It’s been over 10 years since ‘Yebariba’ showed up and gave us hope that a new star was coming through. But bad decisions and crime has made Sinzu unable to cash in on his talent.
For the past three years, there have been photos of Sinzu (formerly known as Sauce Kid) appearing on the internet. These photos aren’t just photos. They are mugshots, which tell everyone that the Nigerian rapper has been arrested by the US police over a criminal offence. This has happened repeatedly.
When Sinzu first hit the ground running, no one would have projected that he would hit these low levels of alleged criminality, and lose focus on his music. And that’s because he showed so much promise. Everyone believed in his talent because he had it in him.
The first time Nigerians were introduced to Sauce Kid was in 2005 – his first ever single ‘Omoge’ featuring the legendary Mike Okri and was a mild hit. It was fresh, different and had the ‘swagger’ Nigerian artistes had been mimicking for years.
The following year, he dropped his first mixtape ‘Best of Both Worlds: Money Long The Mixtape’. The idea of the mixtape was to deliver Nigerian lingo on Western beats, with Western flows. And it worked, the mixtape is still regarded as one of the best.
The mixtape changed the music culture. Previously, rappers had focused on releasing albums, with only Modenine ruling mixtape world by recording over popular beats. Sinzu’s mixtape impacted on the culture. And it wasn’t even free. Alaba made some money on that one.
The lead single from the mixtape was ‘Yebariba’, a cover of Remy Ma’s ‘Conceited’, which was more than significantly popular and was followed by a video of the remix.
His talent was exceptional. Before M.I Abaga came with the Hip-Hop renaissance in 2008, Sinzu had already started to breathe in some fresh air into the game.
His mind-blowing ability to create music by utilizing Nigerian slangs and superior rap techniques was A+. So impressive was it that the man who moved to the US after his secondary education was already being touted as the new king of rap in Nigeria.
How did this start?
While in the US, Sinzu had hooked up with a music promoter and talent manager called T-Billion. T-Billion would later become TeeBillz, and is popular in mainstream pop culture for his role in pushing Tiwa Savage to success and later marrying her. Sinzu and TeeBillz created a music company named Q Beats.
This was happening at a time when Ruggedman and Modenine were the top names in the Hip-hop scene. Sinzu’s arrival was welcome because according to Hip-hop heads, he represented the birth of a new style of rap which was purist or downright local.
Sinzu was searching for street credibility, and so he decided to battle Modenine. OG rapper Gino took Sinzu, his manager TeeBillz, and another rapper Ghetto P to Modenine’s house at night. They were armed with cameras to record the epic battle. Sinzu was sure of his talent. He confronted Modenine, and challenged him to an impromptu rap battle.
Modenine rejected the challenge, refused to honor it, because he felt ambushed by it. He was angry and sent them away. That battle never happened, but it was a manifestation of how talented Sinzu was to the point of battling Modenine, Nigeria’s greatest lyricist.
That episode was responsible for the beef between Modenine, Sinzu and Ghetto P. Ghetto P was the most touched by it. He went to the studio to record a diss track at Modenine titled ‘Big Baby’. The song made its way to radio, but was later taken off air.
Sauce Kid and Modenine later buried the hatchet, Sauce granted an interview to HNIC Doc Gee’s show on Ray Power FM, Lagos. He said he just wanted to focus on making music, and even joked about their respective record labels. Modenine was signed to Q-Mark (Question Mark) and Sinzu was on Q Beats. He joked about working together on song.
“Sinzu was a great guy. Always energetic, and cracking jokes and very lively. Everyone loved him,” says Tola Odunsi aka Bobby Boulders, the entertainment entrepreneur who was in charge of creative visual direction at Storm Records where the rapper was once signed.
“Working with him was amazing. He was so talented. A genius who was gifted.” He continued.
The scene was his for the taking. Nigerian music and all of its local content was on the verge of cracking glass ceilings and achieving breakthroughs. People were beginning to switch allegiances from Western music, to the content recorded in Nigeria, which had local elements, sounds and melodies. It was a great time to be an artiste. D’banj and Don Jazzy had just returned, a burgeoning local music scene was thriving, and our local pop music was being promoted.
Sauce Kid was also responsible for getting Knighthouse their first hit record on their compilation project, “Street Scriptures” Vol.1. The record label and collective had released a single titled ‘Purple’ featuring M.I, Mo’Cheddah and Nyore, but the song never became a hit. The follow-up single had Sauce Kid, Teeto Ceemos, and XO. It was titled ‘The finest’. Sauce Kid stole the limelight, with his swag and technicality dwarfing everyone else on the record. That record was also the start of Mo’Cheddah’s solo career, as it became a big hit and put her on.
Sinzu had one foot in Nigeria, and the other in the US. Much like a Lagos-Los Angeles connection. And he continued to move between the two cities, until he secured a deal with Storm Records. The debut album, which by now was excessively delayed. It was released in 2010, and although Sinzu had lost shock-value, it was still accepted fairly.
“I first met Sauce Kid in 2006. We created an event called the homecoming,” said Obi Asika who was the founder and CEO of Storm 360, the company whose record label arm signed Sinzu. He spoke to Pulse via a phone conversation.
“At that event, we had a lot of artists to perform including eLDee, Ikechukwu, Naeto C, Darey, Sasha. And Ikechukwu had his friends; these kids from the states that had a lot of potential. And he was being managed by this young kid called TeeBillz.
“Sauce Kid and Traffic, there were three of them. They just came on stage, nobody knew who they were, and we just allowed them to perform. And frankly there were a lot of major names there, and they sort of destroyed the building. The energy, the personality, was heavy. Nobody knew what they were doing and how they were doing it. And that’s the first time I saw Sinzu.”
Asika would go on to sign Sinzu and release his debut album. He told Pulse about how the deal happened. T-Billz had gone to Storm Records to seek a deal for his artist. And he got it.
“A lot of times, while we were still caught up in signing artists, we were just enabling them.” Asika said. “He (Sinzu) was someone that was associated with and close to some of our artists. I remember him, he was so emotional. He was a good person at heart I believe, but I think he wa s just very troubled, although he was very talented as an artist.
“His manager who was TeeBillz came and sat with us, and asked us to please help him out. We tried to do that. We gave him a lot of opportunities and tried to put him out there. Put him on TV, took him to South Africa, and put him on records. On every record he was on, he was massive, let’s tell the truth.”
D’banj, who was in the same age and industry bracket with him had become a demigod in African music, filling out stadiums and getting the best deals. He had done well for himself.
Sinzu’s regression started when he switched his name from Sauce Kid to Sinzu. He didn’t want to be associated with the previous name and all its achievements. He was to be known as Sinzu. He left Storm Records.
“The music game is a hard game everywhere. It is hard to generate money from music, and Sinzu wanted more. So he moved to the US, to relax and recoup and come back. That was how it ended.” Asika said.
The industry was rapidly developing. Wizkid and Davido had emerged. Mo’Hits had ended an era that provided Wande Coal, D’Prince, Kayswitch and Dr Sid. So much was happening past Sinzu. The new kids were running the game. M.I Abaga had dropped his second album and brought the Choc Boys with him.
Where was Sinzu?
The man had left Nigeria. He was in the US, living his life, and according to social media, getting a lot of money from unspecified activities. In between, he dissed his old friend, Godwon on a song titled ‘Exit strategy’ in 2013. The old Sauce Kid was gone. Sinzu was enigmatic and unstable.
Sinzu and another rapper, Godwon, were once close friends. But their relationship took a downturn in 2013 when music website, NotJustOK published a list of ‘Most Gifted Rappers’. Sinzu made the list at number 5, and it led to a beef between Godwon and Sinzu. It was during this beef that Godwon released a photo which showed that Sinzu was a felon.
In 2014, a video was circulated, which showed him fraudulently withdraw $300 from an ATM at a supermarket. He came out to deny it, and blamed the emergence of the video and the entire saga on Godwon. He didn’t take responsibility or admitted. He simply pointed towards Godwon.
And on three occasions, he has been arrested, with mugshots filtering onto the internet and bearing his shame. See a photo of them below.
In 2015, he dropped a mixtape, “Industreet”, which was sold on iTunes and all other digital music stores. But that was a segue from his problems. He has gone back to his old ways.
The most recent charge against him is not different from the earlier ones. Sinzu is charged with grand theft, which is described in the US penal code as the unlawful taking of the property of another person or business, ranging from $1000 to $500,000.
According to the recent mugshot, he has been in jail since July 2016. With his last tweet coming on July 14, 2016, which is a few days before records show that he was arrested. Sinzu is reportedly held at Ada County Jail, a medium security prison attached to the Idaho Sheriff Department.
Although a recent post on his Instagram is both cryptic and coy. It states, “My family, friends and fans are the last people I want to disappoint right now so I kept things on a need to know basis.”
Talking about family and friends, his best friend and rapper Ikechukwu declined to comment on the issue. Pulse reached out to him via the phone and got a “No comment” response.
Sinzu is working on dropping a new mixtape. According to new information, it is the follow-up to his “Industreet” tape, a second volume.
Obi Asika continues: “I was really sad to hear about it that he was locked up. People make mistakes, and I wish he comes out from this one. He is a good guy at heart, and he has a young family, so I hope he returns from this one and fires through.
“He is one of the best rappers to ever come out of these parts, In terms of his technicality and his skill, he was great. He had some great records, ‘Yebariba’, and the remix of ‘Making money’ with Sasha and Ikechukwu.”
But the streets don’t care anymore. Sinzu has stayed away for too long. It’s been over 10 years since ‘Yebariba’ showed up and gave us hope that a new star was coming through. That was a false hope. The industry has moved on. Everyone has moved on.
Declining to comment, his ex-manager and friend, TeeBillz stressed to Pulse that Sauce was a great person, and he would rather the rapper be portrayed in a great light.
And in the same light, his best friend and rapper Ikechukwu tells Pulse. “Sinzu is extremely talented. He is my brother. His talent is underrated and immeasurable. Nigeria has not even scratched the surface of it.”