“Look at you and look at us, talk true who resemble boss?” – M.I in The Chairman
Over the past twenty years, the Nigerian music industry has grown like a stem cell; metamorphosing from a blastocyst into a wild beast with its own life source. The industry has produced talents, mavericks and legends and we are blessed with the likes of 2Face Idibia, P-Square, and D’banj who are internationally acclaimed artistes. These three, having dominated the scene in the last decade, can be known as the Kings of the industry. Their consistency, influence, and repertoire of hits qualify them for the title.
Closely behind the Kings are the Chairmen, who are heirs to the throne. Like princes, they cannot be crowned yet till the king is no more for only time bestows that honor. The bosses come next; they show promise, but require pruning and refining to reach full potential. Finally, the retirees are those who despite dominating the airways at some point in time have not been as active in the industry.
In analyzing the music scene, we must appreciate the vagaries of the music genre. For simplicity, we would first stratify into four: Rap, Afro-pop, R&B and what I would call the Divas. Afterwards, within each genre, we would decide who is the King (Queen), Chairman (Chairlady), Boss (Boss Lady) or who is in Siberia.
In the rap category, Olamide needs no introduction. On his track, Sitting On the Throne, his arrogance is palpable. He doesn’t need any kingmaker to crown him. He is King. His affirmative claim to the crown ought to be enough but it isn’t. Why?
The answer is simple: M.I.
Although Olamide claims not to have ‘beef with no body’- not M.I, not Reminisce, he erroneously thinks that the absence of beef equates to no competition. He doesn’t want to be drawn into any beef. He goes further on that track and spits: cuz everybody na king for him lane. He is wrong here, not everyone is a king, especially on the rap lane. Calling Olamide king would have been easy…if M.I wasn’t alive.
M.I, unlike Olamide, takes no prisoners on King James. He doesn’t hide behind niceties, he goes for the jugular: and all you rappers out there…you are dead. Elsewhere on the track, he spits: nobody rapping can sit on my chair. Let’s face it; these two guys are the best in the industry. They should both be king, but like 9ce said on the song Street Credibility, we can’t have two kings on the throne. Overall, Olamide pips M.I on the basis of resonating more with the “grassroots” and having more studio albums. The industry will likely remember Olamide more than M.I in the long run.
Ill Bliss is a self-acclaimed boss. He has been able to create a niche for himself with the “Dat Ibo Boy” franchise. He has also harnessed the talents of Chidinma and Phyno. Ill Bliss is Boss not just for his musical abilities but his dexterity and tenacity in asserting himself in a genre that is still finding its feet in the hearts of Nigerians. What’s Mode 9’s place in this system? Well, he should be a king, but his career path has been somewhat sinusoidal in pattern.
To be king, your appeal must cut across every section of the populace. I doubt my grand mom in the village has heard of Mode 9. But there’s a good chance she has heard Olamide’s Duro Soke. Let’s move on.
Ice Prince shot into limelight with his banger Oleku. He has thrilled his fans with two albums: Every Body Loves Ice Prince and Fire of Zamani. Ice Prince can take the battle to Olamide in a few years. Ice Prince is undoubtedly a Chairman along with Ill-bliss, Phyno and M.I
The Bosses include: Jesse Jags, Reminisce and Vector Tha Viper. Jesse Jags deserves to be higher up the ladder where his sibling rests but Jesse isn’t only a rapper; his versatility, which ordinarily should be an advantage, undermines him in the battle for supremacy.
AFRO HIP-HOP (POP/ HIGH LIFE/ REGGAE)
The Afro hip-hop genre comprises the largest group of artistes on the Nigerian music scene. It has also produced the most internationally marketable piece of music with production quality rivalling that of hip-hop anywhere in the world. Music videos are crisp, and shot with the best technology.
With competition stiff, radio stations have to sift through large volume of music and it is no surprise that songs with better commercial appeal get more airplay. Clubs and private parties will play what the radio stations air and this can have a telling effect on an artiste’s career. It is impossible to go to a club in Nigeria and not be thrilled when the DJ spins songs from Wizkid, Davido, Sean Tizzle, Timaya, Bracket, Dammy Krane, Harry Songs, Iyanya, Kcee, Jaywon and Skales.
P-Square undoubtedly is king of pop in Nigeria. The other artistes plead: “nolo contendere” to the Okoye twins. Their videos, dance choreography and international collaborations have taken Nigerian music to new levels. Their song Personally, well, personally, received praise from the Jackson family. Having had Rick Ross on Onyiye and T.I on Ejeajo, they leave mouths gaping in sheer astonishment as to where next P-Sqaure is taking the industry.
We move on to the battle between Davido and Wizkid who are major condenders for P-Square’s throne. While I believe Wizkid has outperformed anyone else, with hits like Pakurumo, Holla At Your Boy, Don’t Dull, and Azonto; Davido’s hit single: Aye will haunt Wizkid for life.
It has deep lyrical content and actually means something which cannot be said for most Wizkid songs. Aye, along with P-Square’s Beautiful Onyiye, and Timi Dakolo’s Iyawo Mi have become wedding songs. And while we forget Caro and Don’t Dull, Davido’s Aye will be right up there, not far off from 2face’ African Queen on Nigeria’s list of classics. Wizkid and Davido are both Chairmen although Wizkid is more likely to ascend the throne in the future.
Timaya may not be king of pop, but he is surely a maestro for making the most risqué videos. Shake your bum bum and Ukwu are as raunchy as TV can afford. (Though video vixens in Wande Coal’s The Kick will send blood flowing into extremities, credit must be given to Flavor Nabania who I believe began the celebration of voluptuous beauties in the video for Ashawo.)
The Chairmen in this group are Iyanya, Sound Sultan, Timaya, Wande Coal, May D and D’banj. Having mentioned D’banj as a king in the introduction, it sounds contradictory to name the Koko Master as a Chairman here but really, it could be worse going by his “current form”. His fan base is dwindling and Eja Nla cannot move crowds the way he used to. His shows do not command the same respect it did back in the day and his music career has nose-dived since his divorce from partner and former producer Don Jazzy. Whether he can have a career off his persona alone is doubtful. It is now clear who the creative genius in the pair is- something akin to the Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak partnership. Whatever it is, I can’t lay my hands on it but it is clear D’banj has lost the IT factor and his brand is hanging for dear life. The song “Bother You”, soundtrack of the movie adaptation of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Half of a Yellow Sun, is uninspiring. And whatever arguments are in support for D’banj, we can’t compare “Finally” and “Don’t Tell Me Nonsense” with previous hits, “Suddenly”, “Igwe”, “Gbono Feli Feli” and “Why Me”. His internationally known hit Oliver Twist was produced by Don Jazzy.
After the chairmen, come the bosses which include: Mr songz, Praize, Dr Sid, Orezi, and SolidStar.
The retirees are: Ay.com, Durella, J Martins, JJC, Kelly Handsome, Brymo, Bigiano, Fallz, Kelly Handsome, 9ice, and Xproject.
“Competition within an Industry” is one of Michael Porter’s tools for industry analysis and comes in handy here as it is clear that Omawunmi, Tiwa Savage, Seyi Shay, Waje and Yemi Alade are in the front line to be Queen Diva. They all have single hits, club bangers, and collaborated with the industries’ best.
We have learnt from the likes of Omawunmi that tenacity is required to survive on the music scene. She is no flash in the pan, and rakes in the hits like a gardener does bulrush. Her energy is turned on whenever she performs on stage. Her videos creatively tell stories and leave the audience with no doubt as to why her career has blossomed. Her sound is also unique as exemplified in the horns that blazed on the song: “If you dey ask me“. Again, she endeared the older folks into her fan base with her track “Bottom Belle” with Flavour Nabania, sending us down memory lane.
Omawunmi who announced herself with Lasso of Truth is a force to reckon with. The High-Life Tune in the songs: Serious Love Nwantinti and Megbele take the uninitiated into the ecclesiastical. Her achievements though imposing are chequered compared with Tiwa Savage who is Queen Diva.
Tiwa Savage inches out Omawunmi on the basis of having more hits and studio albums. Tiwa’s association with the quintessential Dorobucci himself- Don Jazzy- also gives her a firm grip on the tiara. From Kele Kele Love to Eminado, there is no question of her music talent. She is sexy, bold and can dance. She is also a song writer- something uncommon in our clime. With two studio albums and one on the way, Tiwa’s vocal ability immediately transcends one to la-la land. Tiwa savage is seductive with a serpentine poise. She exudes sexual energy and is not afraid to get tongues wagging. Her “Wanted” video caused a stir in our mostly conservative society. The same society which sees nothing wrong with the twerking in “Pour it Up” and “Anaconda” videos by Rihanna and Nicki Minaj respectively.
Omawumi’s soulful style is sure to keep her around for a while, but that cannot be said for Tiwa whose energetic dance moves may not be sustained given her age especially with the likes of Sheyi Shay breathing down her neck.
If there was ever a song destined for greatness, it is Waje’s “I Wish”. That song shot her up into the bill boards in Nigeria. Waje who has collaborated with the likes of P-Square and M.I possesses vocal abilities that serenade her fans. She will help improve and deepen content in the industry. She sits with Sheyi Shay, Chidinma and Yemi Alade as Boss-Ladies in the industry firmly behind Omawumi who is a Chair Lady.
Asa’s “dominance” is in question as she leaves everyone confused as to who are target audience is. Her three albums sound different and yet sound the same. Her music confounds and yet comforts. Asa is in a class of her own and the Jailer singer will lie somewhere in the cosmos among the stars in the milky way uncategorized.
The retirees among divas are: Sasha, Bouqi, Kel and TY Bello.
R & B
2Face Idibia’s music cuts across a number of genres. He needn’t be confined to any type of music. The song “African Queen” was like the Nigerian anthem and was included as a sound track on the HollyWood flick “Phat Girlz”. His newest Album: “The Ascension” made it into the universally acclaimed BillBoard World Album Charts. If there was ever a definition for king of the music industry in Nigeria, it is 2Face. He has attained cult status and is arguably Nigeria’s most celebrated artiste. His dominance is undeniable and his personality radiates “royalty”. He possesses an uncanny humility uncommon to stars like him. With six albums and dozens of hits under his belt, 2Face, will continue to sit on this throne for some time.
Behind 2Face are the Chairmen who have ensured that lovers of soulful music are not negleted. Not everyone fancies the dance hall. And even if they did, we need something to slow the mood on a romantic evening. The likes of Banky W, Timi Dakolo, Dare, and Cobham, are as impressive as they come. Although Banky W outshines the rest, no one can argue that these four have reshaped the face of R&B music.
Bez is a boss and tugs alone in this capacity while Styl-Plus have made their exit from the music scene.
The scope of this analysis is not exhaustive and due of the sheer number of artistes, only those making the buzz now got a mention. I have also intentionally not named some artiste like Orisha Femi, Burna Boy, and Show Dem Camp because they do not fit exactly into the genres listed in the introduction. It would have been criminal to miss mentioning Patoranking whose raga style has taken the industry by storm. When he shouts: “Make way, make way”, we have no choice but to let him in. His duets with Tiwa Savage and Seyi Shay, were instant hits. Patoranking is a star on the rise. Watch him!
The industry will not be where it is without the likes of DJ Jimmy Jatt who has been right up there for about twenty five years. He too is king. Don Jazzy’s contribution to music is legendary. As a producer and an artiste, his innovation, creativity and “mentoring” of talents like Tiwa Savage, Dr Sid and Wande Coal cannot be overlooked. He too is king.
It is unclear how long the “kings” will stay on the throne or if the kingdom itself will tarry; but time as they say will tell.
By Otaigbe Itua Ewoigbokhan (Culture critique, blogger, pharmacist)