Rivalry has always been an important part of musical leverage the world over. History is rife with instances where the musical relevance of various artistes have either been made or marred by rivalry with another artiste. Tupac Shakur Vs. Notorious B.I.G., Mariah Carey Vs. Celine Dion, Aretha Franklin Vs. Whitney Houston, 50 Cent Vs. The Game. Sometimes this race for lyrical superiority goes beyond two groups as was the case of Backstreet Boys Vs. West life Vs. Boys II Men Vs. N-Sync.Even the King of Pop himself – Michael Jackson had a fierce rival – Prince. However we choose to look at it, the fact remains that rivalry has brought out the best from artistes and has taken the worldwide musical followership frenzy to new heights.
The Nigerian music industry has had its own share of feuds, hype and counter hypes. Going back memory lane to the late 80’s and early 90’s, we had Kollington Vs. Barrister, KWAM 1 vs Ayuba, Daddy Showkey Vs Baba Fryo, we even had Pasuma Vs. Obesere all in the indigenous music space. These rivalries have created massive publicity for all the brands involved, sometimes even long after they are no longer in active music. In the industry these days, we have seen some pretty long rivalry like 2face Vs. Dbanj. For about 10years 2003 to 2013, both of them reigned supreme on the Nigerian music scene. The cleared all the awards, dropped multi-platinum awards and gathered millions of music lovers as fans and followers. Terry G Vs. Mallam Spicey was another rivalry that spiced up the industry, with fans rooting for one against the other. However, the biggest feud currently in the Nigerian music industry for the last few years has been Wizkid Vs. Davido; that is, until they settled recently.
Both artistes have won a combined 97 awards from around 264 nominations – that number is more than any other African duo past or present. Wizkid has been rated as the most popular Nigerian entertainer currently and was showcased as Africa’s Most Valuable Music Export in 2018. Davido on the other hand has been the most consistent hit maker on the continent for a long time. Every single record that comes from the stable of the DMW Boss garners massive air plays in clubs, pubs and parties all over the continent and indeed all over the world. His song “fall” is currently in the top 30 songs on billboard and is actually the longest staying Nigerian song ever on Billboard. So both artistes have been actively pushing the Nigerian musical contentwith massive success. However, their ongoing, but recently cold rivalry has created the biggest fan base conflict and has also massively grown their organic influence in the inner cities of Nigeria. This rivalry has created huge competition between both sets of fans and has driven sales of fan paraphernalia as seen when Wizkid sold off the Nike customized collection in less than 1 hour of officially opening. Davido responded by making the Infinix Note 5 Stylus one of the most in-demand smart phones in Nigeria during its pre-release period.
Since the super duo settled in 2018, the trail went cold, no single from either artiste in this period has made it into the Billboard top 30. The overall appeal of Afro pop is on a decline. Both set of fans are getting bored. The industry is now talking about less known prospects. The media spotlight is desperately looking for new information to spark this rivalry afresh. Both artistes might feel they no longer need to go at each other but for the fans sake, the media sake, the hype sake, the economy sake, we need them to banter and beef each other once again and more fiercely this time. If they cannot provide us with the gossip, twist, drama and social media fights to keep adrenaline pumping, perhaps it is time for the spotlights to focus on other burgeoning talents who will give us what we want and put Nigerian music on the international wave crest again. Like the Nigerian adage says “soldier go, solider come, barrack remain”.
Whilst rivalry can go south and generate unnecessary enmity between fans, what is undeniably is the commercial value of such stark competition amongst all concerned. When rivalry is close and fierce, the record labels churn out records in millions, the fan appreciation and support grows in multiple millions. Stakeholders across the music sphere also go home smiling. Clubs, pubs, sponsors, music retailers and even fan paraphernalia makers.
Indeed, Music is more than an art for many. It is business, and life, and job and joy for many. It is the craft that puts foods on many family’s tables. When Artiste compete, the market benefits, when they don’t, the market constricts. In fact, it has been noted that the biggest reason for the slowed growth of the Female music industry in Nigeria is lack of a virile and long sustaining competition and rivalry. Recently, Tiwa Savage and Yemi Alade tried to spice up that segment, and fan engagement tripled. Interest from fans, search for female MC-specific music and sponsorship interests also spiked. It is interesting however that as the emerging fully died down, the potential was buried with it.
The industry needs the re-emergence of new and old rivalries. Maybe Kwam 1 needs to butt heads against Ayuba – who we hear is now a born again. Maybe Dbanj and TuFace can’t hit it off again and help rescue our industry. Maybe Timaya, Terry G, and other can find their juice to help reawaken an industry that really needs some spice.
Maybe Wizkid and Davido needs to bring out their swords and help fight the boredom and the lack of buzz in the industry. If they chose to be friend and never foes anymore, maybe the whole industry needs entirely new rivalries to give us new thrill and something fresh to talk about.