Maybe it’s the internet, or maybe it’s rate at which things are changing globally, but Nigerian music has never been as good as it has been in the last five years or so. The last three years alone have culminated so many events that have morphed the industry through different phases and power shifts. One of the most notable of such shifts came by way of a confrontation at the Headies between Don Jazzy and Olamide. The events that followed Headies’ announcement of Reekado Banks as the Next Rated artist instead of popular favourite Lil Kesh went from social media memes to become a rare glimpse at the cracks that glean the fragility of the highly coveted top-dog status.
To think all it took was a studio-rat turned serial hitmaker to shake down a man presumably as powerful as Don Jazzy gave the music grind a new meaning. That over-saturation is aiding an open-ranged music industry where anyone could potentially seize the airwaves, albeit temporarily, but garnering enough influence within that sphere to topple any pre-existing power structures. “Street Ti Take Over” Olamide chanted, before flipping a middle finger at the audience, and exiting the stage. The quip came from a Reminisce song released in 2015. However, this was also a statement of the actual reality of the music industry at the time.
Olamide was having a great year at the time no doubt. Between 2014’s “Goons Mi” and “Shakitibobo” the following year, the rapper had dropped enough hits to make an album. YBNL cronies, Lil Kesh, Viktoh and Adekunle Gold were also thriving as independent units of Olamide’s larger empire. This is without leaving out collaborations with CDQ, Phyno and Reminisce, together these rappers helmed the “local rappers” confederate. By the end of 2015, a slew of the highest charting songs came from these artists spewing their native tongue, and doing great at it. Olamide’s 2016 spillover from the previous even further strengthened after the release of M.I’s Illegal Music 3 sparked contentious social media chatter tipping the YBNL boss as a contender for best Nigerian rapper.
Fast forward August of the same year, Tekno is already making waves with a neo-highlife mid tempo sound that began with “Pana”. Runtown’s success with “Mad Over You” followed, setting a bigger mainstream stage for Mr Eazi, who had been breezing through the year with the Ghanaian hip-life incursion of a similar sound. By the beginning of this year the quick-knitted Young John synths and drums that dominated the airwaves through the past two years, sounded noisy, when compared to YCEE’s smoother-paced “Juice”.
Small Doctor is a perfect reflection of the vacuum created by the death of a short-lived era that was ushered in with so much fanfare. The auto-tune vocalist’s success comes following the lack of options for music from the streets since the repeated releases from Lil Kesh, Olamide, Phyno and co failed to connect with the everyday fan. Though Olamide’s latest single “Wo”, is touted as potential club smash, it’s also not debatable that the sound is just an Olamide we have heard before in new clothes.
Remembering Olamide’s rant on the Headies stage today, means one will of course wonder what happened to the “street takeover”. Did it happen while we were not all looking? Or was Olamide too myopic to have seen even his own “street takeover” was merely consequential to an industry morphing through trends, thought leaders and different actualisations. Today, so-called Nigerian music critics are calling this neo-highlife wave Tekno created, the ‘pon-pon sound and Davido already has two hits from therein. And that’s about enough said.