Music men missing in action
Like the country’s movie industry, Nollywood, Nigerian music is drawing interest from beyond the borders, as it showcases the vitality of a creative industry that the government is now depending on, among other sectors, to diversify the economy and foster development.
From Lagos to Accra, Nairobi, Johannesburg, Cape Town, Dubai, London, Toronto, Houston and Atlanta, just to name a few places, Nigerian music, sometimes branded as Naija music, has created a new culture of entertainment, excitement and enjoyment.
Be it a bar, nightclub, lounge or restaurant, music lovers gyrate to the beat coming out of the sound monitors that recognise and celebrate Nigerian music, as Naija musical artistes have made immeasurable contributions to the music industry, making Nigeria, Africa’s biggest depot of talented, creative, and successful musical artistes.
Despite taking their art of singing beyond the shores of West African sub-region and the continent as a whole, having their career blazing high above the skies, some artistes who once took the centre stage are no longer being heard of them again, as it appears their musical burning light have been dimmed.
Many music buffs, have asked and still asking the where about of these ‘once upon a time music heavyweights’ in the country.
The history of Nigeria hip-hop will be incomplete without a mention of eLDee the Don. He is one of the pioneers of hip-hop music in Nigeria, as he was at the forefront of everything rap related in the country, from tapping the American sounds to create a Nigerian version, to engineering trap with Big Boy, to fusing rap with Nigerian dance sounds for radio, to activism.
Born Lanre Dabiri, he is better known by his stage name eLDee the Don. The rapper, singer, and record producer, was an original member of the hip-hop group, Trybesmen, which was started in 1998 with rappers Kaboom (KB) and Freestyle.
The group first met in 1994 in Lagos, and their first album, L.A.G Style Volume 1., was released in 1999 to positive reviews. Their hits included Trybal Marks and Shake Bodi.
He went solo just like his band comrade, Freestyle following the group’s (Trybesmen) split. He recorded five albums. The group, however, reunited to perform at an awards ceremony in Abuja in 2009.Now an IT Consultant based in the United States, music according to the rapper is what the outside world is familiar with.
“People close to me know I’m a techie at heart. I started with Ataris back in the eighties. I mucked around with DOS in secondary school. E don tey (it’s been a while),” he said.
“Truth be told, I lost interest in the music business because I saw most of the streams drying up right in front of my eyes. I am driven by sustainability. Streaming could work if the networks allow data-free streaming, and we are able to adopt the spotify/beats models.”
eLDee is on record to have been responsible for the creation of the Alaba method of distributing music. The method is still holding a vigorous sway in Nigeria but only facing true competition from the now recent proliferation of afrocentric streaming services like Boom player and MTN Music Plus.
There is no doubt, Naetochukwu Chikwe popularly known by his stage moniker, Naeto C, who grunted his way into the Nigerian music industry with his debut single, You Know My P, a track of his debut album with the same title has definitely broken all boundaries and surpassed more limits than any up and coming artiste, lyrically and production wise.
Born in Houston, Texas, the rapper, Afrobeat artiste and record producer won the Best New Musician at the 2008 MTV Africa Music Awards and the Video of the Year category at the 2009 Channel O Music Video Awards.
After finishing his secondary education in Lagos, and moved to the United States for higher education both in SUNY Old Westbury and a year later at George Washington University, he met Uzikwendu and Ikechukwu, who was then an aspiring hip-hop artiste out of Washington Heights, New York.
The trio went on to form the World Famous Akademy (WFA), a brotherhood of musicians with plans to grow into an independent record label but could not get their hands on the proper funds. Storm Records, a Lagos based record company signed the group, after several attempts to get WFA signed to the label.
Naeto C at the time had just decided to pursue his dream as a musician. This was after some deep self-searching, upon his graduation in 2004 from the George Washington University with a Bachelor of Science (B.Sc) in Biology, and intending to go study further and become a medical doctor.
The group did not return to Nigeria until early 2006, when Ikechukwu released his debut album, Son Of The Soil, which laid the grounds for Naeto C and the WFA. Working as an in-house producer with his newly discovered production team ‘ET-Quake’ (consisting of TY Mix and VC Perez), Naeto was able to display his production skills working with Storm artistes like Sasha, Dare Art-Alade, GT the Guitarman, Disconnect, Saro-Wiwa and Nkiru.
Within one year of working with the aforementioned artistes, the music producer had successfully recorded over 60 songs including his own album (a bulk of which he co-produced with ET-Quake). A notable production achievement is the I Believe song he wrote and co-produced with VC Perez, which features him, Sheun, an up-and-coming R&B/Gospel artiste, and late South African music icon, Hugh Masekela.
The rapper, whose hits such as You Know My P, Kini Big Deal, Ten-over-Ten among others once ruled the airwaves was appointed as Special Assistant on Lagos Liaison by former governor of Imo State, Emeka Ihedioha upon assumption of office in May 2019.
Though christened Anthony Olanrewaju Awotoye, he is well known as Tony Tetuila his stage name. He is another afro-hip-hop artiste, who came into the Nigerian music limelight alongside his group members, Eedris Abdulkareem and Eddy Montana under the name The Remedies.
Following his split with the group, he went on to establish himself as a successful solo musician. His hit song,My Car, was believed to be a diss to former label mate Eedris Abdulkareem and homage to Bola Tinubu, the Lagos state governor at the time. He followed with other hit songs such as Only You, Iseju Kan, My Heart Go jigi jigi, Omode Meta. In 2014, Tony Tetuila ran for political office for the House of Assembly in his home state, Kwara under All Progressives Congress (APC), but lost. Since his political adventure, nothing has heard from him again musically.
Born Williams Iroha but known widely as 2shortz, started rapping in 1992. He started the group‚ Foremen in 1999 with 2Ply. Foremen later met eLDee of the Trybesmen and they got signed onto Trybe Records in 2000. Their first album titled Men at Work featuring hit single For the Men.
The duo split later that year, leaving 2Shotz to carry on as a solo artiste under Trybe Records. He joined the group‚ The Trybe, which was a collection of all the artistes under Trybe Records label. They received commercial success especially with Oya, which set the music industry
on fire at the time.
2shortz received commercial success with singles like Delicious featuring Big Lo‚ Carry Them Go, Odeshi and Which Level. He published the pirated copy album under Trybe Records in 2004. As a sequel, the original copy was released in 2005 under Umunnamu Music label, a record label he formed. He got signed unto the Obi Asika led, Storm Record label in 2006 and received commercial success with his next album, Commercial Avenue. The album-featured songs like Make Dem Talk, which stayed on major charts for a couple of weeks.
In order not to keep his fans wait long to hear new material from him, the rapper settled the score and teamed up with his longtime friend and partner in crime, Big Lo to record a new album, with the first single, This na Naija, creating buzz on the airwaves.
In 2013 2shotz announced the release of his sixth and final studio album titled Boss. The rapper has since been off the music scene following his much publicised domestic violence case with his wife, Precious Jones in 2016.
Reports claim he has since relocated to the United States, where he is now a trained photographer and filmmaker, (as boldly written on his Instagram bio), and now runs a filmmaking outfit called ‘Studio High Definition’.
Described as Nigeria’s Luther Vandross, whose beautiful love songs are enjoyed by everyone, old and young, Sunny Neji is probably part of the old generation, who music lovers that appreciates good music should consider checking due to his traditional highlife style.
Born in Lagos, Sunny, the youngest of five kids began to sing at an early stage. As a young boy, he participated in cultural performances while in school and by 1987 he ventured into recording, earning a reputation in the jingle-production scene in no time.
His debut album, Captain on EMI was released in 1991, before he went on to join Colors Band with which he performed as the lead singer for five years. With the release of his sophomore Mr Fantastik in 1997, which garnered huge sales and won numerous awards for the artiste.
He went on to drop other amazing works, such as a tribute album to the legendary Sir Victor Uwaifo with his reinterpretation of the classic Joromi, Wake up in 2003 to challenge Nigerians to vote right in the general election that year.
These special projects help set the tune for his fourth full-length album, Unchained, with hit tracks like Oruka, which remains a dream song for every couple walking down the aisle in the country and Face Me.