Popular singer Temitope Adekunle, aka Small Doctor, speaks on his career, relationship with Pasuma and other issues
How was growing up like for you?
I was born in Kaduna, but I was brought to Lagos at a tender age. I lived at Dopemu, Lagos, and attended primary and secondary schools at Agege. Growing up was not really rosy for me.
Why did you leave Kaduna?
My family and I witnessed a massacre where people’s throats were slit. It was a very traumatic experience for us, and we had to relocate to Lagos.
When did you start nursing the ambition of becoming an artiste?
I have been singing since I was a child, but I sang mostly gospel songs. I only sang in the bathroom and around the house. I never thought of becoming an artiste, but my mother always told me that I would become one. I never knew what she saw but she is a singer, and a part of the church choir. I also have an elder brother that sings. However, I took it professional when I began senior secondary school in 2001.
You always say ‘Omo Iya teacher (son of a teacher)’ in your songs; is your mum a teacher?
Yes, she is a teacher. She owns a school.
One would have thought that as a proprietress, she would have wanted you to do a more ‘serious’ job like Law or Medicine…
I wanted to become an aeronautic engineer when I was a kid, and my parents supported my ambition. But what I am doing now has been ordained by God and no one can do anything about it. Good parents do not decide for their children; they would only support them in whatever they do as long as they are on the right path. My sister is a very learned person and she holds a high postion where she works, but we must not all follow the same path.
What were your early experiences in the music industry?
It was tough when I started, and I know it is never easy for musicians at the beginning except they are from wealthy homes. I was born into an average family and there are some things you have to do on your own. However, I will always appreciate Pennywise, the producer who recorded my first song almost free of charge. He really believed in me. I also had to do a lot of petty jobs to pay for studio sessions back then.
How did the name Small Doctor come about?
It was given to me by elder brother. While growing up, there was a TV series I loved so much titled ‘Dr. Who.’ Many times, I would forgo other things to watch it, so one day my brother said since I love Dr. Who so much, and I have a small stature, he would start calling me Doctor Small. Later on, I changed it to Small Doctor, because it sounds better and fans are able to relate to it.
How did you meet Pasuma?
I met Pasuma along the line, and ever since we met, he has been supportive of everything I do.
How exactly did you meet him?
I really cannot say. When you meet some people who are very special to you, as time goes on, you may even forget how you met them. I will rather focus on how to make the relationship last long.
It is believed that you became popular after you met Pasuma?
Many things happen for particular reasons, and if certain steps are not taken, you wouldn’t meet certain people. If I did not discover myself, I am sure Pasuma wouldn’t have wished to associate with me. There is no film trick about that.
I have been doing songs since 2001, even before I met Pasuma. However, Pasuma featured on my song, Gbagaun Remix, which was already very popular in Agege, Lagos, where I reside. I was a celebrity in Agege because a lot of people knew and loved me back then; it is the people of Agege that really made Small Doctor. However, it was after that remix that my breakthrough happened. Pasuma is like a father to me; he is my confidant and motivator. He has contributed immensely to my career.
Why did Pasuma give you the name, Akeweje Oganla?
Students from a particular school usually pass the front of Pasuma’s house whenever they close from school. And whenever I am in Pasuma’s house, those kids would always come around to hail me. This prompted Pasuma to call me Akeweje (someone who brings kids together).
If Pasuma loves you so much, why hasn’t he signed you to his record label?
He has never talked about signing me, and I have never asked him for that either. I am not Pasuma’s artiste, I am just his son. There is a big difference between the two. I am presently signed to O.I.T Dynasty.
How many albums have you released?
I have two albums already. The first is titled Street Ambassador, and the second one is Omo Iya Teacher.
Some people also feel you do more of freestyle in your songs without passing any message; do you agree with that?
I have never written songs. I just go into the studio and say it as it comes. None of my hit songs was written. Artistes that I have worked with like Don Jazzy and Olamide know I don’t write lyrics, and I don’t think they have a problem with that. Anyone who says my songs do not pass messages should reflect on them again, and they will realise that there are messages in my songs. Some of those messages are passed with street slangs, and by telling stories. Commercial music is trending in Nigeria now, and everyone wants food on their table; you just have to make it unique.
How would you describe your style of music?
I do Fuji-pop, but I am a versatile artiste; I can do anything.
Have you ever been a Fuji artiste?
I have not, even though my music has elements of Fuji in it. But I also have RnB songs and other genres too. In fact, I call my music Akeweje-pop because it is unique; nobody sings like me.
Which audience is your music targeted at?
My music is made for the streets. If I tell them anything, they believe me, and I believe them as well.
Do you think you have what it takes to conquer the upscale market?
I don’t believe there is anything like a posh market; I have performed at so many concerts on the Island. Banks and other corporate organisations invite me for their events; I just put on my suit and go there. At those places, the audience sing along with me so where is the posh coming from?
Where is the most unlikely place you’ve met fans of your music?
That was on the Island and outside Nigeria. I have been to so many countries to perform and the turn-out is usually overwhelming. You can imagine 5000 people coming to watch Small Doctor. Right now, there are a lot of requests for me to come and perform in many countries, but the timing has yet to be favourable.
The image people have of you is that you grew up on the streets, but with what you’ve said, you come from an average home, and your mum is even a teacher; did you intentionally cultivate that image?
I have been on the streets since when I was in secondary school. There are a lot of God’s promises on my life and they have to be fulfilled. I slept in Oshodi, Mushin and Lagos Island bus parks for many years. I have been a bus conductor, and a motorcycle (okada) rider. I have also hawked sachet water, and worked in a polythene-making factory. I have spent more time on the streets than with my parents; and that makes me a full-blooded, factory-fitted street boy. But while hustling, I always had it at the back of my mind that I would pursue my music career.
Have you ever been looked down on by A-list artistes because of the kind of songs you sing?
It has never happened because they all want to associate with me and be relevant on the streets. They know I have a huge fan base, so they don’t joke with me.
You were recently on set with Toyin Abraham (Aimakhu), are you thinking of switching to movies?
Anything goes. I have a lot of requests from actresses asking me to feature in their movies, but I am constrained by time. Toyin is my very good friend, and she calls me a lot to greet me; we play together a lot. I acted as a musician in her movie.
You’ve been romantically linked with some actresses; which one of them are you dating?
I have never dated an actress. I do not date actresses and singers. I am a different person and I do my things differently. I look beyond beauty when it comes to relationships.
Do you have a baby mama somewhere we don’t know about?
I plan to get married someday, though I cannot say when. I do not have a baby mama, but if it happens that way, I will take it as it comes.
It was once reported that you were arrested for attempting to smuggle hard drugs out of the country; is there any truth to it?
I was on my way back from South Africa once, when an immigration officer called me and said he observed that I travel a lot. He interrogated me and also showed me petitions written against me by several people. Well, things like that are bound to happen, and when they saw that I was innocent, they let me go.
What’s the greatest lesson you’ve learnt in the entertainment industry?
I have learnt to be myself at all times.
How do you unwind?
I stay indoors listening to music. I search the Internet a lot and I listen to any kind of music that catches my interest. I am a fan of everybody doing good music.