There is no denying that Nigerian Afrobeat is fashioned after American popular music. When Majek Fashek, a musician from the old bloc came back to Nigeria after a while, he confessed to “watch TV and see his younger brothers in music playing American kind of music.” He was very impressed they were doing American kind of songs. To him it meant Nigerians are civilised[i]. The most popular music hitherto was juju before Barrister came with fuji, followed by Kollington. While the latter is traditional hence enjoy longevity, Hip hop uses up its time. Hip hop artistes have a short shelf life, unlike fuji singers who have longevity[ii].
Remedies group was the pioneer hip hop group in Nigeria. Following the break-up of Remedies, Kennis Music took Tetuila, formerly group member, on a tour of the UK, being their label’s first artist. This act would open the way for other Nigerian performers to travel abroad and do shows. The label later signed on as solo artistes, Edward Ashiedu- Brown and Eedris Abduikareem, the two other members of the Remedies group. Noticing the talent in innocent ‘Tuface’ Idibia, Kennis snapped him up following the death of Plantashun Boiz. Kehinde Ogungbe and Dayo Adeneye who met in the University of New Orleans, USA formed Kennis in 1998 after their period at Nigeria’s first private radio and television stations; RayPower and AIT in 1993 on the invitation of its founder, Raymond Dokpesi[iii]. The duo, joint owners of Kennis Music, through the music label, their debonair demeanour and innovative management style brought vitality to the music scene. Before their entry to the scene in the early 1990s it was fast becoming impossible to make money from music in the country. Players in the industry were deserting it for other sectors of the economy and the works of the few that braved the odds rarely got air play on radio stations across the country. The reverse soon became the case. Not only did the works of Nigerian musical acts get regular air play in local and international broadcast media, some youthful Nigerian musicians based abroad returned home to be part of the growing industry. And music talents began to clinch international award with impressive regularity.
Dayo & Kehinde
As presenters on RayPower 100.5 FM, Nigeria’s first private radio station, ‘Keke’ Ogungbe and ‘D1’ Adeneye, as they are fondly called, were catalysts for all that to happen. They brought significant attention to the works of the country’s musical talents, via RayPower Jamz, a musical show that gave ample air play to music of potential stars. They also brought the musicians to the studio for live interviews and interaction with listeners. With the coming of Africa Independent Television, AIT, few years later, the soul mates took their act a notch higher with the introduction of Prime Time Jamz, a weekly one-hour live musical show aired on Friday nights, just as they did on radio, Keke and D1 regularly brought artistes to the studio for live inter- views and performance. This greatly helped them in their quest for local and international visibility, as their fans had the opportunity to call in and interact with them. Not satisfied with the publicity the live programme was offering, the duo went on to organise gigs at different night clubs across Lagos, which tremendously promoted their music. Ogungbe and Adeneye upped the ante by founding their own music label at a time the industry needed a vibrant and proactive company.
In 1998, Keke and D1 started the annual Kennis Music Easter Fiesta, a concert that paraded stars and promising acts in the country. The tenth edition broadcast live on AIT Nigerian Television Authority and RayPower FM. Kennis was a saving grace for the music industry which had failed to attract investors after the death of the second generation labels. Benefits derivable from the pioneering efforts of the duo were the explosion of song writers, managers, publicists, agents and providers of auxiliary services/The pioneers also smiled to the bank.
The music group comprised of Innocent Idibia (Tu Face), Ahmedu (now Black Face) a fellow Idoma boy with Idibia. Together with a third friend Chibuzor Orj I (now Faze), who hails from Delta State the trio soon hit the familiar road of looking for sponsors. Although it was tough at the outset, ‘Inni Raps’ and ‘Barristar’ (as Tu Face and Black. Face were respectively known then) didn’t have to search for too long, thanks to the benevolence of the likes of Colonel Ahmedu, an uncle to Faze. Although Ahmedu is better known as a sports administrator (he is chairman of Dodan Warriors basketball team), he played a key role in the early management of the fledgling musical group. Things looked bright for the Plantashun Boyz. Their debut album, Sori & Soul, released on Nelson Brown’s Dove Entertainment label was an instant hit. They enjoyed rave reviews and a lot of media attention. They were also respected as trailblazers with their style, inspiring new experimental groups. Other artistes went further to specially feature the Plantashun Boyz in their Wallace, Wyclef, Annie and Tu Face albums.
Trouble began for the group when disagreements set in. First, it was with Nelson Brown in connection with the release and marketing contract of their second album titled Sold Out. The album, though not lacking in the unique musical qualities for which the group was known, gained its impact more from Awards won by Tu Face the success of the preceding album. In mid 2000 rumours of the break-up of Plantashun Boyz hit the entertainment circuit in Nigeria. Before long it became a reality. There were various versions of the reason why the three young men went their separate ways. In an interview with Newswatch, Idibia gave an off-the-cuff explanation of the split. He said he indicated his desire to opt out of the group to do his own thing. The trio show remarkable discretion in keeping the public guessing. There has been no mudslinging. And if there were any hard feelings at all they all kept it in check, proving that they had somewhat come of age.
Things may have actually fallen apart over the choice of music label for their third album. The more stoic and assertive Black Face is believed not to have favoured the contract terms offered by Kenny Ogungbe, the chief executive officer of Kennis Music, the label which now produces Idibia. Although his partners in Plantashun Boyz didn’t initially like the idea of his exit from the group, as Idibia himself admits, they had no choice but to accept the situation, since his mind was already made up[iv].
Dapo Oyebanjo (aka Koko Master), began to perform in Nigeria and around the world since. He was the first African artiste who signed with the music label GOOD, owned by Kanye West. The recipient of countless awards, D’banj is known for his unique sound of dance music and Afro beats.
P-Square was formed in 2005, a group made up of identical twins, Peter and Paul Okoye, who began singing and dancing together back in their small Catholic High School in Jos, Nigeria. The P-Square music developed a devoted following, particularly in South Africa, and each album outsold the previous one. Nevertheless, Nigerian artistes were under-priced and piracy caused them great pains, damaging the industry and nobody has made concrete moves to check these irregularities in the system[v].
2Face Idibia who went solo in 2004 after the Plantashun Boiz group split sang his popular song, African Queen, after being featured in the movie Phat Girlz in 2006.
Abolore Akande better known as 9ice announced his arrival on the music scene with the release of his first single, Little Money in 2000. Before then, he had written songs for other musicians for years. 9ice was also one of the most sought after artistes in Nigeria and had the privilege of joining many big music stars to entertain South Africa’s ex-president, Nelson Mandela, during his 90th birthday celebrations in London. He made copious use of Yoruba proverbs and idiomatic expressions and affirms that he is a custodian of Nigerian tradition and culture. 9ice emerged as the Best African Act at 2008 Music of Black Origin (MOBO) Awards ceremony.
In same year, Olubankole Wellington aka Banky W who was born in the United States moved back to Nigeria after schooling, to redirect his bourgeoning music career. He found success early in singing competitions and was able to secure endorsement deals with companies such as Estisalat and Samsung in Nigeria.
Ayodeji Balogun, Wizkid who had started his singing career at the age of 11 with the stage name, Lil Prinz had his 2009, single, Holla at your Boy, become a hit in Africa when he signed onto Banky W’s label, Empire Mates Entertainment. Subsequently, Channel O and Forbes weighed him in as the fifth most bankable African musician. P-Square was named Artistes of the Year at the 2010 Kora Awards.
Star Trek, a cross-country music tour that showcased the best Nigerian music stars and aimed at enlivening the social atmosphere in the country went around big towns with artistes like D’Banj, P-Square, Wande Coal Timaya, Faze, Obesere, Lord of Ajasa, Banky W Djinee, Black Tribe, Sound Sultan, Terry G, MI, Bracket, Pheel and others past winner of Star Quest like KC Presh, Jaywon, The Pulse, D’Accord, D’Jewels, The Diamondz and Jukebox[vi].
To accommodate the growing diversity in world music, MTV introduced the Best Africa/India/ Middle East category. When Ayodeji Balogun known as Wizkid received awards in this categoty in 2011, he added up to the list of Nigerian artistes who have been recognised at the MTV awards in previous editions. Others are Innocent Idibia also called 2face; Peter and Paul Okoye, popularly called PSquare; Dapo Olabanji, also known as Dbanj; Ojosipe Oluwatobi, popularly called Wande Coal and Sasha, whose real name is Yetunde Anthonia Alabi. Wizkid also won the Hip Hop World Award for Next Rated. He collaborated with numerous international artistes, and was also Pepsi’s highest-paid ambassador to Africa. He came into the limelight in 2009, when he collaborated Jude Abaga, popularly called M.I, in the song titled Fast Money, Fast Cars[vii].
The year began on a cheery note when Brymo released the musical video of Ara, his single, on January 1. The video instantly became a hit with several local television stations and international cable music stations using it repeatedly. The single itself became the ringtone of choice for many hip-hop music fans particularly those in the South-Western states of Nigeria. Soon, Brymo finished work on another single which was slated for release later in the year. Ruggedman, another popular Nigerian artiste who had been silent on the musical scene for some time before the year, put final touches to a new work[viii].
Speculations were rife about D’banj signing Olamide to his record label, DB Records in 2013, and the two played in Atlanta but there was no official confirmation except a congratulatory message from D’banj’s younger brother, K-switch via his twitter handle. Both artistes also performed at a show at AYVA Centre in Houston. Just a few months later after being signed to DB Records, K-Switch, known for his reggae style, had himself announced the launch of his own record label called Products Republic. The move, explained by him to mean no termination of the contract with his subsisting record label, was made to expand because his label is planned to continue as an imprint of Dbanj’s DB Records and will be launched with his Scam 101 mix-tape in June of same year. K-Switch described the label as a stable for good music, and a republic for anybody who considered self as good product[ix].
Panshak Zamani, stage name Ice Prince started getting airplay with Extraordinary or Rewind. His debut album, Everybody Loves Ice Prince, was very successful, and won him Channel O prizes and a BET Award for Best International Act Africa in 2013. He collaborates often with Banky W, whom he called his mentor.
[i] Tribune September 25, 2010
[ii] Punch. April9, 2017
[iii] The News, March 31, 2008
[iv] Newswatch January 16, 2006
[v] The News, October 10, 2005
[vi] The NEWS, May 24, 2010
[vii] Newswatch October 3, 2011
[viii] Newswatch, April 2, 2012
[ix] NATIONS May 12, 2013