It’s been 10 years since the reunion album by the Plantashun Boiz, ''Plan B'' was released, Pulse revisits the inside story of how the Plan B album was made.
It is now 10 years since the reunion album by the Plantashun Boiz, ''Plan B'' was released, Pulse revisits the inside story of how the album was made.
At the height of the modern pop evolution in the late ‘90s, the Plantashun Boiz, featuring the trio of Ahmedu Augustine Obiabo (Blackface), Innocent Idibia (2face) and Chibuzor Oji (Faze) stood at its apex as one of the biggest music groups of the decade.
In 2007 when the idea of a Plantashun Boiz reunion album was first mooted, the objective was to record an album filled with big hits, an album so regal, so brilliant and one that will shake the very foundation of the Nigerian music industry.
2008 was the year, they reunited for what was to be one final bang in the discography of the boy group, but a moment meant to deliver a closure to their breakup ended up leaving more questions than bangers.
Happy endings are more fairy tales than reality so unfortunately, when groups do make an effort to come back together, it mostly never turns out to be the second coming their fans might have dreamt of, as seen with rock groups like All Saints and Limp Bizkik.
No matter how great they once were, a combination of bad timing, lack of sonic unity and difference in direction can ruin any group's shot at reclaiming their former glories, and that was the case with the Plantashun Boiz.
The band’s signature style, an infusion of pop, rap and reggae, helped introduce a generation of young music fans to the world of three talented boys, who were emerging as leading voices of the new school.
The name, Plantashun Boiz is edged firmly in the annals of Nigerian music history as not just leaders of a new wave of pop talents but a young, vibrant and talented assemble of three individuals.
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'Body and Soul', the group’s debut album released in 2000 supposedly sold over 600,000 physical copies, if numbers put out by the group members and their producer, Nelson Brown, are to be believed.
While these numbers at the time were outstanding, considering how vibrant piracy thrived, it was the influence they had in shaping the contemporary sound of pop music that was released that spread their fame.
The debut album witnessed the rise of the boys becoming men, a springboard to the high ranks of music greats.
Plantashun Boiz inspired a number of young talents taking to music, more groups sprung up in twos and threes, attempting a replica of what they offered, their impact saw them feature on the list of major concerts.
Their songs topped charts nationwide, shifted attention from the old genres prevailing at the time and took the Nigerian pop sound to gaining major airplay on radio stations like never before, practically becoming a blueprint in making the music as commercially viable as possible.
With breakout singles like You And I, Knock Mi Off, Don’t You Know and If Life, Plantashun Boiz became the gateway acts for the new sound of Nigerian music.
Following the success of their debut album, their sophomore album 'Sold Out' was released three years later.
'Sold Out' was a testament to the commercial success of their debut album and packed some power singles like One And Only and Only You.
Just after the album was released in 2003, what began as baseless rumours soon started to gain weight.
Time, like they say, reveals all things as 2face Idibia, the MVP of the group soon penned a solo deal with Kennis Music, the biggest music label in the land at the time, and before their fans could come to terms with the situation, there was already a printed promo CD copy with the inscription; ''Kennis Music proudly presents 2face Idibia'' in circulation.
For Faze, he grew into more than just the guy in the background, who is only known for his falsettos, he became a successful solo artist, proving to many that he could make it, even as Faze Alone.
As according to the label, Westsyde Music, his debut album 'Faze Alone' which was released in 2004 sold over 1.2million units few months after it was released with the lead single, ‘Faze Alone’ reaching the peak of music charts nationwide.
The song also won him the Best Male vocal performance at the 2006 Headies.
Blackface may have deviated from the smooth RnB/Rapper character he portrayed as a member of the band, but his music was niche, one in a lane of his own and he was not just building a legion of new fans.
Blackface was championing a family of Ghetto kids with his brand of Ragga music and despite the initial shock to his fans, it was all finally making sense.
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In 2007, news filtered in that the boys were coming together for one final album, brokered by the infamous Alaba music distributor Tochukwu Okoye, popularly known as TJoe, owner of TJoe Records.
Alaba market at the time was an electronics market, that capitalised on a failed system by creating a system where they bought original music or sourced mixes from popular local DJs and were re-duplicating for sale.
It was a period where cassette decks, CD players and recordable media were the only source of promoting the music and armed with the right network, Alaba became the nationwide distributors of Nigerian music with TJoe playing a lead role.
It was his vision that saw the coming together of three talented acts who started out as a group but have since plied the individual route in the last four years and have grown wiser, more confident, each fully finding his artistic direction and sound.
There is no disputing the fact that Plantashun Boiz offered timeless music. For a Nigerian boy group that remains one of the most loved pop groups, backed by a fan base that trickles into unquantifiable numbers, many were looking up to the project with pumped up expectation and euphoria for what was termed the biggest reunion party of 2008.
So it was almost a given that a project featuring these three who shot it down even when they were still rookies will cause a uproar on the soundscape, but somehow Plan B was not what the doctor recommended.
Parading eight original tracks, one remix and two instrumentals, Plantashun Boiz delivered the Plan B album in 2008, but it was an album that had crashed even before take-off, promising much yet offering very little.
Individually, the songs on the album were not exactly bad songs, but they lived more in the past than point a way into the future.
But despite their individual successes, the break brought unforeseen issues that the separation had failed to heal. It had cast a dark cloud of acrimony that became visible when they came together to work on the album.
Set in the heart of Festac, in the studio of top producer, Spankie, the man who produced Faze’s hit single, ‘Kolomental’.
Recording for the project was estimated to last over a period of three months, advances had been sorted, touring and merchandising was laid on the schedule and the album was to be marketed and distributed by Tjoe.
‘’Whatever the outcome of the album is now, was what I think they set out for it to be, the big loser here is TJoe, who made sure they got everything they wanted, the boys said they wanted a certain sum of money, he gave them, says Obinna Agwu, renowned artist manager, who worked on the project as a consultant for TJoe Records at the time.
But there had to be a certain type of chemistry and commitment from the guys towards this project, but it wasn’t there.
I know everyone had an individual schedule at the time for them to meet, but sitting in through some of their sessions, I don’t feel like there was actually that conscious effort, that genuine commitment to create time for this album.
'’It was just another windfall of free money for them… The Boiz did not even make themselves available for the major press conference at Oceanview to announce the album,’’ he concluded.
In 2017, Blackface was a guest on pop culture Podcast, LooseTalk, where he narrated his own perspective on events that happened during the reunion;
''On the Plan B album, Plan B was just because of the fact that there was money on the table... That would have been great if everybody had the mindset of togetherness, of teamwork.
I started hearing that my friend, 2face will take Sound Sultan to the studio behind my back, and it was a Plantashun Boiz project... artistes vibe together you get into the music and people start to think about what to write, but you didn't vibe with anybody... I was angry that the album came out.
We were in the studio recording... but there was no vibe, I no like the album, I no tell you lie.
Asked if he could ever work with 2face again, he replied, ''Naa, we never gon do that''
Faze on his part agrees that the Plan B album was not what a Plantashun Boiz reunion should have been, in an interview granted to Saturday Beats in 2015, he says “To me, I don’t think that was our best, we were just playing around. If we sit down to write a song, people would be surprised because I know what Blackface can write.
He has the knowledge and he is very good at writing. Tuface has the rhythm and melody; I also know how to write and I have my melody. It is just for us to put our minds to it and we would have one of the best albums of all times.''
Pulse tried to get 2face's reaction but his team informed us that he would rather not comment on the topic.
Outside the members of the group, there was the major actor Tjoe, the marketer who put money on the table to make the reunion happen and even imported merch. (branded shirts and wrist-brands) as promotion materials.
In an exclusive interview with Pulse, TJoe looks back at the entire period with regret as he opens up,
''I didn't make up-to 10Million out of the project, it was a total loss... I still have some merchandise at home, even the first set of copies of the album were produced outside the country, I gained nothing.''
Refusing to state exactly how much he paid each member of the group, TJoe however said,''To be precise, the entire project cost 65Million including the recording, the videos, press conferences, album launch and payment of the artistes''.
Speaking further on what he felt went wrong with the project, ''There was this issue of, 'I am the songwriter of the group', which Blackface brought into play and it didn't go down well with everybody...
The major factor that worked against the success of the album was friction between them and I will say there was this complex issue, in a room where you will see 2face doing his thing, Faze will not be comfortable writing or recording in the presence of everybody, especially 2face.''
Remembering incidents that almost boiled over during one of the recording sessions, ''There was this particular song, we had two versions of it, it didn't make the album.
I didn't actually approve it because Blackface was going with one beat that was produced by Spankie, and 2face and Faze went with another beat that was produced by Nathaniel George (Natz).
And at the end of the day, because I paid for the studio for a length of two months plus, anybody can come in and record at anytime, Faze and 2face recorded on one of the beats and Blackface went and recorded on the other one, so that was one.''
''There was another day, there was this argument, it was so elaborate that very day that everybody busted, especially 2face that was usually calm.
Blackface was insisting on doing the lead and 2face was telling him, 'No', that Faze had a better voice to take it, but Black disagreed, and 2face angrily walked out of the studio, and didn't record again that very day, he later came back and did his own verse.
He, however, admitted to some failings on his own part, ''I never knew it was going to happen this way, even though 2face had warned me ahead that these issues may come up and gave me the guidelines to help things work out but I never listened to him, I went and did it my way.
I thought I was going to be able to manage the personalities instead of handing it over to the management, it was a total mistake.''
At the end of the day, this was a reunion built on money and not an opportunity to create a moment and further seal the place of Plantashun Boiz in the legacy of groups who scored a successful reunion.
Outside the names and star power, the album offered nothing, it was a forgettable project, one that failed to leave any impact on the scene.
When groups break up, particularly at the peak of their careers, there's always a feeling of thwarted potential.
Fans will cry for the days when a new song could be just around the corner, and speculate wildly on what magical new music could happen if everyone involved would just let bygones be bygones and take to the stage once more.
But as the Plan B reunion album proved to us all, maybe we should indeed just be grateful for what they once were and not what our imaginations believe they can yet offer.