“NAIJA LET’S GO!” was the patriotic shout Adewole (Wole) Lipede of Backhome Productions gave at Boulevard 3 as he matched about six of us Nigerians, VIP, into the BET 2010 Ludacris and Neo after party. Indeed it was a Naija dominated weekend in the international category at the 2010 BET Awards show.“We might not have scored at the World Cup. But we scored big at the BET Awards,” was how Paul Okoye of P-Square put it to Notjustok.com.
MI and P-Square, both nominees in the international category, arrived on Friday June 25th, 2010 in Los Angeles after a brief stop in New York. MI rolled with the crew of Audu Maikori (Chocolate City founder & CEO) while P-Square spent most of their time with Joy Tongo (JTON Productions) and Jude Okoye (older brother and manager). Both camps had Wole (who was quite phenomenal) and Ghanaian-American Lilian Blankson handling logistics, hospitality and press.
There was a clear difference with the way MI handled the process versus P-Square, an observation not lost on the BET.com correspondents who interviewed the artists. P-Square had an aura that seemed to say, “been there, done that. We know what it feels like to be at this level.” While they were happy they were nominated, they almost seemed indifferent about it. They were very playful, cracked jokes and had an overall super laid back attitude. P-Square recently won the African Artiste of The Year at KORA All Africa Music Awards. Their prize was $1million!
MI, on the other hand, while laid back, was not as carefree. In fact, it was his first major international nomination and you could feel and see his deliberate and thoughtful state of mind as he seemed to do a lot of observing. He had a slight restlessness about him that seemed eager to just go do more music. “I have been in the studio working on my album for a while now,” explained MI to Notjustok.com. “I appreciate the awards but there is still more to do.”
More for MI meant, “going back to the drawing board and . . . creating tracks that can penetrate mainstream audiences (especially in America).”
Back to Friday June 25th, 2010: BET International, the department responsible for the BET International Category where MI and P-Square were nominated, threw a welcoming VIP cocktail reception party co-sponsored by Nigerian owned Anabel Mobile Ltd. The party was held at the SLS Hotel, the same hotel where MI, P-Square, Drake, Diddy and others were staying. The event had a healthy amount of Nigerians in the house. Sample guests included Raz Adoti (Hollywood Actor), Chichi Emeson of Miss Nigeria in America (MNIA) and Nicholas Okoye (President of Anabel Mobile).
MI dressed in jeans, t-shirt and tan-grey jacket, didn’t do as much mingling with the crowd. P-Square, on the other hand, worked the room. While some of the “Oyinbo” ladies present might not have heard of P-Square, it was clear they took a liking to the duo’s good looks and physique. Some ladies stole photo opportunities with the twins and seemed excited to talk to them. Friday night ended with MI & P-Square receiving Anabel mobile phones from Anabel Ltd. with Anabel brand ambassador Megan Good, looking on.
I am unsure what the trio ended up doing for the night but as it would later turn out, sleep was a priority for MI throughout the weekend.
Saturday June 26th, 2010: Both MI and P-Square began their day with the press. MI even got on the Wendy Williams show. By 12:30pm, the three, per their call time, met at the Shrine Auditorium where the awards would take place to talk to more USA and a few international media present. Backstage, at the event venue, the press was split into two rooms. One was for radio and the other print and online media. Although expected, I was, nevertheless, disappointed with the lack of excitement the American press showed for our stars.
BET Radio and BET.com gave all three media air-time and online coverage. UK’s DJ Lanre, Ladybrille and Notjustok.com also did the same. But less than a few press bothered with the stars.
MI stayed observant. For P-Square, the sight of Ciara provided a distraction. “I’d rather go hang out with Ciara and take pictures than do these interviews,” joked Paul. “Hey!” was the playful yet firm response from Blankson. Ultimately, P-Square did get their photo op with Ciara. MI tried but the increased buzz around Ciara made it impossible. The trio ended their press sessions with a gift bag courtesy of BET.
All three returned to the hotel and while there was a fabulous welcoming dinner planned by BET CEO Debra Lee, the invitation was not extended to the artists. For MI who, according to him, is a “homebody and would rather stay home than be [o]ut partying,” it was the perfect opportunity to, once again, escape into his room for a much needed rest, per the long trip and overtime hours he put in the studio prior to his arrival.
June 27th, 2010: The BIG day finally came. While the artists knew they were responsible for their travel and accommodation costs, all had the perception they would appear on the big screen and be televised to millions of household in the USA and internationally. In fact BET had requested their bios/profile and pictures among other things. So, there was nothing to necessarily contradict that belief. Prior to the big day, P-Square’s Paul who thought I was East African, as most people do, assured me they were“Nigerians” and knew how to dress when I inquired if he wanted Ladybrille’s hair stylist Saleaka Lyons to help with their hair. Not worried about P-Square, I turned to MI. MI agreed to have Saleaka make him look red carpet ready. The morning of the event from about 10:30am to 11:10am, MI got his hair groomed for his BIG day. After grooming, he was craving a classic American burger. Saying our goodbyes, MI headed to the mall closest to his hotel to shop for a suit and also feed his craving.
Celebrity call time for the big day was 2:30pm. I was already on the red carpet at my assigned spot with my media colleagues as we waited for the celebs to come to us. American celebs poured in strutting, walking and some even dancing their way onto the red carpet. The trio of MI and P-Square finally arrived. Once again, there wasn’t as much media interest mainly because they where relatively unknown both to media and the demographics the American media outlets serve.
Nevertheless, the trio did manage to get a few media outlets to interview them and less than 5 steps away from where I stood, they got on BET’s 106 & Park to introduce themselves to BET and the American audience.
The actual award show began a little over 5pm, California time. Like the rest of us, the artists were impressed with numerous aspects of the show including Chris Brown’s performance. After the show, the artists returned to their hotel. MI stopped on his way from the show and bought two large pizzas to be shared with his crew. Upon arrival, he said his goodbyes and retired for the night. P-Square enjoyed a meal, drinks and relaxation in the patio area of the hotel. Paul and Jude Okoye smoked a cigarette, chatted and discussed numerous things including the way the nomination could have been handled so their fans could know who won.
As they discussed this, Blankson met up with the group to let them know Dizzle Rascal, half Nigerian and half Ghanaian UK based artist was the winner. “We know,” said the twins. “How did you guys find out so soon,” asked Blankson. “MI twitted it on twitter,” responded the twins and all of us, really. P-Square, following MI’s steps, retired for the night preserving their energy for their now ongoing nationwide US tour.
It was clear that why all nominees were happy, they believed they could achieve even higher, the grammys, perhaps. Perhaps also, in future, BET can showcase our artists, even if it is just a collage and a short video footage for millions to see, worldwide.
Nominated for her “Outstanding Contribution in Fashion Communications” for the 2010 AFI Africa Fashion Awards, Uduak Oduok is an attorney, model, journalist and founder of Ladybrille Media Group Inc. She also authors the music business column “Ask Ms. Uduak” on NotJustok.com.