Nigerian music is a mish-mash of various styles – reggae, Afro-juju, pop, hip-hop and dance, among others. But the early 2000s saw the popularity of Nigerian music become global, with the likes of the Plantashun Boiz, Tony Tetula and Eedris Abdulkareem becoming international names. These eight music breakups shaped the Nigerian industry, for better or worse, contributing in their own way to the growth of the industry.
8. KC Presh
This Nigerian duo broke out after they won the maiden edition of the Star Quest TV show in 2002. They made an impact on the Nigerian music scene by singing songs that fused highlife, soul, punk and R&B. They gave Nigerians hits like “Shokori Bobo”, “Siongpo” and “National Cake”. After 12 years together, Kcee and Presh (Kingsley Okonkwo and Precious John) decided to pursue solo careers in 2011.
There have been numerous reports concerning the split, but the two have said in various interviews that they just wanted to go their separate ways. Today, Presh is battling to relaunch his career while Kcee is doing well in the industry: He has produced two albums, Takeover (2013) and Attention to Detail (2017).
7. Chocolate City and Brymo
The Chocolate City record label was founded in 2005 by lawyer Audu Maikori, his brother Yahaya Maikori, and Paul Okeugo. It is generally regarded as one of the biggest and most successful indigenous urban record labels in Africa. The label is home to over 15 recording artists, including M.I., Femi Kuti and Ice Prince.
Ashimi Olawale Ibrahim, a.k.a. Brymo, produces music that is a mixture of fuji, R&B, pop and rock. He was nominated in the All Africa Music Awards (AFRIMA) in 2016. Brymo released his debut studio album, Brymstone, in 2007.
Brymo joined Chocolate City in 2010 and released an album, SonOfaKapenter, in 2011. That same year, the label won three awards: Record Label of the Year – City People Awards; Best Music Company – Effzye Awards; and African Awards for Entrepreneurship – Africa Awards.
However, the sweet romance between and the two went sour in May 2013. Shortly after the release of his album, Brymo left, accusing the company of failing to promote the record. However, Chocolate City insisted that he was still under contract with them till 2016. They also said they had invested almost N20 million in him but had failed to recoup up to N3 million and took him to court over the matter.
The case was eventually settled and Brymo released a new album, Merchant Dealers & Slaves in October 2013.
Styl-Plus (originally STYL) was a gospel and pop music group that formed in 1997 in Abuja. The four founding members were Shifi Emoefe, Tunde Akinsanmi, Yemi Akinwonmi and Lanre Faneyi. In 1998 Lanre Faneyi died, and Zeal Onyecheme joined the group to replace him.
The group gained prominence in the music industry when they dropped their hit single “Olufunmi” in 2003, which received massive airplay in Nigeria. They were known for their crooning love songs and were especially popular with young university students who felt they presented a true depiction of their lives and struggles. Their catchy singles “Olufunmi” and “Run Away” were amongst the most requested love songs on all the major Nigerian R&B radio stations between 2004 and 2005.
In February 2006, they released their highly anticipated 11-track debut album Expressions in star-studded launches at Abuja and Lagos that were rumoured to have cost over N10 million (about USD75 000 then), making it possibly the most expensive album launch in Nigerian history.
According to Informationng.com, repeated attempts to get the group to relocate to Lagos was responsible for the breakup of Styl-Plus – some members wanted to move, but others refused. However, members later admitted that they had known for a long time that their brand was no longer formidable but were not willing to go down without a fight.
5. Banky W’s EME and Wizkid
Referred to as the ‘break-up of life’, this was a surprise to everyone when it occurred. Wizkid (Ayodeji Ibrahim Balogun) signed with Empire Mates Entertainment (EME), founded by Banky W, and rose to prominence in 2010 with the release of the song “Holla at Your Boy” from his debut studio album, Superstar (2011). The artist matured quickly and soon became recognised internationally.
Wizkid was the first artist signed to the label and contributed to its growth and popularity by introducing new genres of music like Afrobeat, reggae, hip-hop and dancehall to it. In 2013 the label was nominated for the City People Entertainment Awards and soon other artists joined it. Wizkid received a total of 16 awards and over 40 nominations while at EME.
However, once Wizkid left the label and formed his own (Star Boy Records) in 2013, other artists, such as Skales and Shaydee, also left, leaving only the founder, Banky W, and Niyola.
The history of the Nigerian music industry cannot be complete without the P-Square chapter, which started in 2001. The duo of twins Peter and Paul Okoye Pare is practically a reference point in Nigerian urban music and pop culture, and its huge influence extends into many African countries. P-Square released six albums in their music career, including Get Squared (2005), Game Over (2007), Danger (2009) and Invasion (2011).
The history of the Nigerian music industry cannot be complete without a chapter on P-Square
In 2016 tPeter, Paul and their elder brother, Jude – who was their manager – broke up temporarily.
During an interview with Nigerian newspaper Premium Times Peter said the spat ought to have happened two years earlier, just before the release of their last studio album, Double Trouble.
“Four years ago, I told Jude that he needed to step down as our manager because I didn’t want to disrespect him as a brother, but this is business; we have to structure it,” he said. “So, a few hours after that, Paul came to me and said if I wanted to step down it wasn’t a problem, but it meant that he [Paul] would go solo.”
About two weeks after Peter released his first solo single, “Look Into My Eyes” – and barely 24 hours after he announced a new management team for his solo career – Paul released a single titled “Call Heaven” in 2016, lamenting the group’s break-up and saying that if their parents were alive, things would not have degenerated to that point.
P-Square reconciled after five weeks of being apart and eventually also settled matters with their elder brother, Jude.
3. Mo’Hits Records
Mo’hits Records was co-owned by Michael ‘Don Jazzy’ Collins and Dapo ‘D’banj’ Oyebanjo, and founded in 2004. It was a powerhouse of artistes like Wande Coal, D’Prince, Dr. Sid and K-Switch. The first album released by the label was D’banj’s No Long Thing in 2005 and its single Tongolo was an instant hit. D’banj’s debut success led to collaborations with other artists, including Dare Art Alade and Ikechukwu. Other albums included Runtown (2006) and The Entertainer (2008). The label also released a compilation album called Mo’Hits All Stars in 2017 and many of its singles proved to be national hits, like “Fall in Love” and “Mo Gbono Feli Feli”.
Don Jazzy has also won various accolades, including the Nigeria Music Awards (NMA) Producer of the Year in 2006, and the Nigeria Entertainment Awards Music Producer of the Year in 2007. However, the group broke up due to irreconcilable differences between D’banj and Don Jazzy in March 2012.
D’banj blamed Dr Sid for causing the break-up, claiming that the musician was jealous of his success. After D’banj and Don Jazzy were signed to American rapper/producer Kanye West’s Good Music label in 2011, a leaked tape on which Dr. Sid was heard saying that D’banj had done nothing for his career, despite being one of the founders of Mo’hits and his boss, surfaced.
Mo’hits helped modernise Nigerian music groups, signing several artistes who today are doing exceptionally well in their solo careers. Its founders have since birthed two record labels: Mavin Records, owned by Don Jazzy, and D’banj’s DB Records.
2. 2face and Kennis Music
A former member of the Plantashun Boiz, 2face was virtually unknown on the nation’s music scene until he joined Kennis Music in 2004 and released his first solo album, Face 2 Face, that same year.
2face was virtually unknown on the nation’s music scene until he joined Kennis Music
After a mutually beneficial relationship that gave birth to two award-winning albums, Face 2 Face and Grass 2 Grace (2006), 2face left Kennis Music in 2008. It is still not clear why the two broke up. His contract expired and neither Kennis nor 2face asked for a renewal.
2face’s exit from Kennis left many people hurt, especially his fans, who thought he might not survive as a solo artist. However, he has since eased their fears and now has his own record label, Hypertek Entertainment.
While 2face changed the sound of Nigerian hip-hop music, winning over 40 awards in his career, Kennis Music has failed to maintain itself as a record label. It has now launched its own radio station, Kennis 104.1 FM, promoting Nigerian music.
1. Plantashun Boiz
The Plantashun Boiz was a hip-hop and R&B music group made up of 2face, Faze and Blackface. The group reigned between the late 1990s and the early 2000s. They released two albums, Body and Soul (2000) and Sold Out (2003), before going their separate ways in 2004.
When it comes to influential pop groups in contemporary music in Nigeria, none stand taller than the Plantashun Boiz. Produced entirely by Nelson Brown, who released the album under his Dove Records imprint just as a new millennium kicked off, their debut marked a turning point in Nigeria’s pop scene and they went on to influence R&B and pop in the country for nearly a decade afterwards.
The trio split to work on their solo careers. However, in 2016, Blackface, who, according to Faze, wrote almost all the songs on their debut album, accused 2face of causing the breakup. On 25 January 2016, Blackface lashed out at 2face and his manager in a series of tweets, accusing them of stealing his intellectual property and threatened to take them both to court. 2face later responded, describing Blackface’s statements as ‘unfortunate’.
Blackface lashed out at 2face and his manager in a series of tweets, accusing them of stealing his intellectual property
2face has gone on to become a legend of African contemporary music, releasing four multiple award-winning albums: Face 2 Face (2004), Grass 2 Grace (2006), The Unstoppable (2008) and The Unstoppable – International Edition (2010). Faze has released three albums: Faze Alone (2004), which sold over 3 million copies; Independent (2006), which spawned several hit singles and sold over 7 million copies; and Originality (2008). Blackface has only one album to his credit, but he is best known as the co-writer, with 2face, of the song “African Queen”, a song that became an international hit after it appeared on 2face’s debut solo album in 2004.
“The path of true love never did run smooth”, the saying goes. It seems the same can be said of the music scene in Nigeria.