"Faji" is the Yoruba term for "party", and "Atide", the debut solo album by London-based, Nigerian-born producer/ songwriter/ rapper/DJ JJC is guaranteed to make you want to faji - whether you are Nigerian, French, German or English. But this is not your run-of-the-mill party music: JJC is an original and defies categories. You will wonder, "Is this Nigerian hip-hop? Latin with an African twist? Afro-Garage? Yoruba pop? And what's with this Anglo-Yoruba mix of lyrics?" - while singing along, dancing and laughing at some of the lyrics.

JJC has recently, after many years of underground work found fame under his alias Skillz. Skillz is the founding member, main songwriter and producer of UK R'n'B/hip-hop group Big Brovaz. Big Brovaz evolved out a group JJC formed with a schoolmate in Brixton, which turned into a production company, then a collective. By 2002 Big Brovaz had evolved into a tight-knit group, signed with Epic/Sony, and scored one of 2002's longest running chart hits with "Nu Flow" (on which Skillz acts as a performer as well) reaching number 3 in the UK singles charts. "Nu Flow" also went number 1 in Norway and New Zealand, and Top 10 in most European countries. The follow-up singles "OK", "Favourite Things" and "Baby Boy" went to numbers 7, 2 and 3 respectively in the UK singles charts, and Big Brovaz recently walked away with two awards at this year's MOBOs (Best UK Act and Best Newcomer). Skillz is now a sought-after producer for established and up-and-coming acts such as Liberty X, Fame Academy's Lemar and many more, and has also just set up his own production company, BackBone Music.

But Skillz is also JJC and JJC is Abdul Rasheed Bello, 26, born in Kano, Nigeria's third biggest city in the North of the country, who arrived in England aged 14. While trying to make sense of his new environment, the inner-city neighbourhoods of South London, it was the opportunities of dedicating himself to music that proved most influential. Music had been an important part in his upbringing: "I grew up [in Nigeria] with my dad listening to country music, especially Don Williams, Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers. Then I started getting into Nigerian music like [Afro-Juju by] Sir Shina Peters and [Afrobeat by] Fela Kuti, and later Michael Jackson and pop music." As a teenager he became consumed by hip-hop and the music room at Dick Shepherd School in Brixton became his escape as well as his springboard that eventually lead to Big Brovaz.

All along JJC wanted to be true to himself, his heritage and Nigerian roots, hence some of the very early Big Brovaz tracks having African influences. Just before Big Brovaz' major label breakthrough he decided to, under the moniker JJC, concentrate on the African angle more exclusively. 'JJC' is a term used to describe naïve African newcomers to countries such as the UK. He explains: "It means 'Johnny just come'. It's a tag for people who've just come from Africa and who have no clue about, in this case, England, how to speak English properly, how to get themselves around. It's the most common insult that African people get from other Africans."

With "Atide" (meaning "We have arrived" in Yoruba, his native Nigerian language) JJC now unveils his own African music project. A prominent departure from the more US hip-hop and R'n'B-influenced sound of Big Brovaz, "Atide" is an exciting, fresh fusion of African flavours and hip-hop beats, also containing elements of salsa ("Malemicita"), Afro- (UK) Garage ("Gbenue") and Arabic flavours ("1, 2, 3"), with unique Anglo-Yoruba vocals. While tracks like "Jekalo" and the life-affirming "Majaye" contain traditional elements and you are more likely to come across an Africando or King Sunny Ade sample rather than one of the Notorious B.I.G., the album as a whole goes far beyond what's usually described as World music. The title track of "Atide", also the first single, is a Latin-flavoured Anglo-Yoruba feel-good anthem and call for unity. Produced by BJ and Mike Soul (producers of Beverley Knight's single "Get Up"), it features an exclusive guest appearance by Cherise from Big Brovaz on the infectious chorus. Appropriately the song is currently featured in Stephen Frears' film "Dirty Pretty Things".

Featured on most tracks of the album is the 419 Squad, a collective of seven young Nigerian rappers and singers and one keyboard player/producer. Four of them were born in Nigeria - S.O. Simple (18, Lagos), Masta Plan (24, Iperu), Shady Blu (23, Ibadan) and keyboard player/producer Don Jazzy (20, Lagos) - while the others - Smokey (24), Jujuman aka J.U. (25), King A. (24) and Flu (23) were born to Nigerian parents in London. The Squad's name is of course tongue-in-cheek: 419 is the number of the Nigerian statute that makes the infamous Nigerian advance fee fraud illegal. Most people will have received 419 emails or faxes (Example: "Dear Friend, I am Mr Akin Ogunde, Bank Manager of Orient Bank Of Nigeria, Lagos Branch. I have urgent and very confidential business proposition for you. On June 6 1997, an American oil consultant/ contractor with the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, Mr. Barry Kelly made a numbered time (Fixed) deposited for twelve calendar months, valued at US$25,000,000.00 (TWENTY FIVE Million United States Dollars) in my branch. ....). Well, fear not: the 419 Squad is out there to change the dodgy image that some people have of Nigerians.

In fact it's JJC's humorous approach that plays a major part of the universal appeal of this album. The noticeable lack of an "EXPLICIT CONTENT/ PPARENTAL GUIDANCE' sticker on the front of the album makes for a welcome relief, too. While straightforward party tracks make up most of JJC's repertoire ("Where's The Faji At" and "Birthday"), even when the lyrics touch on more serious issues - such as the ethnic and language divides among Nigerians (i.e. Yoruba, Hausa, Ibo, etc), a topic which is gaining even more relevance in the light of recent events in Nigeria - there is still a light-hearted, positive approach. JJC also concentrates on the perspective of young Nigerians outside their native country, like the curious fact that a number young UK-based Nigerians 'want to be Jamaicans' ("Gbao") - "We are all Africans", JJC remarks.

Even though most people won't understand all of the songs' lyrics, the mix of Yoruba and English (with bits of pidgin English, Hausa and Igbo) works very well because of the way the words are constructed and the energy behind the performance. JJC's unique rapping stems from his belief to be real to himself. "I find myself speaking half English, half Yoruba and if I write a song I'm gonna do it half English and half Yoruba. When I first started rapping that way, it was a joke - but friends suggested that I took it seriously seeing how real and different it was." For your first Yoruba language lesson, check out "Kilonshele".

Up until July this year JJC was also the host of the bi-monthly African Vibes (World Tour) music show on BBC Radio 1's digital, black music station 1Xtra, where he showcasesd African hip-hop, Afrobeat, Raï, hip-life, kwaito, Juju and lots more, bringing modern African music to a wider audience. Unfortuntaely, due to other work commitments he was not able to carry on with the show but rest assured his hope of becoming an ambassador for African music in the UK and worldwide is present more than ever. JJC is without a doubt one of the most versatile and distinctive artists to come out of the UK in a long time.

The Faji starts right here!

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