Award Wey Dey Peel: The Politics Of Nigeria Music Award System
Everyone wants an award. It’s a nice trophy of recognition, which appears to validate all us for something that we do. It’s a trophy that is designed to appeal to the egoistic parts of creatives, by offering them a public reward and certifying their superior skill or status. I am a creative. I have awards. They feel good. While they are intrinsically needless and meaningless.
Awards have never been the core reason why anyone picked up a pen and paper to write raps or lyrics to a beat. It’s mostly a combination of the burning desire to express through music as a medium. In Nigeria, it is usually combined with the need to earn money, survive and lift yourself and your loved ones a station or two. It is also a means to thrive in this country where wealth elevates you beyond reproach and sometimes, the ‘anyhowness’ that Nigeria desperately tries to crush you with. Money stops the nonsense.
No matter how much you try to avoid it, or rationalize it away, awards in Nigeria aren’t the true test of a person’s ability or purpose. For the most part, most awards are driven by a lot more than merit. It’s a business venture, designed to make a profit for the organisers. So, every businessman who organises an award starts off with looking at his bottom line. Everything else is just a means to that end. When you understand this, you would stop seeing it through the eyes of a fan who just wants to see their best win. A main headache for the organisers will be to balance all their business interests with the actual award dispensation. Most people, the most credible ones, do it so well, that they could pass for being credible. The rest, they are shameless about it, and so they lose their credibility.
Sponsorships are a huge driver for the nature of awards. They are the most powerful people. Without sponsorships, a lot of these awards would never hold. If you get a sponsor who has designs on the trophies, and he/she matches your price, then you take your money, and hope to compensate for skewing reality with other awards. That’s why people can watch editions of the Headies, see MTN brand the entire event, and have to endure watching a spectacle that makes you feel like maybe, just maybe, there might have been more trophies heading the way of musicians with MTN deals. Money is a god, and it gets what it wants.
The second level of it isn’t tribalism. No. Being Yoruba does not make an event great. Having resources does. And you have to go to places and strike deals that reduce cost and provides you with a great show. Performances are one of them. You need to have credible artists to perform. You need the biggest stars to make your show look elite. So you begin to take offers. If two people have had a great year, and the popular decision is split, you ask for pitches and compare who offers more value.
Maybe the other person won’t show up and give you a performance. Maybe the other guy will. You begin to do your permutations. And go with the one that favours you. This is when one camp will be entirely pleased, and the other outraged. If they both show interest, you split the awards, and everyone will argue and fight, but it won’t be too loud. They all have trophies in their hands. It’s their indignation and ego talking. Wizkid and Davido won awards at the Soundcity MVP Awards. But the fans still talked. They will all be fine.
As an African award, there’s a quota for other countries. Most times, people use regional categories to ensure that there’s diversity and inclusivity. It has to feel African. The All African Music Awards (AFRIMA), who have backing from the African Union (AU), does this. Everyone wins something. But for awards lacking this, you have to balance categories that people can afford to let go. Nobody will fight loudly for Tiwa Savage, if Busiswa, a South African legend picks it up. It might sting a little, but hell will definitely not freeze over. Also, Nigerian Hip-hop is ailing right now. AKA had a great song, and he featured our darling producer, Kiddominant. The song, ‘Fela in Versace’ feels great, and did decent streaming numbers. It’s a cross-cultural victory. Give it the award! Nasty C did good, but, you know, there’s ‘Fela in Versace’!
Tribalism is a factor, but it is the least possible cause of any major award decision. When it even shows up, it is barely noticed. It’s the weakest bond in the music industry. People see money and power, regardless of the tribe. They gravitate towards that over the tribal bonds. Anyone who chooses sentiments over cash in the music industry can be called a ‘Tribal Fool’. But Lagos is filled with Yorubas, and so is the music industry. There would definitely be more locals with money and power, and they deal with themselves. They might not even realize that they are Yoruba. Money equalizes all things. Check out Paul Okoye, the CEO of Upfront and Personal. He’s an Igbo man who dominates in the game. Tribalism will almost never affect him. I’m not saying it is nonexistent. But its effects are mostly subtle and often negligible.
My people, that’s the politics of it all.
Artist discontent isn’t taken seriously because it has been displayed far too often. Most times as a manifestation of the vanity and ego of musicians. There have been too many of it. From Burna Boy storming out of the Headies in 2013, to Olamide and Don Jazzy bringing on a brief but thrilling cultural moment two years later. Now we have more discontent from DJ Spinall, Peruzzi, Killertunes and Wizkid supporters. I will address them.
DJ Spinall and Killertunes have the most credible complaints. The latter is signed to the former, and it has birthed a solid partnership that churns out hits. 2018 was arguably the best year for the dynamic duo, with Killertunes driving the dominant latino sound of the culture, while DJ Spinall elevated our ears and experiences with certified hit music such as “Baba,” and “Nowo.” He also retained his endorsement with Smirnoff, picked up another with Pepsi, and played sets at some of the most prestigious venues across the world. Check out a list of their achievements and links to many of them.
DJ SPINALL In 2018
– Toured 11 Cities In USA.
– Toured 3 Cities in South Africa.
– First Nigerian DJ & Second African DJ after Black Coffee to perform at the prestigious New York LAB. He is the first and only DJ to play Afrobeats. He did in 2017 & 2018.
– Signed International record Deal with Atlantic Records UK , First by any DJ in Nigeria.
– Signed a publishing Deal with Warner Chappel worldwide.
– Did a full set In one of Canada’s biggest event centre – Rebels !
– Headlined a sold out show in Uganda with Kranium only
– Headlined a show in Marbella, Spain
– Headlined a show in Stockholm alongside Mr Eazi
– Headlined a sold-out show in a French-speaking country, Togo
– One Africa official DJ in New York, London & Dubai
– Released one of the biggest songs of 2018 – NOWO
(The biggest song by any DJ in Nigeria till date in 2018, Check impact with Rihanna, Naomi Campbell, Karol G & Diddy. Also check the digitals on Youtube, Apple Music & Spotify).
– Released yet another smash hit Baba ft Kiss Daniel. It made it to MTV’s Top 20 songs of 2018
– DJ Spinall is the only DJ with two monster hits on MTV’s top 20 countdown.
– Released his ” 4th ” studio album IYANU ft Wizkid, Davido, Burna, Wurld etc.
– Sold out his Independent annual show in Lagos of #PartyOfYourDreams 4.0
– 4 times Smirnoff Brand Ambassador
– Pepsi Ambassador
– With an Instagram following of close a 2 million.
KILLERTUNES IN 2018
– Signed to DJ Spinall’s Label – TheCAPMusic
– Produced 5 out of MTV Base’s Top 20 Songs of 2018
Produced the following records in 2017 & 2018
Manya – Mutay ft Wizkid
Nowo – Spinall x Wizkid
Baba – Spinall x Kizz Daniel
Motigbana – Olamide
Fake Love – Wizkid & Duncan Mighty
Mayorkun ft Davido – Bobo
Becca ft Sarkodie – Nana
Tclassic ft Mayorkun – Fall in love
Olamide – Puna
Dice – Mr Biggs
Olamide – Logba Logba
Slim case – Kalamo
Kiss Daniel – Yeba
Omawumi ft DJ Spinall & SlimCase – Malowa
Tiwa Savage -One
SeyiShay ft DJ Spinall -One love
Demmie Vee ft Kiss Daniel -You go wait
Kiss Daniel – Oyibe
Kiss Daniel – Somebody Dey
DJ Yankee ft Dice – Lean on me
Wizkid ft SlimCase – Gucci snake
2017 and previous years –
Kiss Daniel – Sofa
WandeCoal – Funkeh
DJ Spinall ft Ycee -On a low
Becca ft Mr Eazi -Number one
DJ Spinall Timaya – Excuse me
Timaya x Don Jazzy – I concur
Skales – Mujo
Skales x Banky W – Nobody business
Dotman – IYAWO
Oladips – My story
Chinko Ekun ft Falz – Shayo
Lamili ft Timaya – Radical
Endia – Roll it
Mc Galaxy – Kase
Soft “Bang love
Dbanj – Focus
Versace Boyz ft. Skales – Give it to me
Spinall lost to DJ Neptunes, who has a contract with Soundcity and Urban FM. Although Neptunes released an album and had some decent singles, his year pales in comparison to Spinall. Killertunes lost to Phantom, a guy whose only hold on the trophy is that he made ‘Ye’, the song of the year. With that phenomenal single, he was placed so high, that he had to pick up a gong, in place of the guy who had his hand on the wheels of the culture, steering it with each hit song. I understand why there are people who are classifying the result as ‘robbery’. It’s a solid argument to make. One which continues to tighten its hold on you, thye longer you thing of it. At the end, you look the elephant in the room, and address it squarely with fists clenched: “Why didn’t get the award? This is unfair.”
It’s unfair. People who feel this is a robbery have enough material to work with.
Peruzzi is such a gem; A force of sound. A talented man with the creativity of a genius, and the strength of a workhorse. He is angered that he missed out on the gong as the best new artist. He dropped a few tweets, and got the world talking.
He wrote: “Personally I’d say I worked the hardest last year than any other new act, same way I made more money last year than any other new act in the country. There’s a way I see myself, it’s my race, there’s a way I’m running it. Focus on yours. Facts over hype. It’s really simple.”
Later, he deleted his earlier tweet but doubled down when the heat was too much for him. Peruzzi is right to be angry. But his anger is directed at the wrong target. While he exerted himself to great lengths in 2018, Peruzzi appeared to be a team player at DMW. His gifts appeared to be evenly distributed for the greater good of his teammates. His only personal single, ‘Mata’, buzzed underground, but didn’t fully ignite. Davido featured him prominently, and his contributions on ‘Amaka’ made the country dance. But it was all for the good of others too. Ownership is a crucial requirement for respect and recognition. He lacked that. His anger should be redirected to himself. Selflessness, while cute on paper, can be a liability in this market. It’s a teachable moment for everyone.
For Wizkid, well, the singer has a documented disaffection for award shows. There’s nothing to see here, except for the rabid behaviour of his maurauding fanboys, aka Starboy FC. They do the most. Their fandom bothers on obsession and extremism. Only Spinall and Killertunes have a clear case. They have a right to be angered. But there’s a new year ahead of them. If they rinse and repeat 2018 in 2019, I have a feeling they will be home and dry in the next award season. The fruits of consistency cannot be ignored forever.
Ultimately, for sanity and focus, artists need to take awards for what it is: An ego massager. It feels good and promises to increase your credibility, but if it doesn’t give you access to more professional opportunities, or puts money in your pocket, it is all fluff. Something for your ego to feed on. It holds no real value. Focus on your purpose.
Davido saw this once when he branded AFRIMA, “Award wey dey peel.” OBO was ahead of his time. These awards hold very little intrinsic value. But when your ego poisons your soul, it clouds your judgement. That’s why grown men can fight shamelessly over it. That’s why Peruzzi is living through to his signature. “I’m losing control!”
Never forget why you started. Awards never made anyone ever pick up a mic or write a lyric. Why fight over it now that there are higher prizes in front of you?