the explosion was supposed to happen but it didn’t go off. So, everyone had taken their mind off it, I was about to light a cigarette then all of a sudden from behind us, boom and everybody scattered. It was horrible as well because the lining in my jackets nearly melted my skin. So I also had a first-hand experience of what improvised explosive device (IEDs) looks like.

You are a two-time actor now. What’s next?

I’m going to put out a bit of music. Also, be focusing on my sports business. And we’ll see what happens from there. I’m just going to enjoy myself. Football is back. So I took a break to do this production. Football is back so I’m back to my radio show every Monday. I enjoy it. I enjoy going out every Monday, driving out in the evenings. You know, look at Lagos, argue on the radio for one hour with my fans about football then go back home. It’s exciting. It doesn’t even feel like work but it is work. I like it. I just want to keep enjoying myself. I am at the point where I just want to enjoy myself. You look back, see how hard you’ve worked, and ask yourself, ‘What have I really enjoyed?’ I have not really enjoyed anything by myself. I keep doing for people. I’ve been doing for people my entire life. So now I want to enjoy every moment, everything I am doing I want to enjoy it. I’m no longer living for people or wanting everybody to feel good about me. I want to enjoy every moment. Have fun. If it doesn’t come with fun, then I am not going to do it. That’s where I’m at now.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

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