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Phats & Small singer on opening for Will Smith plus more

REUNITED: Ben Ofoedu, left, and Jason of Phats & Small

WHEN YOU think of late ‘90s house music, Phats & Small's 'Turn Around' is sure to pop into your head. The hit dance track, which toppled the UK chart and sold millions of singles, catapulted lead singer Ben Ofoedu into stardom following a series of boyband stints and failed attempts at chart success.

“I started out rapping, but in the '90s I was signed to RCA Records in a band called Benz, and we toured with Take That and Boyzone,” recalls Ofoedu.

“After Benz ended, I went into a bit of a depression, but I met Jason and Russell (Phats & Small) at the time in a studio in London and they asked me to go down to Brighton to record and that’s where I was born.”

The Nigerian-British singer speaks with enthusiasm as he reminisces about the success of the hit track, 18 years on.

“It’s amazing to be stamped into British music history. It was the most played record on the radio in 1999, it was arguably one of the biggest records of that year, outsold everyone and was on the charts for such a long time and that was great.”

Ofoedu was born in Hong Kong to Nigerian parents and moved to London with his family when he was just two years old. As a young kid with a love for entertainment, he took a shine to music, and originally found his feet with hip-hop.

“Back then, I was just a young kid who wanted to get on,” says the Essex-raised musician.

“Coming from a place where there weren’t many role models, I looked up to American rappers because they looked like me. I could relate to Run DMC and LL Cool J because they seemed more like me and dressed more like me.

“So that was the start but I progressed and evolved musically because I wanted to be put on and make my mark in the industry.”

Ofoedu’s musical journey spans from '80s hip-hop and '90s bubble-gum pop to infectious house music and shows his chameleon-like ability to evolve throughout the years – something he is still able to do as he announces some surprising plans for the rest of 2017.

“I’m planning on dropping a massive cover record – a song that some people may have forgotten about so I’m looking forward to that,” he reveals.

“Also, I’m writing for a few songwriters and will be starring in panto later this year.”

His involvement in panto signals to his growth as an all-round entertainer, which he attributes to his step-grandchildren with his fiancé Vanessa Feltz.

LEGENDS

“I do it for my step-grand children really. It’s not very cool but it’s British, and I’m British and when you have step-grand children you start doing these things and it’s nice.”

While his list of upcoming gigs continues to grow, Ofoedu is looking forward to hitting the stage at Livewire Festival, opening for Will Smith and DJ Jazzy Jeff.

“I’m over the moon to be performing at Livewire Festival; I really understand Will Smith and Jazzy Jeff,” he says.

“I was buying their records in the '80s and it’s an absolute privilege to share the stage with them because I know the magnitude of it. They’re legends to me.”

While opening for the rap duo at their first ever live performance is a big deal, Ofoedu has no doubt that he’ll be ready to rock the stage.

"I don’t know if I’d say I’ve grown as a performer over the years as it’s always been something that’s been important to me. I’m always looking to shut down the rave, but in a good way.”

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