By Yemisi Suleiman
Many music mavens know of Nigerian legends like Victor Olaiya, Sunny Okosuns and Fela Anikulapo Kuti. In recent times, however, the Nigerian music industry has undergone phenomenal metamorphosis and has grown to become one of the most proficient industries in the world; thanks to a new generation of producers bringing refreshing, new talents to the scene.
From the break-out success of artistes like 2Face Idibia, Wizkid, P-Square and some outstanding up-and-coming talents, we uncover the best and most consistent Nigerian musicians currently ruling the industry.
Award winning singer, writer and performer Ayodeji Balogun better known by his stage name Wizkid, kick-started his career at an early age with musical influences from legends like Fela Kuti, and Bob Marley. Wizkid started singing at age 11 and went by the stage name Lil Prinz and later to Wizkid a name coined by seniors in the industry awed by the young star’s creative prowess. Mentored by some notable names in the industry, Wizkid rose to prominence in 2010 with the release of the song “Holla at Your Boy” from his debut studio album, Superstar which earned him the Next Rated award at The Headies 2011, and was nominated for Best Pop Single at the aforementioned awards show. The music video for “Holla at Your Boy” was nominated for Most Gifted Newcomer Video at the 2011 Channel O Music Video Awards and was also nominated for Best Afro Pop Video at the 2011 Nigeria Music Video Awards (NMVA).
With a good number of albums and singles to his credit, today the musician is known for his somewhat philosophical and sometimes controversial lyrics and dramatic stage presence. In 2013 he released an album titled ‘Ayo (Joy)’ which had two vital tracks, with overwhelming Afrobeat influences. ‘Jaiye jaiye’ was crafted straight from Fela’s playbook, with Sax’s supplied by Femi Kuti.
In 2015, Wizkid released the music video for “Ojuelegba”, a song that highlights the struggles he endured in the early years of his recording career. The song carried the Starboy across the continent and found its way to Drake, who jumped on it for a remix, a move which officially kicked off Wizkid’s international campaign, with vocals from Drake and Skepta. The song still stands as one of Wizkid’s greatest hits yet.
The Pakurumo crooner has collaborated with musicians in Nigeria and across Africa such as Bracket, R2Bees, and others to release several tracks, which became the real hits in Nigeria. As the pop star continues to grow his audience, he has been doing great stuff with South African entertainers, with musical collaborations making waves in homes, offices and clubs all across the continent He has toured alongside Chris Brown while his collaboration with Drake on ‘One Dance’ is topping the charts.
Presently, he is flying high with the release of his mixtape “Sounds from the Other Side” via his deal with Sony’s RCA Records. Wizkid hasn’t dropped many official projects within the last 12 months but the few he dropped made a lot from digital sales. He also earned royalties from the biggest song in the world for year 2016; (One Dance). The Starboy also had a hugely successful world tour in 2016. Within the past 12 months his active endorsement deals include; GLO deal, PEPSI deal.
He is a recipient of numerous awards including two BET Awards, three Billboard Music Awards, two iHeartRadio Music Awards, one MTV Europe Music Awards, four MTV Africa Music Awards, two SoundCity MVP Awards and more In addition, he has been nominated five times at the MTV Europe Music Awards, three times at the American Music Awards, once at the Grammy Awards, as well as four times at the World Music Awards.
For the very gifted musician and CEO of Star Boy Worldwide Record Label, music comes naturally, with a unique voice and powerful vocals that has established him as one of the strongest musical acts yet. Whether he is singing about sexy ladies, his sweet mama or societal issues, Wizkid has proven himself as an outstanding performer that will stand the test of time.
Douglas Jack Agu, better known by his stage name Runtown; presently has one of the biggest songs in Nigeria. The Del’B produced tune “Mad Over You”, was officially released on the 4th of November 2016, and since then has been the song for all, irrespective of age and tribe. He is not so new on the scene as began his music pursuits years back and collaborated with Davido to release a song produced by T-Spize titled “Gallardo”, which won Best Collaboration of The Year at the 2014 Nigeria Entertainment Awards and brought him more attention. He later released the video which got over 418,000 views on YouTube in its first 2 months. The video features cameos from Patoranking, Skales and Phyno; it was shot in Nigeria and directed by Clarence Peters. Runtown’s career took flight after he signed a recording contract with Eric-Manny Entertainment through his friend, releasing “Successful” and “Domot”, both of which received frequent airplay. Runtown was featured on WizzyPro’s “Emergency” song, which also features vocals from Skales and Patoranking. The song was produced by WizzyPro and released in 2014. Runtown later released his debut studio album titled Ghetto University. The album features guest appearances from DJ Khaled, Phyno, Wizkid, Uhuru and Anatii. The album made him listed in the “Top 5 Most Streamed Artist” in Nigeria, reportedly generating over ₦35 million turn over on MTN Music Plus.
In 2012, Runtown was featured on the song “High on You” by Jamaican/American singer Laza Morgan , which did big on the Caribbean charts. J. Martins featured Runtown on a song off his Elevation album titled “Tonight”. Runtown also worked with Phyno on a song titled “Anamachi Versace”, which was produced by WizzyPro. In an interview with NotJustOk.com, he said he acquired his musical inspirations from Sean Kingston, Bob Marley and Kanye West.
On 4 November 2016, Runtown released the love-themed ballad “Mad Over You”, which he said was inspired by African beauty, charted at number 38 on the Billboard Twitter Top Tracks chart.
He has a diverse musical style mix of hip-hop, R&B, reggae and rap, Runtown is fingered to have great potentials to sustain him on the scene, whilst moving the industry forward.
Paul and Peter Okoye the R&B duo of identical twin brothers simply known as PSquare. are one of the best and the most consistent musical group on the Continent right now. Over a decade in the industry and still going strong the twins continues to inspire with new music sounds, new looks as well as new ideas of song writing. Their music is appreciated by every class of people from royals to the lowest.
Square’s illustrious career truly took off in 2001 when they won the music contest “Grab Da Mic”. Their debut album, Last Nite, was released 2 years later on Timbuk2 Music. However, It was P-Square’s sophomore album, Get Squared, released about 13 years ago that really turned the dancing duo into legitimate pop stars.
Amongst other collaborations, they done collabos with top International acts, like TI and Akon . The have won several awards: Kora awards, Europe music awards, Soul Train music awards and Channel O music awards, for their contributions to the growth of the music industry. They currently have multi-million naira endorsement deal from several big companies including Globacom Nigeria and so many of them in this list.
More than a decade on the scene, PSquare has remained on top, reinventing themselves with the current trend, while giving their fans across the world back to back hits and something to always look forward to.
One thing you can’t take away from Innocent Idibia popularly known as 2Baba is his apt creative instinct. Better known by his stage name 2face or 2Baba, the singer-songwriter, record producer and entrepreneur is no doubt one of the most dynamic artists ever and holds the top spot on the all-time ranking of best artists in Africa. 2face who began his musical career in 2000, with the now defunct group Plantashun Boiz, left after a few years to begin a solo career and was signed on to Kennis Music where he dropped his solo debut, Nfana Nbaga, which became the best hit song that year, a move which established him as a viable solo artist. From Nfana Nbaga, African Queen to Holly Holly, it has been one hit song to another, with a consistency that is yet to be rivaled.
He is one of the most decorated and successful Afro pop artists in Africa and has received numerous awards including one MTV Europe Music Award, one World Music Award, five Headies Awards (Hip-hop award), four Channel O Music Video Awards and one BET award four MTV Africa Music Awards, one MOBO award, one KORA award, and other numerous nominations for his musical work. He is the founder of Hypertek Entertainment; a label which was founded in 2006 following Idibia’s departure from Kennis Music, and is home to recording artists such as Victor Uwaifo, Dammy Krane and RockSteady amongst others.
Alongside his booming music career, 2 Baba also runs an NGO called 2Face Idibia Reach-Out Foundation with an objective to serve humanity. He was appointed an ambassador by National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control, and released a song “Man Unkind” to raise awareness on the menace of fake and sub-standard food and drug products in Nigeria. In 2009, he was presented with the prestigious International Youth Ambassador for Peace Summit and the Nigeria Youth Merit Award by the National Youth Council of Nigeria in recognition of his contributions to youth development in Nigeria. He was one of the Judges in The Voice Nigeria, alongside other artists like Timi Dakolo, Patoraking and Waje.
With the release of a brand new single GagaShuffle this September currently ruling the airwaves, 2Baba, the musician with a mission, seeks to traverse the generational boundaries of music and with compliments from fellow musical acts and all, lauding him as the legendary music icon of our time, he is certainly proving his worth.
Chinedu Okoli simply known by his stage name Flavour, broke the wall between the old and new periods of afro pop music, when he came on the scene in 2005, with his self-titled debut album N’abania. This was subsequently followed by the release of his second studio album Uplifted, supported with the singles “Nwa Baby (Ashawo Remix)”, “Adamma”, and “Oyi Remix”. The album’s success made Flavour one of Africa’s most sought out artists and a household name in Nigeria. The Enugu born musician who sings fluently in his native dialect Igbo and English, basically rose to stardom for his unique style of music.
Unlike some of his contemporaries Flavour is not just a singer or songwriter, he is also a multi instrumentalist and performer who began his musical career as a drummer for a local church in his hometown of Enugu State, where he was spotted .
He began his musical quest in 2002 when he was barely 19 years of age, when he joined a band as a drummer and later went solo in 2004. With SoundCity as his beneficiary company, Flavour relocated to Lagos from Enugu to pursue his dreams and the rest like they say is history.
Since the inception of his music career, he has done several collaborations, has been nominated for several awards, and won the 2012 Channel O Music Video Award for best R&B Video. With his good looks, unending great vibes and dance moves which endears him to many, Flavour is no doubt a force to reckon with in the industry.
Olamide Adedeji known by his stage name Olamide but popularly called Baddo by fans, shot to limelight a few years ago with release of his hit song ‘Shoki’. His style of music may not cut across board, but his street style kind of music definitely has a huge fan base. The hip hop recording artist from Bariga, who raps mostly in Yoruba, his native tongue, released his debut studio album Rapsodi in 2011, while signed to Coded Tunes. He later set up his own record label YBNL Nation under which, his follow-up album, was released. The album had great hits as “First of All”, “Voice of the Street”, “Stupid Love”, and “Ilefo Illuminati”. However the release and success of his one of his greatest hits “Durosoke” and “Yemi My Lover” in 2013, Olamide became the first Nigerian to sign an endorsement deal with Cîroc.
As he became more successful he signed a multi-million Naira deal with Guinness. In November 2013, he became an ambassador for Etisalat alongside Ice Prince and this year, he also became an ambassador for Sterling Bank Plc.
The YBNL king who has a good number of young up and coming acts under his record label, has continued to satisfy his teaming fans with his lyrics and uptown beats. Olamide has been nominated and won several music awards, including multiple Nigeria Entertainment Awards, The Headies Awards and Channel O music awards for Turn Up most gifted West category.
His latest released single ‘WO’ which was disbanded as a result of some sexual overture’s in the music video, still enjoys maximum airplay at parties and clubs. The hitmaker who is on form following the massive acceptance of ‘Wo’, is back in the studio working on what would potentially be his next album and the rhythm goes on and on.
David Adedeji Adeleke, who goes by the stage name Davido, shot to limelight in 2011, at the age of 23 with the release of his hit single “Dami Duro” which was well-received throughout Nigeria and across Africa. After the release of Dami Duro it has been a roller coaster ride for the artist who over the years released chat topping songs that placed him on a high pedestal on the music scene. Along with his elder brother Adewale Adeleke, Davido co-founded HKN Music (a record label that is home to Sina Rambo, B. Red and DeeKay)
Davido and his management team, in collaboration with Clarence Peters, put together a first-class, never seen before type video, to back up the banger, Dami Duro. Not only did this video create major buzz around websites, TV stations and you tube, but was also said to be one of the best videos out of Nigeria.
The artist famous for some scandals with other peers in the industry in 2016 announced via Twitter that he signed a record deal with Sony Music and would later start his own label, Davido Music Worldwide (DMW), few months after signing with Sony.
He is the recipient of a BET Award, a Kora Award, a Channel O Music Video Award, a Ghana Music Award, a Nigeria Music Video Award, 2 MTV Africa Music Awards, 2 African Muzik Magazine Awards, 5 The Headies Awards, 7 Nigeria Entertainment Awards and 2 Dynamix All Youth Awards. Davido active endorsement deals includes: MTN deal, Pepsi deal amongst others.
With back to back singles like “Gobe”, “One of a Kind”, “Skelewu”, “Aye”, “Tchelete (Goodlife)”, “Naughty”, “Owo Ni Koko”, “The Sound” and “The Money” and yhe 2016 song ‘IF’ still holding sway on the charts, the young star has proven again and again that he is not a one hit wonder.
Augustine Miles Kelechi popularly known by his stage name Tekno, horned his musical skills at age 8 when he enrolled in a music school where he learnt and mastered the rudiments of playing the piano and guitar. The Ebonyi state born music star was spotted by comedian Julius Agwu at an event after Tekno Miles received a standing ovation following the performance of a song titled “Onye Ne Kwu”, his remix of Ice Prince’s “Oleku”. A move to Lagos to further his musical career saw his steady rise on the scene and 2013; he signed a music contract with Made Men Music Group under which he released singles like “Dance” and “Anything” which won him a nomination in the “Best New act of the Year” category at the 2014 Nigeria Entertainment Awards. Tekno later released the hit song “Duro” which was positively received and still very acceptable worldwide. A remix of the song featured Phyno and Flavour N’abania and it topped several charts in Nigeria and on the international scene. The same year Teckno hit fans with another hit single titled “Wash”, the song also topped chats and was the favourite dance song for clubs and parties.
Basically new on the scene, with seventeen hit tracts in five years, several collaborations and two awards including the MTV Base Africa Awards for Best New Acts and a number of nominations to his credit, Teckno is definitely poised for greater heights as he is sure to remain on the scene for a long time.
Singer and songwriter Initimi Alfred Odon famously known by his stage name Timaya is one star that has over the years established himself as a strong brand in the industry. His solo career began in 2005 with the release of “Dem Mama”, which also appeared on his debut album, True Story released the following year.
Timaya gained further visibility and international prominence through his third studio album De Rebirth, released in partnership with Black Body Entertainment and its lead single “Plantain Boy”. Both were commercially successful. He collaborated with Dem Mama Soldiers on the album LLNP (Long Life N Prosperity). In 2012, Timaya released Upgrade, which spawned hits “Bum Bum”, “Sexy Ladies”, and “Malonogede”.
Timaya won two awards in 2008: “Album of the Year” at Nigeria Music Awards and “Best Reggae/Dancehall album” at the Headies Awards. He also received two awards “Best Reggae/Dancehall album” for Gift and Grace and “Best Collaboration” for his feature on J Martins’ “Good or Bad (O Wey)” at the 2009 edition of The Headies.
In 2010, he appeared on the song “Kokoroko” by late female gospel artist Kefee, which went on to win in the “Best Collaboration” category at the 2010 Headies Awards.
Timaya has collaborated with guest artists, including 2face Idibia, TJ 2Solo, Allenian, Konga, Lanre, M.I, TJ, and Wrecoba.
To date, his work has earned him four Headies Awards, and one Nigeria Music Award.
More than 10 years on, the self named Egberipapa king of Bayelsa continues to wow his fans with his dancehall style of music , reinventing himself and flowing with the tide of time.
After a long break Wander Coal returns on the scene with a bang. His latest hit ISKABA released under his Black Diamond Entertainment Records is one of the hottest songs on the planet earth right now. Born as Oluwatobi Wande Ojosipe, aka Wande Coal is a singer, with a distinct voice that can simply not be replicated. He started out his career journey, singing in the teenage choir at his church, and later got his break in the Nigerian entertainment industry as a dancer. He got signed to Don Jazzy’s Mo’ Hits Records in 2006, where featured on D’banj’s Rundown/Funk you up album on singles such as “Loke”, “tonosibe” and “why me”. Being signed to Mo’ Hits records he was also a member of the Mo’ Hits allstars and played a major role in the released CV (Curriculum Vitae) album. His first single of the CV album, “Ololufe”, was described as one of the greatest love songs ever written by a Nigerian. Coal later released his debut album Mushin To Mo’Hits which was widely received across Nigeria, UK and the USA.
Coal has also recorded tracks with other Nigerian artists including ikechukwu, Naeto C, Dr SID, D’Prince, Wizkid and many more. In 2012 following a fallout between record label Executives Don Jazzy and D’banj, Coal, Dr SID and D’Prince signed on to Don Jazzy’s new Record Label Mavin Records. Wande Coal left Mavin Records in 2013 and later in the year released a single called “Baby Face”.
With a clear mission in mind to bring a joyful and soulful music to his fans the artist is working tirelessly to keep up the tempo, with the release of more chat topping hits in future.