Here is how 2baba Idibia staged a comeback with 'The Unstoppable [International Edition] as album turns 10 [Pulse Interview]

As ‘The Unstoppable (International Edition)' clocks 10, 2face Idibia tells Pulse about making N30 million from the album, the lies around 'Only Me,' how he never had problems with Mikel Obi and more.

2baba Idibia talks as ‘The Unstoppable (International Edition)’ turns 10. (Silverbird TV)

It was the moment Nigerians realized that 2face Idibia was not going anywhere. It was also the moment when Nigerians subconsciously re-accepted their defiant heartthrob who was bent on succeeding on his own terms.

The 14-track The Unstoppable (International Edition) is like a deluxe version of 18-track The Unstoppable, 2face’s third album which had dropped under Hypertek in 2008. The International Edition contained eight new tracks and also produced two hits, ‘Only Me’ and ‘Implication’ despite selling for N1,000 per copy.

The album won Best Pop/R&B Album at the 2011 Headies, helped 2baba to win Best Male and Artist of The Year at the 2010 MTV African Music Awards and Best International Act at the 2011 BET Awards. His song, ‘Power of Naija’ was also a soundtrack for the 2010 World Cup for a brand.

The legendary artist who now goes by 2baba Idibia rejects the ‘comeback’ tag, “I never left, I nor know where dem see am. I never gave anybody space, I was always working but at the time, na belle matter dey my mind (laughs), so I just wanted to make music.”

However, he admits that, “‘The Unstoppable’ was a flop so to speak. Na flop (laughs) compared to my previous albums and my own bar. E tight pass some other people own, but I don’t think it was well-received nor did it have the desired impact.

“I think the mixing on some of the songs was not properly done, but majorly, there was so much going on in my life at the time that was not music-related and those things deflected attention from the music itself. The media really wanted to latch onto everything they could in my life and amplify it. That then affected the music and ‘The Unstoppable.’

“However, I think neither the coverage of my life by the media and its perception it made people have of me nor the reception ‘The Unstoppable' got was fair.”

As he adjusts to sit properly with a face mask on he says, “I get am o and I understand am, but it wasn’t really fair when you think about it. The media didn’t even properly report that I released an album. In the end, a lot of people didn’t even listen to the album.”

On December 8, 2006, Nigerian superstar, then known as 2face Idibia released OJB Jezreel-produced socio-politically charged sophomore album, Grass 2 Grace under Kennis Music. What he didn’t realize at the time was that the album was going to be a second consecutive classic, after his classic debut Face 2 Face.

Around that time, media coverage of and scrutiny into 2baba’s personal life also intensified. 11 months prior, he had fathered a first child, Nino Idibia with then girlfriend, Sumbo Ajaba, now married to Pastor David Adeoye. In April of the same year, he also fathered his second child, Ehi Idibia with Pero Adeniyi.

A year prior, he had been the subject of a robbery. But the negative press truly began in 2004, with the release of the Cobhams-assisted Faze debut, Faze Alone. On the title-track, Faze chronicled the break-up of the Plantashun Boiz, which also included BlackFace, who had also accused 2face of not giving him proper credit for the globally successful classic single, ‘African Queen’ off Face2Face.

As Grass 2 Grace got commercial success and far-reaching impact, so did media scrutiny of his life and the newsworthy events that never stopped happening. On October 4, 2007, he got shot by robbers on his way back from collecting his MOBO Award for Best African Act in London. The bullet left in him would have done greater damage, but for the laptop that was on his lap. Again, Nigerian media painted 2face as a villain.

Between April and December 2008, he fathered Zion Idibia with Sumbo Ajaba and Isabella Idibia, with actress, entrepreneur and the woman who became his beautiful wife, Annie Idibia. Nigerians accused 2baba of irresponsibility and stand-up comedians didn’t help matters.

At his 40th birthday, 2baba jokingly attacked Bovi for how the comedian had attacked him through the years.

Ironically, Basketmouth who is another comedian that made jokes about 2baba’s personal life in the 2000s walked in on the conversation this writer had with 2baba at FreeMe Space on Saturday June 27, 2020, the day The Unstoppable (International Edition) clocked 10.

It was obvious that he and 2baba were close friends because the interview stopped for a few minutes as 2baba and Basket Mouth exchanged pleasantries, “My brother make we continue, Bright Okpocha na my brother,” 2baba said after he was done.

In the middle of 2008, 2face released ‘Flex,’ a single that was purported to feature R. Kelly. Controversy ensued when Nigerians called 2face’s credibility into question over the accuracy of the R.Kelly feature and the single subtly tanked. ‘Enter The Place’ was released in the final weeks of 2008 and its video on January 15, 2009.

On the song, 2baba also created a satire out of his own personal life when he sang, “...Make we see if you no go carry belle too…”

On March 6, 2008, the rumour was that the Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation had banned the video for ‘Enter The Place’ alongside Mo' Hits All Stars' ‘Close to You,’ D'Banj's ‘Suddenly’ and Kelly Handsome's ‘Maga Don Pay.’ 2baba says he never got an official statement on the reason the video was supposedly banned.

“The way wey una hear am, na so me sef hear am (laughs). I never got an official word on why that happened. I still dey hear am [the news and the video] sha,” 2baba says. The drama continued as 2baba endured intense competition from the golden era of Nigerian Hip-Hop (2008-2010) and the intensifying force of Mo’Hits. Something had to happen…

The album title was a dig at the bad press around him at the time. 2face fancied himself a moving train that could not be stopped by bad publicity and wrong perception.

He says, “We titled it ‘The Unstoppable’ because I wanted to send a message that they could not stop me and that I was moving at a pace that nobody could control. But e nor work the first time abi (laughs)... But I think it clicked the second time, apparently.”

2baba also notes that there was a difference between the creative approach to Grass 2 Grace and Unstoppable. He says, “I was still under a label for Grass 2 Grace, I was younger and I had schedules and deadlines - they were not authoritative, but they still had a contract tied to them (laughs).

“The freedom I had for both versions of Unstoppable allowed me to do different things and experiment.

After the drama of the original The Unstoppable, 2baba got into that personal space where he knew that he wanted to make something different and something special. He says, “I didn’t want or have any distraction and you can hear the genuine emotion behind some of the songs on the album.

“I titled it ‘International Edition’ because after the first one flopped so-to-speak, I still wanted to make a statement. The album was international standard - from the packaging to even the pricing. I made it to be different and appealing in a unique way…”

Before the International Edition was released, 2baba and Hypertek experimented with an EP featuring the Hypertek all-stars and it worked. Some of the songs from the EP then made the album.

With the steep pricing, 2baba says, “We made some dough but e nor even reach 50% of what N150 copies would have sold (laughs). We tried but it was more about the statement. It was around that time that I said to myself that, “If we wan make CD, make we kuku package am.””

The sales for the album were hindered by piracy but 2baba didn't feel it, “We had to collect money from pirate to pirate to pirate (laughs). That was a trend at the time you know, they were the creators of the CDs and the pirates. So instead of worrying artists, they would pay us upfront. It’s better than pushing on your own.

“I think the amount I got for that album was N30 million and that had a time limit. When that time pass, we still renegotiate say, ‘How far nah… That kind thing...’ The good thing for them is that they knew each other and they seldom messed each other up. But if nobody do the work, na free hand you dey o. Dem go chop you…”

On the original The Unstoppable, Jay Sleek he produced three songs without significant traction. But on the International Edition, he produced ‘Implication’ and ‘Only Me’ and some other new tracks. Nonetheless, ‘Implication’ and ‘Only Me’ had been made during the recording phase for The Unstoppable.

2baba met Jay Sleek through a friend whose name he can’t remember in 2008. But first, he heard a beat Jay Sleek produced and made sure that he had to work with the producer. He says, “Jay Sleek was ahead of his time and that’s why we still work together till today. I think the success of ‘Implication’ did a lot for International Edition and he contributed to that.

“But I also think that the video angle to ‘Implication’ aided the success of the song because visual and audio used to be a two-pronged attack.”

From International Edition, Only Me’ was the song that truly marked that era and 2baba acknowledges it. Interestingly, the song was recorded after 2baba and some friends had just gotten back from the club in the wee hours of a particular morning in 2008 but he says that rumours that the song was inspired by a Mikel Obi encounter are blatant lies.

He says, “I have told people to help me find the person that started that rumour o, e go sabi market things well. I actually spoke with Mikel then and we just laughed about it. But incidentally, that was the last time Mikel and I spoke. We even laughed heavily about it.

“The first time I met Mikel was when I won the MOBO Awards in London (In 2007) and we all went to the club together. Na him even clear everything and spoil everywhere that night. D’Banj, Don Jazzy, P Square and a lot of us were there. Michael Essien and Kolo Toure were also there but Drogba was not.

“There was nothing like that. Essien and Kolo even dragged the bill with Mikel that night, but he paid. I was shocked when I heard that rumour… But that was also the last time Mikel and I saw each other…”

While 2baba has fun memories about the MTV Africa Music Awards in 2010, he was crowd surfing when he infamously yelled, “Easy, easy…

Describing what led to that, he says, “O boy, some things miss for my body before I reach stage back (laughs hard). My belt and my bracelet were gone, even my shoes almost disappeared. As I got back to the stage, I felt light (laughs).”

In the end, 2baba says, “I’m glad that I made [International Edition] and that it had success. It was a different side of me to the ‘Grass 2 Grace’ version of me. I was evolving at the time and the album contained my truths. The core me is still the core me, but that was also a version of me.

If The Unstoppable [International Edition] was a football competition, it would be the UEFA Champions League season that ended in Athens circa 2007, won by AC Milan. They had lost the Istanbul final to Liverpool in 2005 by throwing away a three-goal lead.

Without that success at a material time which heralded the birth of contemporary Nigerian pop, things might have been different for this legend.

It was a defining moment that ensured that 2Face Idibia reigned with a third generation, not as a third wheel but as a defining presence when superstars like D'Banj, 9ice and others faded away.. As recently as 2018, he still released a smash hit single in 'Amaka' featuring Peruzzi. The legend of 2Face Idibia needed The Unstoppable International Edition to happen, we just didn't realize how much at the time.

It was the acceptance of a flawed genius by the Nigerian mainstream. It was the quintessential victory of art over human perception and sentiment. 2Baba can boast, he did what most people couldn't. After that album, he released an even better project in Away and Beyond.

Tubaba is working on some things. We’d hear about them as the year progresses.


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