The Power Of Collaboration In The Nigerian Music Industry
Towards the end of January, YCee—our favourite part-time rapper, part-time pop star and full-time wave maker—and label mate Bella Alubo released Late Night Vibrations, a six-track collaborative compilation themed on the intimacies and conflicts of youthful love. Months on, the project is proving to be more than a strong album of the year contender. It’s proving to be the kind of music you could give your child to listen to when you’re asked, “What was dating like in your days?” Standing on the shoulders of their collaboration on Bella’s first single, Radio, it feels original, honest and relatable. The last time we had this type of chemistry was when Simi and Falz literally gave us Chemistry.
Bella Alubo has come a long way from her mixtape days; her delivery is still as soft and steady as it was on her early offerings, Revolutionary and Alhaji Money. Yet, her growth is more evident in the maturity of her lyricism. Delivery and lyricism have always been YCee’s strengths and the compilation reinforces this. At certain times, it plays at a much slower tempo than what we are currently used to in rap and pop, but it can also be argued that it was made for a more relaxed mood.
Of all mediums of arts, the world of music has probably benefited—more than any other—from the power of collaboration. More than anything, collaborations help musicians bridge the gap between styles and genres and crossover to new fan bases. It has manifested in the forms of a feature, cover, remix and even sampling of instrumentals from other artists. Most of these work to create a single track, but probably the most ambitious and most difficult of all is the kind attempted by Bella and YCee—the collaboration album. This is because artistic chemistry can be faked, forced or mistakenly stumbled upon over one track, but to achieve artistic chemistry over a full body of work is rare.
The first major collaboration album, and probably the most successful, in contemporary Nigerian music history was the 2007 compilation by artists’ under the now-defunct MoHits’ banner, Curriculum Vitae. With singles like Pere, Be Close To You, Booty Call and Move Your Body, the album seamlessly combined the unique artistry of very different styles of artists and set the foundation for the solo careers of Wande Coal, Dr Sid, and D’Prince.
Don Jazzy proved to be the master of the collaborative album yet again with Solar Plexus in 2012, masterminded to introduce the newly-formed Mavins Records. Banky W’s EME tried to replicate this model a few months later with the Empire Mates State of Mind. While it was great music and cemented Wizkid’s position as an industry frontrunner, it failed to launch the solo careers of his label mates. 2015’s The Indestructible Choc Boi Nation simply had too many artists on it to create a lasting impression about any of its newcomers.
Record labels are not as commonplace as they were a decade ago, with younger artists tending to trust social media more than label heads. But it is hoped that the relative success of Late Night Vibrations could be some sort of renaissance of themed collaborations on the Nigerian music scene.