The nineties belonged to the Nigerian home video industry, alias Nollywood, whose movies and stars arrested the attention of Africans on the continent, those in the Diaspora as well as non-Africans, particularly the Western media. With its distinctly African stories, Nollywood offered something fresh despite the poor technical quality of its output.
Today, Nollywood has improved and its sphere of influence widened. But it has been overtaken as the leading brand of popular Nigerian culture. It is beyond debate that its stars remain popular, but, except for a few, they are way behind the creators of what is now regarded as popular Nigerian music.
Locally, highlife, fuji and juju–for long the dominant strains–made huge impact, throwing up stars and icons, but their influence on the international market and audience was measly.
That is not the case with the new wave of stars, who have successfully married various Nigerian musical strains and continue to flirt, to huge acclaim, with popular foreign genres like American hip-hop, rap, reggae, rhythm and blues, funk, jazz and other less classifiable styles to produce music that is enjoyed in Nigeria and outside. Naturally too, the creators have become stars, and in some cases mega-stars with copious cash and fame.
Tuface Idibia, is easily the most famous of the lot. Within four months, the R&B star was robbed twice. On both occasions, he lost property worth millions of naira to the bandits. Before then, armed men had invaded his house, broke his neck and robbed him of valuables. Each of the attacks was headline news and got Nigerians worried and wondering why Tuface kept getting attacked.
Kes Igbado, owner of D’JAMZ Base Nightclub along Festac/Mile 2 link bridge, explained why robbers are attracted to Tuface. “These boys (musicians) are making money, real money. Don’t you know the kind of life they live, the kind of cars they drive? Man, it’s their time,” he explained.
It’s sure their time. With endorsement deals worth millions of naira, huge CD sales and regular concert dates that attract at least N1million per show, there is no doubting how much their talents are appreciated.
On similar pedestal with Tuface are P-Square, D’Banj, Olu Maintain, Ruggedman, Sound Sultan, Jazzman Olofin, Baba Dee, Paul Play, OJB Jezreel, Mode 9, Styl-Plus, Faze and Dare Art Alade.
Others in this category, described by Ayo Animashaun, publisher of Hip-Hop World, as “Class A” artistes, include Asa, Weird MC, Sasha, Lord of Ajasa, 9ice, Six Foot Plus, Wande Coal, X-Project, Eedrees Abdulkarim, Lambo Da Virus, Sauce Kid, Rooftop MCs, Tony Tetuila, Black Face, Zdon Paporella, Jeremiah Gyang, Trybesmen, Timaya, El Dee Da Don, Soul E, Kween and Djinee.
Paul Okoye, one half of P-Square, is one who knows the difference between then and now. “In those days, life was difficult. We never imagined that we would control the kind of finance we control right now. Life was stressful then to the extent that we even found it difficult to pay our school fees. But now, God has blessed us. We thank God,” he mused. There is so much to thank Him for: two monster hits, a string of concert dates and conspicuous spoils of affluence.
For Tuface, who literally opened the floodgate of success for a new generation of young musicians, the leap to stardom began about five years ago when he left Plantashun Boiz, a successful singing group. He has since released two albums, Face II Face and Grass II Grace. The first dominated the airwaves and earned him numerous awards and millions in sales. Face II Face, which reportedly broke the one million unit sales mark in its first month of release, featured the smash hit, African Queen, on the back of which he became the first African to win the Best African Act at the MTV Base Award in 2005, as well as the MOBO Awards the following year.
Advertisers like Guinness and MTN love his huge profile. The cameras love his smooth face, as evidenced by the Guinness Extra Smooth billboard campaign.
Other doors have also opened, including his song being featured as a soundtrack on Phat Girlz, an American film; international concert dates and an opportunity of a duet with the famous American R&B star, R.Kelly.
“I just recorded a song with R. Kelly, which will be part of my new album. I also did something recently with Chakademus and Pliers,” he said.
Before then, he had performed and recorded with luminaries like Wyclef Jean, Beenieman and Reggie Rockstone. Gbolahan Ogunleye, Tuface’s friend, said: “Such is the height the boy has attained. And it’s all due to hard work. Do you think it is easy to have your face on a billboard and you’re paid tens of millions of naira for it?” Indeed, TheNEWS gathered that the deal fetched the Benue-born crooner a cool N18m.
For Tuface, the good times are rolling. The artiste has turned the corner and is willing to help other artistes. He disclosed this during the launch of Hypertek Entertainment, his record label. “We intend to do a lot on artiste management. But, most importantly, we want to use the platform to fish out talented Nigerian youths. We intend to empower them, as well as provide them with opportunity to showcase their skills. That’s the only way to keep the industry relevant,” he said.
Zdon Paporella, another big gun, believes the industry must remain relevant. “The music industry in Nigeria has come of age and it’s doing very well now. Today, rappers are making money. Ruggedman is making money, Mode 9 is making, many others are making money from the industry. For instance, Mode 9 is the first among so many talented singers to get a huge endorsement from Globacom,” he said. He added that Tuface’s deal with Guinness made artistes realise that it was possible to earn over N20 million from a deal. “It caught like wild fire and going to London became the in thing. Then, when the corporate bodies like Nigerian Breweries started shows like Star Trek, Star Mega Jamz, we started hearing that artistes were getting N4 million, N5 million,” he gushed.
The duo of KC Presh is a major beneficiary of one of these shows. After winning the maiden edition of Star Quest, the pair instantly moved up the ladder. They each have a mansion in Lagos. They also own choice cars including a new model Toyota Camry.
Zdon explained that in terms of acceptability, airplay and sales, the likes of Timaya, P-Square, 9ice, Ruggedman, X-Project and Tuface are head and shoulders above the rest. Currently, he rates P-Square as the hottest number. “In the area of general acceptability right now, I would say it’s P-Square,” he said.
A visit to P-Square’s mansion at Omole Estate in Ojodu, Lagos, will douse the desire to challenge Zdon’s evaluation. Reportedly bought for N50 million, the lavishly furnished home is equipped with a modern recording studio, while its compound is infested with pricey autos including a Hummer Jeep.
P-Square, made up of twin brothers, Peter and Paul, also have a huge fan base outside Nigeria. They attribute their success to humility and a hunger to keep improving. “One of the factors behind our success is that we are humble. We also try to do better than what we have done before. We communicate with our fans. Getting to know what they want and what they don’t want is very important,” Paul said.
Since releasing Get Squared in 2005, P-Square have become a musical epidemic, spreading without restraint. Their commitment to quality was exhibited in Game Over, their latest work and the visual of Do Me, the hit track. It reportedly cost them N7 million to do just two luscious visuals in South Africa.
One of the visuals (Do Me), which Nigerians are already familiar with on their TVs,has been widely hailed as fantastic.
Yet they said it was just the beginning “People have seen the Do Me video, but I can tell you it is the least among all the videos we have in the Game Over album,” Peter said . P-Square has certainly enjoyed God’s favour. Since their debut, they have some prestigious awards and only narrowly missed the MOBO and the MTV Base awards. “We have won many local and international awards except the MOBO and MTV Base awards, but we are not worried,” Peter said.
And rightly too. Their latest album has already attracted five nominations in the 2008 edition of the Hip-Hop World Awards and four in the Sound City Video Awards. “And all these are because of Do Me. We are not talking about the remaining nine tracks yet,” P-Square boasted.
The boys claimed it is not possible for any marketer to bankroll their expensive videos, because they cannot be financed with proceeds from CD sales. Recently, P-Square, who are determined to remain on top, moved in an entire video crew from South Africa for the shooting of some videos in its current album. It cost the duo so much money, but they are unfazed. ‘‘We will do anything to please our fans,’’ they affirmed. Born Paul and Peter Okoye in Jos, Plateau State, P-Square initially preferred soccer. In Jos they played in the same Pepsi Academy team with Chelsea midfielder, John Obi Mikel. While Paul was goalkeeper, Peter was a right-sided midfielder. But they soon opted for music. The University of Abuja graduates remained in Abuja, where they honed their music skills. A year later, they moved to Lagos. Their debut was not a commercial success, but it earned them a nomination for a KORA Awards. Their second, Get Squared, reportedly sold over 10 million copies.
Game Over is regarded as more successful. Indeed, in only a few weeks it had outsold Tuface’s Grass To Grace album For the duo, the album has increased their popularity outside Nigeria. “Almost all our concerts come from abroad, and in each, we don’t have anything less than 30,000 people. Artistes of this generation are very hard working. Most of us now have recording studios,” Paul explained.
D’Banj and Don Jazzy, his producer, are on the same path, having just completed a multi-million naira recording studio in Lekki, Lagos. Christened Mo Hits Records, the label has in its stable D’Banj, Wande Coal and a host of other young talented artistes.
D’Banj, catapulted to superstardom by Koko and Why Me, is said to charge a minimum of N2 million per show and is making steady progress in endorsement deals, given his appeal across age and sex. For many, he is already a bigger star than the mercurial Tuface, thanks in part to his peerless stagecraft.
His bank balance, clearly, has not been hurt. He has a collection of BMW cars and a home of his own in Maryland, Lagos. He is reputed to live an immodestly opulent lifestyle, something that has provoked speculations–though denied–of involvement in internet scam. D’Banj, a former Winners’ Chapel chorister, said: “I am always very occupied with shows. You can imagine the millions I make from shows, and they come regularly. I also get endorsements worth several millions of naira.”
Wande Coal, who has just a single to his name, is a University of Lagos undergraduate who is already turning heads. He has gained tremendous exposure from performing with D’Banj. Wande plans to graduate before going headlong into music. Unlike Wande, D’Banj dropped out of the Lagos State University, to the chagrin of his parents, to travel to the United Kingdom. In the UK, he joined JJC and the 419 Squad.
Of that period, he said: “I was struggling to have an identity then. I did many shows for free and didn’t care, because I needed to carve my own niche.”
Eventually, he met Don Jazzy and the chemistry was perfect. A few years later, they both returned to Nigeria, where D’Banj dropped his hit single, The Koko, to public raptures. Mo Bo Lowo Won, the follow up, was also a hit.
In his brief stay on the Nigerian music scene, D’Banj has picked up almost all the awards available to musicians, the high point of which was the Award for the Best African Act at the second edition of the MTV European Music Awards in Germany.
Like D’Banj, Olu Maintain of Yahooze fame came to the big time as a solo artiste from a sojourn abroad. He had been part of Maintain, the successful 90s group before travelling abroad. He returned with Yahooze, the successful title track that has been criticised for promoting internet scam. The speculations were heightened by his allegedly dissolute lifestyle. After splashing on the purchase of a home, the youthful singer prefers to live in a hotel. He also parades a fleet of exotic automobiles, including a Sequia Jeep. Besides, Olu Maintain, who recently completed a tour of US and Europe, will also be investing in the Nigeria movie industry. The criticisms notwithstanding, Yahooze became a party anthem. The initial shooting of the video was said to have cost N2 million, but Olu Maintain was said to have been dissatisfied.
Sasha, a talented female rapper, is another hot number. The sexy rapper, who took about four years to release an album, First Lady, is a dancehall favourite. Adara, the hit track in the album, burned up numerous charts within weeks of its release. Sasha is living her new status as a star. She is reported to have recently acquired a Mercedes Benz ML 320 jeep in addition to her Toyota car. Born Yetunde Alabi about two decades ago, Sasha began her music career as a child in Ibadan. Though she hails from Osun State, she lives in Lagos with her mother.
First Lady, Emilegan and Adara have continued to enjoy air play. Formerly a member of Trybesmen, Sasha quit because of a misunderstanding between two members that led to the break-up of the group. She is one of those nominated for recognition at the 2008 Hip-Hop World Awards, but she is yet to make the cut on the international scene.
Chibuzor Orji alias Faze is also an alumnus of the defunct Plantashun Boiz. Many fans had predicted that he would not go far when the Plantashun Boiz broke up. That musical obituary has proved meaningless. With just an album, Faze launched himself back into reckoning. True Story, a hit single, raced up the charts and hung there for months. Other songs like Kpokpo dikpo and Kolomental, his current work also ruled the airwaves for long spells.
Within a short while, Faze had become a hit. Awards, endorsements deals and shows came in torrents. The singer bought himself a house and a number of exotic cars. International recognition also came, including a duet with Akon, America-based Senegalese superstar. Faze’s music has been helped by his videos.
For a long time, the video of his Kolomental was adjudged the best.
For Timi Imetimi, popularly known as Timaya, life has changed very rapidly within the last 10 months. When he released Timaya, his debut album, little did he notice the fortune hanging over his head. However, Timaya is currently one of the most famous artistes from the Niger-Delta.
Within less than a year of dropping his debut, he has bridged the gap between him and more established stars. Already, he has moved into his own building in Port Harcourt. The one-storey house is fitted with a recording studio. Timaya drives a Toyota Camry, a Toyota Spider and a rides a powerbike. He is said to charge about N1 million per show. “The only thing that may make him go for less is if he is playing for charity. For the past six months, he has been headlining many shows across the country,” said a source close to him.
Born in Odi, Bayelsa State, Timaya had it rough growing up. His musical career started on a shaky note, sleeping on bare floor for many nights while trying to put his album together. Eventually, Timaya got a breakthrough in Timaya. In the album, True Story, Dear Mama, Ogologoma and Timaya have enjoyed tremendous acceptance.
Michael Ugochukwu Stephen aka Ruggedman is an illustrious name on the local rap scene. He is credited with introducing the kind of US-style rapper/rapper animosity. His first target was Eedris Abdulkareem, whose talent he disparaged in Ehen. In the song, Ruggedman asked: “Na By Force To Rap?” He subsequently took on the group, Maintain, accusing them of dexterity only when doing covers of other people’s songs.
His cocky attitude may have drawn attention, but his ability was never in doubt, as evidenced by Peace or War, an album which was followed by the single Dancia Baraje. Within a short time, he became a fixture at shows and his new-found wealth got him a jeep in commemoration of his progress. He also launched a clothing line. On why Nigerian music has become exponentially appealing, Ruggedman said: “Our productions are tight now because we now have good producers. The quality of our videos has improved. The quality of production of our audios has also improved. A lot of people say I revolutionised the rap music industry. Yes. There are a lot of rap artistes in the country right now. But, there will always be boys and there will always be men,” he said cockily.
A divide may exist between the boys and the men of the rap music industry.
However, Mode 9 falls on the side of the men. Born in England, Mode 9 claims he was influenced at a very tender age by Grandmaster Flash, an African-American rapper. He started rapping in school. “The essence was just to survive. Getting people to listen to you and not forget trying to get on big shows,” he recalled.
Today, Mode 9 has not only won three Channel O Awards, four Hip-Hop World Awards and two AMAA Awards, he has also earned himself a fat bank account. “I have a studio in my house. I have my own company called Mode 9 Production,” he said.
Beyond that, Mode 9 enjoys tremendous patronage even outside the country. “People like my stuff. I am surprised that you have people all over Africa who know me. Maybe because my stuff is on Channel O. Anytime I push out a record, I see it good. People buy my stuff all over Nigeria,” he revealed. Today, Mode 9 is easily Nigeria’s best hardcore rapper.
The story of Paul “Play” Dairo, who was accused of exploiting the song bank of his father, the late Isaiah Kehinde Dairo, is not different. His case was not helped by the release of Mo Sorire. But by the time he released Forever, the thinking changed.
Forever and Angel Of My Life went platinum. The year of release coincided with the expansion of the musician’s studio as well as the acquisition of a BMW 4x4. Paul is also a capable producer. He has worked on artistes like Ruff, Rugged and Raw and Omotola Jalade-Ekeinde.
In 2006, Paul Play won awards as an artiste and producer respectively. His fame soared and in adulation, he was almost raped by female undergraduates of the University of Lagos during a concert.
For the engineering graduate of the Yaba College of Technology, music is business.
Lanre Fasasi, known as Sound Sultan is also a musician of note. According to the musician and fashion designer, “my new year resolution is to make more money, climb greater heights and make U.S. connection. I also want to drop an album that’ll explode all around world.”
Sound Sultan, who debuted with Mathematics, is on the rise. Together with Dare “Baba Dee” Fasasi, his elder brother, Sound Sultan has enjoyed tremendous patronage both within and outside Nigeria.
Sound Sultan has invested in a recording studio and is working on upcoming artistes. He has also invested in a clothing line called Naija Ninja.