Three of the most successful pop stars today are not exactly self-made men. But they’ve done it their way. How do you make it big in the Nigerian music scene? Forget what you heard, there’s no blueprint.
But how do you stay on top once you’ve gotten there? How do you smash walls and scale fences and grab prizes? How do you remain relevant and powerful? How do you move you brand from back streets to mainstream; from local to national, continental and global?
Wizkid would know a thing or two, what with his rising international profile fuelled by a dozen and one collabos, sold-out concerts and the likelihood he’s now waiting to grab a Grammy nomination, at the very least?
The former EME singer has always wanted this. From being a studio rat, to gig and label hopping, before eventually settling at Banky W’s EME. He left EME when it didn’t make sense to many, stayed put in England and the US when he was wanted back home, he worked like a slave – from cars, from hotels, from airport lounges, from back stages, from anywhere, making the music that’s now taking him global. Wizkid wanted it badly.
And he went against every rule in the book – breaking PR rules, switching sounds, and managers and agents, and using drama and controversies to create the image he wanted. Wizkid had a mind of his own; bordering on stubborn and naughty. And it’s worked surprisingly well for him.
Davido is not anywhere close to where Wiz is currently chilling. But pundits say it’s only a matter of time before he gets the break. He’s friend-turned-foe-turned-friend with Wizkid, and one of the few African pop stars Europe and America are likely to embrace. But while he’s yet to hack the outside formula, he remains a powerful force back home, sitting comfortably at top 5 in terms of earnings, hits, patronage and popularity.
Many say the big risk for Wizkid, as he continues to shine abroad, is that he could lose the local Nigerian market to rivals like Davido if those remain grounded here.
Olamide is yet to show any signs of going global, and pundits say he stands a thin chance, because of his preferred language, Yoruba. But, in a country of almost 200 million people, Wizkid and Davido will work hard to outshine Olamide anywhere in Nigeria. You agree?
Olamide has used his struggle on the streets of Lagos, juxtaposed against his dreams of a better life to build stories millions of consumers can relate with. He’s used a clever strategy: the irony of lyrical braggadocio and physical humility, to win everyone: fans, critics, executives, even the media.
Most importantly, unlike Wizkid and Davido, Olamide has in about a year, proven he’s a leader to watch, by pushing two of his label acts to super star status. Lil’ Kesh (who has now left the label, with Olamide’s blessings) and Adekunle Gold are the only Artiste-led label acts to make it big in recent times. And just like Banky W, Olamide pulled all the strings, putting his own career on the line, to make it happen.
The music scene is desperately in need of direction, with many asking: what’s next?
That answer will depend on what these three do next. And everyone’s watching.