University of Dundee University of Dundee
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7 June 2010

Naeto combines stardom with studies

a photo of Naeto C

All students know how difficult it can be to juggle coursework with other commitments, but few have to write their dissertation whilst preparing to release the follow up to their multi-million selling first album, flying all over the world for festivals and promotional events and doing charity work to help some of the world’s poorest children.

But that’s exactly the pressures on his time that University of Dundee student Naetochukwu Chikwe faces. The Nigerian, who is currently completing his Masters in Energy Studies, also happens to be Africa’s hottest young hip-hop star.

The chart-topping 27-year-old - stage name Naeto C - initially got into music as a hobby, but his talent and the appetite for hip hop in Africa saw him elevated to superstardom on the continent. His 2008 debut album U Know My 'P', sold more than three million copies in Nigeria alone and led to him being named Best New Artist at the MTV Africa awards in 2009.

Despite the lure of fame and fortune, Naeto decided to pursue his studies and settled into life in Dundee just like any other student, with tutors and classmates largely unaware that they had a superstar in their midst.

'I came here for the course so my focus was on going to school and getting my Masters,' Naeto explained. 'I didn't tell people what I do in addition to my studies because all I wanted to do was get on with things. I’d be working on my studies for a while and then I would have to fly somewhere for something to do with the music - it was kind of a double life, which wasn't easy to keep up.

'I just wanted to concentrate on my studies but, as the year progressed, I had to tell the programme director as it was getting harder to balance my music and studies and needed to rearrange things as a result.

'I'm working hard to get the grades, but it is difficult when you’ve got an album coming out and filming to do in South Africa that's to do with the World Cup! I have to write my dissertation by August and, just after that, I'll be releasing a new record.

'It's not just about music for me. Music began as a hobby which became much bigger than I’d ever imagined it would, but there’s more to me than that. I think what's important is what you use the music to do. In that respect, my main inspiration is Jay-Z because he’s not just a musician, but also a businessman. That’s a good benchmark for me.

'I can't say what will happen with my music but getting my masters will give me something to fall back on. This is my Plan B.'

Naeto, who has been dubbed the most educated entertainer in Africa, obtained his undergraduate degree from George Washington University in the US. In addition to MCing, he also writes and co-produces his music. Naeto’s uplifting tunes have proved a hit with audiences around the world, and he has been heralded as the voice of young Nigeria.

He has performed at festival and concerts across the globe, and was a media panellist at Harvard African Business School's Annual Conference 2010.

Naeto also recently featured on An African Journey with Jonathan Dimbleby, where he discussed the growth of hip hop on the continent.

'It's really taken off in Africa in the past 10 years, although it’s been brewing for a while,' he continued. 'It's connected to the growth of urban culture. The young people in cities have been looking for a medium that represents their views and experiences, and it's the urban youth I'm trying to represent. It strikes a chord because they understand the message of empowerment which you hear in hip hop.'

Naeto says he says he wants to give something back to Nigeria, both in practical and inspirational ways. He is involved with a project entitled ‘School is Cool’ which, when he has time to do so, will see him visit schools in Africa and speak to children about the importance of education.

'Nothing is as important as education, and the youth need someone who is educated and who has been there to tell them that. It’s not all about the fame, cars, money and women that they perceive someone to have and which is very often not the case.

'We will be asking them to consider the importance of education and how this is the key to their empowerment. We will go around different schools, doing concerts and signing autographs and generally trying to be a good role model and encouraging them to stay in school.'

Naeto plans for his dissertation to deal with energy economics in Nigeria. He says it was important to him to carry out research about his homeland because he wants his work to contribute to the development of the country and its people. He adds that he has enjoyed his time in Dundee and, despite the difficulties of balancing his music and studies, he has thrived on the academic challenge.

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Grant Hill
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University of Dundee
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