Clout Mag Vol 2. The Heist

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TABLE OF CONTENTS INDUSTRYSTATE39GODWINADEYEMIAKINDEINDETHE07DUNNIEMASTERKRAFTP.PRIMEPHEELZHEISTBADBOYTIMZ33STYLEAYEBOWALEADETUNJITOMOFTHE

TABLE OF CONTENTS AIBEE 61NINELKIMANIABIDOYEMORREMUSSONWOMENINMUSIC 75OUTLAWVICTONY A NIGHT RULED BY THE UNLIKELY 55FAVOURITESCLOUTAWARDS

COVER STORY: THE HEIST

Organic virality is a curious phenomenon. Especially in the music industry where for the last 30 years, every aspect of the mu sic creation and promotion process has been dissected, scrutinised and artificial ly replicated to maximise profit. When a song breaks through the mass of spon sored ads and hashtagged dance chal lenges and genuinely connects with lis teners, it is a genuinely wondrous event. Even more so, when the recipient of this massive outpouring of appreciation is Phillip ‘Pheelz’ Kayode, a veteran artist and producer with nearly 12 years of hits in catalogue and direct line to some of 07

the biggest artists on the continent. Un derstanding this viral moment and the journey that led to it, was the inspiration behind our cover story. ‘My earliest memory of music was when I was five years old.” Pheelz tells me when I ask about his very first encounter with Unlikemusic. developed countries like Sweden and the United States where music is baked into education curriculums and music is valued as economic and social soft power, decades of political decline has led a lean educational curriculum where ‘superfluous’ subjects like fine arts and music are cut and lean resources fun nelled towards core subjects like science, agriculture and mathematics. The church remains one of the few bastions where professional music and the complex but enthralling process of creating is given priority and resources, and where many artists like Pheelz first encounter it. “It was my first time in the adult church. I got to see the choir minister and the pow er he had to move the congregation to emotion through the power of song.” That singular encounter was enough to completely shift the trajectory of Pheelz’s life. He knew then with all certainty that he wanted to pursue music professionally. Once he decided he wanted to make mu sic his life’s work, he got deeply invested in the one place where music education was free and readily available. His church’s choir. But rather than get on to the stage, Pheelz sought to understand the tech nical aspects of music by mastering instruments first. He took on the piano, mastering it before moving to guitars and then percussion. Church choirs in Nigeria often operate as cover bands, replicating more popular Western gospel music. But as the Nigerian music industry grew, with a number of prominent gospel pro ducers and instrumentalists expanding into contemporary music, more minis tries started exploring releasing original songs. With a foundational understand ing of music theory, Pheelz turned his attention to music composition, writing and composing his first songs as origi nal music for his church choir. But eventually Pheelz began to seek opportunities outside the church and the only place where he could learn was at Coded Tunes, the production studio and distribution label run by veteran producer ID Cabasa. Pheelz became a studio rat, running errands for the pro ducers and learning by observing the producers work. It was there he met legendary rapper Olamide, who was then still an emerging rapper figuring out his sound. Music technology was still very rudimentary and production equipment was bulky and expensive so getting studio time to tinker with beats and or experiment with sounds was nearly impossible outside of a tradition al studio so Pheelz had to get creative. He took to sleeping over at the studio, and logging into ID Cabasa’s comput er during the production down time to tinker with the production software. These illicit sessions were how Pheelz upped his game, establishing himself as an emerging producer and vocalist It was during one of those sessions that Pheelz wrote and produced the demo for ‘I’m going in’. ID Cabasa heard the demo, and thought it aligned with the sound he was building for label mate and Olamide. They sold Olamide on the idea and kept Pheelz’s vocals on the fi nal version of the song, which ended up becoming a sleeper hit on Olamide’s de but album ‘Rapsodi’. This was Pheelz’s first official credit as a producer and Everyonevocalist. expected that Pheelz would pursue a career as a performing artist but instead he focused on a producer artist relationship with Olamide. Pheelz produced 14 of the 20 tracks on the rap per’s sophomore album ‘YBNL’ includ ing the smash hit lead single ‘First of all’. That relationship extended into Ol amide’s subsequent projects, surviving the rapper’s transition to his own label YBNL, serving as primary producer on Olamide’s next 5 albums. Being trust ed with translating Olamide’s evolving sound meant that Pheelz never had to deal with the industry politicking that plagued many of his peers and allowed him to truly mature as a producer. He holds nothing but esteem for the rap “It’sper. very humbling to see how much we have both grown as artists and it is real ly cool to see how we both are thriving in our fields.” In the decade that Pheelz has worked with Olamide, African music has grown into an international movement, racking up streams, climbing the global charts and playing at festivals across the world. He tells me that this growth cannot truly be appreciated without factoring the in put that African producers have put into expanding the sound and encouraging artists to experiment across genres and musical styles. Much of this evolution is possible because in Afrobeats and oth er African genres, the best producers are artists themselves, with their own ambitions and hopes for African music. They are able to influence the genre be cause they are actively involved in every aspect of the process, in a constant dialogue with the artists and labels. Producers are finally getting the recog 08

COVER STORY: THE HEIST

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nition they deserve but it has not come without push back from artists who feel entitled to the labour of producers. For this reason, Pheelz is particular about working only with artists who appreci ate this delicate balance and welcome input in the creation process. “It’s not just about money, accolades or royalties for me when I work with an artist. There has to be a connection be cause I am very involved when I work with an artist and I need to be sure that the artist is onboard with that.” While Olamide has been his longest collaborator, Pheelz has amassed an impressive roster of producing credits outside of his work with YBNL label mates. He has produced for Tiwa Sav age, M.I Abaga, Kizz Daniel, Reminisce, Vector, Mr. Eazi, Wande Coal, Dj Cuppy and Tiwa Savage. He has also worked with international acts like KiDi, and Pa Salieu and even worked on the Visa commissioned commemorative sin gle for the 2014 World Cup. His work has also earned him recognition, most prominently the coveted producer of the year gong at the Headies in 2020 after three successive nominations. ‘I don’t do it for the awards,’ he tells me, ‘but it is gratifying to be finally rec ognised in a public way for my body of Despitework,’ all this, Pheelz never stopped writing and recording his own music. But the pandemic and Olamide con templating retirement gave Pheelz breathing room to delve fully into creat ing new music as an artist and introduc ing a new generation of listeners to his sound. In 2021, he released a 5 track EP called Hear Me Out, distributed by Em pire Records, which is home to collab orator Olamide and Fireboy DML. Hear Me Out was led by the single ‘Wayward Girl’ which racked 600,000 streams on Spotify alone. It was a modest success but nothing compared to the phenom enon that is ‘Finesse’, an unplanned single with an origin story that would scarcely be believed if it didn’t happen on Tiktok in real time.

Part of this process is understanding the new innovations in technology that are shaping how fans find and engage with artists and their music. He jokes about NFTs and all the new fangled in dustry fads, and plugs in Miichkel who produced Finesse as the next big thing in producing. He is clear that he isn’t under any pressure to outdo his pres ent achievements but remains hungry for new opportunities. But above everything else Pheelz con siders himself a musician first, before a performing artist or a producer. He returns to this mantra over the course of our interview for his cover profile for the second issue of Clout Mag, expressing that being a producer, per forming artist or multi-instrumental ists are all aspects of his identity as a Perceptionmusician. comes and goes, and I can’t really control how people see me. But I’ve always been this person. It’s everyone else who is finally catching up.”

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Social media played a massive role in the song’s rise to the top of the charts. He posted a snippet of the song on his Tiktok after recording a first and second verse with producer Miichkel (Mike Go Crazy) which Pheelz signed to his distri bution imprint Riidiimacool and posted a snippet on a lark. The song quickly blew up on Tiktok, with creators reso nating with the song’s message of wan ton hedonism in a period of crushing financial austerity. The snippet racked numbers across platforms as creators repurposed the sound for their tiktoks and Instagram reel videos under the #FolakeChallenge and pressure be gan to mount for Pheelz to release the snippet as a proper single. BNXN, the fast rising Afrofusion singer who has lent his talents to many of 2021’s big gest commercial hits, stumbled on the snippet three days after it was posted and reached out to Pheelz unsure if the snippet was marketing gimmick for Tiktok or real bonafide single. He then asked to guest feature on the song and everything snowballed from that point straight to number one on the Nigerian Turntable charts, as well as much de served placements on the Billboard 200 charts, the Billboard Afrobeats songs charts and a top 10 placement on the Billboards Digital Singles chart. ‘Finesse made me believe in organic growth again. I’ve been in the industry long enough to see the industry change into this very mechanical machine where you have to pay and influence. But the love Finesse has gotten is all Pheelzorganic.’doesn’t really concern himself with how the audience is receiving his ‘perceived’ transition from producer to artist now that Finesse is a bonafide chart topper. He shares that Finesse was actually an experiment that was never meant to be a single, and wasn’t originally slated to be on the secret EP he has been working on for the greater part of 2021. He hints that the project will drop soon, preceding an album to be released in the near future. His pri ority now is enjoying this new found at tention and making the most of his new and still under wraps deal with Warner Music international. He doesn’t dis close much about the new deal, other than the fact that he intends to do big things with them. I have had the biggest song in the country several times over the years, but for the first time it is my name on the charts. So it feels extra special and I want to take my time to process it.”

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It’s a beautiful night in Lagos in April at the 2022 Homecoming Music Festival in April and the crowd is buzzing off of complimentary cocktails. “Homecoming” is not so much a descriptor as it’s a reminder that Nigerians at home and from the diaspora have gathered to party with a roster of trending acts from around the world. The list included UK sensations Central Cee, ArrDee and Midas the Jagaban, American artist, Lancey Foux, and buzzy Ghanaian rapper, Black Sherif. The vibe reads casual block party, and the lineup is ordered by seniority, with artists getting between one and three songs to impress the roughly 500 people swaying in the audience pit. I’ll later read online that the event served as some sort of litmus test for people to plan whose concert to attend in December but the one truly FO MO-inducing moment that stuck for me was when celebrity dancer and hype man, Poco Lee performed his newly released single, “Yard” assisted by featured artists, Alpha P and Black Sheriff. Festival goers swarmed the stage, moshing as Poco Lee raged onstage, yelling into the mic, ‘Poco dey, P.Priime dey, Everybody dey!’, an homage to the wunderkind producer whose stellar arrangements has whipped the audience into an emotional frenzy. At 20, P.Priime already has an enviable catalogue with multiple chart appearances, co-signs by some of the most reputable artists in the game and production credits on some of the most successful songs in the last 5 years. I couldn’t wait to unravel the myth around the prodigy artist behind the P-Priime moniker and learn why he has chosen to remain relatively under the radar despite his impressive achieve ments. I met him for the first time on the day of the cover shoot for Clout Mag’s second is sue. Wearing dark shades and a black suit, P.Priime doesn’t strike me as a reserved person, a generalisation he has earned due to his low-key personality and tireless work ethic. I tell him so while he’s deciding which combo of chains best accesso rise the look he’s chosen from the available options. He is meticulous about per ception and insists on trying out all the different wardrobe options while consulting with his stylist and manager before settling on a particular configuration. He is hands-on when the photographer takes over, making sure his input is taken and applied as they work through the sets created for ‘The Heist’ our Cowboy Bebop inspired shoot. But between snaps, he’s quick to flash a grin to let you know that he doesn’t take himself too seriously. “It’s music that inspires my confidence,” he explains. “I’m a very calm and breezy person so if you listen to my production it’s always relaxing. Nothing too crazy ex cept for “Egungun Be Careful”, “Zazu” and “Chu Chu.”

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P.Priime is a church trained music conductor and multi-instrumentalist who mas tered the drums, piano, guitar. As a precocious 15 year old, he began experimenting with music production on FL Studio as a way to keep himself occupied. It was a good distraction because he had finished school a year earlier than most of his peers and was considered too young to enroll in university. He enjoyed producing so much, later that year in 2018, he enrolled into Sarz’s Academy, a production

“If I wasn’t a producer, I think I’d like to be a computer hacker,” P.Priime says when I ask if he had any other inter ests outside of music. “I don’t want to be a scammer, but it looks nice the way they package it in movies.” Considering his reputation as a wun derkind who tried his hands at graphic design and DJing before he pivoted into producing, these alternate paths seem just as likely to have worked out in his favour. For now, he lays claim to one the best production catalogues in Afropop and has earned respect from peers and industry veterans alike.

COVER STORY: THE HEIST

Although P.Priime acknowledges that there are several challenges facing producers in Nigeria, he defends the music industry, under fire for failing young producers. He insists that it’s fans, not the industry’s shadowy gate keepers, that decide who gets reward ed for their craft. In truth, Nigerian entertainment is only just evolving to a point where producers can be prop erly compensated for their indispens able work. Intellectual property theft and the shafting of artists, writers and producers without formal representa tion has plagued the music industry.

In spite of all these challenges, P.Priime believes that everything is working in his favour. “There’s nothing I want to achieve that I cannot achieve. I’m go ing to achieve everything even if I have to leave Nigeria to get it,” he explains.

In fact, in light of all the mileage Ni gerian music has gotten in the last two years, recognition from Jay-Z seems pedestrian within the context of the world-conquering ambition of the music P.Priime creates. It is also why he is vocal about how lop-sided artist/producers are in the Nigerian music industry and why that needs to “Achange.music producer isn’t a recording producer, but they’ll expect you to make the beat for them, write for them, take their vocals, mix it, and go back and forth with the mix engi neer. And even when the song is out, you still have to beg them to promote it cause if it’s your song no one will hear it if they don’t promote it and you won’t get more jobs. That’s why it’s good to work with those who appre ciate you. And if you won’t work with those who appreciate you, make sure you’re getting something out of it.”

bootcamp run by producer Sarz. He mentored under the super producer, learning the intricacies of the music business and connecting with other talents and tastemakers in the music Heindustry.made the right decision. After the camp he told his manager that he’d made a stem that he felt would fit right in with Zlatan’s sound and she found a way to connect them. He went on to produce Cuppy and Zla tan’s hit song, “Gelato”. His profile has only risen since, cooking up hit songs for Olamide and Asa and producing on Wizkid’s Grammy nominated Made In Lagos album. “I was very reserved. I only spoke when I was spoken to while I was at The Sarz Academy,” P.Priime admits with a giggle. He talks with an ease that belies his years as he answers my questions. He is candid, a personality trait that is useful when working with artists but not so great with journalists, so his manager listens in, ready to provide context when we ask more delicate questions. He quips that aside from scrolling through his Instagram notifi cations to see if his favourite rapper, Jay Z has followed him, it’s music that gets him out of bed in the morning. In just 5 years since he started produc ing professionally, he has barreled his way through the music industry like a juggernaut, accomplishing more than a decade’s worth of work by consis tently delivering show-stopping beats. It’s perfectly within reason for him to eagerly anticipate a follow from the American rap GOAT. “I don’t like feeling comfortable be cause before anyone goes down they would have gotten so comfort able and just assume there’s nothing else to achieve and before you know it you’re going out of style and out of shape and you’re back where you started.” Maybe that has been his secret weap on. In the music industry where art ists feel pressured to stay relevant by chasing a hit song, P.Priime focuses on conquering genres. Merging Afro pop, highlife, reggae, dancehall, trap, and Amapiano, P.Priime’s seamlessly blended sounds have dominated the charts over the past few years, each hit brimming with unparalleled au thenticity. His production incorporates techniques learnt during his time as a church chorister while balancing con temporary influences to suit the pres ent day. Olamide, often a recurring figure in the journeys of Afropop’s biggest names, makes a cameo here. His willingness to entrust P.Priime with producing 7 of the 12 tracks on his Billboard’s World Album charting tape, ‘Carpe Diem’ drew interest to the producer’s knack for arrangement, an honour formerly reserved for his long-time collabo rator (and fellow cover star) Pheelz. Their partnership cemented Olamide’s place as the prime champion of con temporary pop music in Africa and P.Priime proved he was hungry and ready to work.

As music of African origin extends an unprecedented run on the global charts, and African artists connect with thousands of fans in renowned festival venues across the world, he’s perfectly positioned to ride the wave.

P.Priime already has two well-re ceived singles on his artist profile that boasts of features with Ric Has sani, Jeff Akoh and Teni. Although he says he’s planning to put out more of his own music, release a project and even sign a couple artists of his own, he’s levelheaded enough to take things one step at a time. In the meantime, he’s taking advantage of his opportunities to collaborate with high-profile artists who can keep up his hot streak. “I’m all about making good music. I’m honestly good with whoever owns it if I’m properly credited.”

“I have something with Lojay that’s going to be big,” he beams when I ask what we can expect from him.

Lojay’s lover-boy crooning over Sarz’s earworm production made him into a household name in 2021 after their hit song, “Monalisa” became one of the biggest songs in the country. Al though the recent announcement of a Chris Brown assisted remix for the breakout single confirmed his wide appeal, fans still are waiting eagerly for a proper follow up release. He re cently shared a snippet of the coming collaboration with P.Priime on Twitter to tease the fandom and allay fears that the LVNATTN project 15

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was a one off fluke. The snippet was met with approving response from fans who expressed their eagerness for the song to drop. Some artists like Amaarae have even already started tweeting some of the lyrics, “If she rude, put her feelings on cruise”. No wonder P.priime has no doubts that the song will be big. The industry’s attention has put P.Priime in a new social class. He has the ear of hit makers like Sarz, Wiz kid, Olamide, Zlatan, Asa and more, frequently appearing on their snaps and palling around town with them. That kind of change of status, with the pressure it puts on younger artists can lead a man to ruin. I ask P.Priime how he copes. He admits that he tends to take a break when he starts to feel overwhelmed. In fact, he says he’ll go to any length to protect his mental health. “I’ve been able to keep my head grounded with the grace of God and the home training I have, I think,” I sometimes get carried away but I have people that I’ve put in place to check me like my manager and my family members so there’s always someone to check me when I want to start doing something crazy. “I’ll always put myself first. I just want to be able to live my life how I want it. That’s P.” At his core, P.Priime is largely un changed by the cutthroat nature of the industry. He’s learned to pro tect this vulnerability under a veneer of steeliness, but at several points during our conversation, I experi enced the full force of his disarming vulnerability and his slapstick, some what crude humour. Child-star hand some at 19, he’s not quite settled into the expectations that come with be ing a celebrated producer, but he is nowhere near the greenhorn who en rolled into the Sarz Academy in 2018. He’s grown enough to share some of the spotlight with Le Marv and Semzi, two emerging producers whose work he says, who keep him on his toes. You can’t help but respect P.Priime the producer, and you can’t help but root for P.Priime the unlikely prodigy, thriving in an industry that chews and spits out even the most tenacious fighters. If he wins, we all win.

“If you really want something so bad, regardless of how the environment is, you’ll find a way to make it work. Ni geria is a whole challenge of its own, even for normal citizens just trying to get through their lives.. We still don’t have the most basic things like elec tricity and water. Ka sa ma dupe sha (Let’s just be thankful).”

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Masterkraft agreed to that first session and worked on a few songs with the artist. The fact that he knew his way around the keyboard and understood music theory immediately set him apart from the other producers he met at that studio who were self taught and used to the laborious process of artificially stacking beats on production software like Ableton and Fruity loops. He got invited back to play by the producers he met at that studio session to join future production sessions as an in strumentalist and before long he was juggling a growing career as a producer with obligations as a music minister. ‘At first, I refused to take credit for the songs I produced early in my career, because they didn’t align with my church back ground and I didnt want it getting back to my pastor, but I even tually outgrew that.’ There was no conscious effort to transition from gospel to sec ular music, instead Masterkraft’s contributions as a producer became too prominent to the growing Afrobeats movement to be ignored. He eventually reached a point in his career where branding and monetizing his talents seemed the next logical step. His big break came in 2009 when Dayo D1 Adenye and Kenny Ogungbe of Kennis Music invited him to a production camp for their newly signed group, The Pulse who joined the label as part of their prize for the Nigerian music reality show Star Quest. The duo liked his production and signed him on to Kennis Music as a producer.

COVER STORY: THE HEIST

Working closely with label headliners 2Face Idibia and Jaywon led to a chance meeting MI Abaga, then lighting up charts with his debut album Talk About It. MI would introduce him to Banky W, who had returned to Nigeria to float his record label Empire Mates Entertainment and sign a little known singer named Ayo Balogun. Masterkraft joined a camp of producers including Deejay Klem, Samklef, Jay Sleek, Shizzi, Vebee and Q Beats. Together they helped craft the songs on ‘Superstar’, the debut album that would catapult Wizkid into the heights of superstar Sincedom. then Masterkraft has worked consistently in the industry, producing songs across genres for 2Face Idibia, Sound Sul tan, Banky W, Lynxxx, Timaya, Olamide, Flavour and Bracket.

There are wild card collaborations like the late Goldie’s ‘Jawo’ and his 2015 debut single ‘Indomie’ which introduced rapper CDQ Olowo, as well as an ambitious 17 track experiment ‘Un limited, The Tape’ released in 2017. After almost 15 years in the 20

There are few Nigerian producers whose brand is as instant ly recognisable and whose work is as widely respected as Masterkraft, a veteran in the industry who has been producing music since the early 2000’s and was integral to shaping the sounds of Nigerian music legends like Wizkid, Davido and Bur na Boy. For an artist so pedigreed, it is almost impossible to believe that his life could have turned out very different. Born in Ajegunle to religious blue collar parents, the producer had mod est dreams of becoming an accountant. He was precocious and showed an aptitude for academics and music, besting ev ery student in his year at the National Common Entrance exam and earning a much coveted secondary school scholarship from the Lagos state government. He lost the scholarship and after several false starts, returned to his parents and joined the choir at his parent’s Cherubim and Seraphim church. Making music was integral to his life as a teenager but growing up Masterkraft never really thought he would become a pro ducer. Ajegunle the epicentre of Nigeria’s 2000 ‘ghetto’ music wave, is also one of spiritual homes the Cherubim and Sera phim sect, one of Nigeria’s older and more syncretized Chris tian denominations, demonised in Nigerian popular culture for its immersive, esoteric worship rituals and its ubiquitous uniform of white gowns. Shunned by more cosmopolitan de nominations and largely misunderstood by the general public, C&S congregations are insular and often deeply connected. As such, growing up, much of Masterkraft’s life revolved around church. Both of his parents were deeply religious and were ac tive in their Celestial church parish, his mother ministering as a prophetess and his father playing percussion in the church choir. It was expected that every member participated in some way in church activities and Masterkraft followed father’s ex ample and took up percussion. He joined the choir playing drums and eventually mastered other instruments before set ting his sights on becoming a renowned pianist. Music in the celestial church is heavily influenced by the pop ular culture of its congregations, and over the years genre tropes like Fuji, Apala, highlife and Afrobeats have leached into praise and worship set lists, in turn influencing each succes sive generation of artists who eventually break out from the church and venture into secular music. Rising through the ranks from instrumentalist to choir director meant Masterkraft had a consistent platform to showcase his growing skills as a multi-instrumentalist and composer and an extensive network of artists looking for a producer. He left the Celestial Church for a while after a crisis of faith and switched denominations to the Seventh Day Adventist Church where he served as a pianist and music director. When he wasn’t leading the con gregation on the piano as they worked their way through the service’s hymns, he would program original compositions into the electronic keyboard to accompany the praise and worship sessions. It was one of these compositions that earned him his first production gig. ‘’One day someone approached and asked me to produce for him. I told him I wasn’t a producer, but he convinced me to at least produce one session for him, programming beats exactly like he was for the church.”

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Masterkraft considers his career a se ries of fortuitous mistakes and as such he isn’t consumed with ambition or ob sessed with a grand master plan. He has rediscovered his faith and finds that focusing on the shared humanity of all his collaborators, fans and detractors and treating everyone with dignity keeps him centred in an industry that seems to warp even the most idealistic into cyn ics. He embraces every era of his career with open curiosity, tasking himself with delivering to the best of his abilities no matter what situation he finds himself in. At present the universe seems to be steering him towards mentorship, and building a creative pipeline that helps artists making music in non-mainstream genres break into the market and find ‘Itsuccess.isashame that the music that we have in this country is limited to what plays be tween 12pm and 5am in the clubs. There is so much talent that is being overlooked and I want my legacy to be helping these artists find the spotlight.”

industry and 5 years after that first tape, Masterkraft is taking a second swing at putting out his own projects with his new LP ‘MasterGroove’. ‘I realised that if I kept waiting for musi cians to bring interesting projects there were certain areas that I would never get to explore.’ He explains, when I ask why he chose to put out this project now. He believes that the big names like Wiz kid, Burnaboy and Davido and even niche artists like Johnny Drille and Chike rep resent only a small fraction of the many influences that are shaping Nigerian music. He believes that there are many undiscovered pockets of originality hap pening outside of cities like Lagos and Abuja that are organic and innovative and deserving of as much attention and critical reception as the trend topping Afropop hits of the last decade. Having being directly involved in crafting the pop ular sound, Mastergroove is the producer indulging his more niche interests. “It was an attempt at going for something new and getting it done in that direction.” Masterkraft describes MasterGroove as ‘mall music’, but if it was made by a Nige rian for a Nigerian audience. The general vibe is laid back with simple, easy listen ing lyrics and experimental flourishes like the spoken word chants in the album opener ‘Brown skin’. A-list pan-African cohort that includes rappers Vector and Sarkodie, Afrobeat legend Seun Kuti, pro ducer artists Larry Gaaga and Selebobo, genre legends Flavour and Diamond Platinumz, all lend their vocals, showing the true reach of Masterkraft’s influence. The album is genre-defying, touching on amapiano, afropop, highlife and tribal music but most importantly able to blend no matter where it’s played. He tells me the focus of this project was not to land a hit song, even though that happened any ways with Abeykehh, but to push himself by exploring and mastering a new cre ative expression. As a producer that was instrumental to the careers of Nigeria’s big exports like Davido, Wizkid and Burna Boy, Master kraft finds the new found acceptance of Nigerian music encouraging. It is a much deserved win for the veterans like Dayo D1 and Kenny Ogungbe of Kennis Music, the first label executives to really promote our sound to a global audience. Masterkraft points out that producers did their bit too and even contributed his bit, visiting the US and UK out of pocket to meet with label executives and drum up interest in the nascent music scene that was gathering steam in the late 2000’s and early 2010’s. ‘I went to Atlantic Records and did a few remixes back in the day.so we could place a definitive stamp on the sound we were refining.” But his fight for recognition was only half the battle. As an instrumentalist who transitioned into producing with expe rience in composition and post produc tion, he understood how much effort it took to produce and market a single. There were fewer revenue streams for artists before technology changed the game and allowed artists to reach bigger audiences without having to physically tour and interact with fans from across the world. The battle for the collaborators behind the scenes was tough because the Nigerian music industry was largely self funded and the artists and label ex ecutives who funded projects believed their money entitled them to credit and financial rewards. Having more credit meant more creative control if a song gained mainstream success and since the artist was the face of the brand, pro ducers, sound engineers and other tech nical collaborators found themselves at the mercy of the industry’s lack of struc ture. It wasn’t uncommon then for artists to muscle out collaborators out of their rightful intellectual property and award themselves songwriting, producing, composition and even sound engineer ing credits. His position as a respected producer with strong working relation ships allowed him to negotiate his own contracts with artists, but that wasn’t nearly enough. Masterkraft committed his time and resources to ensuring the rights of producers and their claim to intellectual property was acknowledged and rewarded. It helps that Nigerian mu sic now has a global audience and more listeners means there’s more money to go around, even for producers and other technical collaborators. “I’m happy that things are starting to change and producers are able to own their own platforms. It has taken a while but it’s finally sinking in that there is space for everyone to thrive.” Technology has disrupted the indus try and introduced automated revenue sharing, giving producers the financial independence to step out from behind the booth and take ownership of their careers. But it has brought its own com plications, including the ever present challenge of finding and maintaining rel evance in a rapidly evolving digital land scape and innovations like streaming and NFT’s. Keeping track of these new changes while committing the time and effort required to produce music is all consuming if an artist isn’t grounded in his art. ‘If you allow social media platforms to dictate what you create as an artist, chances are you’re not going to last very long in this industry because you need dumb ideas to catch the fleeting interest of consumers on the internet.” But Masterkraft appreciates the value these platforms have afforded creators, and respects the fans who engage on these platforms. He tries to stay abreast of trends but believes strongly that art ists and producers should be humble enough to know when they’re out of their depth and embrace collaborations with the digital natives who understand how to get the most out of these platforms. Allowing professionals in these spaces do their work and compensating them adequately, gives him the time to focus production without losing out on the dig ital revolution. Finding that balance is the key to his enduring relevance.

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Dunnie is a product of the internet and despite her verified status and her following as a popstar and several brand spon sorships, isn’t afraid to set boundaries and take on the most belligerent trolls. Born Oladunni Lawal, Dunnie was raised in Abuja where she discovered music as an outlet during her time with the youth choir at her local church. She learnt how to play the guitar at 16 and released her debut single, “E Go Bet ter”. Though the song featured on the Top 10 charts on Cool FM Abuja when it was released in 2012, Dunnie chose to pace herself, waiting to finish her Sociology degree in university be fore releasing a critically acclaimed debut EP, ‘Seven’ in 2018. 26

This rising star brings a triple treat of vocals, production and instrumentals. She describes her music as “inspired by happy moments and conversations” and “a fusion of a lot of genres”. By mixing her pan-African influences in unexpected ways, Dunnie is pushing the limits of what it means to be a versatile Iartist.amsitting with Dunnie in the lobby of a studio space in Lekki, Lagos, in April, listening to an unreleased track she recently recorded while she preps for our Clout Mag cover shoot. We cycle through small talk, before settling on her relationship with the fans, especially on Twitter where she has a huge au dience. Like any self-respecting member of this digital first generation, Dunnie is meticulous about documenting her jour ney. The wildly imaginative Afropop singer and producer has left an intriguing digital footprint so deep that you can trace her origin story through her Instagram posts, YouTube com ments, viral videos. But all of it takes a backseat to her artistry, which, as demonstrated by her success as a singer-songwrit er and producer for hit-record, “Overdose” and her latest EP, ‘Amazon’ is eclectic, versatile and undeniable.

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“What’s life without throwing shade?,” she asks jokingly when I ask how she likes to tweet.

“I was just growing as a human being and I was evolving as a person,” Dunnie says of the long break between her de but single and her first proper project. Much of that growth revolved around understanding how the music industry worked and how to navigate it as a fe male artist. She quickly realised that the only way she could protect her artistic vision for her music and career was to learn how to produce her own music. But even that proved a struggle, there were no female producers to mentor under and many of the male producers were self taught and underestimated her resolve. She regrouped, redirecting her energies to songwriting. She wrote for a few artists and tried to raise her profile by participating in a singing com petition, Star the Winner in 2014. Eventually she returned to producing in 2017 because it became unsustainable to keep paying for beats during an eco nomic recession. Not a moment soon er, because that same year, respected Nigerian producer Sarz introduced the Sarz Academy, an intensive incuba tor for emerging producers looking to hone their craft. Getting mentored by one of Nigeria’s versatile producers just 6 months into her career as a produc er proved an ideal launchpad for her ambitions. Dunnie clarifies that the academy was very challenging and mentions how demanding it was to fill the application form for Sarz’s Production Academy, likening the recruitment process to the rigorous evaluation required to enlist in the Ni gerian Army. “I wasn’t going to fill it initially be cause of how hard it was but my friend stayed on my case till I even tually did it. I think it was their way of streamlining those who can make it to the academy,” she says, “I had to come all the way from the Island to Ikeja to attend daily sessions at the Academy but the stress was worth it in the end. I got to network with and learn from other talented producers like Tempo, P.Priime and of course Sarz while also learning vital busi ness lessons that have helped me avoid costly career mistakes.” The Academy helped her really embrace her identity as a multidis ciplinary artist and made it clear she couldn’t wait for a label to take notice of her talent. She had to put herself out there and make herself heard. Not long after the Academy, she posted snippets of the beats she produced onto her Instagram profile, using creative captions to hawk them to her friends and followers. A friend explained to her that social media al gorithms favoured posts with faces and putting a face to her beats would help boost engagement. She started adding her face and demo vocals to her beats and in response, the likes and reshares turned into referrals and sales. She soon began to sell beats for as much as N40,000 af ter spending only N2,000 or less on sponsored promotions. Figuring that the app had career-launching poten tial, she intensified her efforts and built a social media strategy for shar ing snippets of unreleased songs and beats as she grew her audience to over 27,000 Instagram followers.

“Initially people found it amusing that a girl is trying to make it as a produc er in the music industry,” she says of the reaction she gets when people hear her beats. “But with more of my work out there, I feel like some peo ple don’t even remember that I’m a girl anymore. They just pay attention to the music and see if they like it or not.” Being one of the few visibly success ful female producers in the industry 27

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“I’m grateful for it, but it’s not easy,” she says. “I had the problem of rep resentation when I started but now those coming after me can see that if Dunnie can do it then they can do even better than that. I’m conscious of that responsibility.” Last September, Dunnie was nom inated for Best Female Artist at the AFRIMA Awards, confirming that she’s now on the precipice of global stardom. Her latest smash hit, “Mo safejo” is a flawless amapiano-in spired track that was released as a lead single for ‘Amazon’. The whole hearted embrace of her experiments with the Amapiano’s lush synths and grounded bass hints at her growing cross-continental fan base while the rest of the 8-track tape delivered bangers that move seamlessly from sultry highlife to prayerful ballads that tie together her Pan-African in tentions. Exploring new territories is a marker of a true afropop sensation and Dunnie has been collaborating with people from around the world, from American pop singer, Shontel le to South African super-producer Gemini Major and Focalistic and even international brands such Ciroc, Maggi and Oppo.

Her concerns are valid because for eigners investing a lot of money in our 28

“It was completely organic. People like what they like,” she says when I ask how she’s managed to crossover into the pan-African market. “I partic ularly like the melodies coming out of East Africa and then once we noticed my numbers there were actually big, we decided it’ll be wise to do more collaborations with those over there.” She reckons she’d make a great in telligence officer if she wasn’t mak ing music, and describes her fashion style as subtle and comfortable. Mu sically, she’s a fan of Asa, Beyonce and Alica Keys and she proudly men tions the first album she ever collect ed was Asa’s self-titled debut album This all makes sense as her song writing style mirrors these artists who favour confessional storytelling and superior lyricism. She tells me she has much fun collaborating with other artists as she does working on her own projects, a gift that being able to choose her collaborators has afforded “Collaborationsher. can be hectic be cause you’ll be chasing artists,” she muses. “But Oxlade is such a straight up guy. If he tells you he got you then you can count on him. It felt organic working with him.” She also enjoyed working with Wan de Coal and Falz, the were“They(April).thatmissionedTheaudiolibrarytiontionveryofinto‘BlackincredibleBeyonce.thepencollaborationsshipgenreritymedian-anything-is-possible-celebsinger-actor-cowhosesenseofhumouranddefyingsoundshefeelsakinwith.Shestillhasafewdreamshehopeswillhapinthenextphaseofhercareer,paramountbeingaprojectwithThatwouldhavebeenandreamin2017,butwithisKing’Beyonce’s2020forayAfrobeatsandthenewwaveinterestinAfricanmusic,itcouldwellhappen.Dunnie’sproduchasalreadycaughttheattenofSplice,apopularcloud-basedofsamples,loopsandotherplug-informusicproduction.NewYork-basedcompanycomhertohelpcreateapackwillbeunveiledlaterthismonthreachedouttomeandtheylikethey’vebeenfollowingmy music. I’m like really?”, she recalls with a chuckle. “It was nice because I use Splice. So to go from using Splice to making music for Splice felt really ex citing.” The entire pack production took 9 months to finish because creating sound packs was a new frontier for her and in practice turned out to be an entirely different thing from music pro duction. She admits that she spent the first few weeks confused but she found that her understanding of instrumenta tion and music theory gave her an edge since she needed to make the sounds from scratch. Splice loved the outcome so much, they made Dunnie a brand ambassador for their African markets. Which is just as well, considering she’ll need that extra attention when she turns in her debut album, ‘Amazon, the Album’, the follow up to her 2022 EP “The‘Amazon’.EPis like an introduction to what the album will be like. The songs are inspired by my mood and just conver sations and happy moments cause I make my best music when I’m in a good mood. It’s hard to go out in Lagos and not get angry,” she explains. These aren’t empty words considering the fuel scarcity, poor electricity supply and everything else happening in the country are a complete contrast to the lightweight melodies she infuses in her songs. Though being an introvert is the price she pays to keep her music cheer ful, she admits that her introverted na ture is something herself and her man ager constantly butt heads over. She jokes that her mission for 2022 is to be a ‘City Girl’ who goes out more often. Her versatility has earned her every right to be outside, performing shows and mak ing club appearances and getting rec ognised for her work at award-ceremo ny appearances. She is happy that a lot of producers are getting paid thanks to the attention the Nigerian music scene seems to be getting in the global music ecosystem but she remains sceptical about their intentions. “We’re on the right track but the stake holders in the industry should strate gically make business decisions when signing contracts with the westerners so that our culture isn’t diluted and they aren’t dictating how we should sound,” she says. “I hope we don’t lose afrobe ats to the world in the process.”

comes with its own demands. Be fore her career started skyrocket ing she spent a lot of time cozying up indoors, watching a TV series or working on some new music on her favourite digital audio workstation, Studio One. Now, she routinely has to navigate traffic in the unforgiving Lagos heat and sit through hours of photo shoot sessions, outfit chang es and interviews as part of a layered promotional strategy. But she still finds ways to unplug, even in these high stress environments. She’s ob sessed with watching crime shows like “Blindspot” and “24” while she’s getting her makeup done in the fit ting room. It’s a fitting interest, con sidering she studied Sociology and has an intensely inquisitive gaze that disarms as it probes for answers. She is not interested in presenting a polished digital persona either, which explains her preference for colourful music videos that lean heavily on story and her candid IG updates that show her willingness to be wacky and unpredictable in an age of pol ished image-obsessive pop stardom. Dunnie isn’t pressured to stand out, but she’s conscious of the position she’s in.

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“I’m looking forward to exploring more versions of myself, be it music or other parts of art or other businesses. I hope it is good and in good health.”

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“Knowing when to do what is one of the biggest challenges when you’re multi-talented and do a lot of things. There’s no formula, especially for someone like me because the type of brand I’m trying to build isn’t something that has been done before. I’m just learning as I’m going and fol lowing my intuition.”

The impact of “Overdose” and her latest tape, ‘Amazon’ have solidified that she can skillfully mix her pan-African influences in unexpected ways and embark on ambitious projects to expand the boundaries of genre constraints. She represents the future generation, already occupying space on feeds and Afropop playlists next to bonafide stars like Tems, CKay and Fireboy DML as a woman with out a major label deal. With all this in mind, it would be nat ural to be a little apprehensive about where to go with her next project. Or the reception from her thousands of fans, all of whom have observed her career milestones from be hind their screens, and are itching for more. Dunnie has no such apprehensions about the future, just a very simple but profound prayer.

sound will give them power as Afropop gatekeepers who can decide what we should sound like and who should be mainstream and or winning awards. She knows these de cisions are often about control and whoever controls the money controls the narrative, the culture and everything else. She cites the example of Dancehall’s boom in the ear ly 2000s as an example of what happens when an insular culture allow foreign investors control their sound saying; “Dancehall used to be the hot thing but they dumped it and now we don’t know what’s happening in their home. It’s good to collect the money and build our industry but I hope we’re still able to retain our sound and culture.” Dunnie values independence and this is why unlike some producers, she has worked to build a career where she isn’t at the mercy of artists. She has established herself as a hit-record singer-songwriter and producer despite the obstacles of being a woman in the male-dominated Nigerian music scene. And with her undeniable technical gift for playing instruments and staggering versatility as a singer and producer, she’s in a league all on her own. She’s creating a template for others to follow and has al ready started to change people’s notion that women can’t survive in the Nigerian music industry. A few days before our interview, she was invited to speak at Rexxie’s produc tion masterclass but looked around and noticed she was the only woman in the room. When she asked where the women were, the men responded that no woman would be able to survive the hard conditions of the class and she confessed that she understood their point. Although the music industry is still largely a boys club, she remains determined to make others more conscious of women’s Chartinginclusion. hit singles, international nominations and cre ative collaborations all bear testament to the sheer impact of Dunnie’s tenacity. Her talent and diligence in execution has helped her break through the male-oriented bureau cracies of the music industry. As the successful career she envisioned finally starts coming into view, she finally has the platform to highlight the impact of producers in the global acceptance of Nigerian music and culture. Writ ing, producing, and mixing her music on her own, Dunnie balances her multi-faceted approach with the precision of a well-seasoned artist. Brimming with carefree bravado at one moment, and vulnerable and self-reflective in the next, she’s nothing if not a vibe. Maybe that begins to ex plain why she’s already earning widespread acclaim and is being sought out by legends like Wande Coal, Wizkid and Yemi ThoughAlade.she had a slower start than other internet-era Afro pop stars, she’s managed to establish herself as a major industry player without major label backing. She doesn’t need to wait to find an artist to jump on her beats before she can record a song and be the best version of herself. Her focus remains on clarity and the authenticity of ex pression. Though there are many things she still wishes she could do, (like featuring on a song with Beyonce) her goal in life is to be happy no matter what she does.

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What are 5 songs you wish you made?

How did you first get into making music?

I fell in love with “Don’t Matter” when my cousin introduced me to Akon’s music at an internet cafe. Ever since then I went back home and I started to mimic Akon and I started to make music from there.

I love music a lot. Jay Z’s “Smile”, Dave’s “Starlight’’, Asake’s “Palazzo”, Chris Brown and Rema’s “Time and Affection” and “Odo” by King Promise and Raye.

Can you share how you were inspired to write Sugarcane?

I wanted to make an easy going love song. A song that’s approachable and every one can jam to it. I wanted to make a beautiful record but I didn’t want people to struggle to sing it or struggle to understand it. I wanted it to be a vibe as well as have meaningful lyrics. I don’t think I was really inspired by anything to be honest. At the point where the lyrics go “Sobolo Juice mixed with a little ginger”, it took me back to my early days where I used to brew this beverage called Sobolu for my mom. And we wouldn’t put ginger in ours, but people come and it’s like oh it would be nice to put some ginger in it. That line, when it came to my mind, it took me back to brewing Sobolo with my mom. For the Gongo Aso line, it just came to my mind. Sometimes, things just come to

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Generally though, I’m happy and grateful to people in Nigeria who show me all the support and play my music. Like it was beautiful. I even came around to Ni geria and ran some media rounds. I think it’s really great and I want to do it again.

What was it like working with them for shooting the video for Sugarcane Re mix?

Now I regret that I didn’t really celebrate it much cause I later realized how much of a big deal it is. I’m like an artist who dreams but when it happens it’s no longer so important for me anymore. So by the time everyone is celebrating I’m just like okay let’s move on to the next. At the time, I was happy that I did it but now I regret that I didn’t really celebrate more because I saw Burna Boy do it and he’s tweeting it. Even Davido is doing the same thing. So Mayor now had to remind me how monumental is means to go #1 in Nigeria.

I also wanted to connect with Nigeria because a lot of the people who hear me say that my sound is Nigerian. So I said since this is the market where everyone thinks that my sound is going to sell the most, then why don’t I make the effort to cross over. I’m happy that the person that I chose was also someone that I had connected with. Then my team reached out. With King Promise, that just hap pened over time and that’s the same thing with Darko. The features happened organically and that’s the best thing.

Everyone was really nice and they all tried to make time from their busy schedule. Like King Promise was getting ready for tour so you can understand how busy he was. But he made time and came around. We spent a lot of time on set but nobody complained. Everyday we shot into the night and everyone stayed.

The only person I chose to make the remix with is Mayorkun. The rest of them came to me. I connected with Mayrokun when he did “Better Butter”. He remind ed me of myself. I just broke away from a group and I was a university graduate but I was hustling like I don’t have a means of working. So when I saw Mayor doing that I connected with his story and when I got the opportunity I was like I want to do this song with Mayor.

Yeah I’ve started planning for my next release. Like I have a song with Nina Sol, she’s a very talented Ghanaian artist and we collaborated and did something amazing which I think people will love. We’re just working on how we’ll put that out while still milking Sugarcane cause I think that song is still breaking bound aries. So we’re giving it time to still grow as well before the next one. But yeah, I’m ready.

When can we expect new music?

How did you decide on the selection of features for “Sugarcane” Remix featuring Mayorkun, Darko and King Promise?

What’s your favorite element of a song?

As much as the vocals and instrumentals mean a lot to me, the emotion is the number one message I’m trying to convey. If the emotions are not properly laid out on a record, I don’t feel satisfied. I make music such that when the next hu man being is listening, they have to really be in that mood of the message being conveyed on the song. So it’s first the emotions, then the melody, then the lyrics.

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How did you feel about Sugarcane climbing to #1on the Nigerian Apple music charts?

my mind and when it comes, I try it and if the melody makes sense I might not change it to anything else. Sometimes it’s about the vibe rather than the lyric.

Probably because they were owing some amount or couldn’t afford to pay for unexpected complications. So we see them through these surgeries and treat ments and get them home. So it’s called Save the Kids with Camidoh and it means bringing these babies home. They aren’t born to be stuck at the hospital.

Also Nigerians are very fast in releasing records. Here in Ghana, I feel like we stall a lot because I can have a song I was planning to record but I’m not doing it because now I don’t feel good about it anymore. But that’s how they get all of these records we love to come out and then release projects. Like it’s something I’m learning and from next year we can start to implement that.

Once those three check, then I’m good.

What are the major differences you’ve noticed between the music scene in Nigeria and Ghana?

Can you tell us more about your charity initiative, Save the kids with Camidoh?

Well one time, a lady who was a fan approached me and she asked me what am I doing with all the fame I had. This was in 2020. She was like you’re getting pop ular so how are you helping people with it? Then it dawned on me that no matter how small your platform is, you can still help people. So I put together my team and said okay look let’s do a fundraiser and let’s reach out to certain people to help us raise funds and be able to help some deprived people.

Then I looked the way of mothers who are stuck in the hospital after childbirth.

So basically I started that and I thank God I was able to pull it off. That’s some thing that I want to stay with me and keep doing.

What’s that one thing that most people don’t know about you?

Sometimes I can be really silly. I’m the guy who’s really funny with my gang and we laugh out loud. Sometimes my friends are like when is the world going to see this side of you? Sometimes I love to fool and just have fun. I love to say silly stuff. I’m a very happy kid.

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I think we’re pretty much the same. With regards to talent and hard work. The most distinctive thing I’ve noticed about Nigerians is they are super sharp. It’s like if we’re sharp then they are super sharp. They live by the saying that “Omo time no dey”. When someone gets an opportunity to work with you, they don’t even want to wait till the next time or any other option or any other factor. It’s like Camidoh you’re here, we don’t care if you’re tired, we’re recording this song. They feel like they might never get that opportunity anymore so it’s like there and then.

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Fast forward to high school. In high school I started doing rap battles with some of my friends back then where I had my own crew. I dropped like two singles in high school, like well recorded singles. I started making music through the influence of one of my brother’s friends. His name is SCEED BARMS,he was a very helpful to me, then growing up listening to the likes of Davido, Wizkid, and Olamide seeing their first music video it was just so captivating and it was then I want to be an artiste too and be like them. From there I got into Bells Univer 1. 41

Not everyone knows how you go into music. We want to hear the full story from the person who knows it best. What got you started in music? For those who don’t know, I’m from a musical family. My Dad makes music, since I was born he has always been the choir master in the church and he has always had an input In the music. So while growing up I used to go to some of the choir practices, I started learning the basics of music, consciously and subconsciously from the practices. I started playing flute because it was compulsory in music in the school I attended at the time, so I started learning how to play that a little. On those occasions there was always something to see and hear or feel that made me feel different. I just felt like wow, this music thing is really captivating. Up until the point that I started picking money for my dad at his shows cause he owns a band and they still play till date. I used to help him pick up money, put it in my cap, sometimes it’s like a family event so from there I started seeing the whole process. Then I started learning what a bar is from a neighbour because we had a neighbour back then who was also into music and he started teaching me the basic ideas and I started making music with him.

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sity. My first year I used to do a lot of songwriting. I was just writing songs in my notepad cause I was new to the system, I couldn’t record because the guys that I know how to record with they’re home. I met some guys that had a studio so I started recording little by little and then Davido’s IF dropped and I was like wow what a jam then I told my guy to make a video of me cause I want to do a freestyle to this song and that’s how the freestyle came by and it went Boom on someone else’s Twitter cause Olamide retweeted it cause the guy had tagged Olamide. I said a line ‘ Oh baby pepper dem gang your body na die eh’ and then Olamide retweeted it and was like raw talent, from that point it started going off. At that point I was surprised that my first ever freestyle video got that amount of attention so I recorded the song and put it out in Uni at the time and it was a massive success. From there I started dropping my own records back then in Uni. I did more freestyles actually, I did Juice freestyle, Soco freestyle, Love no go die freestyle, those were the ones I did at the time and I felt so appreciated by the love I was getting from people and that was more of inspiration to me so I decided to take it to the next level by dropping my own record back then in Uni and it was a massive success. The song was titled ‘Alcohol’. Some other artist came to my school for a show and when they saw me perform they suprised like “whoa who’s that guy”. So that’s sort of my music journey from when I was younger till University days. Your first full project, the ‘Timz’ EP was released in 2019 and features Bharry Jay and Zlatan, now heavy weights in their own right. Knowing what you know now, do you still feel an EP was the right way to go at that time? Knowing what I know now I wouldn’t say it’s the wrong way to go, yeah. It was a very good decision to make at that time because it added to my fanbase and it showed the young side of me. Anyone that knows BADBOYTIMZ now will still go back to that tape and be like wow this guy’s project is fire and I mean anything can still happen, there’s never a wrong way to go.

Who is your biggest musical influence working today? Hmm biggest music influence. Asides my Dad, I’ll say Asa made a major impact In my music. Asa is such a great woman. When I was in primary six, coincidental ly my driver was a very big fan of Asa so whoever he comes to pick me to school he’s always playing Asa so it was just a thing every morning and I grew to love all the songs on her first project, that project with the blue cover. It really drew me into music. Asa is such a great artiste and I’m a very huge fan of her, always been and always will be. So basically My Dad, Asa and Mohits, I listened to a lot of Mohits records too when I was growing up. Since 2020, you’ve had to navigate making and promoting your music during a pandemic, in what ways has that changed how you make music? it hasn’t really changed the way I make music but you know the pandemic was a strange experience for everyone. It just really gave me enough time to sharp en my sound, help me understand my sound cause I had a lot of time on my plate. I was just making music, doing research and enjoying myself indoors. Even though it was so surprising that MJ picked during the pandemic and it was a blessing cause people had the time to listen to my music that gave me more courage and it helped me have more time to understand my craft.

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Is there any city or experience that has had a profound influence on your iden tity as an artist? Lagos has had a major impact in my career, in the way I think you know seeing the things that happen in Lagos, Nigeria as a whole as well but Lagos as a base. Seeing the things that happens in Lagos, around me has just sharpened who I am today.

Yeah it’s great that the Showbiz is back open, I have my own first share of shows and I’ve been performing back to back and I’ve been working closely with my live band, they are called “The Absorbers”. Improving on the live band aspect of music. I’ve had so much fun so far and many more to come.

After a great run in 2021, it seems you’ve slowed down and taken a new direc tion with your music, what changed?

Yeah definitely I plan to grow my brand into a global brand, you know taking the music to the next level, understanding the market, and pushing Afrobeat to the next level. By the grace of God I’ll put in my every best to make sure that it hap pens. Some fire International collaborations on the way. Your approach to making music ignores many of the genre conventions on how an afrobeats artist should sound or brand themselves. Do you think this perception on you has had any effect on your career?

No, I don’t feel that way. I mean I’m BADBOYTIMZ for a reason and I don’t think the world has an idea of who BADBOYTIMZ is yet cause I really haven’t put out enough music. And I don’t follow style or genre like there’s no rule book to this, Music is Music. I just sing out my heart and I know that people will connect, I’ll just keep feeding my fans and growing my fan base and understanding more of myself cause even me I don’t know what I’ll sound like in the next one year.

Nigeria is getting a lot of critical attention from the west and the new gen eration of Naija artists are expected to somehow leverage this attention into success. Is this something that you are considering as you make and pro mote your music?

Music collaboration is a major part of this business, it’s more like sharing fan base. I’ve always been known for dropping my own hits and fire collaboration. You know that any collaboration BADBOYTIMZ is on fire!

Touring and live performances are also making a comeback, along with the politics of this aspect of the music business. What has your experience been like since the venues opened up?

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Nothing changed, nothing stops BADBOYTIMZ. Like I always say, Good things take time and planning and that’s where my head is at right now. I’m just work ing, dropping music for my fans and enjoying my life. You get what I mean lol A good part of your discography so far as been collaborations on your music and as guest for other artists. Is this a strategy for you or something that has happened organically over the years?

Empire is family and they have my best interest at heart, and it’s been a very good working relationship.

You’ve released two singles this year, Afropiano heavy Azul with Yaw Tog and One in Town. Both feel a more refined version of the music that first put you on the map. How has your sound evolved?

Yeah we grow everyday and I’ve always worked so hard to make my sound better.

Everytime I want to outdo what I’ve done before, I’m working on new dynamics so you should expect bangers from BADBOYTIMZ In 2022.

13.12.11.

You signed with Empire Records, which has FireBoy and Olamide on its roster, why them and why now?

What’s next for your Bad Boy Timz; is it a musical project, or some other cre ative expession?

Definitely a music project is coming out this year. I’m working on some tours, and I’m definitely going into fashion this year.

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45 STATE OF THE INDUSTRY

We all know the artists and producers who make the music we love, but we don’t really know the executives working behind the scenes to help the work they create reach the widest possible audience. As part of our state of the industry series, we cut it up with industry veteran Akindeinde Ayebowale of Continued Entertainment about where the music industry is heading in Nigeria. Here’s our interview, paraphrased for clarity. AYEBOWALE

AKINDEINDE

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How did you first get involved in the media, tech and entertainment industry?

Truth is, I had always hoped I would. I had always had that intense love for music right from when I was a toddler – I was always found sing ing, dancing, or writing lyrics. My secondary school classmates may remember me as rapping in front of the class. While studying for my Masters in the UK, I tried my hands at rapping and songwriting pro fessionally and realized that even if I wouldn’t end up being the next JayZ or Babyface, I still wanted to be a part of the Entertainment Industry in Africa, working behind the scenes and contributing to its Isuccess.started writing reviews on al bums. My first review was on M.I’s “Talk About It” album. I had a blog then called Vocal Drops in June, 2009. It got picked up by Tribune Newspaper and was published. Around this time, a very good friend Noble Igwe (Yo Nobs!) had reached out to me about starting a website that would cover every thing on Entertainment and Life style. We became partners along with Tonia Soares and 360nobs. com was born on April 1, 2010 and it became 1 of Africa’s biggest life style & entertainment websites ca tering to millions of unique visitors monthly. (This is an exclusive from 360nobs) With tech, I would say my envi ronment and everything I grew up around as a child. I still recall in 1993, my dad brought home a computer that ran Windows 3x and giving me access to be on it. It was then and there; I knew that I would love to study Computer Sci Myence.love for music, tech and my mixed set of vast skills acquired along the way got me here to this point and I really can’t stop thank ing God for blessing me with this career and set of skills that I keep using to innovate and implement my ideas What’s your typical day at work like?

My typical day at work is in no way glamorous. In fact, it’s often down right monotonous. There’s a wellplanned routine that my phone uses to notify me and there’s no snooze button for it, so it just keeps reminding me and reminding me. But it does lead to efficiency and effectiveness. There are other days where there are lots of impromptu things that pop up or days where forward-planning and strategic thinking is the order of the day, but generally here’s how my typical day Igoes.tend to wake up between 6 and 7am, say my prayers, grab my phone to see all the missed calls, messages, and emails I need to re spond to, check my calendar, plan my day, try and squeeze in my ex ercises, get ready for the day, meet ings, emails, calls, presentations, more meetings, proposals, plan ning. Towards the evening I have time for family,when possible I pick my daughter up from school. I try to refuel either by playing games or watching a movie, then I go back to work till about 1 or 2am and some times 3am, sleep. I end up wearing

a lot of hats during my typical day, I play a lot of roles as required and I try to stay focused on utilizing every hour to its fullest capacity. 24 hours just never seems to be enough. You’ve developed a vast set of skills through your past work experiences and education at home and abroad; is there any project you’ve done that has a particular nostalgic value? All the projects I have been a part of hold a sentimental value in my life, but the one that has the most nostalgic value even though it’s re cent, would be the MerryGo Kids’ Christmas project that I released in December last year. A MerryGo Christmas was a 10-track Holiday album for Christmas featuring Chi oma Akpotha, Deyemi Okanlawon, Ada Ehi, WAJE, Limoblaze, Sister Wisdom, Niniola, P Prime, Teni, Ox lade and Spax. And all the songs were accompanied by Animated Audio Visuals. The whole project took a 18months to make and it was worth it. It was distributed by Continued Entertain ment to all the music services, and they all showed immense support towards the album. It’s going to be a timeless album and I’m so proud that I executively produced it. What made you decide to invest in building your new startups, Merry Go Kids and Continued Entertainment? I won’t go into the fine details, but it was mainly because I saw prob lems that no one else was tackling at the time. When Continued Entertainment first started, all the global distribution companies hadn’t set up operations in Nigeria and the whole content was fragmented. Boomplay Music was the first DSP to sign us and I’m thankful for that. Bit by bit, the team digitised a lot of the catalogue we have today and currently distribute to over 170 DSPs. With MerryGo Kids, it was a very personal goal for me. My wife - Mar garet and I created MerryGo Kids in 2016 when we couldn’t really find enough afro-centric content to amuse and educate our daughter, Darasimi, at the same time - she was eighteen months old at the Itime.grew up on comics and I love car toons and I feel it’s one of the ma jor factors that shaped my creative side. For this same reason, I would love to leave a legacy for children with the MerryGo Kids universe as a way of delighting and inspiring children through exceptional, Afro centric content so they can grow to be exceptional in their different endeavours and communities. Our aim is to provide creative and in novative content that “reaches” & “teaches” children What is the mission for MerryGo Kids and Continued Entertainment, and why do we need them?

What trends have you seen in the Nigerian music market? 2021 was an amazing and table topping year for Afrobeats and the African music industry. We global now! Our music has never been more popular around the world. Coincidentally thanks to the lock down (not sure if that’s good thing) but yes thanks to the global lock down which hampered the biggest piece of the Nigerian artists’ reve nue stream- touring & concerts - in 2020 and last year, we witnessed a huge rise of global attention and awareness for Afrobeats as Nige rian artists had to turn their full at 48 STATE

Continued Entertainment is a Tech nology-driven ContEnt, Entertain ment, Projects & Marketing services firm that offers services that help Clients build their businesses. The Vision for Continued Entertainment is to provide strategic solutions to help businesses compete. The main thrust of our business is cur rently on the Content Creation, Ag gregation and Distribution for art ists and creators. We currently also offer Talent management services MerryGo Kids’ mission is to delight and inspire children through excep tional entertaining, educative & cre ative content, to help them unlock their full potential and contribute to building a better world. Our content strategies are usually driven by our “children & families first” philosophy We intend to address the dearth of quality, inspirational Afrocentric pro gramming that attract and engage young audiences and aim to be part of a global community empowering children to raise their voices and create positive change. What challenges have you faced since they launched? Like every other start-up will tell you, the biggest challenge is al ways about funding. The biggest challenge for me is funding and all my start-ups are currently self-funded and that can take a toll. Every start-up needs that free cash flow to build the desired trac tion and we are not exempted. What impact do you hope these startups will have on the average Nigerian? At Continued Entertainment, we have a proven track record of jump starting musical careers when we work with new artists and we also offer advisory, Go-To-Market, A&R, Music Marketing services when we work with the bigger artists or even the new artists. We are a small team who know the indus try (both local and International) & competitive situations especially insights into the consumer habits & trends. We provide excellence in all ramifications in service delivery to our clients. We expect MerryGo Kids to be a massive part of every African child including children of African descent, especially during their formative years. Our vision is to be the preferred content of choice amongst kids and families which helps contribute to meeting chil dren’s entertainment and educa tional needs

OF THE INDUSTRY

How has social media been influ ential to your work in the enter tainment scenes in Nigeria? 49

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tention on the much-ignored digital piece of their revenue pie and boy did they hack it. In Africa, we are known to be a mo bile first continent due to the contin uous reducing prices of mobile data and phones; helping to give more access and connect users to their favourite music & artists; which in turn gives them the ability to share the music across social media and build virality for these artists includ ing an organic awareness for new musical talents. In a way, you could say that Nigeri an music witnessed an unexpected digital transformation - fundamen tally changing how artists operated and delivered music to their fans. The digital streams of Nigerian mu sic surged to an all-time high with Wizkid & Tems having a platinum monster hit with Essence that broke into the US Billboard Hot 100 charts. One of the biggest trends would be the dominance of short form video platforms like TikTok and Triller which Nigerian artists used to their full effect with CKay scor ing a major commercial success with Love Nwantiti ensuring that Afrobeats got a 2nd entry into the US Billboard Hot 100 charts. I see this trend continuing in 2022 with Afrobeats having its highest global market share ever. It’s only Febru ary and Fireboy and Ed Sheeran are making the charts “Para” over “Peru” (You gerrit). We can see the trend of global music businesses strategi cally positioning themselves for a share of Afrobeats growing market with multiple major distros opening offices in Nigeria and signing la bel-type and distribution-only deals with our Nigerian labels and artists. Sync Deals & Publishing are now a focus. Hopefully we will see more Afrobeats songs getting synced globally into games and movies …. also, TV shows We saw the trend of international collaborations allowing our Nigeri an artists to exponentially increase their DSP streaming numbers and listeners. The majors delivered some massive collabos for us - Justin Bieber & Burna Boy on “Loved by You” (I love that song), Wizkid, Tems & Justin Bieber on “Essence”, Tiwa Savage & Bran dy on “Somebody’s Son”, Drake & Tems on “Fountains”. We also saw the emergence of new indepen dent artists like Buju, Moh Badd, Ayra Starr and so on. The future of Afrobeats never looked so good. What’s your plan for 2022? 2022 is the year of creation and collaborations - music and con tent creation, trying to build more sustainable music ecosystems, discover more artists, create and invest in start-ups that solve prob lems around music and entertain ment. In fact, at the tail-end of 2021, I joined the advisory board of a Music Record and Data Keep ing start-up – TurnTable Charts, you guys should check them out. Some of the plans I can reveal for 2022 are to implement more strategies with Continued Enter tainment, one of the start-ups I founded so it can compete favour ably with the other global distros operating in Africa. The other is to ensure that MerryGo Kids – an edutainment start-up I have with my wife, which is for kids and fam ilies - continues to grow and gain more traction. Also personally - to keep learning, keep mentoring and to keep im proving my network. With over 21 years of experience serving in the tech, media and entertainment industry, what are some of the trends you’ve noticed in the Nigerian music streaming landscape? Jamb question! So streaming is now the de-facto way of audio consumption in Nigeria & globally right; and this has helped shaped the Nigerian music landscape. Along with the trends I mentioned earlier, I would say the rise of indie artists who utilize platforms such as Triller and TikTok for virality. Static artworks will slowly be re placed with motion artworks as seen with Apple Music like Teni’s Wondaland album and the canvas feature on Spotify. Now more than ever, new artists stand a better chance of discovery. What trends do you look at before deciding what to amplify? I try to look at problems facing the music landscape and then try to proffer solutions for them. It could be like while I was at Boomplay, we discovered data was still a major issue so we decided to do the “save for offline play” feature where users could still play the music without access to the Internet when in of fline mode. Some of the critical ini tiatives I have been a major part of that has helped improve the enter tainment scene across Africa vary across every platform I’ve worked with. Can you share how some of the critical initiatives you created have helped improve the enter tainment scene in Nigeria and Af rica at large? From co-founding 360nobs to help provide a platform where artists could promote their songs; To creat ing the first DSP/Telco partnership with Etisalat (now 9mobile) when at Spinlet to help provide the first data bundled music solution; To help ing start-up Boomplay music and making it the largest music service in Africa. Boomplay music while I was there, would go on and win the 2017 African App of The Year; To rolling out MusicTime, the world’s first time-based music-streaming service that was data inclusive for MTN subscribers; To building Con tinued Entertainment, a boutique distro that caters to indie artists; To co-founding MerryGo Kids, an edutainment platform established to fill the void for quality and family friendly Afrocentric media content.

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Social media helped the music industry a lot in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic. Artists found new ways of engaging with their fans and audiences virtually, po tentially creating or transforming how we consume music. Virtual concerts and live interviews via In stagram, Facebook and YouTube allowed artists to interact with their Socialfans. media is now more than marketing and promotions; it’s also a source of revenue - the opportu nities are everywhere. Short form video platforms like TikTok, Triller, Instagram Reels and more recent ly YouTube shorts all played signif icant roles in music discovery and promotions, bringing in a new form of how music is consumed and monetized through the platforms’ use of music. In the future, I see them becoming more dominant. They are now rolling with the big boys of music. Ameno!

Social media has completely changed the way we interact with our clients and intended audience. It has given us the ability to get con nected in so many ways that were never possible before. Social me dia has impacted and completely changed the entertainment industry as we once knew it – but in a very positive way Social media has been very instru mental and beneficial to our busi nesses even to me personally. We have recorded significant growth from using these platforms to com municate and promote what we do. What’s the future of music with re gards to social media? Funny you should ask this question. Recently I was with some of my industry friends, and I kept flirting with the opinion that social media, not streaming, may be the future of the music Industry. But I’m of the opinion that social media is the fu ture of music streaming.

There are also better interactions and personal connections with fans now. IG live allows artists to invite fans directly, answer their ques tions and talk about music. Reels, Triller and TikTok allow fans to cre ate duets with their favourite art ists. Artists may in turn also duet with fans. Virtual live performanc es continue to be the now and the future. A lot of gospel artists like Nathaniel Bassey are leveraging this to create Praise worship events like the Hallelujah Challenge. As the thirst for live concerts become greater, live streaming and online karaoke and duets will be a very powerful revenue stream soon. Fans tipping (that’s a sort of fund ing right) during those live concerts may become a better monetization method. With the increasing ease of creat ing music, and the barrier-to-entry almost non-existent (I mean you can do anything with your phone now), more people can decide to create and release their music. Creating music will become a so cial endeavour available to almost everyone. In fact, music creation is encouraged by platforms like Tik Tok with remixes and duets where the audience are the creators and creators are the audience. The con sumption and use of music is now very interactive. I also see subscription-based so cial media platforms like Patreon and Only Fans (don’t laugh, Only fans yes) as the future where fans can pay monthly subscriptions for access to exclusive music & con tent and the ability to communicate personally with the artist. I forgot to mention earlier this trend I’ve seen on social media around music - the use of video teasers on social media to usher in a song and build anticipation. Although this is not new and akin to recording stu dio strategies used by artists like Ryan Leslie to blow via YouTube; these ones are short clips showing studio sessions with a 15 sec audio snippet playing in the background, most times are collaborations be tween artists serving as part of the Go To Market and roll-out release plans.

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A typical day for me is really just waking up at 5 am to search for new songs to assist with playlis ting and send to the music team. Reading the music business news and trying to study industry trends as much as I can. Much of my work day revolves around calls with Au diomack’s distribution partners and potential partners that could be instrumental towards achiev ing the strategy we have for pro moting Afrobeats music to Africa and the rest of the world. It’s not as exciting as it could be.

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What’s this year’s mission for Au diomack and why do we need it?

We want to continue leveraging our partnerships with key stake holders across industries to move music forward. We want to use key partnerships to promote Afrobeats music as best we can and grow our user base, by discov ering artists and assisting our us ers to discover and connect those artists. We pride ourselves in being a discovery platform and one of the key elements of Audiomack is our trending page, where every de cision is geared towards promot ing good music. Whether you’re an up-and-coming artist like Preye or an established A-lister like Davido, we try to give everyone the same level of attention and priority. We mainly try to focus on discovering good music cause our mission is to move good music forward so we try our best to abide by that mission statement. What are some of the trends you’ve noticed in the Nigerian music scene? One of the trends I’ve noticed is the creativity artists bring to fan engagement. Nigerian artists take their fandoms very seriously and are very eager to try new things when it comes to growing their fanbase. They’re very keen on part nering with DSPs and other entities that will enable them to get a larg

I have a background in law and I started my career in litigation but I always knew that I didn’t want a typical law career. I was always drawn towards the entertainment and music industry. I had an uncle who worked in music and a really good friend and mentor who was managing Seyi Shay who I used to help draft and revise contracts, so I got a crash course on the inner workings of the industry. We even tually went into business together, starting a label with him and a third partner we called 506 music. We released some music with Sheydi and an emerging artist called Aus. I knew at that point that I wanted to work in music because I enjoy music and the entertainment in dustry as a whole.

What’s your typical day like?

Did you always know you were going to work in the music, tech and entertainment industry? How did you first get involved in the industry?

Social media presents another great avenue for artists to build a connection with their fanbase and spread their message even fast er. With platforms like Twitter and Instagram, the artist gets to build a persona that either be separate from or complement their music. Added to that is the potential for cross promotion, you share your links on one platform and it directs you back to our streaming app. Vi ral success is rare, but has become the golden ticket for artists looking to make a big splash and connect with new listeners. What impact do you hope Au diomack will have on the average Nigerian?

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How does the viral success of artists on social media affect their streams on Audiomack?

Audiomack’s commitment is first to the average Nigerian, we want to help them discover new music and connect them to new artists. Our commitment to Nigerian art ists goes beyond distribution. We want to help them understand the importance of technical details like metadata and an analytical overview of how their music is performing and which markets it is resonating with through our cre ator dashboard. That information is crucial for independent artists who don’t have massive promo tional budgets and must be strate gic about their markets. Everyone gains with Audiomack.

er share of voice within the mar ket and they really are aggressive marketers. I would say a Nigerian would go to any space and any length to try and dominate. I be lieve it’s in our nature so the same is applied within the music space. They try really hard to up the next guy so whatever is coming out next is better than what came out before. They’re really trying to com pete not only with each other but within themselves to keep creating the best product and that’s why I believe a lot of the best music in the world is coming out of Africa. Nigeria is brimming with content. New music is being released every day. I feel the market is filled with so many talented people that I don’t see that slowing down. I also feel like there isn’t that much struc ture in the sense that not everyone knows the right way to market, like some artists are just putting out music to put it out. But that is starting to change cause more people are starting to understand the value of split sheets and own ing their masters. A lot of educa tion has been happening and will continue to happen in order to en sure that there’s greater account ability in the industry. You’ve developed a vast set of skills through your past work ex periences and education. Is there any project you’ve done that has particular nostalgic value? Shooting the Hometown Heroes Nigeria concert. It was very inter esting to me because I started out in music as a music video produc er so getting to work with my team on that was very awesome to me and I look back at the content we created off that and I’m supreme ly proud of that. I’ll go to anyone and be very happy with that. I’m also very proud of the Hometown Heroes Nigeria playlist, the Amapi ano Way playlist and the Nigeria Amapiano playlist cause those have garnered quite a lot of listen ers. In combine they have about 10 million plays and the artists just make it easy to keep curating those so I’m very proud of the work that I’ve put into that. It’s clear that the advancement in streaming technology has altered the way we consume music for bet ter or for worse. What challenges have you faced at audiomack with regards to building a trusted con tent catalogue in Africa? The main challenge I’ll say is edu cation. Many artists haven’t heard about Audiomack, and when they have, they don’t appreciate the value of having their catalogue up on Audiomack. Convincing them to give the platform a try was one of my first tasks when I started working at Audiomack. It was a lot of preaching to people about our vast listener base and the reali ties of music consumption being dominated by streaming on mobile phones That was the main chal lenge for me, educating about the value that the platform could offer artists who distributed their songs through Audiomack can bring when you have your music on audiomack and streaming platforms.

What’s audiomack’s plan for 2022? Continuing to spread the message of growth and growing our reach and listenership and helping in any way we can to move the music in dustry forward.

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CLOUT: Did you always know you were going to work in the media and entertainment industry? How did you first get involved in the entertainment industry?

CLOUT: With years of experience serving as an entertainment business consultant, what are some of the trends you’ve noticed in the entertainment industry in Africa?

CLOUT: You’ve developed a vast set of skills through your past work experiences and education; is there any project you’ve done that has particular nostalgic value to GODWINyou?

GODWIN TOM: It went okay but the crazy thing is I didn’t rest as much as I wanted. There was always something to fix and it was quite Butfrustrating.atypical day for me starts the night before. So sometimes I’m on my desk until 2 AM, just prepping for all the things I want to do like sending out proposals. Sometimes I send out emails the night before so that by the time I’m up and back at my computer, some responses would have come back. Working like this clears space for me to take things easy in the morning so I’m not put under pressure to send out too many things. I catch up on news activities around 8:45 AM. Then I also have meetings, some virtual, some in person. I follow up with the team on Mondays when we have a weekly meeting and then my day just goes as is required. I no longer follow artists around cause I’ve built a team that can do a lot of those things. On a typical day, I’m back home by 6:00 PM, then I can spend time with my family, do some work and then try to rest.

GODWIN TOM: People are still not taking education seriously and are suffering for it. I also feel like be cause of that lack of education, a lot of people are not building the right teams because they don’t know what to expect and what to ask for. We’ve been very successful in terms of how the music industry has been used to push our culture and language and who we are as a people but we haven’t worked out monetization. We need to ensure that we are also owning that pro cess and owning the music that goes out so that we can create more jobs in our local market.

TOM: A few things. Work 57

GODWIN TOM: Even though it was something that people told me I was good at, I never imagined that I’ll pursue music as a career in any form - whether as a manager or as a musician. My dad wanted me to become an engineer and I wanted to study law but when I went to university, I diverted to Mass Com munication. I became an artist in secondary school because I loved making music. I went from making beats on tables in class to record ing in a studio in Surulere to cre ating a gospel group with my best friend. I used to just go to Knight house Studios in Yaba and record music for fun. Then I stopped and in 2018 I came back and became a manager and I was good at it so I’ve stayed in the music business lane till now. CLOUT: You just got back from a work leave, how did that go? And when you are working, what’s your typical day at work like?

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CLOUT: Can you share how some of the critical initiatives you creat ed have helped improve the entertainment business scene in Nige ria and Africa at large?

CLOUT: Can you share with us how you decided to start the Music Business Academy for Africa and build the most advanced mu sic business program on the conGODWINtinent?

There are amazing things going on that we’re excited about.

ing on Palmwine Festival has al ways been something that’s close to my heart cause we built that out of nothing and out of a lot of disap pointment. People just didn’t want to book us and we kept chasing the wrong people, wrong audiences and trying to get on big shows. We didn’t realize quickly that we had an audience that was for us and when we finally decided to go in that di rection, it paid off. We’re doing shows in New York, in the UK, we’re being invited to shows in Portugal. So that’s something that’s very dear to Anotherme.project is Beverly Naya be cause even though it’s not in the music industry we’ve been able to build something sustainable and something that works for her and for us and I’m very excited about it. I’ll also say working with Wan de Coal. People told both of us we were crazy when we got together but we both believed in each other enough to do this together and it worked out for the time we worked together.

CLOUT: What is the mission for Music Business Academy for Af rica, and why do we need it?

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GODWIN TOM: Well, funding. A lot of businesses locally don’t see the need for what we’re doing and that’s because a lot of people don’t really take the music industry as a business. This is what we want to change. The moment they see the opportunity that the industry pres 58

GODWIN TOM: In 2016 I started fo cusing on educating younger peo ple coming into the industry. I start ed online then I took a tour and went to Ibadan, Abuja, Uwo, I did some in Lagos, Accra, Johannesburg, Kam pala, just talking to young people and trying to understand what chal lenges young people were facing. That led me to start my internship program which eventually led me to my talent management training program which has now morphed into the Music Business Academy for Africa, which is what I’m mostly known for now. It’s what I’ve done in the last five years and my students are scattered all over the industry, doing amazing things. From the entire leadership at Double 6, down to people who are working in distri bution, the record labels. We’ve had a hand in guiding people through their careers in the industry and it’s something I’m very proud of and something I’ll continue to do.

TOM: But it really started in the bathroom with my wife. We were having a conversation - we do this early morning thing where we try to spend time togetherand I was thinking about what if I call this program ‘Music business Academy’. So, I asked her what she thought about MBA and she was like oh this is interesting. She asked all the right questions and liked the idea - My wife is my financial ad visor and my idea board. The idea worked for her so I ran with it. We figured out branding and set up a website and I kept running with the idea and here we are. How we built it has just been consistency. The original problem was that I was looking for people to hire and I couldn’t find them. When I did find talent, I realized I needed to train them. After training, I realized they still needed to engage people in the industry and a lot of people they were engaging weren’t trained so they struggled. It was sort of like working backwards to realize the things that I needed to do. The difference between me and a lot of people is that I just didn’t stop regardless of how difficult a problem is to solve. It cost me a lot of money, cost me a lot of time. I wouldn’t say it almost cost me my life but it did put major strain on my health. But I didn’t stop, I continued building and now we’re at the point where we are arguably the most advanced music business program on the continent. That is something we are proud of and we’ve built it beyond that now. We have a big ger team, bigger plans, we have sponsors like YouTube and spon sorships we are yet to announce.

CLOUT: What are some of the challenges you face while running an empowerment support pro gram like the MBA for Africa?

GODWIN TOM:The goal is to cre ate an industry with informed and empowered people. People who you can employ and trust that they know what they’re doing and will do the work. This is our vision and it informs a large part of our mission statement. But why we do it is be cause no one else is doing it. There are 1,200 universities on the Afri can continent and not one of them is offering Music Business as a course. That’s particularly disturb ing because the median age of Af rica is 19.7 and that’s a really young audience and conventional jobs are already taken. We have that issue in our society in general where the music industry creates an opportu nity to help people build business es, change their lives and nobody is teaching people how to build those Thisbusinesses.isaglobal industry worth bil lions of dollars in revenue and it makes no sense that nobody is try ing to guide people. If you go to the UK, they’ll teach you how business works in the UK. If you go to the US, they’ll teach you how business works in the US. Who’s teaching Af ricans how business works in Afri ca? We need to figure out a scientif ic approach to how business works in Africa and the only way to do this is to educate Africans on how busi ness works in Africa.

ents, they’ll acknowledge and jump on Theit.second thing is how the pub lic sees the entertainment scene. Generally, we’re seen as irresponsi ble people so we want to fix that. It’s funny someone tweeted that when we were coming up nobody resumed at 9 AM and closed at 5 PM in the music industry, we just went and hustled. But now, we have people building businesses where people resume in the office in the morning and do administrative work or operations work or busi ness development work and can go home and feed their families with their salary. That is an amaz ing thing and I think more people need to see this business that way to take it seriously. Another challenge I will say we face building something like this is the high cost of running the program. Unfortunately, we cannot charge the fee that would work for what we’re trying to do. The reason for that is we’ve heavily subsidized the program because of the state of the economy and the reality we deal with on the African continent. A lot of people will struggle to pay $300 for a program even if it’s for 5 months. We’ve had to find sponsor ships and find support and put our money down just so we can help subsidize the fee and build this thing in a way that is sustainable. That has been a real challenge.

TOM: Oh, we have a lot of plans. We’ve increased the mod ules from 6 to 8. We’ve added a production module and a monetiz ing music module mainly because we realize that people need to un derstand how/what to expect from engineers when they’re mixing and mastering and many things like that. We have YouTube as a partner and we’re announcing a few new partners soon. We have a program director. We have a bigger team this year. We are going to be looking at 7 artists from across the continent and releasing an EP with our distri bution partner. There’s going to be funding for artists’ development. There’s a lot that’s happening and we’re very excited about the pro gram. I’m just coming from a meet ing with our advisory board and ev eryone is on board. We’re in a good place and we’re very excited about what’s happening at the MBA this year and people who register will tell the story in November. 59

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CLOUT: What are the 2022 plans for Music Business Academy for GODWINAfrica?

CLOUT: What impact do you hope MBA for Africa will have on the African music industry?

GODWIN TOM: I’m beginning to see the impact already. If you go on Linkedin and you search Music Business Development for Africa you’ll see it yourself. A lot of our students have gotten jobs. People have begun to look at our program as that definitive platform to ed ucate people. So even if you don’t have a degree from the most pres tigious institution, showing people that you went through our process, they trust that you’ve gotten some education and you’re at least bet ter than someone who didn’t try or didn’t learn anything. For us, that’s progress. What we want is to be able to train people/organizations coming in from Europe, America, or Asia, try ing to understand how the African market works when they start com ing in the next few years. Hopefully, we’ll help the African music mar ket build its model/structure that works for Africa. The one that’s unique to our very peculiar market. Our hope eventually is that people begin to build local businesses that interact globally and we will like our students to be the ones running and spearheading this develop ment.

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As the Executive Vice President of renowned Nigerian music label, Chocolate City Music, Ibukun ‘Aibee’ Abidoye has leveraged on nearly a decade of experience in the music business to help shape the careers of dis ruptors like CKay and Blaqbonez. ;It is rare privilege

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What in your opinion is the biggest structural barrier that the Nigerian entertainment industry must overcome if we are going to really dominate the global market? This is a very interesting question- there are a couple things hap pening at the same time. A shift in the way we create and con sume music is affecting the traditional structure of record labels everywhere. The creation is much faster and done over personal laptops not large studios, development is now personalised and informal, distribution can be access without the label and con sumption is varied in terms of “Music appetites” are varied plat forms like Apple, Boomplay, Spotify, and YouTube or local DSPs like UduX and Gbedu make it easier to personalise and curate what you like. What in your opinion is the biggest structural barrier that the Nigerian entertainment industry must overcome if we are going to really dominate the global market?

What drew you to artiste management? My first experience with my Sister - NAYO’s project, is what drew me to Label Operations and inclusive of that Talent Management. Was running a music label always always the end game for you or was it something you found your way to later in your career. Not at all - I always wanted to run a Publishing Company. This just happened to occur along my path. What is one event from your youth that has strongly influenced who you are today? The passing of my father. I realised I needed to give everything I had in whatever I did. It was important that I built a legacy. In what ways have the women in your circle contributed to your career in music? Women have single handedly propelled my career. All the biggest highlights have been prompted by women. My first mentor and employer was my sister, Nayo Abidoye Rogers; our first hand ex perience running the label, Fyro Music, was the first taste. At that time we didn’t know we were “running a label” we were just trying to get great music out. My second would have to be with Qiana Conley, she hired me as a Temp staff at Notting Hill Music Publishing, and taught me so much about office etiquette and simply being diligent. She gave me access and always made me feel heard which really boosted my confidence. The next phase was Chocolate City; my introduc tion to Audu Maikori was via a woman. The platform has given me the opportunity to learn, grow, and build. Throughout women have been mentors, connectors, advisors you name it.

To dominate, we need to create a system that is adjusted for this reality. In no particular order, we need to provide better access to data - our audience need to have access fo the music in a more affordable manner so that it is not expensive to enjoy music and participate in these platforms. We also need to provide local funding so most creators are able to build their companies e.g. growth in human capital and expertise, drive skills acquisition and continued learning; without selling their rights, or assets so that they can compete. What this is creating (lack of funding) is a feeder structure where we develop the tal ent locally, and send the talent to international partners to get that global engagement. In addition, we need to review our copyright system to meet with the current digital climate and introduce systems and policies to fix our collection management system so that we can unlock an additional revenue stream for our Artists via Publishing. How do you decide what artists to represent? It purely depends on what you want to achieve. That is a deeply personal decision. If it is distribution, which terms are favourable based on your current status - from access to funding, to cata logue size, and know how of your team members. If it is a label, is there provision for funding that is clearly stated, is there creative control, is there access? Negations are purely about your leverage; what you bring to the table as an Artist How do you decide what artists to represent? Personality, Originality, Talent, Scalability.

How did you enter the music industry? ‘My sister introduced me to singing at a young age, so I enjoyed it as a pastime. When I moved to the States and needed a job as a summer internship, she told me to focus my internship on some thing I was passionate about and so I did. I worked at Music Bridge LLC, a small Music Clearance company out in LA. That was my first introduction to Music Business. The most profound experi ence was when she ventured into the industry as an Artist signed to Sony, I was able to work with her behind the scenes and eventu ally, when she left as an independent Artist we were able to release her project, African Girl to the World. I found the business behind the music fascinating and just never looked back.

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In what ways do you think the industry needs to do better to support female professionals in the entertainment industry We need to amplify their stories- women in front of and women be hind the cameras. We need to see more women in production (music and video) on sound and audio engineering! This support needs to come from everyone, from private equity firms and financiers to our industry godfathers. Let’s give more women platforms to learn and grow.

“My sister told me to find an internship that aligned with my passion so I went with music.”

Where do you see yourself in the next 10 years? Still in music, that’s for sure. I’ll be supporting the growth of the sec tor, perhaps applying technology and also amplifying women via my platform Briteswan and the Nahla Initiative.

For Aibee Abidoye, music was originally a fun way to make the most of her downtime. Introduced to singing at a young age by her elder sister, Aibee didn’t really consider music as a viable career path until she moved to the United States for school and needed to secure a summer internship.

Eventually she would expand her repertoire into artist management, managing an artist signed to Sony Music and helping the artist navi gate the transition to a career as an independent artist. Together they worked project eventually released under the title ‘African Girl’. My first experience with my Sister - NAYO’s project, is what drew me to Label Operations and inclusive of that Talent Management.

The marketing engagement between an Artist and his fans is an additional element to what a label will traditionally do; it cannot replace the role of the Label or an expertly curated team. It’s a case of all hands on deck, Artists are no longer able to take a back seat with their careers. Labels are not interested in these types of Artists either. It exemplifies how badly the Artist wants it and that is key. Women are grossly underrepresented in all sectors of the music industry. As one of the few visible women from a new genera tion of music professionals, do you feel pressure to ‘succeed’ according to the expectations of others, and how do you handle this? The notion of success is also quite personal and relative. I think it is more about making a difference, making a mark, solving real issues, creating lasting structures; the idea of a well oiled machine - whether it be for a company I work with or for the Music industry as a whole. I don’t really think much about “being a woman” What was the most important story/break of your career?

She signed up to intern with Music Bridge LLC, a music startup that focused on helping entertainment production companies deal with the paperwork involved in getting clearance to use copyrighted music in secondary media, and saw first hand just how diverse the opportunities in the music industry really was.

As a veteran in the music industry, one that has forged her own path in the entertainment industry, what was the one thing no one prepared you for about managing artists and en gaging music audiences? For Artists, it’s their ability to make decisions from a self-inter ested perspective. Practically, I believe it to be a side effect of the nature of the industry. Most Artists have a very short time to create music that will support their families for the rest of their lives. This brings a lot of anxiety and they have to make very difficult decisions for the sake of their survival. That is a lot! For Music audiences, their unpredictability. Good is so subjec tive and things like political stability or event pandemics like Covid affect what we want to listen to. And that part you cannot do anything about. In what ways has being a woman in a male dominated industry affected your ability to do your job? I think I bring a different perspective and that is largely a result of my experiences. It is difficult to remove being a woman from my experience of the world. So, it shows up in my decisions, my proposed solutions to policies, engagement with colleagues and team members. I believe that value is currency. As long as I bring value, I will have room at the table. Social media seems to have democratised the music industry, allowing artists find audiences without having to submit themselves to the terrible scrutiny that comes with being a public figure. How has this changed how you work as an Label boss?

‘My sister told me to to find an internship that alisgned with my pass sion so I found a mu

General Manager Music in 2013, because it started the journey. Is there any individual/institution that you considered was piv otal to making you the manager you are today? My sister- she drove me to give my best regardless of whether we were related. Work was work, no days off. What do you love the most about representing female artists? I dont represent enough female Artists, even though I wish I did. However from past experiences, Artists so far have been the same. The only visible difference is depending on the female Artist brand, you need to spend more than average on styling.

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Where do you see the African Music Industry in the next ten years? With the way the industry is going, it is inevitable that the industry will evolve to become more decentralised in terms of who wields power and control. I also expect there will be a more inclusive conversation about how to prioritise rights and rights ownership over short term payouts. It’s slow, but we are transitioning to new and additional rev enue streams, better rates for all parties involved, and a revamped collection management structure.

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Building a viable business in the Nigerian music industry is tough, even when you have resources and the backing of inter national labels. But Kimani Moore’s rise as one of the most successful music entrepreneurs and managers defies all the lim itations. As the founder of Kimani Moore entertainment, a boutique talent manage ment firm based in Lagos, Kimani Moore’s influence in bringing the subversive talents of the ‘Alte’ generation to a global stage has cemented her status as an industry pioneer. We are honoured to speak to her about her work as a talent manager, the challenges she has overcome as a lone ranger in an industry known for unpredictability and the future of music industry.

Contrary to what everyone assumes about Kimani Moore Enter tainment, I don’t run my own label, but I do work for a label. So yes, it was and still is an end goal for me to work for a label as an Executive someday .

Our collecting society ? The visa application process for our artists ?

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Here is her interview in full: - What is one event from your youth that has strongly influenced who you are today? My family exposed me to all kinds of music growin up. From my aunts listening to Tracy Chapman and the likes to my dad listening to reggae and Jazz on Saturday mornings when we cleaned. They pretty much made it certain I was almost always going to end up in the music industry in some way. How did you enter the music industry? I started off writing for a blog called the A&R Report owned by Two great Canadian guys who gave me an opportunity! Shout out to Micheal and Jeff. I would talk their ears off about artists that I felt were going to blow up in the UK and Africa. Eventually I started writing about these things so I could keep track of how right or wrong I was and they were gracious enough to give me an outlet for all my ideas. What drew you to artiste management?

In what ways have the women in your circle contributed to your career in music? My circle of women is airtight. They have always looked out for me, putting me in the right rooms and trusting me to do the need ful. Honestly, I was given more opportunity than I could have ever bargained for. It is something I’ll never take for granted and will always try to do when the chance arises for women who life puts in my path. What in your opinion is the biggest structural barrier that the Ni gerian entertainment industry must overcome if we are going to really dominate the global market? There are many factors affecting our industry, some deeper than others . We are an emerging market at the end of the day but we are seen to be a fast rising one. With that in mind, many of our problems boil down to a situation of running before we crawl.

At the time I just knew that someone else had to see and hear what I was seeing and hearing. I wasn’t too sure how to do that but ended up in a role that meant you become a superfan of the creative you are representing and therefore drive the need to make sure something great happens to your act. Was running a music label always always the end game for you or was it something you found your way to later in your career.

I could go on but that’s a story for another day. How do you decide which platforms/organizations to align with? It depends on how they approach me and what the outcome could possibly look like. I decline most things because I don’t see the need to be everywhere at all times . Quality is extremely important in this industry and the wrong step can really throw off years of hard work you put in. How do you decide what artists to represent? When I first started managing talent, I used to go by gut feeling. But I’ve learned that you need to weigh all your options before tak ing on an artist’s career. I’d advise future managers to approach talent management stra tegically. Factor in your current market, your artist mindset plus surroundings, possible limitations and if a team can be built around them. Also, talent management is a business and extreme transparency with clients is vital if you want to avoid issues down the line. In the very near future it will be tech based however so most of these choices will be aided by technology like Artifical Asintelligence.aveteran in the music industry, one that has forged her own path in the entertainment industry, what was the one thing no one prepared you for about managing artists and engaging music au diences? Your mental health and possible impact it all has on you as a hu man . In what ways has being a woman in a male dominated industry affected your ability to do your job? I’d be dishonest if I said it had personally impacted me greatly. However I see how it impacts others heavily in several areas , es pecially when there are major changes in a woman’s life like mar riage, children, and expectations from nuclear and extended fami ly. Finding a balance is a real real struggle for most of us.

Social media has changed every aspect of our lives, so of course it was going to change the music industry. I think just being able to keep up and when you can, stay ahead of the curve will always allow you to avoid or at least limit the blows that come with the changes. I’m a lot more removed than I used to be, I rely more stats and data and than just intuition. It’s less about your gut feel ing and more about results and charts. Hello new world lol Women are grossly underrepresented in all sectors of the music industry. As one of the few visible women from a new generation of music professionals, do you feel pressure to ‘succeed’ accord ing to the expectations of others, and how do you handle this? I used to but I learnt quickly that defining success by comparison can become the death of us. I’ve had therapy and will continue to do so and will always advise anyone in the professional space to seek counselling or at least find a mentor, it makes a difference . I’m in a more zen, carefree space now. My success is really based on my terms and not if I make it onto an article or win an award. I wanted to be in Forbes 30 under 30 so bad and when I didn’t make it before I turned 30, I was convinced that my over a decade dedication to my profession was all for nothing. That is just an example of how things can really impact you if you are looking around at peers and comparing yourself . However, today I feel I’ve worked my ass off and I’m very proud of my achievements. No matter where I find myself, I can more than hold my own. I can happily say I’m an expert in my field … yeah print that!

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Social media seems to have democratised the music industry, allowing artists to find audiences without having to submit them selves to the terrible scrutiny that comes with being a public fig ure. How has this changed how you work as a talent manager?

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At VTH Season, Ninel Musson has helped an impressive roster of African talent rule the global charts and cultivate loyal audiences. We speak to her about building her brand, the people who have been instrumental to her journey in music and the future she is working to build for women in the industry, in the booth and behind the scenes.

In what ways has being a woman in a male dominated indus try affected your ability to do your job?

As a veteran in the music industry, one that has forged her own path in the entertainment industry, what was the one thing no one prepared you for about managing artists and engaging music audiences?

In what ways have the women in your circle contributed to your career in music?

This is an industry you work your way into. There isn’t a school or academic certificate that automatically grants you a job in the music business. I started as a runner for DJ’s at the club, doing promo, guestlist and working at the door. I earned R250 ($20) a week. It was a few years before I started my own company. Looking back now, I am so proud of the work of the award winning music agency and record label VTH Season has become over the last decade. What drew you to artiste management? I started out doing hip-hop club events and it was really ear ly on in the scene in Johannesburg. Most of my friends were DJ’s or artists and everyone I booked for shows didn’t have a professional management team. There was a major gap to market, brand and run bookings for artists. Eventually what may have started as me just helping out , became a thriving business. Was running a music label always always the end game for you or was it something you found your way to later in your Icareer.studied Corporate Finance and worked in Banking after I graduated - so I have a solid foundation in business and en trepreneurship. I am drawn to the African music industry and I want to see it grow and make sure that the work artists create here is celebrated globally. I believe it is the industry with the most potential, and I want to be a small part unlocking it.

I’ve worked with a few amazing women in the industry over the years across labels, distro’s, artist managers, media and PR. There are still only a few and we have grown to look out for each other, give advice and share opportunities and referrals when we can. We have to keep this up – to expand our voices and reach in the industry exponentially. What in your opinion is the biggest structural barrier that the Nigerian entertainment industry must overcome if we are going to really dominate the global market?

There are still many challenges for the music industry on the continent – access to funding for music entrepreneurs and content creators alike, structures in terms of rights and collec tion and payments, as well as training and education. It’s a fast growing space and I believe there will be major innovations in the coming years – I’m excited about the role creative tech can play. How do you decide which platforms/organisations to align with? We tend to work with people and teams that we enjoy working with, often as opposed to corporations with a big brand. That helps us build long-term relationships, which is a big advan tage in the ever changing industry. It’s definitely been a part of our successful track-record. How do you decide what artists to represent?

What is one event from your youth that has strongly influ enced who you are today?

We are always on the look-out for artistry and creativity that stands out. Often it seems obscure to others, but we see something and then later we show everyone. The state of the music industry in Nigeria

I think this is one of the most competitive industries ever. Cre ating music content that is distinctive and breaks is extreme ly difficult once – and then the question begs how does one do that repeatedly every season. The industry never tires, and you’re always switched on – 24/7 and Christmas day you’ll be working or thinking about work.

I grew up in a very nurturing home, and my parents were bril liant at showing us how big the world really was – through discussions, many visitors and gatherings and travel - they al ways made us feel like anything is possible - they still do. They always reminded me to work hard, to think outside the box and not be afraid to follow a new path. How did you enter the music industry?

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I think that more collectives and organisations that do the work to help support women behind the scenes in music would be instrumental to achieving more gender equity.

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stereotypes about women in the music business and the role we play is often misinterpreted or assumed. If I am walking into a room with male colleagues , the last assumption is that I am an owner or lead of the label. Slowly, I believe this will change in part by us sharing our stories. I’ve started She Be hind the Scenes to drive this.

Social media seems to have democratised the music in dustry, allowing artists to find audiences without having to submit themselves to the terrible scrutiny that comes with being a public figure. How has this changed how you work as a label boss? I think social media has been an enabler for developing artists allowing them to reach and excite new audiences and connect with fans. It plays an important role in most music release plans for us.

Where do you see yourself in the next 10 years?

After working on the VTH Season for 12 years, I now focus more on overall company growth and strategy and looking outwards at the sector initiatives. I’m currently looking at a few initiatives in creative tech and blockchain which I hope will bring a major positive impact on the entertainment industry. I also serve industry boards, such as the Recording Industry of South Africa and hopefully can contribute to building the entertainment sector through these institutions. - Where do you see the Africa music industry in the next 10 years? I’d like to look back on even more successes for music and artists from Africa. More awards in Africa and Internationally. More acknowledgement of African talent in media everywhere and more collaborations between artists. Most importantly, I would like to see more institutions supporting music entrepre neurs and agencies representing artists making sure that the best structures are in place to support the ecosystem we need to thrive. I hope to be a part of that.

In what ways do you think the industry needs to do better to support female professionals in the entertainment industry?

My business partner and I have been working together for many years. Our first project was a small comedy circuit, we featured rising stand-up comedians at the time like Trevor Noah and Loyiso Gola and the venture failed financially and we closed it. But Benza and I kept working together and we started VTH Season with the vision of being an artist friendly professional Management team and an independent Record label to launch African talent to the world. We did, and we keep each other growing daily - as individuals and music execu tives. What do you love the most about representing female art ists? Ever so often, we find a great female voice and new perspec tive that just cuts through the clutter. A great example is Ami Faku who was awarded the Best Female Artist in South Afri ca and currently has 3 songs she features on in the SA Top 10 (radio and streaming charts). Together we get to set new benchmarks for what’s possible for female artists in South Af rica and the continent. Keep watching this space, she is about to have an amazing year ahead.

- Women are grossly underrepresented in all sectors of the music industry. As one of the few visible women from a new generation of music professionals, do you feel pressure to ‘succeed’ according to the expectations of others, and how do you handle this? It’s great that we have these conversations and that the chal lenges facing women in the industry are being highlighted more and more now. The underrepresentation we have to ad dress - and fast. With multiple layers of pressure- from the industry to keep winning, from artists who trust us to guide their careers, staff who rely on us- not to mention the pressure I put on myself. I take it day by day, project by project. What was the most important story/break of your career? My career so far has been one major lesson in tenacity. When VTH Season got started, AKA was the first recording artist we worked with. Over a 10 year journey there were many pioneer ing moves together with awards and new territories in Africa and internationally. There were also difficult times, which were widely publicised making it even more complex. Recently we were proudly awarded a plaque for ‘Best Selling Hip-Hop Artist of All Time’ in South Africa which is just amazing! If you don’t keep at it, don’t keep going, don’t be afraid to make a new path - nothing like this is possible. -Is there any individual/institution that you considered was pivotal to making you the manager you are today?

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Music is no longer just a path to fame or a quest for success; it is a lifeline, sturdy and certain when little else makes sense. That cer tainty allows him to subvert the trope. Victony pays as much atten tion to the composition and arrangement as he does songwriting on ‘Kolomental’. His background as a rapper comes into play in how the song is structured. However, he remains true to Afropop’s nature of mashing sometimes obscure influences, to bring some thing unique to life. One of such frankenstein-esque trends that has taken over the airwaves in recent times is the infusion of choral music on songs where traditional verse-chorus structures are sub verted. Omo-Ope by Asake, and Finesse by producer-artist Pheelz, are great stylistic blueprints for this compositional quirk. On Kolo mental, Victony also leans into this song-architecture masterstroke, bridging verses with stacked refrains. Playing both orator and chorus, Victony proselytizes about balanc ing the strain of hypervigilance as an artist in the low trust entertain ment industry with the urge to luxuriate in well-earned success. His anecdotes are apocryphal, perhaps an allusion to pentecostal evan gelism. He ponders his place in the world in the verses, admitting his naivete and calling on the mercurial deity that is often invoked for blessings or placated in exchange for protection in Afropop. He switches up on the refrain, which he meticulously constructs by stacking metaphors into an ominous staccato chant that wards against evil and affirms his belief in divine protection. It is here he really shows his range, flitting from Nigerian folklore to sports to the dysfunction of Nigerian cities. He heightens the mood as the first refrain progresses, ghostly ad-libs multiplying into despondent Theharmonies.mood shifts again in the second refrain, evoking disbelief through minor harmonies pitched an octave and neutered with au totune to mimic a spectral chorus. This effect builds for the length of the second refrain, only to crumble unexpectedly as a jarring, flattened shout. It is so disorienting that when the wall of sound abates, giving way for the chorus, looping cries of ‘Kolomental’, you feel the maddening weight of Victony’s isolation. The song cycles through hope and despair, ebbing with a haunting final refrain. As with most Afropop songs, this despondency is blunted by the sheen of autotune, Blaise Beatz’s production and some excellent mixing and mastering. This saccharine filter acts as a guardrail, ensuring the song doesn’t veer too far from the Afropop’s signature hedo nism that runs through the rest of the album.

‘Holy Father’, a feature on Mayorkun song, is a welcome reprieve, tangible proof that Victony can still deliver. But the speculation about his health and how that will shape the trajectory of his career continues, a nagging distraction as Victony prepares to release his debut project, the EP ‘Outlaw’. Outlaw’s release is teased in March with a first single ‘Apollo’, a clubready electronic zinger surgically assembled by producer P.Priime. Then two months later in early May 2022, the album is announced with a video posted on Instagram that shows Victony on his feet and free of his cane. It’s a cinematic finish, bookending a two year rollercoaster of personal and collective tragedies. That is until he drops his second single ‘Kolomental’. Hypnotic beats form the skeleton of ‘Kolomental’, entrancing the listener and lowering their defences. This is necessary because of the frenzy of life in Nigeria, the constant alertness that is necessary for survival makes it hard to give in fully to new experiences. This is why heavy sampling and a familiar cadence is a unifying feature in most Nigerian pop songs that attain wild success, familiarity and nostalgia are great pacifiers. But instead of euphoric synths and flourishes of plinky high notes, producer Blaise Beatz goes for gut tural synths that mimic the groans of storm bearing clouds. Layered over this tableau are an orchestration of strings; waves of heavy bass swell during the bridge and wash into the chorus, an acoustic guitar loop eddies in the wash of the bass as electric guitar riffs skitter between verses. Together the string section compounds into a vast, and disorienting soundscape that unsettles the listener.

‘Kolomental’ earns Outlaw its title and shows Victony finally accept ing that he is destined for more than a catalogue of stereotypical Afropop hits. He wrestled death and won, fought his demons and clawed his way back to the podium. Doubt might be impossible to shake, but so is his determination to go all the way. And what could be a more fitting metaphor for the Nigerian psyche? 82

One of the longstanding critiques of Afropop, the constantly mutat ing offspring of Afrobeat, is its lack of depth. These critiques are not unfounded, the genre splices the soporific percussion of Afrobeat with wild strains of experimentation from other genres. The pos sibilities are endless and as such, the producers and artists who make Afropop are still too engrossed with feeling out the genre and testing its limits to turn their attention to strengthening its core. In this regard, Victony is an anomaly. For the most part, his jour ney is typical of Nigerian stars who break out, grinding under the radar and dutifully dropping a string of trend hopping singles in the hopes of striking out on a commercial hit that introduces them to a mainstream market. Then just when he’s about to break through the din, his life careens off course. The news first breaks on Twit ter, and music journalists are sombre as they report that the singer lies on an operating table, fighting for his life after a near-fatal ac cident that takes the life of one of his friends. The internet floods with #PrayForVictony hashtags, a collective outpouring of support, incandescent with hope. Interest in his progress soon shifts from concern to curiosity as details on his condition are made public. Victony lives, though his body is broken. He has sustained serious physical damage and is confined to a wheelchair. Some wonder if Victony will continue making music, others question if he can. This voyeuristic interest in his odds, indulged in private and masked as concern when ex pressed aloud, loiters as Victony returns to the studio and begins to tentatively reconstruct his life and career.

Depth in music comes from introspection and the clarity it brings to songwriting. Country dredges the sordid underbelly of Americana’s idyllic dream to reveal dysfunction. Hip-hop draws its ire from a heritage of political violence, meted and endured, and uses that to justify its extravagance. Afropop, steeped in hedonistic escapism, abhors introspection and punishes those who break the rules. The prevailing wisdom is to conform but Victony has different stakes.

TO OUR PARTNERS WHO HAVE SUPPORTED CLOUT AFRICA OVER THE YEARS, WE SAY THANKMEDAASEYOUMERCIESEGANNAGODE

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