By Ojonugwa Ugboja
ABUJA (Sundiata Post) In a fashion that has never been witnessed, the Nigerian music scene is bustling with talent, record deals and glittery celebrity glamour, especially because of the local and international patronage it attracts these days. An entirely new music culture, mostly driven by young people has been shaped. Like a revolution of some sort, rarely will DJs play foreign music ahead of Naija music – a complete shift from what it used to be.
Multinational and national companies are investing heavily in artists, music streaming and all sorts of promotional businesses that tap into the dynamic interests of these young people.
Heavy weight global music companies like Sony, Columbia, Roc Nation among others who used to be very picky with their investments in Africa and particularly Nigeria, has in the past few years not held back deals from artists like Wizkid, Davido, Tiwa Savage, Tekno and a couple more. This has been a major enabler for these artists who are rapidly climbing and earning bragging rights when it comes to streaming numbers on iTunes, Spotify, Tidal and other popular music stream platforms across the world.
The implication of this is that competition in the local industry is at an all-time high. An artist can go from having the number one song in the country to complete obscurity the next day. It is like an ever churning whirlpool of music boom and the secret is consistency, and that seems to be telling the contenders from the pretenders.
As attested to by music critics and veterans in entertainment, it is truly difficult to become famous, but what is even most tasking is remaining famous. Fame is like a ladder greased with slippery foils where only those with firm grips can hold on.
To have a promising music career blown away from sight like a paper bag in the harmattan sky, one is either too taken by excitement over sudden success, or incapable of matching standard of previous hit song with subsequent releases, or losing touch with what the vogue is, or in a more unfortunate case, embroiled in record deal crisis.
Let’s take a look at some of these names whose songs used to be party starters but hardly get a mention even in random conversations these days.
At a time when eccentricity was lacking in the music scene, Weird MC popped out of nowhere with loads of it. Her sense of style was queer but was already appealing to people’s sense of outrage – a spicy ingredient for fame. But that wasn’t even what really made her popular. Her songs were actually good and easily became dominant. There was no bigger Nigerian song in 2006 than Weird MC’s Ijoya. The song was so big in appeal that both the old and young got perfectly along with her call to Ijoya (dance in Yoruba). She followed up with a couple more songs like Oya Eh, Riranwo, Ready to Party, but they were nothing like Ijoya, and she kept trying to get another Ijoya until she probably gave up and sank into peaceful oblivion.
For music artists trying to make a mark outside of Lagos, there is always an odd to beat, but as far as fame goes, Duncan Mighty had a measure of it. With a uniquely refreshing voice laced with high tempo vocals, the Port-Harcourt First Son was up there with top charting songs like Obianuju (2011), Hand of Jesus (2011); I don’t give a shot (2011), and Wene (2014). Duncan who was so big that he had nothing to fear by attempting audacious lyrics like ‘Mercy Johnson nearly touch my rod’ hardly draw any attention these days. Not many are aware he even had an album release last year.
D’Prince is that artist whose success is largely attributed to his brother’s influence. As a sibling of one of Nigeria’s biggest music producers, Don Jazzy, there is no doubt an eventuality of that success robbing off. While trying to shake off that notion, D’Prince slipped off the radar, but not before he thrilled his fans with popular songs like Jonzing world (2012), O.Y.O (2014), Oga Titus (2015).
9ice actually rose from being a national superstar to a continental one. Performing for the likes of Nelson Mandela, he was on eagles’ wings and one of his most memorable lyrics in the popular song Street Credibility (2008) was his confidence about bringing home a Grammy. While that dream woefully became far-fetched, Kongo Aso (2008), his breakthrough song would always remain a Nigerian classic.
From time to time, a lot of young artists try to modernise Fela’s sound and style in order to ease their breakthrough, and that seems to be what W4 was all about – breaking through without coming through. His 2010 hit song Kontrol didn’t just appeal to fans and radio stations, even legendary 2face Idibia listed him as one of the artists to pioneer his newly established Hypertek label.
While some artists pride themselves for making smashers, others do anthems, and Olu Maintain was in that class. In Yahooze (2008), a song that ironically validates the monetary success of internet scam, he left everyone singing excitedly along, with a trademark dance to follow. The only effort of his that came close was Nawti (2013), while others were always futile.
Like Olu Maintain, Kelly loved to sing about the coolness of fraud and maga (fraud victim) paying. The glorification of fraud in songs and its appeal is always an irony that only a psychologist can best explain. Other than that notoriety, he is also remembered for his protracted conflict with famous rapper, M.I Abaga whose lyrical assaults he couldn’t only match, but bowed out to as a result.
At the time of his entry, Brymo clearly proved to be the most promising of his peers, and that is still true if not for the unfortunate record label crisis that took the spot light off him in an industry that was now always on the speed lane.
Before Phyno and Zoro, there was a certain Nigga Raw representing for the East. His laid back funny and punchline free rap with a blend of sonorous hooks which was what songs like Obodo and Abia were about easily made him a household name, but not long or consistent enough to match the current heavyweight that Eastern artists like Phyno are.
Almost the biggest Nigerian rapper at a time, but with the current wave of music, Ruggedy Baba will certainly struggle to fill a park now. Times have changed and artists like him couldn’t change with it.
Eedris was Ruggedman’s biggest rival, and a force in his own rights, but today, save to say they share the same fate of musical anonymity. While American artists like Snoop Dog have continuously reinvented themselves in order to stay relevant, these ones would rather pride themselves as legends these days – not a bad landing that is after all.
A couple more artists like Blackface, Faze Alone, African China, Baba Fryo, Daddy Fresh, Daddy Showkey, Bigiano, and Paul Play also can only now count on good memories of their musical career.
Even more, the likes of Ice Prince, Iyanya, D’banj, Kayswitch, Naeto C, Ikechukwu whose fans couldn’t always wait for their next songs have or are unfortunately going unnoticed even after album releases. I guess it is now more difficult to lay an extended claim to stardom, especially in an industry where a new artist is discovered every hour.