Monrovia - He’s a shy seven year old but when he hits the stage and grabs the microphone, Ziggy Ray lets loose - spitting lyrics with powerful messages while putting his fans in a trance.
Known by the moniker “Ziggy Ray”, he was born Duke Randy Loveland on May 29, 2009 to Lorenzo Loveland, a videographer and Marthaline Joe, a student of the United Methodist University
A year ago, the seven year-old rocked the stage for the first time at the Cathedral Catholic School and thanks to a video recorded by someone in the crowd, he became an internet sensation as it went viral making him a household name on the Liberian music scene and the newest kid on the bloc.
He raps in the popular Liberian genre of Hipco, preaching against child abuse etc. His debut single, ‘Ziggy Ray in the Building’ received high ratings and is still on radio chat shows in Monrovia.
Off the stage, Ziggy is under the strict discipline of his grandmother who also doubles as his manager, making sure he does his homework on time and doesn’t misbehave.
He’s having the best of both worlds – a disciplinarian grandmother, loving parents and whole lot of music.
“He does his homework and he is disciplined whenever he goes contrary; he studies his lesson and he’s an ‘A’ student,” says his grandmother Rev. Sondia Martha Tubman.
Though he’s a celebrity to Liberians, at home Ziggy Ray is an ordinary boy who attends the SOS Herman Meiner School and his favorite subjects are Mathematics and English.
It’s hard to believe he’s humble and shy when interacting with him as his pouted messages against child labor are winning him hearts and minds.
Ziggy the musician is also Ziggy the kid who cries for bread and sweets from his grand mom.
His talents are well useful in serving his grandmother’s church.
"I'm a child, I nah [I’m not] supposed to be selling on the street. You my ma, dah [that or it is] you supposed to be taking care of me. "
"Aye yah, oldma I understand, you need a helping hand. I will make it up to you when I become a man," a line from one of his famous tracks, ‘I’m a Child’ echoes.
He has been featured by the big wigs in Liberian showbiz on many tracks. He also featured K-zee on the track baby Non Mind.
The single was rated as a banger by industry experts after it acclaimed massive radio air plays and continue to top the charts.
Critics say Ziggy has a contradicting lifestyle: he raps in a world far from what his grandmother preaches on.
Sondia Martha Tubman, Ziggy’s grandmother, is the founder and general overseer of the Word of Life International Ministry - where Ziggy Ray started his music career.
She thinks her grandchild is on the right track, despite his performance in the church choir.
“Many people ask me that question over and over, ‘why I should allow my grandson sing secular music while playing a major role in the church’, but I see nothing wrong with that, everyone has their own calling and my grandson is no exception,” Rev. Tubman explained.
But she insists that discipline is a principle she must uphold to keep the young star focus.
“I don’t beat him but I discipline him to the fullest. He knows when it is time for discipline."
"I leave no stone unturned in disciplining him - whenever Ziggy Ray hears me say to him ‘grounded’, it means he’s not leaving the house to play with friends in the yard,” she said firmly.
For Ziggy’s dad, his kid is a genius, and he wants to give him a ‘big dream’.
But Lorenzo is unhappy with the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection for being deaf to his son’s latest single, ‘I am a Child’. ‘I am a child’ frowns on children selling in the streets when they should be in school.
Lorenzo said the Ministry could use the music to educate children selling in the streets by using Ziggy Ray as a messenger.
He said he sees it as a disappointment for the government to ignore such a message being sent by a seven year old kid to his peers selling on the street instead of going to school.
“I ran behind the ministry of Gender until I got tired.I wanted them use the song and discourage the kids selling on the streets but they refused to pay attention to me so I backed off,” a frustrated Lorenzo said.
Child stars tend to be usually corrupted as they veer on the wrong path when coming to adult hood when fame gets to their head as Macaulay Culkin and Justin Bieber have proven.
For the foreseeable future, it is a far cry from Ziggy Ray who’s a child needing a helping hand that is already provided by his grandma and parents to morph him into the man he ought to be.