Nseobong Okon-Ekong chronicles how the quicksand of the Nigerian entertainment industry shuffles the pack of artistes and buries the dreams of many erstwhile promising talents.
Mr. Raw: It’s all About Business
Largely credited for his localising the rap music genre in Igbo, Okechukwu Edwards Ukeje, has been known by many aliases, beginning with Dat N.I.G.G.A. Raw. He announced his presence on the Nigerian music scene with the hit song, ‘Obodo’ which featured, popular comedian, Klint Da Drunk. He later shortened his moniker to Nigga Raw. These days, he prefers to be addressed simply as Mr. Raw. From Benson and Hedges ‘Grab Da Mike’ to Start Quest contests, his path into the Nigerian music scene was well prepared. When he finally announced his preparedness to embrace music full time, the public looked onto him with a lot of promise because he hopes for the enduring search for that authentic Nigerian musical identity. Although his debut album, Right & Wrong was a commercial success, he has not been able to re-enact the magic that saw the entire country eating out of his palms. Mr. Raw also became very much sought after by his colleagues who wanted his unique use of Igbo and Pidgin English to boost the performance of their recording, making him to collaborate with other artistes like Flavour N’abania, Duncan Mighty, Phyno, Illbliss, 2Face, M-Josh and Slow Dog. Despite his fame as a solo artist, Raw has collaborated with numerous other musical artists including Flavour N’abania, Duncan Mighty, Phyno, Illbliss, 2Face, M-Josh and Slow Dog. Although he owns Raw Deal Entertainment, Mr. Raw has branched into several other businesses within and outside the country, which he sees as a kind of back-up and retirement plan in anticipation of his eventual exit from the entertainment business. Apparently, this distraction has led to a set-back in his career as a musician.
Tony One Week: Distracted by Politics
To him belongs the singular honour of being the first entertainer to win an elective position in Nigeria. Tony Muonagor, better known as Tony One Week achieved this feat when he was elected into the Anabra State House of Assembly in April, 2011. One Week has also become known as a man who distinguishes himself in everything he does. He is popular musician and Nollywood actor. He also went ahead to add the distinction of being a politician of note. Respected for his ability to mainstream a type of entertainment made popular by a socio-cultural group, he has maintained his identity as ‘gyration master’ since his debut as a singer in 1998. The following year, he directed his first movie titled ‘Holygans’. Although One Week has the good fortune of being in a class of his own, with respect to his kind of music, his attention is also very much needed on the political terrain where he still plays an active role.
Lord of Ajasa: Declining Struggle
In Lagos and the Southwest, arguably, Nigeria’s headquarters of entertainment, Olusegun Osaniyi, better known as Lord of Ajasa was welcome to the entertainment scene with a near cult following for being a pathfinder. The late Dagrin and the current wave-making Olamide have Lord of Ajasa to thank for opening their eyes to the potential of rap music in Yoruba. His collaboration with 9ice on ‘Le Fe’nuso’ was the game changer that turned the industry around for good. However, Lord of Ajasa has since not been able to produce the magic wand that pushed him into the consciousness of Nigerians.
African China: From Flow to Trickle
With critical messages that resonated with the condition of the people, Chinagorom Onuoha, better known as, African China could easily pass as the ‘voice of the masses’. His debut, ‘Crisis’ was a massive hit that surprised everyone, particularly for winning many awards. At 18 years in 1996, African China had already placed a bet on music as a career. Singing in Pidgin English, he chose Reggae/dancehall to engage the people. In recent times, African China has been more on running his entertainment business known as 45 Entertainment. The company is into sound, artiste management, DJ services and studio production. He recently told journalists that his current engagement is fine ‘as long as it is bringing money.’ Although he still manages to command a trickle of concerts, the frequency of performance dates coming his way has dwindled from a deluge of engagements to a trickle of dates that are few and far between.
Danfo Drivers: Two Drivers Going No Where
Their hit single, ‘I am a Danfo Driver, Suo’ raged through the entire country like focused wild fire, giving instant fame to the duo of Mountain Black and Mad Melon of Danfo Drivers (real names Jimoh Olotu and Omeofa Oghene respectively). Straight out of Ajegunle, the fame catapulted them to heights and took them to places they only knew in their dream. A couple of albums after, they are still not able to hit home with the same impact that brought them to the scene. The Danfo Driver duo may have acquired university education which they hitherto lacked, but their musical career has not been impacted with the kind of gusto that once made them a household name.
Jazzman Olofin: All Jazz no Sound
He had simply breathed new life into an existing song or so he thought. Therefore, when Muyiwa Olofinkuade, better known as Jazzman Olofin hit the top mark, largely from his re-mix of Fuji music artiste, Adewale Ayuba’s ‘Bubble’ (which he re-named, ‘Raise the Roof), he must have been surprised. Thinking that was a winning recipe, Jazzman applied that distinctive beat again and again, but without similar success. Staying true to a particular method was not a total loss though, at least, he carved a recognisable identity for himself, such that when his song starts playing, you knew it was Jazzman Olofin just as sure as the string of beads on his neck and wrist that had become his fashion. Many colleagues sought to work, desiring that distinctive flavour. He was so hot, at the time, that he could afford to call the bluff of the reigning record companies, moving from Kennis Music to Storm Records with such ease, at a time many promising artistes were begging for a chance.
KAS: Left in the Lurch
With one song, ‘Fimile Baby’, Karounwi Olakunle Shobayo, better known as, KAS ruled the nation’s clubs and airwaves held the nation. There was this particular hook, ‘Omo Yoruba ni mi o’, a phrase, used to make the song appealing to the listener. Soon enough, other musicians tried to go KAS one step better. Darey actually sang, ‘omo Hausa ni mi o’. ‘Fi Mi Le’ written and produced by KAS reportedly sold over 1.2 million copies in Nigeria in the first week alone, earning him several awards world wild. Other successes and recognition worth mentioning was the privilege of writing the theme song, ‘Like a Bottle’ for Hennessey tour in 2010. His company KAS Entertainment also signed Nollywood actress Tonto Dikeh for a singing career. But like a candle in the wind, with no one to lean on, the flame of KAS limited fame extinguished fast.
Tony Tetuila: In Search of Greener Pastures
Anthony Olanrewaju Awotoye, better known as Tony Tetuila, surprised many when he contested for a place in the Kwara State legislature in 2015, but failed to get the ticket of his party, the All Progressives Congress, APC. An erstwhile member of the pop band, The Remedies (along with Eedris Abdulkareem and Eddy Montana), which defined a period of modern Nigerian music, he went on to have a relatively successful solo career after the split of the group. His song, ‘You Don Hit My Car’ was a street anthem for many seasons. He left Nigeria for many years to live and work in Ghana, only returning to show interest in politics. Apparently, Tetuila is more interested in politics and business now than in performing before a crowd of appreciating audience.
2Shotz: From Music to Movies
Nigerian rap music sensation, William Orioha, better known as 2Shotz has been in the news for the wrong reasons in recent times. His former girlfriend and Nigeria’s Big Brother Africa contestant, Beverly Osu, accused him of battery. To confirm that his anger sometimes gets the best part of him, his estranged wife, Precious Jones, also complained she was physically abused by him. But 2Shotz himself is not one to take an injury lying low. He went public when he had a brush with law enforcement agents. He was also in court to challenge Nokia for allegedly using his work without permission. The artiste who is also the CEO of Umunnamu Entertainment has extended the horizon of his creativity beyond music into movies, even as his music career appears to have taken a dip.
Ikechukwu: Rap Royalty Gone Broke
Ikechukwu Onunaku entered the Nigerian rap music scene from America with so much promise. He boastfully called himself, ‘son of the soil’, ‘son of a king’ and went about his business like rap royalty. In the manner of performers in that genre much of his lyrics were self-adulation. His first album “Son of the Soil” and the follow-up, ‘Life and Times of Killz Vol. 1’ followed this pattern of flattery. Arguably, Ikechukwu’s best known work was the smash hit ‘Wind Am Well’ featuring D’banj and Don Jazzy. Lately, Ikechukwu appears to be concentrating more on film and video production
Ruggedman: Off the Radar
Going by his stage name, Ruggedman, you may think Abia State-born rapper, Michael Stephens, is a violent man. But that is wrong. He may have a few controversies recorded against his name but definitely not.After producing his own songs and successfully launching them, he earned the bragging right to lecture everyone who cares to listen on ‘Naija Hip Hop 101’.A multi award winning talent, Ruggedman appears to need some new lessons as he has totally disappeared from the music scene.
Sauce Kid: No Spicy Stuff
A recent change of moniker has not impacted much on the career of Nigerian rapper, Babalola Falemi, who now wishes to be known as Sinzu. But many remember him as Sauce Kid, the very talented artist who bombed the music scene with the hit, Carolina. He was one of the artists that Storm Records placed a bet on. Not too long ago, Sauce Kid was rumoured to be in trouble for a financial crime in America. Denying involvement in any shady deal, he released an album titled ‘Industreet‘ that has an illustration of a man with hands shackled behind his back.
The new work has, however, not revved the engine of back to life.
Brymo: Yet to Hit the Goldmine
Everyone agrees Olawale Ashimi, better known as, Brymo is a brilliant artiste. Unfortunately, the controversy surrounding his departure from his former label, Chocolate City became a huge hurdle that threw a spanner in the wheel of his career for a long time. A gifted songwriter with a great voice, he cuts the picture of one who is determined to overcome every adversity. Following Oleku by Ice Prince in which he featured, his fame soared. He did not disappoint with his own single, ‘Ara’ which was a chartburster. While he continues to be a delight everywhere he performs, even attracting interest from the movie industry as composer and producer of soundtrack, many do not understand what has stopped Brymo from making the kind of commercial success expected of him.
Jeremiah Gyang: Stunted Talent
He is so hugely multi-talented that he plays practically all musical instruments and does so very well. Perhaps, nothing best illustrates the big hope that Jeremiah Gyang represented as the fact that the guy who calls himself Africa’s rapper No. 1 and now runs one of Nigeria’s most successful record companies, Jude Abaga, better known as MI used to carry his bag. So what exactly has held Jeremiah Gyang down from shooting up into the sky like a rocket with his career? Ten years ago, Gyang hit the scene with ‘Na Ba Ka’, an album that showed his amazing power as an instrumentalist and singer, It was a collection of songs that had a strong appeal and carried it above the ordinary Christian sentiments that it expressed. Everybody loved the song and clapped along.
Many call him the Big Boss not only on account of his huge physical attribute, a growing huge fan base looked like a sure guarantee that Tobechukwu Melvin Ejiofor, better known by his stage name Illbliss was going to become one of the biggest rapper/ hip-hop recording artiste out of Nigeria. Illbliss hit the scene with an attitude that was never known before. He is not just a fantastic performer, he also has the added ability of recognising and managing talent. And nothing best demonstrates this like his support for the careers of Chidinma and Phyno among others. On the surface, it looks like Illbliss is paying more attention to fashioning the career of the artistes in The Goretti Company than stoking the fire that would take his ambition as a performing and recording artiste to the next level. A terrific live performer, Gyang is not clearly where many thought he would be with his career.
Mention the name Adesola Adesimbo Idowu to the average Nigerian who follows music and you are likely to draw a blank. But present Weird MC and you get instant recognition. So promising was her career that she offered the public an incredible monster hit, ‘Ijoya’. Arguably one of Africa’s best known female rappers, no one begrudged her when she described herself as The Rappatainer. But just when everyone accepted her invitation to dance, her hitherto career went limp.
After Nigeria’s reggae music superstar, Majek Fashek, suffered a setback in his career, many lovers of that genre of music looked to Austin Peter, better known as King Wadada to fill that void. They were right to believe Wadada would do exceedingly well as a singer and songwriter. In 2010, he won the Kora Awards as Africa’s best reggae artist of the year with his best known for his song ‘Holy Holy’. The song was accepted everywhere, even among conservative Christians. However, this has neither translated into commercial success nor fame for him. Wadada is like one thunder who lost its clap.
LYNXXX: No Clear Path
Through a dint of hard work, Chukie Edozien, better known by his stage name, Lynxxx, became the first Nigerian artiste to be endorsed by the global brand Pepsi without having any piece of music that was a commercial success. One thing going for Lynxxx is that he understands the business of show business. He is one of the early (in a growing number) of artistes from an affluent background who came out unapologetically to take a stand for their career in music. Much as he has everything going for him, Lynxxx has hit it big as a musician.
Olu Maintain: Keeping An Uneven Keel
One song defined Olumide Edwards Adegbolu, better known by his stage name, Olu Maintain. Following the monster hit ‘Yahooze’, the expectation for a meteoric rise in his career was real. But nine years after Yahooze, Olu has not been able to meet the expectation of everyone who credited him with the ability to become one of the biggest artiste from Nigeria.
9ice: Dashed Hopes
Perhaps his mouthful of a name, Alexander Abolore Adegbola Adigun Alapomeji Ajifolajifaola led him to choose a stage name that is short, sharp and adorable, 9ice. And he teased the appetite of Nigerians with nice music in his debut album, featuring the hit, ‘Gongo Aso’. Try as he does, it has been impossible for him to produce another hit to keep him on the high pedestal that he reached at the onset of his career.
Eedris Abdulkareem: Lost Stem
Arguably, Eedris Turayo Abdulkareem Ajenifuja, is one of the biggest influence to a generation of young Nigerians who saw in him a success story they could replicate.
An entertainer, songwriter and performer with demonstrable temper in his art as in his temper, Eedris was the most noticeable member of the defunct Nigerian hiphop group, The Remedies. His aggressive attitude stood him out. When The Remedies collapsed Eedris began a solo career that many thought would keep him on top of the ladder for a long time. But more than six studio albums after, Eedris failed to take his place as the king of Nigerian rap music.
NAETO C: Can’t See the Distance
Perhaps, no other Nigerian artiste has demonstrated the importance of getting a good education like Naetochukwu Chikwe, better known by his stage name Naeto C. Born to affluent parents, he calls himself the only MC with a Masters degree. Naeto C truly loves music and has been consistent since he came on the scene. However, he has not been able to deliver that monster hit that would catapult him from an average artiste to an excellent musician on top of the charts.
Sasha P: Fashion Business as new Focus
Her claim to First Lady of Nigerian Hip Hop may just be all sound that would take more than appearances to substantiate. As much as many believed in the promise that Anthonia Yetunde Alabi better known as Sasha P offered, the female rapper, musician, businesswoman, lawyer and motivational speaker has not been able to ride on the wave of that trust to deliver hit songs that can sustain her memory. Sasha had a unique opportunity to hug and remain in the limelight because she came on the scene when there was hardly any Nigerian woman in Hip Hop music. But she failed to seize the moment. Sasha has since made public her intention to focus on her fashion business.
Obiwon: Committed to Winning Souls
When it comes to Obiora Nwokolobia-Agu, better known by his artistic name, Obiwon, no one is in doubt that he holds strong convictions. He has demonstrated this by quitting his job in a bank for music. As a singer, musician, songwriter and recording artiste, he switched mode again to become a music minister and evangelist. Only one with strength of character would take these self-defining steps. However, Obiwon has not showed similar staying power in coming out with songs that can take him to the mountain top of the music industry. And it does not look like he would happen anytime soon now that he is also a committed preacher of the gospel.
Faze: Dropping from the Race
One of the the cross that Chibuzor Orji, better known by his stage name, Faze, has to carry is his membership of the defunct Nigerian hip hop group Plantashun Boyz which also had BlackFace Naija and TuFace, better known as 2face Idibia. The pressure on Faze and Blackface is to measure up to the commercial success of their former team member, Tuface. For a long time, it looked like Faze was not terrified of going up against Tuface. He held out a promise his best-selling debut, ‘Faze Alone’, but Nigerians are still waiting for that earthquake of a hit from Faze that would decorate him with winning medals.