Here is a list of Nigeria’s biggest music producers of today, who not only served their record company bosses some of the biggest selling records in history, but also allowed the singers and musicians they worked with to sound their very best.
While Jonah D Monarch was creating typical rap beats for Modenine and OJB Jezrel was busy creating the sound to creat acclaim and sales in Lagos for Tuface Idibia, a songwriter, arranger, composer and session player called Cobhams Asuquo was putting the final touches on one of the other trademark sounds of 90s and 2000s. With great input on the debut album of Asa, Cobhams became an instant hit giving the Nigerian audience a feel of soulful sound that beats the imagination of the creator as well as the listeners. This technique allowed Cobhams to create single after single of lushly arranged soul and R n B masterpieces and create a reputation for himself bigger than the artistes he produced. He went ahead to prove his worth by signing for Sony Music and wrote songs for the international music company. In later years, he worked extensively with Darey Art Alade, Chidinma Ekile and Asa producing several of their solo hits. Still incorporating his uncommon and well blended production, he produced timeless solo tracks like ‘Eye Adaba,’ ‘Lagimo,’ ‘Not the Girl,’ ‘In the music’ and ‘Jailer’ among several others. Even with his blind state, his career and reputation blossomed and reached the zenith in the Nigerian music industry and outside. Still, his legacy is firmly cemented in the Nigerian music history and his songs still define classic soul till this day.
Sometimes in 2003, a record producer called Don Jazzy had the most important meeting in the history of Nigerian pop music when he decided to work on his buddy, D’Banj’s full album. Not yet a successful producer of classical albums as at that time, Don Jazzy was interested in branching out from his UK garage music to an African laced hip Hop. Sampling several beats and sounds, he initially wasn’t all that sure of what was before him, but liked the vocals and personality of his buddy, D’Banj.
Don swallowed his reservations and after working and getting ideas from producer friends alike, he signed a recording contract with D’Banj to a jointly owned recording company tagged Mo’Hits Inc. Don Jazzy nurtured D’Banj through his recording sessions and helped him hone his massive, but still raw, talents. Under his guidance, D’Banj blossomed into one of the biggest star to emerge from Nigeria as well as berthing with D’Prince, Wande Coal, Dr. Sid and K-Switch, four other talented acts under the name, Mo’Hits All Stars. D’Banj as well as members of Mo’Hits Allstar wrote great songs between 2004 till date, but they recorded amazing records. Working with Don Jazzy, they expanded the boundaries of pop music and smashed all preconceived notions of what records made from the genre of music could sound like. Don Jazzy isn’t an old hand at producing, but he shared a love of experimentation and helped the ‘Koko master’ as well as the Mo’Hits Allstar, bring classical instruments, sound effects, and studio tricks to their records. Don Jazzy has also produced for American stars, Jay Z and Kanye West in his short-spanned career, but he’ll always be remembered for creating some of the greatest tunes Nigeria has ever heard.
If you bought a modern rock record in the mid to late 2000s, chances are you’ve heard the production of a young prince known as Dokta Frabz. Responsible for the slick, smoky sound of records that oozed out of the Obi Asika led Storm Records, Frabz’ work was all over the radio and video channels. A successful youngman and multi-instrumentalist in his own right, Frabz brought an intensity and sense of perfection to his production work. Although his recording sessions are famously contentious, groups returned to him again and again for the sound he could bring to their albums and the quality work he could get out of them with his Nsayne productions(pronounced as Insane). One of Frabz’ greatest strengths are his ability to make synthesizers and other electronic instruments sound organic. Even in the mid 2000, when most pop music sounded like auditory plastic, Frabz skill at making music sound natural allowed artists to explore new sounds while still maintaining an authentic, natural sound and one that’s unmistakably influenced by Dokta Frabz. From Sasha to Naeto C, YQ and Omawumi, his imprint on these crops of artistes’ albums remains glorious.
If Dokta Frabz was the producer who defined what fine records sounded like in the mid 2000s, OJB Jezrel did the same thing in the 1990s. OJB started as an instrumentalist and singer doing his own thing all by himself. Unsatisfied with the sound of the music productions around him, OJB taught himself how to engineer and produce albums. When OJB arrived, he turned to producing full time and amassed a resume of some great records before deciding to release some albums. OJB produced watershed albums for pop royalty, Tuface Idibia, Jazzman Olofin, Ruggedman and countless others. He produced and co-wrote one of the Tuface biggest albums of all time- Grass To Grace. Unknown to many, he was one of the first influence on rave kid, Wizkid at his early days in Surulere area of Lagos State. Never satisfied with previous work, OJB continued to record his own records solo while also giving professional advice to several up and coming acts and has become one of Nigeria’s hip hop/pop great experimenters and early adopters of new technology. He’s always been an innovator and always been one of the genre’s most respected producers.
TeeY mix revolutionized popular music and basically created a brand new genre with his star-packed recording studio. Assembling perhaps some of the best collection of music in the history of popular music, TeeY Mix brought the world songs from Naeto C, TY Bello, Lara George, Inyanya, Capital F.E.M.I and many more. TeeY knew how to spot talent, but more importantly, he really knew how to package and give that talent some of the best tunes that have sold records. By creating a wholesome image through his production for his large list of singers, he was able to bring back the seemingly missing feel of black American music in a way no one else ever has. TeeY, it is widely said employs a small army of incredible strings, chords and bazz and had a magician’s knack for matching artists to songs and one of his magic wands was his input on Naeto C’s ‘Akomi Ti Poju’. Little wonder, he stands all as one of the judges at the MTN Project Fame West Africa reality TV show.
Few people have done as much as musician, songwriter and producer, Jesse Jagz Abaga to keep the Nigerian hip hop music in the public eye. As a frontline producer and soundtrack supervisor, Jesse just like his brother Jude Abaga, has had a hand in some of the most popular hits and albums of the 5 years. Whenever an artist wants to record an album of deeply rooted African hits and well blended percussions, they usually turn to Jesse to get the songs and sound they want. M.I, Iceprince, Brymo, Skales and others have all recorded songs with Jesse, whose musicianship and knack for recording helped them revive interest and sales in the genre. Jesse has also been an influential soundtrack coordinator, overseeing such classics as ‘Superstory’ and ‘Everyday people.’ When he isn’t busy putting together great sounds, he also helps Iceprince and other music acts compose hit songs. Jesse would forever be remembered for his production works on hit songs like ‘Oleku,’ ‘Jago’ and ‘Superstar’ amongst others.
Hip Hop isn’t the only genre with super producers. Recently, a youngster from FESTAC called J Sleek was busy defining the sound of pop and helping reviving the careers of the genre’s biggest acts. After a successful coaching under some estate based producers, Sleek met up with one of Nigeria’s most gifted singer, Tuface Idibia to produce songs for his international album, ‘Unstoppable.’ With Sleek’s production, the singer, regained his almost dwindling career and was further shot to almost instant national fame and notoriety with their raw sound and controversial lyrics. Once Tuface regained his position in the music industry, Sleek embarked on a successful solo career and became a producer for just about every rap artist who mattered. He worked on records for Sound Sultan, Faze, W4 and others. Influenced by international funk stalwarts, J Sleek avoided samples, preferring the flexibility of using live musicians to create his beats. The resulting tracks were heavy on synthesizers, guitars and keyboards, creating a unique sound that came to dominate the scene and continues to influence other productions.
When young Gabriel Amanyi realized all he ever wanted to do was be in the musical world, he settled for his second choice and joined ex-Plantashun Boiz star, Faze, as a back-up singer. He was never given a chance to feature on a song let alone producing for some of the biggest stars in the industry. However his loss was undoubtedly an undying gain for the music industry. Starting a little label called Terry G Productions; Terry G was responsible for discovering some of the most influential tunes and sounds in the industry today. Ruggedman, 2Shotz, Illbliss, Timaya, Jaywon, Ay.com, Drama and Side one are among the stars who laid down tracks overseen by the ‘Ginger’ cum ‘Aphako master.’ An artist’s producer first and foremost, he allowed young singers like himself to play around in the studio and find their way naturally to the best take. Less interested in audio perfection than most producers, Terry chose the takes he felt best captured the emotion of the song and the people performing it. One of the architects of street hop music, Terry will always be remembered for his fantastic ear for hit songs as well as creation of unusual beats that has influenced other producers in his era. A lot of people have claimed to have invented Street hop, but few people have as strong a claim as Terry G-zuz. There are a lot of famous producers in music industry, but few became stars in the way that Terry G and Jesse Jagz have.
Samklef wouldn’t have made the list but for his input on rave music kid, Wizkid’s ‘Superstar’ album. He stamped himself as one of the producers to reckon with after producing 6 tracks out of the entire album and fortunately, 4 out of the tracks became instant hit on the ‘Superstar’ album. And with this success, he quickly became one of the most sought after producers in the business. Impressed with his success, Samklef went ahead and released his debut album with the smashing single, ‘Noni.’ Of course it didn’t hurt that Wizkid sang on most of the hooks in his songs, he still got himself a spot in the klieglihts.
After a somewhat successful stint as a drummer and pianist, Puffy T gave up performing and started his own recording studio. From almost the very beginning of his producing career under the watchful eyes of Zeeno Foster, Puffy T made a huge name for himself working on big records from the emerging singer, LKT. Behind the controls for such milestone in the career of popular singer, Olu Maintain as and one of the most important actors in one Nigeria’srecords of all time, ‘Yahoozee,’ Puffy T took the raw, grungy sounds of the alternative scene and polished them into classics that crossed over but lost none of their authenticity or grit. After contributing and still contributing his quota to the music industry, Puffy returned to featuring in songs. He still produces for other acts but he made his mark bringing a clear, crisp sheen to the greatest grunge records ever released.