Take a trip back to 2007 Nigeria and the sounds of 9ice, Timaya, Asa, P-Sqaure and many more.
The year is 2007, Olusegun Obasanjo is the outgoing president of Nigeria and, economically, the country is on the rise. The creative industry is also entering a new renaissance and Nollywood is booming. Enter, the Nigerian music scene.
2007 was a stellar year for Nigerian music. Sonically, it was extremely diverse as many new players entered the game with a bang. An array of new record labels, studios, and artists emerged with a hunger to take over an industry that was growing fast.
In the early 2000s, Kennis Music, an indigenous record label held a monopoly on the scene. If you weren’t dropping music with them, you simply weren’t popping; you were destined to only a fraction of the available limelight. By 2007, that dominance was well and truly over. By now, the scene had more or less completely moved away from being heavily foreign-dominated in style and aesthetics to a more Nigerian approach. Popstars traded their faux-American accents for their local dialects.
In 2006, this phenomenon was predicted by hip-hop veteran, Rugged Man, who on his track “Ruggeddy Baba” rapped: “Wetin go make them know where your music come from in the long run, na the fusion of grammar, your slang, and your mother tongue.”
The implication of this statement was that to truly capture every demographic in Nigeria, and make timeless music, you had to adopt a combination of influences with your local language being the standout. This spoke to Nigeria’s diversity in culture.
A perfect case in point for this manifestation was 9ice, who was heavily reliant on the use of Yoruba proverbs and adages in his music. This allowed him to capture older audiences while still being able to connect with the younger generation. His single “Gongo Aso,” the biggest song of that year, was a prime example of this and a literal manifestation of Ruggedman’s lyrics from the year prior.
9ice - Gongo Aso www.youtube.com
Breakout stars like Asa and Timaya also dropped their debut albums to critical and commercial acclaim in 2007. Asa, in particular, took the scene by storm. She was able to break into the mainstream by making music that was influenced by traditional folk. This sound was far from the norm at the time, but just like 9ice, it allowed her to capture every demographic in Nigeria. Her songs could cheerfully be sung by children in the same way adults could relate with them. Mo Hits, the biggest label at the time, dropped a first-of-its-kind label compilation album in Nigeria. The projects spawned hits like "Booty call," "Move your body," and "Close to you”; with the most prolific producer in the land at the time, Don Jazzy, handling the majority of the production on the project.
TV, radio, and CDs reigned supreme as a medium for hearing new music and watching videos. The syndication of MTV Base from cable TV to local TV meant that music reached more ears and eyes than ever before. Around this time, Nigerian acts and labels also decided to put more effort into their visuals, sparking a wave of artists going to South Africa, where they could shoot better quality music videos. Videos like Naeto C’s “Kini big deal” and P-Square’s “Do Me” were the real game-changers and became the standard for the videos that followed in subsequent years.
Also, at this time sharing songs via Bluetooth and memory cards on mobile phones was another avenue that made music more accessible to fans. Online forums where music could be downloaded were still at their infancy stage.
This era also saw a lot more money pumped into the industry than ever before. Around this time, telcos and other corporate bodies started giving artists endorsement deals; these came with massive contracts and heavy ad campaigns, further cementing the status of artists as household names. Brands like Globacom, MTN, Guinness, and Nutricima were amongst the first set to make artists their ambassadors. Furthermore, concerts, festivals, and parties sponsored by some of these corporate brands became more regular in occurrence. Meaning that artists were booked more, hence they made more money.In the 15 years since 2007, a lot has changed in the industry. It has grown in leaps and bounds to the point where Nigerian music can now be considered pop music on a world scale. While this is very impressive, it would be remiss of anyone to dismiss all the work that went in to get the scene to the point where it is now. The work that was put in by artists, labels, and other industry stakeholders in the early and mid-2000s especially is undoubtedly what the scene is benefitting from now.
Now, here’s a well-curated playlist of the most impactful Nigerian songs from 2007. Some songs couldn't make the cut in the video, however, the playlist covers some of the other gems that dropped that year.
To celebrate these tracks turning 15, Sample Chief is running a challenge on TikTok and Instagram reels to test how well, or if you remember these tracks at all! Join the challenge by using the sound below.
THESE 10 NIGERIAN SONGS ARE TURNING 15 IN 2022
9ice 'Gongo Aso'
In what was probably the biggest song of that year, with production from ID Cabasa, 9ice dropped what has gone on to the biggest song of his career. The song's appeal was that it was able to cut through demographics throughout Nigeria. Such was its success that when 9ice dropped his sophomore album, it had to be named after it.
Naeto C 'Kini Big Deal' ft. Ikechukwu
Naeto had been around for a little while before "Kini Big Deal" dropped. However, this was the track that changed his life and the course of commercial rap music in Nigeria. Prior to this, the rappers of the era were more concerned with the technicality of making rap, thus the commercial value of the music they made was low. Naeto showed them that you could still be a great rapper and make a great rap-pop song.
Olu Maintain 'Yahooze'
If you didn’t play Olu Maintain’s "Yahozee" at your party in 2007, it simply wasn’t a party. Yahozee was the definition of an anthem, everybody and their mother had to sing along once this song came one. It was also the first real success of Olu Maintain's’ solo career after leaving the group, “Maintain”
Timaya AKA ‘Egberi Papa 1 of Bayelsa’ had the world at his feet in 2007. After releasing the equally popular “Dem mama” in 2005, Timaya struck gold again with this 2007 self-titled single produced by K Solo for his classic debut album, True Story.
TY Bello 'Greenland'
TY Bello was part of the gospel group KUSH in the early 2000s. The band saw a lot of success but as most bands do, they parted ways. After being silent for a couple years following the band’s disintegration, TY returned in 2007 with the smash hit “Greenland”, A hopeful song talking about the fortunes of Nigeria. ‘Greenland’ was a nationwide hit and was particularly popular amongst school children as it was commonly used for dance routines and choreographies in schools and churches
P-Square 'Do Me'
Peter and Paul dropped their third album Game Over in 2007. At the time, along with 2face and D'banj, they were arguably the most popular artists in the whole country. Everything they touched turned to gold. “Do Me” was the most successful single from an album where every single was considered a hit. The video which was shot in South Africa was a significant step up in the quality of Nigerian music videos.
Asa 'Fire on the Mountain'
In 2007, Asa was an anomaly, a glitch in the system if you would. At the time she came out, there was almost nothing that sounded like her in the mainstream. With assistance in production from the legendary Cobhams Asoquo, she dropped her seminal self-titled debut album. “Fire on the Mountain” was the lead single from the project
Shank’s “Julie” is the type of song that you would refer to as a cult classic. It may not have taken over the charts in the way that some of the other songs on this list did, but to those who were familiar with it, it was the best thing in the world at the time!
Mo Hits 'Booty Call' feat Dbanj & Wande Coal
What happens when you pair the best pop talents of the time with the best producer in the land? Simple, Curriculum Vitae, Mo hits’ compilation album. “Booty Call” with Wande Coal and D’banj was the albums most popular single.
X Project 'Lori Le'
X Project, a group consisting of 2 Sierra Leoneans and 1 Nigerian, dropped the biggest hit of their career “Lori le” in 2007. Popular for its very catchy intro, “Lori le” was one of the go-to party tracks of the time and the single from their third album Sierra-Naija.