The story of Eric Ahiauzu, aka RicHassani, portrays this fact vividly.
For everyone under the sun who was born of a woman, there is a talent and space for such talent. However, that is provided if such talent is discovered and developed. And that is why the best that one could be of another person is an imitation.
Ric is one of those who got honed by the church choir. There, he began singing at an early age, after discovering his sibling talent.
In a bid to be like others, Ric veered from the track of singing which he is gifted in. Afterwards, he joined the rap race which was the in-thing way back in the early 2000’s. He became a rapper under the moniker, Rico Slim.
“Since I was 7, I had been in choir singing soprano. But when it now came down to being an artiste, in my teenage years, everybody was rapping. So I was just like; me singing with a high-pitched voice would make me appear like a b**ch. So I was just like, let me just learn how to rap. You know you can only keep up a facade for so long. I am a soft guy; my house is full of flowers. That’s to tell you what my true personality is. So I decided to drop all the rapping and I began to sing. The rap career went well, but I just knew it wasn’t really me”.
Rico Slim found himself struggling with life, squatting with Nigerian singer and producer, Samklef.
His desire to make a quick rise from obscurity to prominence and perception of what was deemed sonically acceptable caused him to once again alter the direction of his music. With his debut single dubbed ‘Dance Dance Baby’, Hassani made an attempt to score a pop hit. “It was me again, trying to be what I was hearing on the radio. Trying to be Flavour, Iyanya… I tried that and again, it just wasn’t me”.
Again, that did not work out for Rico. And his problems seemed to be compounded as he sank deeper in financial crisis and lack of fulfillment. He borrowed money from family and friends to keep going. He was on the verge of taking on a white collar job as a banker. It was at that point that it clicked for him, with his breakout single, ‘Gentleman’.
But how did Ric come to find his groove?
Ric was born and raised by scholars. Hence, it was his family’s concern that he pursued formal education to a respectable measure. By 2011, Rico Slim was compelled by his Dad to put his rap career on hold for a second degree – a move that later served as a much-needed push towards his eventual significance. His time at the University of Surrey in the UK afforded him a perspective on the world that sparked his evolution.
“What really changed me from Rico Slim to RicHassani was my Masters (degree) situation. That was my first time ever travelling outside the country. I didn’t want to go. My dad is a professor and my family had to force me. When I went there, the main education for me was just the experience. I met people from different countries like Pakistan, Spain and I just began to see the world through their eyes. It broadened my mind like sh*t. I can be a lot bigger than being Rico Slim or being one rapper in Lagos. That’s what made me sit and think about my music, like who do I want to be?”
That moment of reflection did not only propel him to shelve rapping, it also opened his mind to a new identity. His current brand, Moniker RicHassani, was coined from his first name Eric and a scene from the classic Will Smith- featured series, ‘Fresh Prince of Bel-Air’.
“There was this scene when one of Will Smith’s long-lost aunties came from Africa and asked him; young boy, what’s your name? And he told her William. So she then told Will that “that’s an English name, the name that your slave masters gave you. I will give you an original African name. From now on, I will call you Hassani, because you are handsome”. ‘Hassani’ means handsome in Swahili. I immediately fell in love with the name. And when I added it to Ric, it was just perfect and sounded respectable”.
By 2012, RicHassani had returned to Nigeria with a degree in Energy Economics, ready to tow a fresh part as a singer. For an artist that had given over four irrecoverable years (2007 – 2011) of his life to music, it comes as no surprise that RicHassani’s music upon his return to Nigeria was driven by the need to gain profound rewards in the purse, and a large cheer amongst the crowd. Music had seen him risk it all.
Resolving to finally be himself instead of lurking under another’s shadow gave him the vista to rediscover his core talent and push on with it. This led to the creation and release of ‘Gentleman’ in December 2015.
“Gentleman is the first song I went to record at the studio and said you know what, let me just make a song that I personally like. Before, I was making songs that I felt people would like. With ‘Gentleman’, I was not thinking about people. I was not thinking about what was trendy at the moment. It was the first song that I really liked”.
Today, RicHassani stands as a revered Nigerian singer whose music pops beyond the boundaries of the country. His ear-soothing sound can be abundantly accessed on his impressive 2017 debut album ‘The African Gentleman’. This album accommodates a slew of solid records, including the number-racking ‘Only You’. The love-anthem has garnered a cumulative of over 15 million YouTube views on the singer’s channel. Even more, his breakout hit, ‘Gentleman’, landed him multiple award nominations. These nominations include two Headies and 3 All Africa Music Awards (AFRIMA).
Hassani has also been collaborating with some of Africa’s biggest music stars. He has worked with the likes of Falz and Olamide. He has also performed with his boy-band across the continent. He recently explored the island of Mauritius in a musical tour which raked in N13million.
RicHassani held a solo concert at a 5,000 capacity open-air venue from which he made 30,000 dollars as was reported. He would later make three club appearances; one for 3,000 dollars and the others for 2,000 dollars each. Hence, 37,000 dollars which after conversion is a whopping sum of 13 million naira.
The singer also hosted a charity event that yielded up to 6,000 dollars from merch sales, autographed posters and donations. All proceeds from the charity event were donated to aid the academic pursuit of less privileged kids in the neighborhood through school supplies, et al.
On how he is expanding the reach of his music, Hassani reveals that his moves are mostly data-driven. “For Mauritius, our song was organically number two on the iTunes chart. So when I saw that, I decided to do sponsored ads on social media targeting them. We also reached out to some DJs and OAPs there, and naturally, show promoters started calling. The funny thing is that Mauritius is not an English speaking country. We even had to get translators during rehearsals. It’s crazy.”
Two years after his debut project, RicHassani has revealed that his sophomore album is ready, and will be released in the third quarter of the year. “August and September are my lucky months. My last album was 31st of August”.
On the direction of the forthcoming project, the singer reveals that it incorporates a more storytelling and conversational approach. The new album, as he explains, will carry heavier undertones, as opposed to his former, which was mostly acoustic.