Obi Asika of Storm 360 Ltd., owners of Storm Records, for years now, has been the mouthpiece declaring one of his artists, Sasha P, to be the First Lady of Nigerian Hip-hop. Many have disagreed with his assertion.
Personally, for me, I like Sasha’s work but my favorite rapper out of Nigeria remains Blaise. However, objectively speaking, I do think there is strength and clear evidence to substantiate Obi’s claim. Blaise might be my personal favorite rapper but the painful truth for me, as one of her die hard fans, is that she has no track record to show of success both on a local, intercontinental or international scale. I do know what she has served up is so powerful and leaves me wanting more, just like the many I have heard that love her work.
In contrast, Sasha P. remains the ONLY female hip-hop artist out of Nigeria to win numerous inter-continental and local awards, the key one being Best Female Award at the 2010 MTV Africa Music Awards. In addition, Sasha has collaborated with many artists, including international artist like Dama Do Bling, does have an album to her name and she somehow manages to stay relevant, including jumping on the latest track and video of the artist Black Magic in the hit song ‘Confam.’
We can’t argue with the facts. It is what it is. Sasha falls into a category of artists that, by all standards in Nigeria’s music industry, is successful. Why? Why is she still relevant? Why does her name somehow manage to pop up and linger on? Ponder on that from a music business perspective for a minute folks. While you do, let’s look at the other categories of artists that we often see in the music industry and then transition into discussing the return of rapper Kel,formerly with Capital Hill Records.
There are numerous categories of artists I have dealt with in person and also online. One of the more common types are the artists who have a lot of passion and talent and nothing else. These artists are LAZY! They want to be like M.I, TuFace, D’Banj, Wizkid but they refuse to put in the work. Their idea of getting there is to send me, other media colleagues and bloggers, their mp3s believing that if they are just visible on our platforms, then they will be successful. You have met these kinds of artists. They say, “Oh! If I can just get my song on Notjustok.com,” or “Men, I go blow sha if radio play my songs.” Needless to say, these artists need to get off their butts and get to work. They need to approach music as a business and put in the hard yet smart work it takes to be successful i.e. get to the M.I, TuFace et al. destination.
Another common type of artists that we see in the industry are those who have put in a lot of sweat and work but have no real return on investment to show for it. These artists operate on a hit and miss theory. Let me just throw all the paint on the wall and see which one sticks. There is no real strategy, no vision, no assessment of value systems, no understanding of who their target market/(audience is), where they can find them, no real way to collect or assess data, no idea or profile of their target audience, and why they would buy their music. They are very creative and talented, but lack the business acumen and the interest to acquire these business skills so they can get on the road to monetary and creative success.
You can see these artists playing their hearts out at local venues in Lagos, PH, Abuja, New York etc. but no one, the people that count within and outside the industry, seems to pay attention. Many times, when you speak with these artists, one of their key issues is the lack of vision and a true business strategy to get to where they are going. For these artists, they need to marry business with music to gain real traction.
Finally, among the types of artists out there, there are the ‘once upon a time I was successful kind of artists.’ These type of artists have had great success in the past. In some instances, they worked with a label, their names were on the lips of everyone and then, all of a sudden, they are no where to be found. Two of the main reasons for their disappearances is that they had: 1) a breakup with their labels or 2) life’s curve balls threw something intense their way and it has just taken all that they have to find the strength to come back.
With the ever fluid and rapidly changing entertainment industry, when they return, they discover there is a new school of artists, things are not exactly the same; and it is tough to truly have a sustainable long term come back. Artists such as Fr3style, Jazzman Olofin, among others, come to mind.
For these artists, Kel included since she fits this third category and is attempting a come back, I think there needs to be a true assessment on the kind of music they seek to make.
First, there has to be an insatiable appetite to make music and have the music heard. This need to have music heard must overwhelm other things that tend to distract these types of artists. Second, I believe there has to be a clear assessment on how you can balance creativity with commerce, without compromising the integrity of the music you make.
If Kel returns and jumps on a trend, she will not last. Trends do not last and music trends are no exception. She will be tossed into obscurity before she can say, “Kel!” I do not want to make an assessment, yet, on her music video. But, she has been gone for a while, shouldn’t she be telling a story of where she has been and how she was able to get back to (a place of) making a comeback? Obviously in her own artistic way. Maybe ‘Give it To You’ is that sound track. I’ll wait to hear it.
The point? If Kel returns to music with a clear sense of impacting the culture with her music, Nigerian culture, she will be around for a long time to come. If she doesn’t, it will be an epic fail in the long run because trends come and go and music is no exception.
Kel will need to be aggressive with her return. Shooting a video and releasing a single is not going to cut it. Many have forgotten who she is, even if industry people recognize or salute her. She needs to connect with her fan base again and attract and keep new ones. She needs to get on the road, open for some of the bigger named rappers, target and understand her market, strategize and affiliate with people who know the business of music, without giving up control of her work or her brand equity if she intends to stay relevant.
Let’s go back to Sasha P. In my introduction, I asked why do you think Sasha P, of all the women in the game spitting on the mic, is still relevant? I think when you listen to Sasha’s music, it is actually culturally impactful. When she showed up the scene, she wrote songs that resonated with young women. Songs that were not trends or ‘shorty get low’ kind of songs. Certainly, many young girls, I believe, in Nigeria will still remember her classic hit ‘Adara,’ among others.
Sasha P is also relevant because she has a competitive business advantage. She has people who know a thing or two about music business and they know how to get her name out there. I personally want to see the Storm family do even more for Sasha P. I believe there is still more tweaking, refinement and positioning of this artist to take her to higher heights. I believe a true experimentation with different sound styles that do not compromise her essence yet permits her to continue to innovate will be critical in the long run.
But, alas folks, the point is, when you are making a come back, the difference maker, in terms of success, may very well be:
1. Your clear understanding of why you make music;
2. Your insatiable/restless appetite to get your music heard;
3. Your clear understanding that your music cannot just be a trendy thing. It must impact the culture. Examples of impacting culture includes: TuFace, M.I Abaga, P-SQuare and Sasha (especially as to women); and finally
4. you must have tried and tested music business strategies that work to reawaken and re-energize your existing fan base, as well as gain new fans.
WATCH KEL’S ‘GIVE IT TO YOU’ TEASER FT. W4. I will reserve my comments until the actual video emerges.
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