Obi Ajuonuma – wanted to put his brand on the world map, most importantly put his country, Nigeria on the world map as he attempted to break the Guinness World Record for Longest Marathon Club DJ-ing. He did break this record, but prior to the victory and post record-breaking experience, little did the world know that DJ OBI as the good-looking DJ is popularly called and known as, is quite a conservative person who loves his space and the comfort of his home.
It is all about breaking the world record, setting a new one – Obi would later go on to talk to us that sunny afternoon as we sat within the confines of a popular lounge in this particular Lagos suburb. It was all smiles meeting and exchanging pleasantries with this melanin popping hottie of a DJ whose exuberance screams originality.
DJ OBI had ordered for a dish of goat-meat pepper soup (a popular saucy dish in Lagos city of Nigeria) and a bottle of cold drink as he geared up to discuss his journey into the world of DJ up to the point of shattering the world record of the Longest Marathon Club DJ-ing. The record in question was held by Polish’s Norbert Selmaj also known as Norbert Loco at The Underground temple bar in Dublin, Ireland for 200 hours on the 19th to 27th of November, 2014.
Of course records are meant to be broken and it is to a great development that a Nigerian, in DJ OBI, decided to go for it – talk about pushing boundaries as well as the human race forward, there was nothing more exciting as we found out from the horse’s mouth, the details of this feat as well as some more personal facts.
Although gunning for 240 hours, 40 hours ahead of the former record holder, DJ OBI’s 10-day gig was billed to start at 11:30 p.m. on Wednesday, June 22nd and ending at 11:30 p.m. on Saturday, July 2nd, 2016; however, due to medical counsel, he stopped at exactly after 229 hours and 58 minutes of straight DJ-ing at 1:28 p.m. on Saturday, July 2nd.
DJ OBI beat the world record with 30 hours ahead making him the current champion and since then, he’s story has changed – more like his price went up.
How exactly did you begin with Music and DJ-ing; and why did you choose to DJ?
Growing up, and with the kind of Dad (Dr Levi Ajuonuma – who is now late) I had, who was already in the media industry doing radio shows, hosting concerts, gigs and the likes, I already got exposed to DJ-ing at a really young age when I’d go to Tafawa Balewa Square in Lagos to watch DJ Jimmy Jatt perform at festivals. I decided to take it a little bit more serious in the university as I sought to make out some extra cool cash for myself, without doing anything illegal.
As an undergraduate, I had thought about becoming a party promoter but I somewhat figured I wasn’t cut out for that kind of life because of the probability ratio in making profit. I just didn’t like that I might or mightn’t make money. It (DJ-ing) became a very strong passion as it grew up on me, and with more practice time and endless rehearse hours, I am where I am today.
I love music, I love combining rhythms from different acts and experimenting with different sounds; and I needed a way to show my love for music, let the world know how I enjoy my music, all these factors guided my choice and made me chase it a profession.
What was your family’s first reaction to this choice?
My siblings were supportive from the beginning. My dad did support at some point, but then I come from a Christian home and at some point he sort of thought about what I’ll be exposed to and all of that, and then he subconsciously started showing disapproval, after a while, he told me to stop. My dad got me my first set of turntables. I am sure he’d be proud of my acts now if he were still alive.
Any particular/major influences in this path of your career?
My dad again. He obviously was a major influence in my life. Business wise, I look up to people like Sean Combs aka Puff Daddy, DJ wise I look up to Jimmy Jatt, Jazzy Jeff, Black Coffee, you know, different people looking at it from different perspectives.
What was the inspiration behind embarking on the world record breaking journey and what was the reaction from your environment (Family and Friends) considering the days it will take to break this record?
In Nigeria, there is a lot of DJs, a lot of good DJs, lot of popular DJs also, and I decided to make my own part as everyone had something they were known for. I needed something else, something different, something that would take me out there hence this was a perfect worldwide PR that would get me out of obscurity into the light.
They didn’t know about it until I started, well my siblings knew about it because I spoke to them about it, but no other family member knew until I started it. They came by to say hello, support and wish me well with great words of encouragement but after the whole experience, the reaction I was getting back from them was like “never do that again” (laughs). But they where happy about the response and success from it and that there was no serious repercussion and any other scare. Family wise, I get a lot of support from my family, they don’t question it, I have proven myself over time in the course of my career.
Did you at some point doubt your senses and capability to meet up with this set challenge?
I never thought about it. I just knew I was going to do it and I did. If you gave me time to think about it, then I wouldn’t have done it. That’s my kind of person. If you give me too much time to think about it, then I will not do it. I am very spontaneous, crazy high. Sometimes I question myself and understand why I did certain things, even with this. Once I talked about it, it was done. To me it was done, it was just to execute it. Don’t talk about it, be about it.
How was this whole experience en-route to breaking this said record?
It was amazing the support I got from people because I did not expect the turn out and craziness. I thought it was just going to be my manager, Asa Asika and I beseeching people to come and show support but we never had to do that. People volunteered to assist. All that was good and I was glad that people came through in numbers, showing love and encouragement. In terms of eating, I sorta used these experience to throw myself into some weight-loss programme because I lost so much weight. My appetite was not that great from staying awake for that long, also, clearly I wasn’t sleeping and my Blood Pressure was getting high, all of that and different things that we were able to conquer. I didn’t have an exercise routine, simply put – I didn’t plan to embark on such physical requirements, so didn’t prepare for them, it was just a mental positioning as opposed to physical because you can’t really physically prepare not to sleep for that long. You’d chicken out. It was really just a – if you’re down to the root, just do it!
What was the best moment experienced during the course of your victory and did you at some point feel like you couldn’t go on anymore before you did?
It would be the day – 7th day going into the 8th day and the 8th day into breaking the record. The energy at Sao Cafe (venue of the journey) was epic! Oh yes, the 3rd and 4th day were some of the toughest days. I was questioning myself, if I could really do this. But after encouragement from people, words of encouragement, people leaving sticky notes around the booth, all those things kept me going and just gave me some more confidence. Yes there were times I considered tapping out (laughs).
Getting closer to the final stages of breaking the record, what was the first things/thoughts going through your mind? ( You know these thoughts: “I’m definitely taking a vacation, I’ll sleep for weeks’ , OH I did it……”)
I wanted a massage to start with. Second, I wanted to travel because I wasn’t sure if Lagos would let me rest. Also coming back to build on the PR foundation from breaking the record, doing press releases, media information, conference and all that. Also I have to travel again, because I needed me time, some personal relaxation away from the madness.
What exactly gave you strength during these period and hope to keep on going?
The people, the energy, the sticky notes, my family both home and abroad via Skype callings and face-timing, the blogosphere and love on social media, kids whose parents bring them just to witness the moment, all these amazing testimonials just kept me going.
Do you think at this moment, you have any competition in the DJ industry and what do you think sets you apart from competitors?
There is always competition.
The world record separates me from every other DJ in the world. Same applies here in Nigeria. Also in terms of breaking a world record in Africa – this sets me apart and with all of these there is no competition to that, but then, one thing I am yet to experience and always want to do is have a defining moment where every DJ proves their mettle to know how much of the DJ talent you have. A moment where we can separate the green horns from the pros, ignore your social media and popularity status but let it come down to how much you can do, your DJ skills, and if you are really worth it. I feel a lot of people are lucky, coasting on past glory and when it comes down to their work, are they really worth it? Rather than talk smart, step up behind the booth and show people presently, the stuff you’re made of. I wish we had a platformwhere you’d be judged based on how quality your DJ skills are. So yes, with the world record I have been able to separate myself from the lot of other DJs here and in the world so yes that stands and its not something everybody or anyone else can do.
We’d love to know any of DJ OBI’s favorite DJ, artistes, both internationally and locally?
DJ Jazzy Jeff is one of my favorites, Black Coffee – a South African DJ, DJ ProStyle in New York, DJ Neptune, he’s out here in Nigeria, DJ Spinall (from Nigeria as well) – I have known him for a long time, and I learn a lot from him. I have been doing this for 10 years, we go way back, myself and Spinall would always push each other to success, he is fearless with his mixing as we exchange music ideas. He doesn’t play to appeal to the dance-floor or get applause, he prefers teaching music. As a DJ, you want to be a pacesetter, one who shows or teaches the other ones the craft of DJ’ing and what is new out there. As a DJ, you should yearn to break new records, and that’s the energy I enjoy from DJ Spinall.As a DJ, playing songs can sometimes clash with the interest of the listeners, so it is in your place to repeat these songs as with time, the listeners fall in love.
So yes, a lot of DJs i’d love to work with locally and internationally. DJ Private Ryan is from Trinidad. Amazing DJ and very diverse. These are the kind of DJs I listen to when I am alone or not playing or seeking inspiration.
What songs/music did you play and decided not to play during this experience and what was your victory song on breaking the record?
There was no song I said I wasn’t going to play because I needed as many songs as I could get. But, when we were getting to the 8th day about breaking the record, I played Drake’s Over. I played a lot of Drake at that monumental moment because his lyrics made sense and correlated with the feel of achievement. The victory song I played was also by Drake – “I’m a Legend”.
Any favorite DJ effect ( LOL ), did you repeat any song during the process? If yes, which?
Uhmm, I like the explosion. It’s like an explosion on a horn and a glass shattering all in one (tries imitating sound). Few people have it, but I use it a lot. I found and downloaded it online, listened and kept it. I also have a truck horn I use sometimes when I’m playing a new track which is basically telling the listeners to “make way” for a brand new joint – (imitating the horn of an 18-wheeled truck). There is also a reggae laser. LOL.
One of the rules was you can not repeat a song within a 4-hour interval. I obeyed the rules but I did repeat some songs but not within 4 hours. I can’t remember the songs I repeated.
To you, what track/song never gets old no matter how many times you listen to it? Also, what song became popular but you couldn’t stand?
General Levy, Diddy, 2 Pac, also, there are a couple of 2Face Idibia’s that never gets old, Shina Peters – Afro JUJU never gets old.
About the song that became popular and I couldn’t stand; LOL, there are a lot of Nigerian music, I wouldn’t drop names. Also, Pretty Ricky, an american hip-hop group – I did not think they would go too far to become a huge sensation and they did, especially with a particular song of theirs called “Tipsy” that started out as a social media fad and that was how that song got huge.
What mistakes does DJ OBI think up and coming DJs make or are prone to making and what advice will you give to aspiring DJs?
They don’t try to be original. Originality is everything and I know that sounds cliche but it is what it is. It is true and it works. A lot of DJs tend to try to be like the other guy, the one making the buzz and doing the rounds at the very moment they are in, and subconsciously and consciously they tend to tailor their styles to what they already are idolizing. They make a lot of mistakes copying mixes and trying to be like their idols. It’s hard to explain unless you experience it. Also, their is the Passion, and lot of up and coming DJs don’t study the art and market enough to understand why this is the chosen profession. It takes a personal experience of discipline, branding and its definitely more than just playing the music. Think past just playing the popular joints doing rounds, make research, be creative and did deeper to be able to reach your full potential.
Now that you are a world record holder, what has changed about you and what is the next step and next projects for you?
Nothing. I am still Obi from the block away. I try to be as real as possible. DJ Obi is quite different from Obi. As a DJ, I am in another aura as opposed to how the regular Obi is. I am a home person and I enjoy the comfort of my house. Next step for me is to fulfill the whole world record duties – touring the world. Also, on my priority is to lose weight and get good abs because I’ve been on an irregular weight gaining and losing process. I kept eating junk but I think I’d have to cut all that out and get fit by setting a fitness goal – getting in shape.
Is there anyone you’d love to work with that you haven’t yet worked with and do you have a dream event that you’d so love to DJ at?
I’d love to DJ in Vegas. I’d love to DJ at some of the festivals in Europe, you know, just where I can hone my skills and showcase the stuff I am made off, and to listeners with depth to appreciate good music. Play heavy-base music for those that are there to appreciate it, and to generally have fun! In Nigeria, there are party goers and music lovers, so i’d love to appeal more to music lovers, that will be my dream gig.
All the guys I mentioned earlier as my favorite DJs that I look up to, I’d love to play side to side with. I await the day P Diddy will call me to come play at one of his many house parties. Would be a dream come through just to do some gigs with the influences I look up to.
Now that you are a record holder, what is the reaction of your family and friends; and what is that one thing you can never forget during this record breaking experience?
Nothing really changes, they are proud of it. I am just as normal as I was before only that I am a world record holder now. LOL. Somehow, before now, I am sure that certain relatives mightn’t have been proud to say we were related because of the DJ stigma, but now that it is a worldwide thing, the love is major and they go all out to tell anyone that we are related. It’s a cool feel.
If you can be eternally stuck in a particular kind of music scene/year, which year will it be? You ever thought of any particular artiste you’ll like to work with?
’80s or early ’90s, where RnB was dope, House music, everything was just awesome, all genres. Also, Sunday rendezvous in Nigeria where there was majorly Jerry curls and bell bottoms. That was a good music era to be in, I’d love to be there again, if possible.
Artiste(s) I’d love to work with – I love House Music so off the top of my head, it’s mostly female artistes because if you’re singing on a house track, it makes so much sense – say a Bossie, Chidinma (Miss Kedike) and (De Voice), Waje, Omawumi, Tiwa Savage, bringing them on a House level away from the regular female ballad they are known for – Put their voice on a house track.
How many gifts did you get from friends and family after winning?
Too many. I gave out some of them, some of them I wouldn’t need. From strangers, friends and family and the most important thing is that it came from a caring and concerned heart and I really do appreciate all of them. Some people even gave me gifts for PR reasons but yeah, it was great.
Award winning DJ Obi has worked all over the globe, from Nigeria, to Los Angeles and everywhere in between. In his near decade long career, he has worked on stage with artists such as T-Pain, Lupe Fiasco, 2face, Lynxxx, Banky W, M.I., Naeto C and countless others. With his extremely diverse music catalog and concentrated on perfecting his craft, he’s known for his versatile DJ-ing style, and we can say that DJ OBI is here and he is here to stay!