As far as I am concerned and as it has been observed from the history or marketing music across the world,the creation, distribution and promotion of quality music anywhere in the world hinges on successful record label operations and Nigeria is no different. Having come a long way from the Kennis music monopoly which characterized the first decade ( 1998-2008 ) of modern day Urban music in Nigeria, the music industry nowadays comprises of different record labels, record companies and also independent labels which have all been able to affect the way we consume and enjoy music. This article aims to outline the 10 most successful, active and productive record companies in the country for the year 2015, as determined by a number of pertinent factors.
1- Mavin Records
Active Members:- Don Jazzy, Dr Sid, Tiwa Savage, Reekado Banks, D’Prince, Di’Ja and Korede Bello.
In-house Producers:- Don Jazzy, Altims And Baby Fresh
Ever since Mavin records was inaugurated in 2012, they have pretty much been on top of their game and made sure that every artiste on the label has at least a hit song to their name. The manner in which the label is run is quite commendable in the sense that from the outside looking in, none of the acts on the label feel maligned or neglected. While last year was basically Dr Sids “Surulere” year, this year has seen much more productivity from every artiste on the label, Korede Bello had a stellar year, delivering one of the biggest songs in the country Godwin. Reekado Banks was the most featured act on the label appearing on a slew of new music by different acts ( Skales, Falz, Lace, Edem, and American Rappers Wale & Jay Electronica ), While pregnancy and motherhood may have slowed Tiwa down a bit, she was quite commendably active as a featured guest on records and appeared on one of the biggest remixes in the country with Davido and Kiss Daniel on Woju. Di’Ja may not be as popular as you expect in Lagos, but up North, she is in very high demand and performed commendably well this year, both as an entity and as a team player on the label. The most quiet duo of the bunch were D’Prince and Dr Sid, the latter understandably ( as he owned last year ) , and the former did commendably well with his single Oga Titus which is quite a nominal hit song.
Producers Altims and Baby Fresh are still learning the ropes production-wise, but their mentor and leader Don Jazzy is doing a great job at making sure that everyone on his label is happy and also by instituting various promotion strategies and campaigns on social media which basically no Nigerian label was able to match in 2015, this has been one of their strongest points, as well as the Group songs like Dorobucci, Looku Looku and most recently Jantamanta which usually features everyone on the label and turns out to be hits, essentially making sure that every member of the label has appeared on a Chart-topper, This is one of their strongest angles and why to me, they are the most profitable and bankable record label in the land this year, Not to mention their upcoming December concert which is expected to close the year off with a bang
Mavin All Stars – JantaManta
Korede Bello – God Win
Mavin All-Stars:- Get Down Featuring Jay Electronica, DI’ja And Reekado Banks
D’Prince – Oga Titus Featuring Don Jazzy
Mavin All-Stars – Looku Looku
2- YBNL Records
Active Members:- Olamide, Lil Keshinro, Chinko Ekun, Adekunle Gold , Viktoh
In-house Producers:- Pheelz & Young John The Wicked Producer
2015 was a very eventful year for Yahoo Boy No Laptop Inc, aka YBNL Records which is home to the biggest Rapper in the country Olamide, as well as The biggest “young” Rapper Lil Kesh ,not to mention one of the most sought after producers in the business Young John. When the label was launched in 2012 it consisted of Kida Kudz, 2Kriss and Pele Pele, artistes all of whom have left the label and have since been replaced with the current rooster , a move which in turn justified their leaders decision and made a wonderful return on the label investment, 2015 being their best year yet. While we all know Olamide had an amazing individual year with the biggest album of his career Eyan Mayweather and a joint album with Phyno 2 Kings, we can also say that the joy was spread all around the label as Lil Kesh himself dominated pretty much every music chart in the country with a slew of smash hits Shoki ( which spilled into this year from the last ) , Gbese, Efejoku And the more recent Is It Because I Love You. Adekunle Gold who brings an entirely different demographic and dynamic to a label that is otherwise packed with Rappers also contributed to the wins with his own singles Sade, Orente and most recently Pick Up a song that is quickly becoming a fan favourite. Viktoh had a good year, assisting Kesh on Efejoku ( This gave him a lot of exposure and the necessary boost ) and dropping his own impressive singles Instagram Police and Skiibii Dat, not to mention Chinko Ekun who broke The Rhythm FM Freestyle record which was formerly held by Vector by freestyling non-stop for over an hour and made a name for himself in the underground Hip-hop circuits as a venomous rapper, thus garnering a cult following. I also have to mention their sold-out UK concert which was the biggest show by any Nigerian label crew since Chocolate City sold out 02 Arena in 2010
The Talisman at YBNL is the production duo of Pheelz and Young John who established his sound this year, producing songs like Bobo, Lagos Boys, Efejoku, Melo Melo and other extravagant chart toppers by numerous artistes. Together they are quickly creating a formidable sonic cushion and a very unique and distinct Afro-pop/dance sound which worked for the label in magnanimous proportions this year. Simply put, Only Mavin records did more than YBNL Nation in 2015.( and some people will even disagree )
Olamide – Bobo
Lil Kesh – Efejoku Featuring Viktoh
Adekunle Gold – Orente
Lil Kesh – Gbese
Olamide – Lagos Boys
3- HKN Music
Active Members:- Davido, Danagog, Deekay, Shina Rambo, B-Red
In-house Producer:- Shizzi
Before 2015, HKN music was basically powered solely by the star-quality of it’s flagship act and co-owner Davido however, this year saw a radical transformation in the label which led to semi-respectable artiste statuses being bequeathed upon Sina Rambo and B-Red both artistes who many people did not necessarily take seriously before. most especially B-red who started the year off by releasing the video for his song Twerk It which has amassed over 1Million Youtube views as at press time. He followed the song up with Money and Ayepo Featuring Runtown and Skales, Dangerous Featuring May D and most importantly his Akon featured Cucumber which he just released and is currently being appreciated by the fans. Danagog also did exceptionally well this year, delivering songs like Koba Featuring Lil Kesh, Pelemo with Lola Rae, and Dakun Featuring Pelli. He also appeared as a featured guest on a commendable number of tracks which led me to believe he is the hardest worker on the label behind Davido. Deekay and Sina Rambo were also more active than they have ever been as Sina also got a collaboration with Akon and Deekay got to remix his song Repete with Olamide. The In-house producer of the crew Shizzi also outdid himself this year, catering for everybody on the label sonically and even getting a Meek Mill verse on his beat courtesy of Fans Mii by Davido as well as crafting hits for artistes like Runtown, Skales MC Galaxy and Niyola .
We all know what grounds Davido broke in 2015, but I’ll tell you this, Any label that can get Akon in the studio to work with pretty much all the artistes on its rooster deserves a whole lot of commendation and respect.
Davido – Fans Mii Featuring Meek Mill
Danagog – Koba Featuring Lil Kesh
B.Red – Cucumber Featuring Akon
Davido – Dodo
Davido – The Money Featuring Olamide
Active Members:- Kiss Daniel, Sugarboy, DJ Shabsy
In-house Producer:- DJ Coublon [ Contractually ]
To the casual music fan,It’s hard to fathom why G-Worldwide takes the number 4 spot on this list, but anybody who pays serious attention to the business will have an idea and understanding as to how they made the list at this position. I honestly cannot remember the last time a label concentrated all their resources on just one artiste and actually reaped bountiful benefits. Not only was Woju the biggest song in the country ( A tie with Godwin by Korede Bello), but the label managed to handle the follow up song Laye professionally by making sure it didn’t sound like Woju and showing the fans a different side of Kiss Daniel, a play that really worked and put to rest any insinuation that Kiss was a One-hit wonder. They also released Raba and Molue both songs that featured everyone signed to the label and once again the fans gobbled it all up. Good Time is the most recent song from the label and is already being touted as one of the songs of the year. G-Worldwide managed to achieve all these in one year and elevated themselves to an enviable label status, most importantly they did it with just one artiste, That to me is highly commendable and I cannot wait to see just how they perform next year with Sugarboy and who they sign next.
Kiss Daniel – Woju
Kiss Daniel – Woju [ Remix ] Featuring Davido & Tiwa Savage
Kiss Daniel – Laye
Kiss Daniel – Good Time
DJ Shabsy – Raba Featuring Kiss Daniel & Sugarboy
5-Triple MG Records
Active Members:- Iyanya, Selebobo, Tekno, Baci
In-house producers:- Selebobo & Tekno
The Departure of Emma Nyra from the fold last year did not stop The Made Men Music Group from going extra hard this year and earning themselves a highly deserved spot on this list. Starting with Selebobo who carried his impressive form which saw him produce Yemi Alades biggest song Johnny into this year , making him one of the go-to guys for artistes ( Bracket, Dumex, Papa, Beverly, Lioness Oyibo, Veecko Kyngz, Flavour etc ) who were looking to capture his unique eastern-Afrocentric sound which he dishes out to his labelmates on a consistent basis. While producing for other artistes, Sele also dropped his own contemporary highlife/dance songs like Wumewu and Gon Gon which are both receiving airplay in south-eastern Nigeria. Iyanya was unveiled as the face of Yudala,a thriving online store and also dropped his third album Applaudise which I thought was a decent afro-pop album. The most quiet artiste of the bunch Baci made his debut with the slightly addictive Let’s Relate which featured Davido ( I have high hopes for Baci ) and was well received by fans.
The most surprising artiste in the crew this year is Tekno, because nobody basically saw him coming.The young artiste joined the fold a year ago and moved to Lagos from Abuja did quite well with his single Dance which was released in 2013 but it’s safe to say this year was his most powerful and impactful as he delivered hit songs like Duro ( the biggest song of his career ) which spanned a remix with Flavour and Phyno as well as the recently released Wash which everybody is loving at the moment. He didn’t stop there, but he also lent his vocals and production skills to artistes outside the label thus assisting them to craft hit songs. Artistes like Bracket –Panya, Ice Prince –Boss, Lynxxx – Pray For Me and Tilla- Badman all benefited from Teknos resourcefulness this year and I have to say he contributed the most to making sure Triple MG is in a position of reckoning ( as they are ) at the end of the year.
Tekno – Duro
Iyanya – Applaudise
Baci – Let’s Relate Featuring Davido
Selebobo – Gon Gon
Triple MG All-Stars – Yudala
Active Members:- M.I, Jesse Jagz, Ice Prince, Victoria Kimani, Dice Ailes, Loose Kaynon, Pryse, Milli, Ruby Gyang, Koker, DJ Caise, DJ Lambo, Nosa
In-House producers:- Reinhard, Jesse Jagz, CKay, L37
Though M.I Is catching a lot of flack for under-performing in his 6-months as Chocolate City boss ( I feel it’s a bit too early to score his performance ),The label as a whole definitely did a lot in 2015 to deserve the number 5 spot. While I did not expect anything from spectacular from Koker, Dice Ailes, Milli and Loose Kaynon this year, they all still surprisingly delivered in above average proportions with commendable singles off their compilation project The Indestructible Choc Boy Nation, especially Koker whose song Do Something became a nominal hit and is still growing, perhaps insinuating that he is the rookie with the most promise on the label. Ice Prince had a quiet but eventful year, delivering his Trash Can EP at the start of the year and ending the year as the first African artiste to have a video ( Boss ) on Jay-Z’s Tidal App with rumours of a Roc Nation management deal and the Jay-Z owned D’usse Cognac endorsement in the horizon. While Brymo has stated that returning to the label will not “make sense” , M.I was able to get his brother Jesse Jagz back to the fold after a series of high-powered negotiations,a move which a lot of observers thought would be nearly impossible as Jesse had already created a path for himself and had delivered two stellar projects independently ( Jagz Nation Vol 1: Thy Album Come & Jagz Nation Vol 2: Royal Niger Company , however together they both proved that blood is thicker than water with the reconciliation.
Signing new producers was also another positive step for a label that had never had a designated in-house producer, this year, they recruited Reinhard, Ckay and L37 who all gave good accounts of themselves on the project. No major label has more female artistes than Chocolate City with DJ Lambo, Ruby, Pryse and Victoria Kimani ( who is now a sex symbol of sorts ), and this year, all of them moved up a notch in different departments of music and entertainment and I think Chocolate City will do a whole lot better next year.
Ice Prince – Boss
M.I, Jesse Jagz, Ice Prince – Summertime
Koker – Do Something
Dice Ailes – Oh No
M.I Abaga – Bullion Van Featuring Storm Rex, Phyno And Runtown
7- Capital Nation/Goretti Company
Active Members:- Ill Bliss, Tha Suspect, Chidinma Ekile, Mz Kiss
In-House Producers:- Tha Suspect
Capital Hill Records was commendably productive on all fronts this year and had quite a memorable one. As Usual the video production arm ( Capital Dreams ) of the company worked tirelessly to keep satisfying artistes and fans alike by churning out quality visuals for different musical projects/artistes and also releasing their debut motion picture HEX a first-of-its-kind short horror movie which dropped earlier this month and has already won Clarence Peters a directorial award. Tha Suspect remained efficient even as a fringe producer working with underground rappers and also unveiled Actor And Boss a solid rap song that featured CDQ and the Late Da Grin. Mz Kiss who signed to the label this year has already established herself in certain quarters as a Yoruba Rapper with an attitude and is showing signs of having a successful 2016 with her singles like Stoopid, Owo Meta‘ Woju [ Cover ] and Jagaban [ Cover ] all of which have proven that she is indeed an artiste to keep tabs on next year. Chidinma Ekile also did well, dropping songs like Kite, Africa We Are One, If E No Be God, Lorry Featuring M.I and a duet with Banky W titled All I Want Is You, all songs which were well received by her fans and point towards a full length project from the delectable singer next year,
The star on the label this year was undoubtedly Illbliss who also doubles as the head honcho of the label operations. While discharging his executive duties, he still took out time to drop a classic album Powerful which is one of the best rap albums to be released from Nigeria in a minute and also kept his feet firmly rooted in the rap game delivering stellar guest appearances on different rap songs and mentoring a lot of green-horn and semi-established rappers, a testament to why he is one of the most respected Hip-hop personalities in Nigeria.
Ill Bliss – Chukwu Agozigo Gi
Chidinma – Lorry Featuring M.I Abaga
Tha Suspect – Actor & Boss Featuring CDQ and Da Grin
Capital Nation – Adekunle [ Finally ] Featuring Fefe
Ill Bliss – Funded Featuring Fefe & Black Magic
Active Members:- Reminisce & Sojay
In-House producer – NIL
Students of the game know that Edge records is an important and pivotal company as far as Nigerian urban music goes. The legendary label is what I usually refer to as a younger brother to Coded Tunes and a big brother to Alapomeji records, has had a hand and played different notable roles in the careers of artistes like 9ice, Olamide, 2 Phat, Xpee, Jahbless, and Reminisce, the latter being the flagship artiste of the label at the moment and did a lot to make his record label one of the most active urban labels in the country. Edge records has stood the test of time and proved that they are indeed an burgeoning urban music powerhouse that needs to be taken serious. While Jahbless left the label amicably and quietly this year, Reminisce immediately stepped up, taking the mantle of leadership and moving the company to new heights with the release of his album Baba Hafusa which charted on billboard and was well heralded by music aficionados across Africa. Not only did Remi drop his third album, but he also signed numerous endorsement deals with Guinness Nigeria to be the face of Orijin Bitters and Samsung to promote the Galaxy phone brands as well. Arguably one of the most featured Rappers over the last 2 years,Reminisce transversed the length and breadth of Nigeria in 2015, performing in numerous states and also embarking on a successful European tour. Sojay on the other hand is not a traditional pop star, but more of a core vocalist however the system at Edge records has helped him adjust adequately and he has churned out potential hits like Wicked, Say Something, Baby and Sugar Cane thus I can say he delivered more this year than he ever did during his brief sojourn with Trybe Records and is showing a lot of promise entering into next year. The partnership with Les Roses Rouges [ Reminisce’s label ] and Edge records is set to bear even more fruit as Alaga Ibile shows no signs to burning out and Sojay is sharp as ever looking to cement his name firmly in the music business, The sky is the limit for the label and personally I want to see what direction they move in next year.
Reminisce – Kpomo [ Remix ] Featuring Falz, CDQ, Seriki & Lil Kesh
Reminisce – Local Rappers Featuring Olamide & Phyno
Sojay – Wicked
Reminisce – Let It Be Known Featuring Sojay
Reminisce – Tesojue
9-Five Star Music
Active Members:- Kcee, Harrysong & Skiibii
In-house Producer:- Dr Amir and Del B [ Contractually ]
Five Star music finally figured out a way to give Harrysong a more global appeal this year with the release of his single Reggae Blues, a song which a lot of people are saying is already bigger than him. The song has attained hit status and pretty much made up for a number of inconsistencies which dogged the label throughout the year. Kcee was not able to recreate the success he experienced 2 years ago with Pull Over and Limpopo, but he delivered decent songs like Limba, Love Boat, Feel It ( I like this one ) Talk and Do, none of which made any considerable impact, but were appreciated and well received by his core fans. This year would have been the best for the youngest artiste on the label Skiibii who started off well when he dropped Sampu on August 11 but was declared dead 3 days later by his manager Soso Soberekon, who later retracted the news after it was clear that he wasn’t dead and only wanted to facilitate the promotion of his music with cheap and provocative gimmicks. I feel the death-hoax was a counter productive measure which took away even the little love Skiibii was getting and turned the mind of a large number of the music listening populace against him, nonetheless 2015 was a memorable and very active year for Five Star music, but I fear that this year also might mark the beginning of their decline ( don’t take my word for it ) , because not only are a few fans slowly getting averse to monotonous, repetitive and highly generic type of music coming from the label ( most especially from Kcee ), They were also labelled intellectual property thieves when they were accused of stealing and interpolating the concept for JantaManta which was performed by Mavin all-stars and using it for their most recent song Ebeano, an allegation Harrysong has since denied. All these little hiccups are really not needed by a record label which I think was thriving quite well and may as well prove to be unnecessary distractions.
Harrysong – Reggae Blues Featuring Olamide, Orezi, Iyanya & Kcee
Kcee – Limba
Kcee – Love Boat Featuring Diamond Platnumz
Kcee – Feel It Featuring Iyanya & Harrysong
Five Star All-Stars – Ebeano
10-Effyzzie Music Group
Active Members:- Yemi Alade & Geniuzz
In-house producer – NIL
While I do not know the CEO Of this label Effyzzie Music Group, their exploits beginning from last year when Kings Of Queens was released by their flagship artiste Yemi Alade has led me on a mission to find out who the innovative brain behind the fast rising music powerhouse is. After Yemi dropped her debut album, the label went on a full offensive to promote her and milk the album for what it’s worth ( a practice that is lost on so many other labels ), Not only did they promote each song individually and shot videos for 90% of the album, they carried on the fanfare into this year and sent Yemi on tour across the world to perform and witness diverse and comprehensive fan feedback. Effyzzie group took a relatively obscure Yemi and transformed her to one of the hottest superstars on the continent, How ?? By doing EVERYTHING a label needs to do for an artiste, simple. When they had almost exhausted the album run, they released a deluxe version with a few bonus tracks and towards the end of the year released a DVD compilation of all her videos and live performances to the delight of her fans.( another lost art to a lot of labels )
Having certified Yemi as a household name, Plateau state bred artiste Geniuzz was signed to the label in April, and has released his single Kakaraka which already has an accompanying video and is winning him some new fans. Geniuzz accompanied Yemi on her London tour to get a taste of the A-List artiste experience on tour, another masterstroke by the label which was perhaps intended to motivate him and get him fired up to take his career to the next level. This list would not have been accurate and complete without EMG, and I daresay a lot of labels, even the much bigger ones that treat music like disposable fast food need to draw lessons from the way they handle the music at EMG. Yemi Alade is currently working on her next album Mama Africa and while I am skeptical about the album title, I am quite sure Effyzzie music group will handle the project with the due professionalism it requires.
Yemi Alade – Johnny
Yemi Alade – Pose Featuring Mugeez
Geniuzz – Kakaraka
Yemi Alade – Do As I Do Featuring DJ Arafat
Geniuzz – Under Rate Featuring Yemi Alade
Baseline Music:- For doing what EME could not do in 5 years, release a Skales Album
X3M Music:- It’ll be unfair not to mention them after the great job they did on Praiz, Simi and Sammy.