This opinionated piece is by Notjustok, examines a list of most influential Executives and Managers whom we believed are the Afrobeats power players for the year 2019 – See the complete list below:
On the Executive Table
Efe Ogbeni – Afrobeats Executive of the Year
Known to entertainment insiders as Efe One, this music mogul has been largely responsible for the success of some of Afrobeats’ biggest stars, globally.
Having worked with international stars like Quincy Jones, Akon, Lady Gaga, and Enrique Iglesias, Efe One’sce in the industry has come in handy for African acts. Through his impact at Sony ATV, he signed and provided world-class publishing opportunities for leading African producers such as Shizzi, Spellz, and Kiddominant (producer/co-writer of Fall by Davido). “Fall,” unarguably the most successful Afrobeats song in the US, owes a lot of its success to this mogul, whose help to Davido in navigating the American space has been immense.
In 2019, Ogbeni executed Davido’s successful O2 Arena show by securing partnerships with Live Nation and Smade; he also broke Davido’s “Fall” in the United States which peaked at #14 on the Billboard Mainstream R&B/HipHop Charts. Additionally, in 2019, Efe Ogbeni orchestrated Tiwa Savage’s signing to Universal Music and closed another record deal with Virgin/Emi/Universal for Timi Dakolo’s Christmas album Merry Christmas, Darling, which was produced by 17-time Grammy Award winner Humberto Gartica and award-winning jazz composer Frederic Michel Gassita.
Kirk Harding and Matthew Baus
A Grammy-nominated album after, it’s hard to disagree with Burna Boy‘s assertion that he’s an African Giant.
However, an oft-overlooked element in his global domination is his signing on to Atlantic Records in 2016, after meeting Bad Habit’s Kirk Harding and Matthew ‘Baus’ Adesuyan. This afforded him strategists who worked his brand and music to perfection. Their international influence also does well for Burna Boy, as he’s toured for a while now – in some of the biggest venues – and has performed at prestigious late-night shows, from Trevoh Noah’s to the Tiny Desk.
Being the current face of the supposed Afrobeats to the World movement, Bad Habit (especially Krik Harding and Matthew Baus who sat for Burna’s audition) by association with Burna Boy, deserves recognition for their work in balancing the obvious talent with the business.
Continuing the Notjustok’s list of most influential Executives and Managers in Afrobeats power players for the year 2019, next is Don Jazzy and Bobby
Michael Collins Ajereh (Don Jazzy), and Bobby Pitman
In January 2019, Don Jazzy announced that Mavin Records had secured a multi-million dollar investment from Kupanda Holdings.
“Mavin Global has a unique advantage and opportunity to build the record label that will accelerate bringing African popular music to the world,” Bobby Pitmann, Kupanda Holdings’ managing partner said in a statement.
This move facilitated a lot of things within the label, with boss Don Jazzy looking to move past the departure of Afro-pop star Reekado Banks. Subsequently, the Benin City-born wonder kid Rema was signed through D’Prince’s Jonzing World to Mavin Records. Since his signing, Rema has typified Mavins’ global reach and industry tactics, as they’ve leveraged his youth and versatility to shape what is looking to be the biggest crossover star in a while.
Late 2019, Mavin Records inked a distribution deal with Caroline International, the independent distribution arm of Universal Music Group to spread Rema’s music outside of Africa. They also opened state-of-the-art offices and studios, a feat which marked its presence amongst the powers of the day, and Don Jazzy’s position as one of the great business minds of his time. His label also boasts of acts like Folk superstar Johnny Drille, the prominent rapper Ladipoe, the energetic DNA twins, and Crayon, an Afro-pop prodigy who’s shown potential needed to break through at the highest level.
Over the years, Olamide has shown his mettle as a label boss with his moves and artiste signings: Lil Kesh, Adekunle Gold, and the kid of the moment, Fireboy DML. The LTG artiste saw his stock rise in late 2018 with the release of the YBNL compilation album which, amidst a host of other sleeper hits, featured “Jealous.”
While that song was massive for young Fireboy, it was Olamide’s relentless support and the YBNL cash flow which got his name and face into our faces as the artiste went on to deliver one of the biggest debut albums in recent times with Laughter, Tears, and Goosebumps.
YBNL Records has also made heavy moves this year too. The 999 EP, Olamide’s ninth studio project, was released to much fanfare and featured a host of lesser-known artistes, no doubt a graceful act. Almost immediately after the EP’s release, an international deal was announced with Empire distribution, both Olamide, and Fireboy DML announcing forthcoming albums.
As observers opined, it’s a good chance for both artistes to make their mark internationally and grab whatever they can in the great Afrobeats feast.
Oluwatosin Ajibade (Mr. Eazi)
Alongside the emPawa initiative which he leads, Mr. Eazi‘s Banku Music – which started in April 2018 – has seen him become one of the most influential persons in the Afrobeats space right now. Mr Eazi has developed into a most responsible industry force, helping many young artistes navigate the business of the industry.
Even with his duties as label head, Mr Eazi has provided mentorship and support to his emPawa artistes like Ghana’s J. Derobie and Nigeria’s Joeboy, with the initiative growing each day to include more artistes and better services through purposeful partnership.
Osadolor Asemota, Dr. Dolor Entertainment
Born Osadolor Nate Asemota, the man we know as Dr. Dolor is said to “have always shown keen interest in music from his young age singing in the church choir.”
After many years in the I.T industry (which saw him promoted to Manager at Globacom Limited), the Edo-born businessman made his sojourn into Entertainment, a move that has seen his Dr. Dolor Entertainment imprint become one of the biggest labels around, with superstar Teni as its flag bearer.
Although heavily known by the Teni name, it is testament to the label’s professionalism that the issues which plague many artiste/label relationship haven’t been present between them and their major act.
Other Dr. Dolor Entertainment acts are Hotkid, Afin Osha, Nikita, and Ryan Omo.
The CEO of Effyzzie Records, Taye Aliu, has been affiliated to the Yemi Alade name in more ways than one, but there’s no doubting the hard work that went into turning a relatively obscure act (circa 2013) into one of the biggest African artistes. It wasn’t always as big as this, but in the early years both worked hand-in-hand to propel their individual and collective goals, and close to seven years later, we could say a bulk of that’s been achieved.
In 2019, Mr. Aliyu oversaw the signing of a licensing deal between Yemi Alade and Universal Music France, a multi-year agreement that would see UMA serve as the exclusive worldwide record music partner for Yemi Alade and her Effyzzie Music Group label.
Furthermore on the Notjustok’ list of most influential Executives and Managers in Afrobeats power players for the year 2019, is Davido.
David Adeleke aka Davido
It has been to Davido‘s credit that he’s beautifully combined varying duties both as a friend and a label head.
Last year, he was steady as ever, overseeing the release of his sophomore A Good Time, hailed in many quarters as his best project yet. He’s also helped his artistes maintain buzz through their projects and singles; Peruzzi put out his debut Huncho Vibes last year; and Mayorkun has one of the biggest songs of the year in “Geng,” which was brilliantly worked into an EP.
Signing the promising Lil Frosh in December 2019, combined with the rest of the DMW roster that includes one of the marketable Nigerian rappers in Dremo, Mr. David Adeleke has assembled a lineup that features some of the best acts in their genres and has always equipped them with whatever they needed to create bangers.
In 2015, he signed Harmonize, and was helped in bringing his name to pan African consciousness. The artiste, though, left four years later in a less-than-amicable way. The Wasafi roster is still strong, with leading acts Diamond Platnumz and protege Rayvanny doing numbers and getting booked at important venues. Their “Tetema” song remains one of the biggest Bongo Flava staples of Tanzania and has been played everywhere, from Lagos to Cairo to London.
Notjustok’s list of most influential Managers in Afrobeats power players for the year 2019, starts with Asika
On the Management Table
Davido is one of the most deliberately sold artistes out of Africa, and this is owed to having a solid management team around him. The Plug, founded by Bizzle Osikoya and Asa Asika, have done quite the job on OBO, especially the latter, who is Davido’s personal manager.
Asa Asika was Davido’s first manager and, though they both parted ways somewhere along the line, the fresh-faced industry veteran returned to camp OBO for A Good Time, Davido’s sophomore project, with most of its technical details (rollout, A&R, etc.) credited to him.
“EMPIRE will oversee the release and promotion of Afro B’s forthcoming music and projects,” Billboard reported. Afro B, however, is still to be managed by Gavin Douglas of Ultimate Clientele, whose work in radio across London Director at Radar Radio from 2015 to 2018) has seen him attain prominence in the local scene.
Burna Boy’s mother Bose Ogulu is an important thread which pieces his African Giant persona to perfection. Alleged to have been a dancer of Fela Kuti, however true or false that is, she’s been so vital to his recent successes, and even back then, in the early days.
We certainly can allude to moralistic teachings, that having his mother around a lot does help the artiste stay grounded. Plus, there’s that BET speech which formed the crux of AG’s narrative and was the last words of the album.
Next on the Management list of Afrobeats power players for the year 2019, is Sunda and Jada.
Sunday Are and Jada Pollock
In September 2016, Afrobeats superstar Wizkid signed a deal with RCA Records, led by Peter Edge; a huge deal which was reputed to have put an advance of seven figures in his account. 2017’s genre-crossing EP Sounds From The Other Side was his first project under the label. More than three years later, Wizkid continues to fly the RCA banner, while still fronting his own Starboy Entertainment imprint.
An oft-overlooked part of his success is his management. In 2015, Wizkid announced that the veteran Sunday Are, who’d managed the likes of Majek Fashek, Asa, and Wande Coal was his manager, coming under the revered act’s List Entertainment. Jada Pollock, mother of his child, too, manages him, and together, they help keep Wizkid at the top as we know it.
English-born Nigerian PR giant Vanessa Amadi has counted international stars like D’banj, Whitney Houston, and Usher to her clientele list, and she currently manages Tiwa Savage under Stealth Management. Given Tiwa’s minimal output by way of music in the past year, that she’s kept the name abuzz and helped negotiate a Universal Music Group deal for the artiste shows her influence in the game.
Patoranking is one of the few good guys in the industry, never missing a step since his “Alubarika” hit song. While credit is owed to his obvious humility and common sense (“person wey dun suffer suppose get sense”), his management, led by Rickie Davis, too, deserves much of the accolades, for helping keep his slate clean, his well-timed musical output, and being a most responsible artist in an industry where artists are known for their callousness.
In 2019, Kizz Daniel, acting as Flyboi Inc.’s CEO, fired his entire management staff and hired UK based Rebecca Junaid as his manager. Ogaga Saikpade (known in entertainment circles as Ogagus), was announced as his PR personnel. In the same year, Kizz Daniel put out his sophomore project No Bad Songz, and Rebecca Junaid was no doubt important to its success, handling its publishing along with some other vitals. In December, the artist headlined a concert, reputed to have been one of the best amongst the slew of Detty December-themed shows in Lagos, Nigeria.
Since DMW act Mayorkun got his first big break, he’s been managed by Sam. Till this day, even as most DMW artistes are under The Plug management, Mayor’s remained loyal to a man who’s, no doubt, from behind the scenes, shaped his name and PR to be one of the most trustworthy ones in the Nigerian music scene. It bears testament to their seamless relationship that there hasn’t been any hint of a falling out between the duo, or with the record label Mayorkun represents.
Following her departure from Skales in early 2016, Mrs. Osarenz on July 1st of the same year announced a new imprint, The Zone Agency.
The Zone Agency kicked off with a portfolio led by one of Africa’s biggest artists, Timaya, popular dancers GGB Dance Crew, Visuals by Uche, fast-rising musician Attitude, and newbie Dapo Tuburna. Since then, the wonder lady has been on her grind and has since represented GoodGirl LA, filmmaker Uche Odoh, Kemi Smallzz, Reminisce, Terri and Tuzi (producer) and Timaya, who continues to be free of controversies and is perhaps the most popular African artiste in the Caribbean Islands, where he’s been expertly marketed to the buying market. Osagie was also recently been appointed as the country manager for Independent music solutions company ONERPM in Nigeria
Continuing the List of Afrobeats power players for the year 2019, we have Femi Soro.
Femisoro Ajayi (popularly known as Femi Soro) is a talent manager. He’s been a consultant at Blue Ace Entertainment Company and Bahd Guys Entertainment since 2012 and manages one of Nigeria’s biggest rappers in Falz.
He’s done a neat job on complementing the business of Falz, who’s one of the more likable personalities in the entertainment scene. It goes without saying that he most definitely has a hand in the release of Falz’s music, which is timely in the industry; knowing when to push the sociopolitical themes Falz has been known to do and when to seek commercial records has seen them both stay at the top for a while now.
Piriye Isokrari is the founder and Chief executive officer of the Aristokrat Group – An African Media & Entertainment firm, headquartered in Lagos, Nigeria.
Known for giving Burna Boy his first deal, his label’s functions as a music publisher must have been influential in Kel P (who he represents and was able to secure a 6 figure publishing deal for in USD) getting the most producer slots on the Grammy-nominated “African Giant” album.
Earlier this month, Aristokrat Group and Universal Music France announced a partnership that “consists of both a label deal, as well as a publishing deal through Universal Music Publishing Group (UMPG).”
Danai ‘Love’ Mavunga
Danai Mavunga is a PR and brand consultant. She’s been known to use her talents and experience in the industry to open doors and push her clients to new uncharted territories. She’s worked with acts like DJ Neptizzle, Gina of Just Geen, Nigerian hitmaker Dr. Sid, and the acclaimed Ghanaian producer Juls.
Contributors: Ademola Ogundele, Ovie Ofugara, Femi Adebanjo, Seyi Akinrinmade, Nnamdi Okirike, Ikenna Okpalor, Peter Okhide