International recognition and breakthrough is the new ceiling for Nigerian artistes
Right now, the current push is for international involvement on a business level. That’s the new wave, and it will continually be ridden.
This year has seen the Nigerian music industry increase the ceiling of achievement, or redefine the career progression of a Nigerian artiste. Wizkid is away and beyond in the international space, recording with a record number of stars. Davido is chasing new frontiers, flying the banners of Sony Music Entertainment. Ayo Jay is doing similar, chasing the stars with RCA Records (a subsidiary of Sony Music). Tiwa Savage is currently on an international management deal with Jay Z’s ROC Nation.
The business success of these local musicians, and their subsequent affiliations have created a new awareness, bringing to life the possibility of Nigerian acts achieving intercontinental pop crossover success and more. The conversations within the music industry have shifted too, reflecting the opportunities that such a reality will come with. The gains from such an opening will have profound benefits for the industry, transcending individual artiste elevation, to wider boons, such as the penetration of our music to a global demography, and distant markets.
This process is already on. For the international stars, the infusion of African sounds, drums and elements is going mainstream, and more collaboration is being done with Nigerians. Drake’s writing on “Views” album has been rumoured to have more Nigerian influences than he lets on. Young Thug has three recorded songs with everyone. Swizz Beatz has a song with MC Galaxy, and has recorded with Wizkid. Alicia Keys’ ‘In common’ hit song, will sit comfortable on any African playlist. Jidenna, the man once vilified for his description of the Nigerian societal dangers, has brought his music closer home, dancing the shoki, speaking the Nigerian Pidgin English, and appropriating the drum kicks on ‘Little Bit More’. Previously, prior to this explosion, he was content to have his dressing bear testament of his origins. Now, he embraces it, and makes his art a fusion of both worlds.
But the blowback effect of these is the removal of the achievement ceiling for Nigerian artistes. For many decades, we have relied on the international market for Africa-conquering singles, featuring their stars for songs that will be targeted and marketed within the continent, while parting ways with insane sums of cash as guest-fees. That’s how Rick Ross showed up in Psquare’s ‘Beautiful Onyinye’, and T.I dropped a verse and some moves on ‘Ejeajo’. Up until a year ago, this was still the practice, with Davido’s ‘Fans mi’ getting a guest from Meek Mill. But the Wizkid changed that, working past the established order and being in demand. His work across the US and Europe has opened up a demand, which led to his Drake feature and more.
Right now, the current push is for international involvement on a business level. That’s the new wave, and it will continually be ridden. This year, it’s the A-list artistes working their way through and determining the rules of engagement in these deals. They are setting the pace for the next wave of acts who are experiencing growth within the country. What this means for the upcoming artistes is that conquering Nigeria will be such a small achievement. African domination will still be achieved for the financial input that it brings. But the established ceiling is to have an international deal and penetrate mainstream Europe and America.