by Eromo Egbejule
The public battle between erstwhile colleagues Don Jazzy and Wande Coal is simply the latest in a string of partnerships gone sour in Nigeria’s entertainment industry – YNaija takes a look behind the hoopla
As Twitter bios go, that of Michael Collins, patriarch of the Mavin Records family and defunct MoHits Records is quite the cryptic caveat: “Mind of A Mavin. Do Not Try to Understand Me”. For fans and watchers of happenings in the music industry, that is now a tall order.
It is near-impossible not to attempt understanding why the Don and his beloved (erstwhile) team member, Wande Coal (Wande Ojosipe) are now enmeshed in one of the loudest entertainment scandals 2013 will be remembered for.
It all began earlier this week, when the Mushin-born pop act tweeted download links for Baby Face, a song almost certain to be his biggest hit in recent years; princely enough to sit on the same shelf with ‘Bumper to Bumper’ and ‘Ololufe’ without genuflection. Bloggers and critics jumped on the bandwagon, praising the supposedly suppressed talent of the man, some congratulating him for pulling a Jesse Jagz, in order to do better music.
Don Jazzy was having none of it. Later in the day, he shared what #TwitterSpeak calls subliminals, revealing that the song is his, and immediately dropping a link to the studio demo version – recorded reportedly over a year ago – with his trademark hoarse voice belting on a beat extremely similar to that used by his former protege, lyrics almost verbatim.
That was the declaration of war.
When contacted for details, Oghenejobo P. Tega aka Tega Mavin, a Mavin rep and cousin to Don Jazzy, said “I’m not allowed to comment on the matter. You will hear from our PR people in time. Thanks.”
An email to Terfa Tilley-Gyado, publicist for the company, was replied later in the day with a statement officially announcing “the departure of recording artist Wande Ojosipe, popularly known as Wande Coal, from Mavin Records due to irreconcilable differences” without clarifying next lines of action.
Before that, Wande had issued a string of tweets that made clear the disdain he now feels for the man he lavishly defended against former label mate, D’banj only a year ago – ending with the declaration “You are not God.”
Attempts to reach him were fruitless. His phone wasn’t answered, as was his manager’s, Nana Abbey, who also didn’t respond to emails and SMSes. Mavin’s former DJ, hula-wearing DJ Spinall who also shifted camp to Wande’s Black Diamond Entertainment also did not reply, and his phone was unavailable at the time of going to press.
Interestingly, in all his Twitter updates, Wande did not clearly deny or confirm theft of the song, only releasing a link to a third version, in which he and Don Jazzy recorded together.
“You know ever since, Wande and Jazzy have been working on Wande’s new album,” said a member of the Mavin team, who spoke only on condition of anonymity. “So they have a pile of songs recorded, produced and co-written or even totally written by Don Jazzy.”
“Since Wande has left Mavin, he has lost the rights to all those songs so this Baby Face song is one of them and the guy released it without giving Jazzy any credit or taking permission even though Jazzy let him release the Rotate video without any wahala. Now all this has happened, Jazzy has vowed not to sign anybody again.”
Asked if the was a formal contract signed by Wande with the label, the source could not confirm.
No longer at ease
After the fancy-dan D’banj left the label, not a few expected the black kid from Mushin – who was discovered during a University of Lagos show 10 years ago and then ‘signed’ on – to finally reclaim his position as king of pop. It wasn’t an unreasonable assumption: Wande has always struck observes as the typical football wunderkind, showing flashes of brilliance and mediocrity intermittently, but also most certain to eventually fulfill his potential.
However, in the post-Mohits era, everyone on the Mavin label appeared to he stars of the same show, co-captains of one ship.
According to a friend of Wande’s, who also spoke anonymously, that’s where the trouble started.
After playing second fiddle to D’banj for one too many years, Wande felt insulted he was not being pushed in the same vein as Mavin stars D’Prince and Tiwa Savage and began passive planning to leave and setup his own outfit. “He felt, and he was right, that it was his time and he was loosing a massive opportunity,” the source said.
That outfit, Black Diamond Entertainment reportedly came to life when Wande travelled for a United Kingdom performance this year and began working with Maleek Berry and hanging out with EME rebel, Wizkid.
However, the source claims there was already a brewing rift in the Mavins’ camp, due to the fact that save for Dr. Sid getting a heavyweight brand endorsement deal in the summer, no other artiste on the roster had anything.
Sensing that his protégé was now growing wings to fly solo, the super-producer halted negotiations with the several brands who wanted to sign endorsement deals with the entire crew.
As a result, the former’s name was replaced on the list of prospective Glo ambassadors with Burna Boy, the new enfant terrible of the industry. At least so the story goes. By the time all the other Mavin artistes Dr. Sid, bagged lucrative deals with telecoms giants, MTN, Wande wasn’t in the mix.
Just label it
Driven by the belief that an artiste is his own best fan and critic no doubt, it is not unusual for Nigerian entertainers to seek greener pasture on any revolving number of sides, often breaching their contracts, in the rare case any is signed, or leaving abruptly where there is none.
Psquare’s Square Records and the defunct MoHits are alike in the sense that those on the labels’ roster were signed ‘by word of mouth’ based on friendship, rather than any formal structure. In this scenario, the label owners assumed loyalty and gratitude for giving a lifeline to stuttering careers. For instance, only the public fallout with D’banj that split MoHits into the unequal halves of DB Records and Mavin Records revealed the fact that D’Prince was actually not an official MoHits act.
In his case, May D, would get paid to perform at a show alone and either remit a certain percentage to the coffers or not (sources insist the latter was usually the case) while also writing songs for Psquare – pro bono – without a laid down contract.
To hear industry hands tell it, the new acts lives on handouts – including shopping largesse or a part in the throngs of groupies who are ready to gratify music superstars from show to show.
This cocktail of confusion usually only leads one way, and the acts, seeking certainty and growth, leave. However, independence comes with its only challenges sometimes – vendetta driven by their ex-bosses can ensure new music gets no airplay; and then they also find out that, without the protective covering of former bosses, there is such a thing as a status downgrade.
Favours gotten by virtue of association disappear, bridges are burnt, and the staggering expense of production, distribution and promotion of music eventually comes home. The result are publicity stunts like May D’s 150million house purchase – which was a lie.
* Read the concluding piece HERE