In this list, we identify some of the personalities that have contributed their talents and genius to the incredible growth and spread of Nigerian entertainment over the last decade.
Over the last decade, the Nigerian entertainment industry has grown in leaps and bounds with new paradigms emerging and the landscape of the business evolving to new heights. In the last decade, big box office blockbusters have been made, international superstar acts have been born and Nigerian content has never been consumed more, internationally.
The industry didn’t just get there on its own though. In this list, we identify some of the personalities that have contributed their talents and genius to the incredible growth and spread of Nigerian entertainment over the last decade.
In no particular order, here are our Nigerian entertainment personalities of the decade (2009 – 2019):
Musician/record label owner – (CEO Hypertek music)
It is almost unbelievable that 2baba’s career which has spanned two decades is at the level that it currently is, especially in an era that fans’ support for musicians is fickle. While many of his peers have since taken the backseat and retreated to focus on other stuff in their lives, Innocent Idibia continues to find his way into the new generation’s playlist with new hits.
At 43, the acclaimed pop king in Africa is still rocking and filling up arenas, whilst positively influencing the new generation through his artistry and passion for change. In the last decade, 2baba has embarked on life-changing activities such as his 2face Idibia Reach-Out Foundation, through which he dedicates a great deal of effort and resources towards reaching out to fellow humans in need.
Aside leading the ‘Election No Be War’ voter education campaign promoting peaceful participation by Nigerian youth in elections, he lent his voice to the prevention of Prostate Cancer in Nigeria by partnering with Committee Encouraging Corporate Philanthropy (CECP) even before losing his father to the disease.
Cinematographer/Label exec – (Co-owner Capital Hill record, CAPital Dream Pictures)
Despite the influx of younger and brilliant Nigerians into the field of music video direction, Clarence Peters holds forth as the most influential in the land. The CEO of a multimedia content creation outfit, CAPital Dream Pictures, was at some point responsible for directing 5 out of every new set of 10 videos in the land. He also released a 25-minute horror film, Hex in 2015 which went on to win the award for “Best Short Film” at the 5th Africa International Film Festival.
In the last decade, Peters’ videos have garnered millions of views as he continues to work with the biggest Nigerian artistes. His relevance and influence as a cinematographer in the music industry has yet to dwindle, even as a new crop of videographers have begun to compete in the space.
Music producer/Label owner – (CEO Mavin Records, Mavin Energy)
When both co-founders of Mo’ Hits Records spit in 2012 following a successful run as the most dynamic duo in the music industry, it was unclear what would become of the juggernauts as individual entities. But Don Jazzy quickly assembled his team under another umbrella, Mavin Records and never looked back.
In the last decade, the record producer, singer, songwriter, and music executive extraordinaire has remained one of the most relevant and respected voices in the entertainment industry. Don Jazzy has solidified his hold on the pop scene with the multiple Mavin signings, propelling the careers of Dr Sid and Tiwa Savage whilst discovering new talents such as Reekado Banks, Korede Bello and Rema.
The visionary is only one of a handful of record label executives who runs a proper label structure which is alien in these parts.
Rapper/Label Executive – (ex-CEO Chocolate City and Founder, Loopy Records)
But for Jude Abaga, rap music in Nigeria would have been pushed even further to the backseat as pop music gained widespread recognition from fans and executives alike. From arriving on the scene as a prospect signed to Chocolate City, the ‘short black boy’ grew to become CEO of the giant label whilst putting the rap game in a chokehold through a series of exceptional albums and mixtapes in the last decade.
Widely rated as one of the best to ever hold the mic, MI has also attempted to create paths for his peers and new talents, becoming a respected voice in African hip-hop community who advocates for upliftment of the art form is about.
Media entrepreneur – (CEO Smooth Productions – owners of HIP TV, The Headies)
The conversations around entertainment in Nigerian can never be complete without the contributions of Ayo Animashun. Through his Smooth Promotions Productions, the visionary media entrepreneur has launched some of the most relevant entertainment platforms including The Headies and the 24-hour music channel, Hip TV.
Since its invention, the Headies remains the most prestigious award in the music industry by a mile and in the last decade, has acted as the ultimate platform for music superstars to get recognition for their works.
- AY MAKUN
Comedian, Entrepreneur – (CEO, Corporate World Entertainment)
Ayodeji Richard Makun, also known by his stage name A.Y, is an actor, comedian, compere, writer, producer and director. In the past decade, AY Makun has produced four of the top ten highest grossing Nigerian movies ever and went on to create a slew of hit stand-up specials.
He has also helped several comedians attain new heights in their careers through his shows and other platforms. Outside of Basketmouth, no other comedian was as impactful as AY in the past decade. Fun fact: Four of AY Makun’s movies in this decade have made a collective N722.7 million, per lists.ng.
Singer, Entrepreneur -(CEO, DB Records)
Oladapo Daniel Oyebanjo, known by his stage name D’banj, is a Nigerian musician, singer, songwriter, entrepreneur and television personality. Following a legendary run of three successful albums and an even more impactful Mo’Hits movement, D’banj and Don Jazzy split up leaving a big hole in the Nigerian music industry. After his fallout with longtime collaborator Don Jazzy, D’banj signed with Kanye West’s G.O.O.D Music, pioneering a defining wave of the decade: Nigerian pop stars signing international record deals.
He has since helped launch the careers of artists like Slimcase and producers like Deeveelee. He also launched the CREAM platform in partnership with MTN Nigeria signing up 3.5 million subscribers within two years. He may have tapered off towards the end of the decade but he’s impact in the first half of this decade is undeniable.
Media Entrepreneur – (Chairman & CEO EbonyLife Media)
At 55, Mosunmola ‘Mo’ Abudu has become an institution in the African media space. It didn’t happen overnight.
A more frequently told story is how shortly after her decade-long stint as Head of Human Resources at ExxonMobil, and with no experience whatsoever in TV, she had approached DSTV to pitch the idea of her TV show. But her passion for telling the African story preceded this period.
It was from her days having to explain to her white classmates in Kent that they didn’t live in trees back home in Africa that Mo’s passion began to take form. This passion grew to become ‘Moments With Mo’, the first syndicated daily talk show in Africa. It also gave birth to Africa’s first global black entertainment network, EbonyLife TV and subsequently, EbonyLife Films – a venture that has seen her produce some of the highest grossing Nollywood movies of all time, including ‘The Wedding Party’ and ‘Chief Daddy’.
There are just a handful of people who have been able to tell and sell the African story as brilliantly as Mo Abudu has in the past decade. And perhaps there is no bigger pointer to that fact than her long list of global and local accolades.
Musician – (Founder, Spaceship Entertainment)
Damini Ebunoluwa Ogulu, also known as Burna Boy, is a singer, performer and writer and is self-credited with founding the genre “Afrofusion.” Burna Boy’s career has been a literal slow burner (pun intended) up until the latter parts of the decade. But he has made this list for more than that. He has directly impacted the careers of various producers and has had the most consistent sound over the longest time.
Of course, his grammy nod is also another reason and the fact that in the last two years of the decade he has overtaken both Wizkid and Davido as the biggest Nigerian acts on the international front. He has also pioneered a new way for artists to structure their distribution deals on the international front.
Media entrepreneur – (CEO, Corporate Media Associates Ltd)
Tajudeen Adepetu is a writer, TV producer and media entrepreneur. Since founding Corporate Media Associates Limited in 2001, Tajudeen Adepetu has gone on to build one of the largest, if not the largest, privately-held media companies in Nigeria. CMA’s contribution to the Nigerian entertainment industry include: Urban96 Radio Network, Soundcity Radio Network, Soundcity TV, Spice TV, Televista TV, Trybe TV and ONTV, among others.
Tajudeen Adepetu is also behind some of the most popular awards shows of the decade including the Soundcity Music Video Awards (SMVAs) and the Soundcity MVP Awards. Not bad for a guy who started with TV sitcoms like “Everyday People” and “Family Circle”.
Dance, Entrepreneur – (CEO, The Imagneto Dance Company)
Kafayat Oluwatoyin Shafau (born 30 June 1980), also known by her stage name Kaffy, is a Nigerian dancer, choreographer, dance instructor and fitness coach. She has broken world records and single-handedly brought the dance industry into the 21st century, helping to kickstart some of the first reality dance shows in Nigeria.
Over the past decade, no one has mentored more dancers or featured in as many award winning videos as Kaffy. She has worked with everybody in the industry and through her company The Imagneto Dance company. She totally deserves all her coins.
Musician – (Founder, Starboy Entertainment)
Ayo Balogun, popularly known as Wizkid, a.k.a Starboy is one of the biggest artists out of Nigeria in this decade. Since the success of “Holla At Your Boy” in 2010, Wizkid has not slowed down and has continued to break records. He is the only Nigerian to have won the BET ‘International Act’ award twice and been nominated for the MTV EMAs five times. In 2016, Wizkid became one of Africa’s biggest music exports after his feature with Drake became number 1 in over 15 countries across the world. That Record, “One Dance” also gave him his first Grammy credit. He got his second Grammy credit this year for his song, “Brown Skin Girl” with Beyonce.
Wizkid has collaborated with numerous international artists including Rihanna, Steflon Don, Future, Zara Larsson, Chris Brown, Trey Songz, Dua Lipa and more. He has continuously sold out his international shows since 2017 and has a very dedicated fan base. He is the only African artist to have appeared in the Guinness World Record and he has received over 55 awards in the course of his career. He played a role in helping Mr Eazi become popular in Nigeria. Mr Eazi has now become one of the most visual musicians in the diaspora.
Musician – (Founder, YBNL)
Crowning Olamide the King of street music is not debatable. Olamide is one of the most influential artistes of the decade. Since his breakout single “Eni Duro” in 2010, the super star has released a plethora of records and his consistency cannot be over emphasized.
Owning one of the most successful record labels in Nigeria YBNL(Yahoo Boy No Laptop), Olamide has served as a launchpad for the career of artistes like Lil Kesh, Adekunle Gold, Chinko Ekun, Fireboy who have become excellent markers for genre evolution. The success of his Olamide Live In Concert (OLIC) since he started in 2014 has been a blueprint for his peers in the industry who have also now begun to hold end of year concerts for their fans. Olamide’s sound and artistry has inspired the new wave street newbies. The likes of Naira Marley, Zlatan, Lil frosh and the likes fall under this category.
Musician, Actor – (Founder, Bahd Guys Entertainment)
Folarin Falana is one of the most versatile artistes in Nigeria. The comic rapper and “This Is Nigeria” hitmaker is the first Nigerian music artiste to receive two AMVCA awards. The multi-talented, award-winning artiste, comedian and actor has made an impressive impact in the entertainment scene over the decade. He has won awards in all areas of entertainment and has received a total of 7 awards in the space of 10 years.
His influence in Nigerian music cannot be overemphasized. Falz music has served as a tool for socio-political activism, scrutiny, and critical examination of corrupt vices at all levels. Falz has released a total of four studio albums; “Wazzup Guy” (2014), “Stories that touch” (2015), “27” (2017) and his most recent award winning politically charged album “Moral Instruction” (2019).
A country like Nigeria where music is male dominated, Tiwa Savage has fought her way off that cage and mentality. Now, she is arguably the most successful female artiste in Nigeria. Her consistency and input over the years has been brilliant. In the space of 10 years the 39-year-old has released a total of 3 successful music projects; Once Upon a Time (2013), R.E.D (2015), and Sugarcane (2017).
In 2018, she won Best African Act at the 2018 MTV Europe Music Awards, becoming the first woman to win the category. Tiwa’s contributions to the Nigerian music industry has earned her several achievements. In June 2016 she signed a management and publishing deal with Roc Nation. In May 2019, she also announced her record deal with Universal Music Group and exit from Mavin Records.
Whether he is producing an afropop banger for Wizkid, an RnB jam for Banky, Wurld or an Afro House hit for Niniola, Sarz has proven time and again that he is one of the most versatile and imaginative producers in the game today. With his impressive discography that spans over a decade, Sarz has been consistently great. His effortless and consistent adaptability to the evolution of Nigerian music is a testament to his ingenuity. His production has played crucial roles in celebrated cross-cultural projects. He’s helmed Drake’s “One Dance,” unveiled a chemistry between Wizkid and Skepta on “Energy (Stay Far Away),” and added composition on Beyoncé’s Lion King: The Gift album.
Helming at least one defining banger every single year sarz is without a doubt one of the heavy weights in music production. The award winning producer has also worked with the biggest stars in afrobeats, and a look through his catalogue has hits every year since 2007.
Musician – (Founder, DMW Records)
Nigeria has produced some of the wealthiest and most successful musicians, not only in Africa but also in the world at large. David Adedeji Adeleke is one of them. Davido is among the top musicians from the country currently talked about by fans and he has achieved that feat in the last decade. Owning one of the biggest music labels in Nigeria, DMW, Davido has contributed immensely in grooming, supporting and managing younger talents. The likes of Mayourkun, Perruzzi, Idowest, Lilfrosh have been nurtured by this bundle of talent. His words “We rise by lifting others” is evident in his endeavours.
Davido’s consistency over the years has been superb. He has released 3 music projects (“Omo Baba Olowo” (2012), “Son of Mercy” (2016), and “A Good Time” (2019)) and has been featured in many international jams. To top it up, in 2019 the superstar had an impressive year, and sold out his headline concert at the 20,000 capacity O2 Arena in London. In the space of 10 years Davido has received a total of 28 awards.
Comedian, Host, Director and Producer – (Founder, Baron’s World Entertainment)
Bright Okpocha, a.k.a ‘Basketmouth’, a.k.a ‘Son of Peter’ is Nigeria’s leading comedian. He is one of the few Nigerian comedians to have international comedy tours. He has sold out Indigo at The O2 many times since 2010 and went on to sell out the Eventim Apollo Hammersmith. He became the only Nigerian comedian to have sold out the SSE Arena, Wembley in 2017. In 2014, he headlined his own show, ‘Just For Laughs’ on Comedy Central and has continued to do skits and a few other appearances on the channel since then. He has headlined shows all over the world in countries like the UK, USA, Australia, South Africa, Ethiopia, etc. In 2017, He won the Pan African Comedian of the year at the Savannah Comic Choice Awards.
Aside from comedy, Basketmouth has also been a host for concerts that have featured celebrities like Jay Z, Rihanna, Beyonce, Chris Brown, Sean Paul, Wyclef Jean, Akon, Buster Rhymes, Snoop Dogg, Ciara, and more. He also hosted the MTV Base Big Friday show from 2012 to 2017. He started producing his award-winning TV series, “My Flatmates” in 2013 and the show is still running till date. He is set to make his directorial debut with a horror feature film, “The Exorcism of Alu”. Basketmouth has mentored and helped to grow and improve the craft of a few upcoming comedians.
OAP, Host, Compere – (CEO, Lite Communications)
Ikponmwosa Osakioduwa, popularly known as IK ventured into the media space in 2001 as an OAP on Rhythm FM and remained with Rhythm for 18 years till March 2019. He however quickly expanded his influence and area of concentration beyond the radio station. Early in his career, he made a move to TV. He hosted TV shows like Temptation Nigeria alongside Kemi Adetiba, MNET’s Studio 53 and Comedy Club: Live in Lagos. However, it wasn’t until he started hosting Big Brother Africa in 2009 before he became very popular. He went on to host the show for 6 years till it was called off.
When Africa Magic Viewers Choice Award held its first edition in 2013, it was no surprise to see Ik hosting the event and he has continued to host the event. In 2014, he started hosting his night show, “Highlites With IK” that addressed current affairs and entertainment issues in a humorous and witty way. He also hosted The Voice Nigeria for the two years it ran in 2016 and 2017. IK has tried to give back by holding “The IK Talks”, which are free mentoring sessions to help and instruct aspiring Radio/TV presenters, Public Speakers, or Event MC’s.
Actress, Producer, Director – (CEO, Scene One Productions)
Funke Akindele went from appearing in a United Nations Population Funded TV series in 2002 to becoming one of the most influential people in Nollywood at the end of this decade. She has produced 7 movies and series, including the award-winning Jenifa’s Diaries. She has also featured in block-buster movies like Maami, A Trip To Jamaica, Moms At War, Isoken, Chief Daddy, and Married But Living Single.
She has won 17 awards for ‘Best Actress’ between 2009 and 2019 for her beautiful acting. She has also helped to launch the careers of several actors and actresses since she established Scene One Productions. Her influence and talent have landed her brand ambassador deals with brands like Dettol, Iroko TV, Waw detergent and Keystone Bank.
Because everybody can’t make the list but we still need to acknowledge the contributions of other people whose impact on the space is undeniable. Those are the innovators on our honorable mentions list and they deserve all their accolades. From the premier event centre Eko Hotel to Osagie Alonge’s impact on how entertainment journalism carried into the digital age, each person on our honorable mentions list is a powerhouse in their own right and their impact on the industry is unquestioned.
In the next decade, we look forward to the innovators and changemakers who will take Nigerian entertainment to the next phase. We will tell their stories and support them because the success of this space is success for us all. Let’s get it!