The Nigerian music industry of late is best captured by a cryptic cry by one of the young artists, Burna Boy. When the top-rated artist said “This Naija no known love“, he was referring to happenings in the industry and he knew what he was saying and meant every meaning of it.
From the early fifties, through the sixties, up till the seventies, young, enterprising musicians have been emerging from total obscurity to stardom in Nigeria. Some remained etched in the limelight for decades, some barely struggle to stay, before fading away, while many remain a passing remark on the footnote of the history of the industry. But in all, Burna Boy said: there is no love in the industry.
It is also a well-established fact of the industry that artists and record label owners are in a cat-and-mouse relationship, with each suspicious of the other. The early days of juju maestros King Sunny Ade, Ebenezer Obey, the Afrobeat originator, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, the Apala bigwigs, Haruna Ishola and Ayinla Omowura, were not full of roses. There were bitter squabbles here and there over rights and royalties payable to these struggling artists. But then when there are disputes, which are bound to happen, they settle in amicable within the traditional setting or through the Court of law. The case of Ayinde Barrister and Sunny Ade with the TYC owner, African Songs Limited readily comes to mind here. But despite the available mechanism for easy resolution of contractual disputes many of the old artists regularly recounted how they survived in the dark alley of label owners’, or promoters’ contractual relationships.
But no longer, do both parties, artists and the record labels’ owners allow amicable settlement of issues. It is now a fight to finish. Not many artists can afford to leave their master tapes and other recording rights with a promoter or a label owner as King Sunny Ade or Ayinde Barrister did with TYC. Ayinla Killington also still regularly mentioned the treatment he got from his early days promoter, Olumo Records. Busola Oke, of Eleyele fame, recently cried out alleging heartless short-changing in contract deals by her former promoter, Mr. Gbenga Adewusi of Bayowa Films and Records Limited. She claimed Adewusi held tight to all the rights accrued from her artistic works, either as film soundtracks or as Vinyl recordings.
Gbenga countered her claims almost immediately, blaming the lady for whatever misfortune that might have befallen her now. This is just a preface to the dark alley that is the music industry in the country.
Nigerian afrobeat and hip-hop artists, suddenly after Fela Anikulapo-Kuti died, he started getting more recognition globally. The era of Majek Fasekh, the famous rainmaker, and the Mandators, Zaki Zaki, was not quickly consigned to the part of the past. Then by 2001, the passing of the Local Content Act 2001 by the Federal Government which compelled radio and television stations to air local music further boosted their trade. Many of them sprang up here and there.
With the new rave being Afrobeatsand Hip Hop, a new generation of label owners also emerged. Off went the oldies, Ogo Oluwa Kiitan Records, Mut Mukssons, EMI, Decca, Lati Alagbada Records, Omo Aje Records, and the rest. Now it is time for the Marvin Records, YBNL Nation, DMW Records, Marlian Music Records, and several others.
With the new generation record labels now come with the controversies of oaths taking, cultism induction, hard drugs peddling, and all anti-social activities. Thuggery has been part of the nation’s musical development since the early fifties. There were cases of late Ayinla Omowura going to perform fully armed with his hounds, the young upcoming fuji artists too were into it. Ayinde barrister has the Mushin hounds, the Alado boys, around him. They offer not only protection but also serve as attack dogs. But the new generation is something else. With cultism now deeply rooted in society, the stage is now for the wild.
When Fela Anikulapo-Kuti sang: I no be gentleman at all he was perhaps joking. Fela was by intent and all purposes, a fine gentleman when any of the current raves came to town.
From the Osun State College of Technology, Esa Oke, Oladimeji Aloba, Mohbad, has been known as a cult kingpin. He dropped out of the college without much notice, relocated back to Lagos, and joined the wildly fast-moving train of the Naira Marley called the Marlian. He was said to have been inducted into another cult group. He was said to have an issue with Sam Larry over the paternity of the baby, Wunmi, his wife is carrying. Disagreeing with the group and openly threatening to leave them, was said to be the beginning of his tribulations. He never lived to tell his story.
The sudden and mysterious death of Ilerioluwa Oladimeji Aloba popularly known as Mohbad by admirers, has brought to the fore the dark alley many up-coming entertainers walk before reaching celebrity stardom. The young artist, just twenty-seven met his untimely death under mysterious circumstances in the early hours of Tuesday, September 12. In the industry, signing a recording contract with a promoter/label owner, more often than not, is said to be tantamount to an agreement to traffic hard drugs and other illegal substances.
However, there are many versions of the events leading to his death in circulation. While the police sources claimed he was beaten at a gig in the Ikorodu area of the State over the weekend, some of his fans, denied this, and stated he only had a rough time at the gig. But by the following Monday, he was said to have developed some pains in his ear, thus necessitating calling in a nurse. He was said to have developed complications after the nurse administered an injection on him, and gave up the ghosts, by dawn of the following morning.
Once the news of his passing hit cyberspace, his fans went haywire. They would not accept this simple explanation. They quickly started forming various conspiracy theories. That he was hurriedly buried the following morning in the Ikorodu area of Lagos State, South West, Nigeria further infuriated the youths.
But this may be an available version of the incident leading to his later day’s trauma as captured in some viral videos. That Mohbad suffered at the hands of some unknown forces was an understatement. He cried bitterly in one of the video clips in circulation. He sang about his troubles. But society was eager to rap on with his music rather than dissect the coded messages. He lost it all.
Mohbad tribulations, sources within the industry told Feferity might have originated from his membership of a cult group led by the controversial singer, Naira Marley and his patron, Sam Larry.
This magazine gathered that it is rife for young artists to join cult groups and do hard drugs, to feel belong once they become known in the industry.
Another source cited the case of label owner dispute, which if not resolved amicably might lead to serious damages. He told Feferity that unlike in the days of King Sunny Ade and Alhaji Ayinde Barrister and African Songs Limited, owned by late Chief Bolarinwa Abioro, these days, issues are not settled within the family or courts, but with everything extra-judicial.
During the week, Feferity stumbled on a story of another young Nigerian artiste called, Small Baddo. He was said to have been taken to the UK for a show by an event promoter and after the show, he bolted away.
The young artiste was to write the event promoter much later on WhatsApp, telling him crudely he wouldn’t be returning to Nigeria because “Nigeria is not for him”.
The event promoter was said to have been fined £6000 by the British authorities because Small Baddo’s UK visa had expired, while on the run. The promoter’s license to bring other artists to the UK is also said to be at risk, as it might be seized if Small Baddoo refused to show up.
An artist spoke off camera with Feferity in Lagos at the peak of the agitation for “Justice for Mohbad” by some youths. He said, “As a young artiste, before getting into music, know that the industry is Dark . It is not only about witchcraft or anything but we have industry Vultures that can end your career”.
He continued, alluding to a statement by another well-known artist, Burna Boy: “When Burna Boy said “ This Naija no know love “ he meant it.
“You see Burna Boy? He faced a lot in his ex-record label. They frustrated him when he wanted to leave. The label spread crazy rumors about him, published terrible articles about him, and even tagged him as a murderer. Burna was frustrated, he had to leave Nigeria and go to Ghana, Burna met Shatta who welcomed him, showed him love, and treated him like a brother. Burner stayed in Ghana till he picked up. When people say Shatta helped Burna boy, they are honest”, he disclosed.
Kizz Daniel left G worldwide and they wanted to cancel him. Kizz Daniel was being cheated on the label. He decided to leave and the people were not ready to let him go. They took everything he had even his name. At first, he was called “ Kiss Daniel “, they collected that name, and he had to change his name to Kizz Daniel. Thank God Kizz is talented, he managed to restart his life.
Remember Cynthia Morgan? Where is she? They cancelled her. Cynthia Morgan was extremely talented, after one song she was going viral, she had disagreements with her label, and when she couldn’t accept what they were saying, they canceled her.
Remember Harrysong? The Reggae and Blues Crooner? In a live interview, he even revealed that his label wanted to kill him because he did not accept some things they were bringing.
Are we even going to talk about Mohbad who just died because of the record label Wahala?
Wizkid, Chudy K, and many others faced difficulties with their ex record labels too.
The truth is many young talents come into the industry innocent, when the dark powers confront them, some give up and some end up dying. Dear young artists don’t be desperate too, work and build up yourself. If a contract is presented to you, read it and give it to an entertainment lawyer to read too. Make sure you understand everything before you sign. The industry is dark, we have people who can end your career and your life.
Be careful, it will be better to stay behind like Shatta and build on your own that build where you won’t get anything.
Feferity gathered that many of the young artists, looking to break out into the scene, more often than not, end up falling into the hands of drug cartels and other sinister syndicates. These syndicates are said to be powerful, lawless, and brutal. Once an innocent up-and-coming artist enters into their net, he hardly can leave.
A social commentator asked rhetorically: “How many music discs do these artists sell? What do they earn from all these shows that they throw money carelessly up and down? It may be difficult to find out these as no record label owner was forthcoming in volunteering information on their artists.
Alagba Afolayan Adebiyi writes from Lagos, Nigeria
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