Image courtesy of the artist/DNA Brand.

2022 Was the Year of Asake

There's no doubt that Asake became the soundtrack to Nigerian and African airwaves in 2022. We take a look back at his rise this year.

Like many Nigerians, Asake has lived through a tale filled with hardships, having to stand firm and overcome the many hurdles daily living has thrown at him. The 27-year-old often describes playing the cards he was dealt in order to claw his way out of the nation's underbelly in his own way.

Ahmed Ololade’s first creative pursuit was dance, he chased this dream for a while, but during his time studying theater arts at university a flip switched. He sought an edge for his dance routines and resolved that combining singing with dance would drive his point further. That decision in 2015 birthed a music career that has bloomed in 2022 for all of Nigeria—and the world—to see.

Although Asake started releasing music on DSPs in 2019, it took another year for him to experience a taste of going viral through the club banger "Mr. Money," which registered him in the Nigerian soundscape.

Taking inspiration from street-hop pioneers like DaGrin, Lord Of Ajasa, and Olamide, Asake draws from his life experiences, speaking on realities and documenting the hustle spirit required of him to break through. He does this utilizing a sonic blend of Fuji music, and sermon-like lyricism, which manifests through dynamic use of spiritual affirmations. He also mixes varying harmonies amplified with choir-backed vocals (a theme that’s regularly used in Fuji music) to aid him in gliding through the thematic subtexts and amapiano instrumentation. "Mr. Money" is a track he says opened the door for him.

But Asake got his major break earlier this year in January, 2022, when street-hop legend Olamide hopped on his single "Omo Ope," and signed Asake to his YBNL label shortly after. ‘Omo Ope’ would go on to change the trajectory of Asake’s career, cementing his sound and beginning his domination of 2022 in Nigerian music.

His first project under YBNL was an EP titled Ololade Asake and it maintained a steady shelf life on Nigerian charts, with the especially popular single "Sungba." "Sungba" earned him a pivotal co-sign from Nigerian superstar Burna Boy, who delivered a scintillating verse on the remix which reverberated across the continent.

Without taking his foot off the pedal, Asake released a string of singles and feature appearances, DJ SPINALL’s "PALAZZO" was the first of a couple. Its snippet took over social media weeks prior to its release, and by the time it was drop day, the Asake bug had caught a majority of listeners and took it to number 1.

The releases that followed succeeded in a similar trajectory, including "Peace Be Unto You (PBUY)," "Terminator," as well as his appearance on Fireboy DML’s "Bandana." Each of these amplified Asake’s growing star power and his influence on contemporary Nigerian music.

By the time his debut album, Mr Money With The Vibe, was announced in August, his clear-cut domination of the year was without a doubt. The album debuted #1 on streaming charts in Nigeria and #66 on the Billboard 200 which set a record for the highest charting debut album from a Nigerian ever. Critics and listeners found very little faults in it, and it was very recently among Rolling Stone’s Best 100 Albums of the Year (#39).

The project achieved all of these feats without straying away from Asake’s core themes of life, hustle, and spirituality embodied by someone who’s fought hard to get to where he is. Songs like "Dull," "Ototo," and "Nzaza" walk through a line of prophecy, and upliftment while club hits like "Joha" and "Organise" have more uptempo rhythms, but still fall back on the album’s running themes. The only features on the album are from Burna Boy and American rapper Russ, who like Asake has had a similar musical journey.

“I go get money, e too sure for me (aje). K’Oluwa jor fere soro mi,” Asake says on his track "Ototo."

With a unique approach to his music visuals, with the help of renowned video director TG Omori, Asake makes sure his videos take his viewers to the next level. Each one a fantastical mix of his vivid imagination and storytelling, as he pulses through each frame with the swagger of a superstar. His superstar persona has been heightened by an intentional approach to his fashion and style. Asake’s fits usually consist of oversized high fashion silhouettes, more often Balenciaga and Dior, with oversized sunglasses. These staples have become a signature look for the Nigerian star whose many looks have gone viral for their outlandish nature.

Since the release of his debut album, Asake has taken the world by storm. First going on a promo run for his album in North America, which had him perform at sold-out venues across eight American cities. In a monumental step for a breakout artist, tickets for Asake’s first ever show in London, at the famed 02 Academy Brixton arena, sold out in minutes, prompting him to add two more dates which have also sold out. Showing the artist's music and fame has grown way bigger than the humble beginnings in Lagos, as he sets his sight on the global takeover.

After much teasing, Tiwa Savage and Asake released "Loaded," his seemingly last appearance of the year concluding his incredible run of 2022. It’s no doubt that Asake became the soundtrack to Nigerian and African airwaves through the course of the year.

His ability to take his music to a place of deep introspection and spirituality while sharing bits of his mind state and story is true sonic art that’s connected with a wide range of growing fans who believe Mr Money is truly with the vibe right now.

Listen to Asake's Mr. Money With the Vibe below.