US-based Nigerian born Afro pop singer, James Odion Iyere, otherwise known as Jrhyma is determined to take the industry by storm this year. Having dropped his new album days back, the singer, who has been in the US for almost a decade, shared his rise-to-fame story, in this interactive session with SEGUN ADEBAYO.
What exactly prepared you for music?
My music career started since I was a little boy living at Obalende Police Barracks, Lagos State. Those days, I used listened to songs from Baba Frayo, Africa China, Daddy Showkey, 2Face, and Plantation Boys. All those outings prepared me to becoming what I am today. Few years later, I fell in love with Timaya style of singing.
You were born in Lagos before moving to Port Harcourt from where you travelled to the US. How would you describe your journey so far?
Yes, I grew up in Obalende Police Barracks, with the like of Vector the Viper. I moved to PH city in 2005, after which I relocated to the US, where I reside now. Travelling from Nigeria to the US has been difficult, because I missed working with my producers and artistes who understand me better than anyone. Now I am working with a whole different people, especially white producers and artistes. It took me a while to adjust to other nationalities.
How did you come about the name Jrhyma?
I told you I stayed in the barracks with Vector. He was actually the one who gave me the name back then, when we were growing up. He discovered the name when we were doing music together. He said he believes that I know how to match rhymes whenever we came together to sing and produce music in the church
You have stayed in the US for a while, how would you say your career has been shaped in a foreign country?
Yes, I have stayed in the US for long. Trust me, it’s not easy to have white people dancing to your songs, but you have to keep selling yourself and keep playing your music in white people’s clubs, so that they can get familiar with your songs. They have started getting familiar with my music now. Right now, my songs are being played all over the clubs and a few radio stations. I have done a few songs with some international acts that would be dropping in my next album.
Have you considered coming back home to push your career, like others who have relocated to Nigeria?
I have considered coming back home several times, even Timaya, Kcee, Skales and MC Galaxy told me when they came to the US for shows in my state. We all had a great conversation to help me push my career. So I am looking forward to coming back soon, but at the right time.
You released J-moi in 2005 and a couple of songs too, but you don’t seem to have been able to penetrate the Nigerian music industry. What do you think is responsible for this?
After I dropped J-moi in 2005, it gained audience and was played in many radio stations, but along the line, my visa got ready to go to the US to where my dad resides and I was being pressured by my dad and another family member. So, I had no choice but to leave and things were not looking good in terms of living situation. That’s why I left all behind, but still never gave up. Don’t get me wrong, I am now better than before, because I now have gained substantially living in the US, working with some of the best Nigerian artistes, which you can see on my list, dropping songs with them one at a time. So, I can get my audience back.
Your new songs, Water Bambam and Tina, in which you featured Skales, Dammy Krane and MC Galaxy, how would you rate their influence on your music?
I have received a lot of positive responses based on the songs. People have been saying I did a good job. I’m still pushing the songs, as they were dropped a few weeks ago. So, let’s see how it goes, because nothing is impossible for God to do. I am currently working with B-RED, Chidinma, Timaya on my next album. Having all these big names on my album means a lot because they have seen it all and they understand the business side of the music; working with them will change my life completely.
They call you Prince of Dance Hall, but you don’t appear to be living up to that title, are you?
I am still living up to the name and that’s why I said I am coming to take my crown back when I return to Nigeria. I never lost it in the first place though; I only left for the US to better my lot; so, this is a warning.
What’s the next thing for you now?
I am shooting a new video of my song Timaya inspired me. I have learnt a lot from Timaya; his pattern of songs drives me crazy. I fell in love with his voice; he is my inspiration and I want to be better than him. I am dedicating this song to Timaya. I am working on featuring some Nigerian big names. Don’t forget that some of the big names collect up to $10,000 to feature in one song.
How did you know this? Did you contact any of them?
I contacted Terry G and he asked me to give him $10,000. So, I turned down the collaboration.
What other things do you do to survive in the US?
I work as a correction officer in the US.