Last year, we could not escape the buzz Chocolate City Records generated everywhere! The label co-founded by two brothers Yahaya and Audu Maikori, among others, has been one of the more polished labels out of Nigeria focused on giving music fans across the continent; and the African diaspora in the West, something to be happy about.
This 2012, Chocolate City opened the year strong and was aggressive in pushing the label on the international front as well as building more meaningful connections within the USA and Africa’s music markets. In addition, it managed to push one of its artists on its roster, Ice Prince, to the forefront along with its new act Brymo.
Ice Prince was nominated for the 2012 BET Awards in the international category here in the USA. Ice Prince and Brymo were also nominated for awards at the 2012 NEA Award in New York, if my memory serves me right. Did Brymo win an award? I think he did. In any event, 2012 showed that Chocolate City was making its money, in terms of artists, largely from its performing artist Ice Prince. As the year progressed, Ice Prince had a bit of a glitch when he birthed and simultaneously denied he was the father of a child he had fathered with an alleged groupie. He ultimately stepped up as a man, cleaned up his act and owned responsibility for his baby. From then on, Ice Prince gave us a very serious side we didn’t even think he had. He also continued to soar dropping a couple of music videos and featuring on works of other highly sought after artists. He toured and even managed to host the 2012 Channel O Music Video Awards.
Needless to say, what an incredible year for Ice Prince and Chocolate City who benefits from all of that work per the record contract signed by Ice Prince with the label. But, what about the label’s other major act M.I Abaga?
M.I Abaga kept it relatively low key in 2012 with respect to his work with Chocolate City Records. M.I Abaga was instead busy building his personally owned label, Loopy Records. He also launched his magazine styled website M.I Abaga.com managed by an online editor. He also continued to push, quietly, connections within and outside the music industry, to try to really break into the US music market.
In light of one of the main source of income for Chocolate City working on his own project i.e. Loopy Records, what does the future hold for Chocolate City Records?
Earlier in the year, both M.I Abaga and Chocolate City tried to tell us that M.I still had a record deal with the label. They even took a picture of M.I signing a piece of paper and tried to pass it off as if they cemented a new record deal together. I called out the bluff. I said it was simply untrue M.I would sign a record contract with Chocolate City. It made no sense, and that while it may seem a necessity to put up an appearance for their fan base, from a practical and business perspective, there was no way M.I Abaga would agree, at this stage in his career, and as a fellow label owner, to sign another record deal with Chocolate City. What made sense was, at best, a hybrid management deal of some sorts or a joint venture co-branding deal on certain projects but not an exclusive record deal where Chocolate City gets to dip into M.I’s monies like that.
All of M.I’s mates now owned and were running successful record companies. M.I began with Loopy Records but put it on hold when he could not seem to gain traction. Now, he was a superstar and had enough leverage and industry know how to attempt to relaunch and be successful with his label.
I expect in 2013 to see M.I gain even more traction and run with Loopy Records. In 2012, for Loopy Records, he pushed his artist Ruby to the media and the public. Ruby still needs to gain more momentum and it will be M.I’s job to figure out how to really help her take her career to the next level. M.I also scored a quiet point when one of his other acts on his label won a Gospel award.
In any event, with M.I on his own hustle, where does that leave Chocolate City Records? I think it leaves them with the recent signing of Victoria Kimani onto their label in November of 2012.
To me, Audu & Yahaya, their investors, advisors et al. get it. That is why they made a very interesting and potentially solid move with the signing/acquisition of Kenyan-American artist Victoria Kimani. The team had already signed Pryse, a female rapper and first lady of Chocolate City. However, as I have said before, Pryse needs a lot of grooming and training in writing of her lyrics, vocals, finding her own true potential voice so she actually has something to say, delivery, packaging and overall appearance.
Kimani, on the other hand, wow! She comes ready made and really it is for Chocolate City to apply its weight, especially on the marketing, promotions and distribution end to this young woman to help her be one of the most successful females out of Nigeria’s music industry.
Kimani comes with the following:
1. Industry contacts here in the USA that will help her help Chocolate City push their brand as they help push her across Africa.
2. Affiliation with Nigeria. She studied in Nigeria and speaks pidgin well enough to incorporate the language into her songs. This will immediately help her break barriers and win audiences in Nigeria, a very important market in Africa’s music industry.
3. Kenyan heritage. Kimani is an American born Kenyan. Nollywood films and Nigerian music is already gaining momentum in Kenya. When one of their own with her American background now shows up to make it happen with Chocolate City, it can only mean success for all involved, if carefully executed.
4. Hardworker. Her track record, so far, shows she works hard i.e. she goes in on the music and is willing to put in the work to be successful.
All of the above including good looks, a relatively eye catching style sense and the ability to articulate her vision for her music is an added asset for Chocolate City. So, while M.I Abaga may not fully be available to Chocolate City per my discussion above, I believe Kimani could potentially take them places they never thought possible.
It is left to see the direction the brand goes, in 2013, and how they will innovate to continue to be a part of leading Nigeria/Africa/West Africa’s music industry in the years ahead.
LISTEN TO VICTORIA KIMANI
WATCH HER INTERVIEW ON FACTORY 78
WATCH VICTORIA KIMANI’S IN DEPTH INTERVIEW ON DJ JAM JAM SHOW
MEET THE EXECUTIVES AT CHOCOLATE CITY RECORDS