Overview Of: Expert for African Crossover - Asa Asika
Asa Asika bends over to inform his former buddy Lanre that after a phone call, "Fall just went Gold in the United States." "I only have to give a few information to them so that they can advertise." No festival fist pumps. No small smile to accept that Davido, her buyer, has just attached another commercial certificate to her reputation.
No apparent reaction exists. This verbal recognition is all the emotion of the 29-year-old. It's successful for Asa, too, but he's cool to play. This hot Lagos afternoon is instantly turned into a party day for any additional music receiving this news. But Asa sits across the table from me and answers texts and makes telephone calls and strokes his beard intermittently. Today, the talent manager and the entertainment businessman has the business as usual. Together, with his buddy Lanre and Sister Adelle, we sit outside in a garden in Ikoyi.
A tentative Lanre reported his objections when I approached the party, extending my hand to a handshake. Asa jokingly denied him, taking my hand, claiming, "Whoever catches corona is going to trap her." Asa's fed up with her stay and stares at it. His day outfit is far away from his clean and clean look. He's dressed up in a whole black ensemble, a shirt, baggy shorts, and a hat with the company name "The Plogue" proudly. Leaning back, the waiting staff lifts a hand, ordering water for us both.
"Honestly, I dislike PlayStation. After the lockout, I practised it every day, "he says. Asa says he had to find new ways to keep his mind and body actively when COVID 19's pandemic founded everyone in March. Being at home has proved a challenge to a man who spent much of his adolescence and adult life pursuing business in towns around the world. In Lagos, he was able to hold him safe, aside from constant games. Nonetheless, as the police started to harass him in Lekki, he moved the areas to Banana Island, introducing Bizzle to his buddy and business associate. Relaxed with the lockout, He is delighted to be out now, enjoying water filtered and playing with everyone he likes.
Asa 's career path began easily, born in 1990. His brother, who once played pop music in Nigeria through Storm 360, is the great legend of a company music industry. In the African rap panthéon, his cousin, rapper Naeto C, has a spot. In his days, Asa arranged a high school party in the famous Whitesands School in Lekki, his first dash at the market. He then emerged from party gatherings and attracted some of the greatest stars of the world through his relations. We had a number of sessions because with that I started to be drawn into the band, "Asa says. In 2005, two of his mates made an intriguing proposal while seeking to acquire his high school qualification: Send us to your dad, the record company of Obi Asika. He met his dad who passed it on and then took him after school into Obi Asika 's workplace. He had a contract with his mates there and there. "The notion of a boy's band or as a teenage party was, of course, insane for Uncle Obi. He's been like 'bringing
This was the beginning of a path that took him to a variety of locations, where he served not only artists but also their companies. Although his job with Nigerian celebrity is most famous for him, Davido, his first customer is not OBO. YQ, who was signed to Storm 360 in those days, has this distinction. Together they released the hit single "I love girls." Other early customers included R2bees, which he guided with classic Wande Coal collaboration, "Kiss Your Hands" during their Nigerian run.
The presence of Davido was through intimacy in his life. Davido and Asa became regular acquaintances travelling in the same circles. Around the moment, Davido considered a future as an artist and author. David's pitch to Asa was her first business chat, searching for support for a cousin who needed music. This didn't work. This didn't work. Each retained their relationship until 2010 when Davido returned to Nigeria. This was special this time. Davido had settled down as an artist and Asa was his first choice for the management of the business. "I used to say to him, 'man, you're great than any of those guys with whom you produce beats and songs.' 'It is easier than these men that you should do this stuff,' Asa remembers.
"A lot of money was always made by David and I. By that point, we actually earned more money than we did in the first step, "says Asa. The manager has infinite duties throughout our discussions. It redirects calls, avoids others and returns endless text messages. Then he goes on: "Because many people still knew me as manager of David at the end of the day. We would call me if we couldn't get David to do something, or if they had problems reaching the citizens of David. How much will I be like 'David? This offer is on the board. "We've always accomplished a lot together, David and I have so many friends with each other. Our friends will not approve, even though we choose to war. I thought the time away, registering and focusing on other issues allowed me to grow as an entrepreneur and an individual. For him, it's the same thing. There was a stronger sense of shared interest as we returned to work together in late 2016 or early 2017 .. More information became accessible.
Davido is one of the top stars in Africa in 2020. He passes the US, has many records with hits and partnerships with the world chocolate. Since his second arrival, Asa Asika kept things together. In partnership with entertainment businessman Bizzle Osikoya, he was also successfully co-founded The Plug Entertainment. The company operates as an independent music publishing, music licensing and entertainment company from Lagos. He already has employees and boasts many stars including Mayorkun, Oxlade and Peruzzi in the fold.
Here we talk about managing pop stars and businesses in the presence of his family, Lanre and Adelle. Does he have the feeling that when he started he was too early to join? How did he manage to strike the same artist twice?? What does this mean to be a renowned manager? What does he see as success in the movement "The Afrobeats to the World?"
Why you're in management?
I also ended here. I ended here.
How have you ended up here?
I have relatives who have operated in the entertainment industry, of course. I used to have parties with my peers while we were in high school. That always helped me interested was that in our school we had a rap band. The Bonafide team was named. They are our local champion in my high school. Yeah, when you come around you guys had a relationship? You know how you get a local champion at any level. And one day they came to me saying, "I want to be registered on the record label of your uncle." I have been really fresh to many issues in Nigeria at this period, as I haven't grown up in the traditional Nigerian climate. Therefore, I heard a lot about Nigeria. For example elementary school. And I was late to speak about Nigerian general awareness and stuff, I didn't attend a school that learned the Nigerian curriculum before Primary 4.
Yeah, obviously. No, actually. My famous uncle was Uncle Obi. So my friend tells me he wants to sign on to the record label of my uncle, and I like "all of those people you talk to are English to me. I don't know a lot about it. I'm only going home to say my father. My dad says: "Every day I'd be cautious not to send you to his place, after school. I'm like: 'I want to warn Uncle Obi that my buddies think they want to be registered to his record label. He takes me, we have a chat and Uncle Obi. He sends me there.
How's the talk been? How did he handle you? How did he punish you?
Uncle Obi was just a nice guy, and he was just like 'all right, where's the stuff? 'As Uncle Obi loves to get into the music of young children. It was around 2005/06 at the moment when the Naetos was about to launch the latest Afrobeats trend with the D'Banj's. We had started by D'Banj. Jazzman, Promise, P-Square was the moment. Uncle Obi was clearly nuts over the possibility of a boy band or a young band. He said to "bring it," they had their songs, we had a lot of sessions, and I started to fall into the genre.
I was at the point of seeing how the high school parties and stuff are going. I was there. Yet it was our pick.
Where did you hit this contract, was high school?
Yes. Yeah. Yeah. It was because I had to throw games with my friends that I really dragged in. We eventually began using my events, the younger groups, to inspire young people to listen to storm music. Everybody knew that because I'm in Whitesands — or a party with Asa, Naeto C will appear or D'Banj will come. So everyone knew that a party in Whitesands. At The Vault was the first major group and we were Naeto, Frames, 2 Shotz and DJ Modesty.
Thanks. Thanks.-Wow. You guys paying for it?
This was even called Junior Acquisitions back in the day. This shows you how to be a businessman. You spend your capital and make some profits to build a company. We made a t-shirt collection, so we've got a launch team. Around the point Storm, Music was doing one item in Vault, which was later renamed Storm45. And I couldn't get Vault, quickly. I assume we invested less than N1 million on everything for the entire band. Then there are completely different N1 million and N1 million. We paid DJ Humility for the place.
Naeto was the only artist whom we didn't bill, but I guess we only flew Naeto. We stay in the same estate as Brackets, one of our people, so Tosan has Brackets. 2 Shotz had then been signed to Storm, so I had been good to him. I guess we didn't really cost 2 Shotz. Or we paid very little for him if we did.
This came all from things that we did. We had the modesty of DJ at that stage for a variety of groups and I was related to him and we had our scores.
Everything was really good, it was really good. So we've already started parties from them on. Out of an Awolowo avenue that was the first group I think we did. Everybody came to the D'Banj, Sauce Boy, Ikechukwu, Naeto, and eLDee. Then as I got older, I started to perform group activities. I needed to make sure all the clubs enjoyed their music at Thunder. Clearly, I was developing connections with promoters and DJs while I was attending party events. Then, I began to do club events for artists not signed to Storm. The first non-storm event I did, I can remember, was Banky W's club 'Lagos Party' tour.
What have you been learning from that time?
I would claim to build a network and to show what I would bring to men. The biggest question I had was' who's this little kid at the time? 'So other people felt that regardless of who my dad was and things like that I used to earn favours. Next became DJ Xclusive in the UK. I know that I was going to do an event and I was going to want DJ Xclusive as I was using him for one of our London parties. Xclusive was at the time like the DJ poster boy. I believe it was one of the parties where everybody was thinking, "Asa always has a crowd and it has a network and everything." I recall persuading Rehab it 'We can put Xclusive' I guess.
What have you been learning from then?
I 'd claim to create a network and to show what I might do to men. And the biggest question I had was, "Who is this little kid?" 'So sometimes people tend to believe I had favourites because of who my dad was and stuff like that. DJ Xclusive was already in the UK. I remember that I had to do an event and I needed Xclusive for a DJ, as I used it for one of our London parties. Xclusive was like the poster child of DJs at the point. I recall Rehab's belief that 'yeah, let's get Xclusive.' I assume it was one of these groups, one of them saying, 'Asa always got a crowd and he got a network and everything.'
I think I was at Rehab on Wednesday nights at that point. Then sometime on Fridays nights, I began to be permitted to do it. Once I recall, I thought eLDee's mixtape release parties, 'Is It Your Income.' It had become a Wednesday. And it was like 'it's a Wednesday. Can you draw a crowd, think? 'Then everybody started to know that Asa had an audience. You see, the network is the asset in that kind of stuff. I think I was at Rehab on Wednesday nights at that point. Then sometime on Fridays nights, I began to be permitted to do it. Once I recall, I thought eLDee's mixtape release parties, 'Is It Your Income.' It had become a Wednesday. And it was like 'it's a Wednesday. Can you draw a crowd, think? 'Then everybody started to know that Asa had an audience. You see, the network is the asset in that kind of stuff. You know, the network is the asset in this type of stuff. You 're useless if you haven't got your crowd as a promoter. You had to create a crowd, I heard. Your loyalists will have. And you will deliver something or do anything that some can't do. So my favourite thing at my case was that; celebrities. Nigerian singers were popular at the period in Nigerian culture. That's what I've used a lot. We haven't really accepted party culture until now, Nigeria, when it comes to getting party gigs.
You know how it is common for AKA to play in a club or in Cassper Nyovest in South Africa. It is very unheard of in Nigeria to play in a club by Davido, Burna Boy or Wizkid. Max, they would do a show or they would throw a party. I know that in Nigeria, our club life always needs a long path and I just hope to make a change. For starters, we have changed the story with our Mainland Block Party. You know how Nigerians like to join the bar, purchase bottles and sit in the corner. Lots of people laughing and listening to songs. As you note, with our Mainland Block Party, the main point is that we're based on DJs, as well as our headlines and things. Therefore in December, it is necessary for us to have a Big Lazer headliner. We might've had a headline for a musician.
It lockout also assists DJs. People have seen how relevant the DJs of Nigeria are. Each Nigerian DJ would tell you about me one thing; up to now, they receive our music also with all of our clients, be it Davida, Mayorkun, or Oxlade. I 'm talking with the DJs somehow. I know the role of DJs in the profession is significant. If a Davido album is out on Friday, contact DJ Obi, contact Spinall and the week before you have it in your e-mails. You've been hearing the music and you understand it.
They still say to me, 'How did 'If' get so big?' Or is it 'Risky'? The club DJs in Lagos were all aged before they came back, for example 'If' and 'risky.' You listened to the record, you enjoyed the new song. I had DJs' cosign "this is a smash." I realized that this one should head to the clubs even before sending it out. Another mark I 'd like to create behind me is that I've done more than just support the musicians. It's a perfect area of action. I want everyone to say yeah, this guy did that, that's what this guy does. Manufacturers, songwriters, DJs. This also allows DJs to click. Man has seen how valuable Nigeria's DJs are. Each DJ will tell you something about me; until now, all our customers are still enjoying our songs, whether it be Davida, Mayorkun or Oxlade. Somehow I 'm listening to the DJs. I recognize that DJs play a significant part in the field. When a Davido album is launched on Friday, please contact DJ Obi, spinal, and your emails the week before. You listened to and heard the song.
As "Fall" picked up in the United States, Afrobeats as a whole started to achieve some popularity. There were certain fans who would be like submitting an e-mail to me as we sold out the O2 show and I'd be like ah Ahn, you mean, who I am? Oga, my real artist in Nigeria is a semicircle since I come to America. A ton of people is A-list, B-list and C-list you people see. Whether they go on a tour of their own land, America, they do the same position as David.
I was sitting around one day and staring at a major rapper 's tour and I was wondering why we're still treating these boys like their gods. And what where he does, Google already does it. It's the land from which he falls. This position is 1000 smaller than the position in its own region. Then I would call you for events and you guy would. You 're bigger than these people, I'm like Oga o. Do not allow a man, because the song with Jay-Z or Cardi B is his friends has been signed to Warner Music or Def Jam. It's just about America the only exception. If the guy now comes to Nigeria, except that we take him out for the series, nobody sends him.
You are a celebrity worldwide today, how many countries were you to in Africa in David? He demonstrates no Canada dey move. He might be going and performing wireless in the United Kingdom if he's fortunate. I recall that we went to conferences and claimed that we sell O2 by ourselves. I know. I remember how much a huge challenge it was for people who know the game. And I like that about David one thing. David's not even performing. David's saying, Oga. I 'd go to my Nigeria if America didn't work for me. I would go to my Gabon show, I would go to my Senegal show, and I would fill the stadium. You 're not the Broadway or 5 Terminal PlayStation people's hub. He would claim that in my region, I can do five Terminal 5s. So what are we talking about? What are we talking about?
That's why we have great connections with other musicians in America. A Boogie is a great case, I tell people. A Boogies and his team sat down and realize the strength of Afrobeats and David's power. One reason we connected with A Boogie was then. SummerJam brought us out by Boogie. A Boogie brought us out at "Way Too Fly" to play for the first time at SummerJam. Around the moment, many people did not realize what Summer Jam was intended to be. People did not know Summerjam 's strength.
This is likely the largest radio show in the United States. There are musicians who also aspire to get on the stage number five. Twice, once as a visitor and once as a paying musician, we did SummerJam. These issues will attract citizens who know that the environment is not a gift in America. And you'd find musicians who look like they support you. That's why I always tell people till today what Chris Brown was doing for us, I don't think we 'd ever find anybody else who would do such stuff for us.
Indeed, in Afrobeats Chris has an interest. As a guy, Chris really liked David. He had recorded the verse and he had sent it to Chris afterwards.
The week we filmed "Rock My Mind," I met Chris' director for the first time. I remember that we were in Rome, we were in Rome for a series. In the morning we woke up and were going to Milan for a show. Our plug to Chris Brown called David, our guy called David and told us to check your email. His email was checked and the verse was there for 'Blow My Mind' I went to LA to film the 'Rock My Mind' picture until I had a talk to Chris' manger. Only come to LA, he said to me. We went to L.A. and spent it, doing it all.
Chris was on the 'Rock My Mind' release group in LA before David. The 'Blow My Mind' flyer has been posted to Chris before David. My quality is also strong. If this artist isn't going to make e dey for us, I always say to David, Oga. I'm not interested. I'm not interested. I'm not interested if we are going to chase your manager to post.
Some also advised us why we can't take a picture to force her to turn up for Summer Walker all the time. The video was taken. We couldn't quite get a Summer Walker line from the people telling us. Heads connected, me and David marched in the streets. Who's London, her boyfriend. Are we aware of London abi? Tear yeah dm. Tear yeah. The boom was two, three days later. It was there. It was there. I don't have much to say.
Chris had been in LA before David at the 'Rock My Head' release session. The flyer 'Blow My Mind' was posted before David to Chris. I do have a high rating. I still tell to David, oga, if this artist is not going to render e dey for us. I am not concerned. I am not involved. I am not concerned. I am not involved. When we are following the boss to write, I am not involved.
Some also told us why we can not take a photograph to constantly force her to go for a sunny walker. The video was fired. We couldn't really get from the people who told us a Summer Walker route. I and David marched on the streets connected to the heads. What is her husband London? Where is Berlin? Were we London Abi conscious of this? Tear yes, dm. Tear yeah. Tear yes. Tear sure. Two or three days after, the revolution was in motion. There it was. There it was. I have not much to say. I have not much to say.
Yes, I want David to be the best Afrobeats artist of all time. Yeah, I want him to be the best man ever from Africa, but we all benefit as Afrobeats are embraced across the world as a genre. If the selection of the A-list on Hot 97 is better for both Davido songs, I gain. I know that with a Mayorkun record I'll come back. I got the blueprint already. I say everyone I'm not going to do it again, this new album by David, several mistakes I think I made. I was there, I did some stuff. I was there. What's a waste of energy, I wonder. There's a lot you watch on Nigerian television. You 're going to feel saying oh, I have to do something, I have to blast in America. It's not that garbage. You 're going and meeting others who were there. You'll know the one is all aesthetics. It would do nothing about your songs.
David gets a lot of love and a lot of hate for working with a group of creatives. What do you think about that?
One of Nigeria’s biggest problems in all aspects. Be it music or fashion be it politics, be it education, be it sports, his inferiority complex. Micheal Jackson, Drake, the biggest superstars in the world, they don’t write all their music. If it’s to write music, David has proven time and time all over again. I can write it. He’s been doing this for ten years in May. What is wrong in me getting in the studio, somebody brings a demo, I like it. I’m not lying that I wrote the song. I’m coming out to tell you yes, Peruzzi wrote this song for me. I’m telling you Runtown wrote this record for me. A perfect example is ‘Aye’. Yes, Runtown wrote ‘Aye’, TSpize produced it. He brought the record for David. What did David do? Put him on, did ‘Gallardo’. Runtown is one of the biggest artists in Nigeria. Nobody can say David did not contribute to Runtown’s success. That’s life. You rub my back, I rub your back.
How many rappers have Drake done a verse for them, that their careers blew up from there? I know songwriters that come out and talk all they’ve done for artists. But because of the way Nigeria is… it’d just be like I’m bullying another artist if I come out and start talking. People that have written hits for people. I’m not even talking about the money aspect or the publishing and the royalties.
If you go on a Jay-Z album and look at the credits, everybody who contributed to the song… Megan Thee Stallion's ‘Savage’ remix, everybody knows Jay-Z co-wrote Beyonce’s verse. Is she hiding it? Check the credits, it’s there Shawn Carter. He contributed to the song. Check David’s album. Every record. There’s a record on the intro that the person made only one sound. DJ Maphorisa did not know he was on David’s album till the album came out. DJ Maphorisa had even forgotten that he was involved in the process with Kiddmoninat. We still made sure Maphoris got his credit. He still got his split on the record. At the end of the day good will always come back to you. If you’re here bullying people of their hard work, at the end of the day the same way you go up is the same way you go down. When you’re going down a lot of people will try to help to keep you up.
2face is relevant today because 2face is a good person. There are people that’d have been bigger than 2Face that are not relevant anymore because of how they were when they were up. The way your life ends up is all about what you do when you’re up. The people you help, the kind of people you are. Today, if I stop working in the entertainment industry. There are people that’d come say: ‘yes, I know I am where I am today because when I was working with these artists, I could call Asa.’
Artists managers today will tell you. They’d call me, ‘Asa what do you think about this, what do you think about that?’ And I’d be like this is what I think you should do. I feel as if it is my duty because I’ve gotten to a certain level. I have to help and mentor and advise. For example, in the alte space, they’re in uncharted territory. I and Davido always joke that we’re the alte that escaped alte and became streets. If you notice, David always does his little thing to support. He’s been on an Odunsi record, Lady Donli, DRB is his family. I think the most important thing for any man is his legacy. You’re only as good as your legacy. I’d rather die broke and people say when Asa was on top o, this guy worked with him, see him today. Just live life, enjoy life, and die. That’s it.
What’s in this for you? This, you expending yourself, putting in work? What’s in it for you?
At the end of the day, you know that there’s a saying ‘do what you enjoy and you’d never have to work a day in your life.’ I’ve been lucky enough to work in a space that I enjoy what I do. I’ve been lucky enough to build my ecosystem where it’s like plug and play. I tell people all the time, anybody that knows me knows that after Asa, everybody knows that that’s Sam Phrank. Everybody knows that that’s my son. I don’t play with him. And you cannot name ten successful artist managers in Nigeria and not mention Sam Phrank. It’s something I learnt from David at the end of the day. Elevate as many people as you can. For me, my own thing is to do what you can, while you can.
At our company The Plug, Bizzle and I, one thing we focus on a lot is employing and empowering young people. I think there’s only one person that has worked for us who has been older than me. Everybody is straight out of college, NYSC, 25, 26, 21 years old. And we have people who have worked for us for years. We have people who have worked for us since we started. There are people that don’t work for us anymore that can still pick up the phone and say, Asa, I’m working on this, I’m working on that. I need your help with this. Or we’re working in the office, and I know that I have someone that can do this. ‘Hey oga, are you free? We’re doing a block party. I need five extra hands.’ I know that this is the guy that’d come through for me on graphics. Or this is the guy that’d help me manage the stage. That’s winning. Knowing that your people are winning too.
What’s the difference between being a promoter and talent manager?
There are similarities and a few differences. Being a manager, you’re managing someone. You’re responsible for someone’s career. It’s more personal. You’re making decisions on behalf of somebody also. There’s a lot more strategy in it. You have to think like ten steps ahead, stuff like that. I would say it’s a bit more personal because all the relationships you’ve built from being a promoter, you now have to use them in a certain way. It’s way more personal. It is completely different from when someone is coming into a club and you’re giving him drinks, you’re giving him a table. It’s completely different.
Initially, were there any challenges?
Everybody knows the challenges we faced with David’s case. David’s case was a very peculiar case because obviously he didn’t have the support of his family. And you know how it is in Nigeria. Doing something different from what your parents want you to do is already wahala on its own. We had to first prove to his dad to the extent that this was something we wanted to do. That it was viable and sustainable. That was the first challenge after putting out the music. Then after gaining the buzz, now maintaining that buzz and doing stuff in a certain way, where at the same time you’re still not pissing off your family. Everybody knows the story. Just balancing everything.
But for you as a person, as David grew, you became more famous in a certain way. What did that do to you?
I tell people all the time. At the beginning stages of David’s career, David and I, it was completely different for us. Because as much as people say ‘oh you have this guy supporting you and backing you, I wasn’t calling Uncle Obi, saying ‘Uncle Obi help me do this’ or call Naeto saying do ‘this for me.’ We were still on our own. I was learning on the job, David was learning on the job. We made mistakes. When you’re young and you start making some amount of money, you misbehave. It got to our heads, we were rude to a few people we didn’t need to be rude to. Also, you have to remember, in Nigeria we were always on the defence because there was always ‘who are the small boys?’
But why do you think this ageism exists is in Nigeria?
It’s the way we were brought up.
But you guys pulled through.
Yeah, we pulled through. We thank God.
The first album. How was the release for you? It was the first time you were releasing an album.
I had been involved in album releases, but it was the first time where the bulk of everything was on my head. And David and I say it till today, we feel like we rushed his first album. Because back in the day, you have one or two big songs. A marketer gives you money, you submit an album. You do show in Eko Hotel, and you keep it moving. For us, it was the kind of thing when ‘Dami Duro’ got really big, the marketers were asking ‘when is your album coming out?’ Dangling the money in front of us, that ‘oh I want to buy your album.’ We now felt let’s go and finish an album, give a marketer, get our first big cheque, do an Eko Hotel show. But when we look back, we’re always like we could have chilled a year longer before we put out that first album. But at the end of the day, no regrets. There are still songs on that album that David would perform today that still do well, that would shut a show down anywhere. So no regrets. But maybe we’d have done things a little differently knowing what we know now.
So after the first stint when you guys split up, what was it like for you?
I would say like the first four weeks, I was a little worried and angry that ‘damn, I just worked my ass off and made a superstar and I’m about not to enjoy what I worked up for.’ But then by week one, week two, every single artist called me trying to get me to work with them. There are probably very few guys who can come out and say that ‘I never called Asa to get him to try and work with me.’ I was like ‘yeah, I’m in a good place, I’d be fine.’ I sat back for a while, re-strategized. I actually registered for my first company. Did that, I worked with a few artists …
So you grew yourself…
Yeah. I tell people all the time. That time apart was the best thing that happened to us, because it allowed both of us to grow as individuals.
What was the relationship between you both at that time?
I and David still made so much money together. We probably made more money not working together at that point than in the first stint. Because at the end of the day, many people still knew me as David’s manager. When they couldn’t get David to do something or they had issues contacting David’s people, they’d call me. I’d be like ‘David how far? There’s this deal on ground o.’ We still did a lot of stuff together and like I said, David and I have too many mutual friends. Even if we want to fight, our friends would not agree. I feel that time apart, me registering my business and working on other things allowed me to mature as a businessman, and as a person. Same thing for him. By the time we came back to start working together in late 2016, early 2017. There was more mutual respect. There was more understanding. There was more of a thing like; ‘Asa was not working with me, but he has done this and this.’ ‘David wasn’t working with me, but he went to do this and this.’ It was a kind of thing that we both knew we were coming together to collide to do something.
I can’t forget conversation on one dining table in my house. We both ironed out and said everything we wanted to say. And like I said, we both have mutual friends. We’ve both known Special for years. Special was there, a few other people were there, and we said ‘this is how we are going to do it.’ And I said to him ‘you have to agree to do this like this’. And we did that and kept to our rules and we were fine.
During that time, you were involved with Ayo Jay and…
Yeah. I worked with Ayo Jay. I worked with BOJ for a little bit. I worked with Naeto for a little bit, DJ Obi, Black Magic. A lot of people would say, I feel like that was me doing my little contribution to the alte scene. Because BOJ won the first Headies for an alternative artist. Black Magic won the second one. DRB is like my family, so even though I’ve never worked with DRB directly apart from managing BOJ, I always used to help them. I think like two of the DRB concerts during that stint. That was when BOJ’s solo career really flourished like 2014/2015. He had loads of big features. Then I worked with D’banj for a while, which was interesting.
How was working with D’Banj?
I didn’t enjoy it, as we didn’t get to actually work.
Banga is my big bro, but we didn’t ever really get to work. We had a good one month and then after that, I just realised it was not going to work.
Was Davido’s struggle with ‘Son Of Mercy” flattering to you?
Not really. Because at the end of the day, it is what it is. Everybody knew I did all the work. Everybody knew that David’s career got to where it was because of the initial work I had done. Everybody saw the difference when I worked with him and when I did not work with him. Everybody saw the difference when I came back. So everybody knew these guys together is a force. I and him always knew. We had joked about it before. I and him always knew that it was just a thing of us being men and say that ‘Oya let’s go and do this.’ And I feel like the timing was right because there’s a particular Scooter Braun interview that I watched. And Scooter always says it that one of the most important things for him in his career was that when he took time off the music, he did other stuff and built his brand. People know that this guy is Davido’s manager, but he does a million other things.
It’s very important to be able to diversify. As the average lifespan of an artist’s career is how many years? Yes, we’ve beaten the average timeline, but every artist knows you cannot be hot forever. I and David have a long-term plan for David’s career. Like what David is doing in his career now, it might not be happening the year we said it would happen. But we have a blueprint that we are sticking to. Changes come here and there, but we have a long term plan. Not many artists can tell you five years from now, this is what I want to do and be doing it. So with us, when it comes to the work side of things, there’s always been a certain level of trust. There are very few times where I’ve gone to David and said, ‘David I think you shouldn’t do this, do this’. On the music side, there are very few times I go to David and say o ‘this song is not the song.’ For example, we would both put up our hands and say yes, we shouldn’t have put out ‘Like Dat’ when we put ‘Like Dat’ out.
You guys fucked up.
But that wasn’t our fault. Label politics. ‘Like Dat’ is my favourite Davido song ever. ‘FIA’ wasn’t even recorded when we shot the video for ‘Like Dat’. ‘FIA’ didn’t exist a month before it came out. ‘FIA’ was a spur-of-the-moment record, of what was happening then. The release date for ‘Like Dat’ was sorted, the video had been submitted, everything had been settled. Nobody expected ‘FIA’ to be that big. We knew that ‘FIA’ was going to be big, but we didn’t expect it to be that big. The real Davido fans, ask them to list their favourite Davido songs. ‘Like Dat’ is still probably going to be one of those songs. It’s a fucking good song. It’s just the timing of when it came out. And we tried to change the date but obviously, when you’re signed to a major sometimes when the majors have done certain deals, it’s hard to get out of those things. Davido still performs ‘Like Dat’ at every show. People still go crazy for it. It just didn’t get the shine it should have gotten because it came right after a huge record.
Your return. You switched it up with ‘If’. How did you guys release ‘If’?
Like I said earlier, Tekno hit David up: ‘I have a record for you, I think it’s a mad record blah blah blah’. It was during December, so everyone was in Christmas mood, doing shows, partying. And after the club one day, David just goes to Tekno’s house to record ‘If’. And called me like ‘I think I have the song’. David sends it to me, and I’m like yeah, a hundred percent. This is the record. But the funny thing, at that point in time – I always say it – it was three of us in our team that believed in ‘If’. Some other people were saying that it wasn’t the song. But the thing is that when me and David agree about something, we have this unspoken thing. We don’t even listen to anybody else. We went and shot the video for ‘If’. And we had already started teasing ‘If’ in the clubs. We had played the record for certain people and I was 100 sure that this is the record.
I remember we put out ‘If’ in early February. And we performed at a show in Minnesota three weeks later. People in Minnesota were singing ‘If’ word for word. That’s what we were talking about. That this record was going to do everything we wanted to do. Because at the end of the day, everybody knows that records take longer to transcend to the U.S. And I was like ‘guy, if ‘If’ is popular in bloody Minnesota, not even New York or Houston, we have a problem on our hands. And we were like ‘yeah, good. ‘If’ is popping, we are back’. What are we doing next? Davido goes upstairs with Kiddominant, comes downstairs three hours later and said ‘come and listen to something.’
What was the mood than in the company?
At that point in time, we were like ‘guys, we’re back.’ Because in 2017, our phrase was ‘back to basics’. We’re taking everything back. We are doing everything how we used to do it. Before we put out ‘If’, I and David had been to everybody who had supported us. People from Lanre Olupede at MTV, to Olisa at Beat FM too, Gbemi. We had gone to everyone that we’re back and this is how we’re doing it. Because for us, everybody will tell you, we have our people. I’m not a firm believer of sending an email to a hundred people when I know only first 40 people there ride for me.
For example, we did a mini-listening party for David’s album in 2019 when we came back before the album came out. And we invited certain people. Certain DJ, certain radio OAPs and a lot of people were getting angry that they weren’t invited. And my argument was that ‘listen eh, I know David’s people. I know people that have been calling me ‘what’s going on? When is the album dropping?’ I know people that even when I don’t send them a Davido record, what they do for David. If you notice, you could tell in that room. The vibe was different. And that’s what I care about. It’s my rule with everything I do. Whether it’s something for Oxlade or something with Davido or Mainland Block Party. Anything I touch, I don’t know how to pretend.
And I don’t know how to sit in a room with people that an OAP who I know hates David or doesn’t like me, or who is not going to read my email. I don’t have time for it. It’s better to have ten people in your section that you know are going to ride for you than to have a hundred people that you’re questioning who is who. It doesn’t make any sense.
And one thing I’ve learnt from working with David is togetherness. Building a team and empowering your own people. Like there are certain OAPs that they know, they call me and say ‘abeg o, I need David to come through for me on this.’ So far it is doable, I’m doing it. If David wins six Grammys next year, certain people, like Gbemi can call me at any point in time. If David can do it, David is doing it. There are certain OAPs and certain DJs, DJ Consequence. And I feel like that’s one of the things that have maintained David’s brand. It’s similar to 2face’s brand. People know that this guy is a real nigga. This guy comes through for his people. And I think that that’s very important. Because at the end of the day in entertainment, you would always be surrounded by a lot of fakenesses. It’s the honest truth. The ability to be able to sieve through the fakeness and build your own little team of people is very important.
You can’t be hot forever. You need to know that when you’re not popping, this guy is still going to come through for me. Things like that are very important. Things like that are very important when you’re trying to break a new artist. Like if I’m trying to break a new artist today that has nothing to do with David or DMW, I know the people that I can personally contact that ‘guy o, abeg o, I have this artist. This is his music. What do you think about it?’. Stuff like that. It’s very important to have those relationships. I feel like the most important thing in the music business is relationships and mutual respect.
For example, I remember how we did the last Davido interview for you when the album was coming out. That day Sarah made us do like nine interviews. David was dead. And when she now said ‘oh we have one interview with Joey.’ I was like ‘why the fuck am I in a Billboard office, doing a Billboard interview and somebody who is in Nigeria that supported us before the international deal?’ I was like ‘hell yeah, give me the phone, we’d do it in the car.’ I think we were driving back to the hotel or something and we did it in the car. Yeah, it’s all nice to be on a Billboard cover, but at the end of the day, no Billboard reporter gives a fuck about David. If he’s not popping today, he’s not going to do anything for David. But I know that if I sit down with my phone and say ‘abeg o, Joey, this is what we are doing o, we really need your support.’ There’s more possibility of you coming through for me, than some guy that I only met me on the day of the interview. Yeah, he might like David and come through for him. But realistically, who is more likely to come through for David?
At the end of the day, I feel like where entertainment is and where Afrobeats in general is, the only way we’re going to get to the next level is us who are the pioneers of it to collaborate and work together. There’s no point in us competing against each other, forming for each other. And that’s one thing that pisses me off the most now. Because I’m opportune to be in certain rooms and hear certain conversations sometimes before people, sometimes after people. And I’d hear what someone who had been in the room had said, and I’m like ‘bro I understand that you’re trying to sell your market, but in the long run, you’re cutting yourself short. Because you cannot deliver what you’ve told this person you can deliver. Why will you go into a meeting and tell someone in the UK that I can sell out a show in Lagos for 20,000 tickets when us wey dey road know that this guy cannot sell more than 5,000 tickets. This person is now going to come to Nigeria and be like ‘I thought this guy was an A-list artist here, but he’s doing a show in a tiny ass venue.’
The thing is, the way the Nigeria music industry is wired is completely different from the US. For example, when you say you’re on tour as an African artist, most times you’re not on tour. Different people have booked you in different places, and you’re going everywhere. It’s basically spotted dates you are doing. You’d probably finish the tour, and not even have a database of people that came to your show. You probably can’t get access to some of those certain venues, if you’re not messing with certain promoters. And it’s these kinds of things that are now going to change things for us. Like, this tour that we just had to postpone because of the corona was going excellently well for many reasons. I could sit at a show and tell you that these guys at this show are not new Davido fans. These ones just know Davido from ‘If’. That’s one of the good things and bad things about being able to travel with your music. You would do some shows and you’d be like these ones, na last year them know Afrobeats.
There are some countries we’d go to, and we know that like the first six songs, they don’t know them but we’ve been paid for an hour. We know that guy, go and do your thing and then from ‘Skelewu’ or from ‘Aye’ we’d start getting a reaction. But we know that ‘Dami Duro’, they don’t know it, ‘Back When’. It happens. But at the end of the day, I look at this thing like we’re on a mission to spread the gospel. And that’s where technology comes in. You’re performing a song nobody knows, depending on how you perform it, people will Shazam the record. I know how much shooting the video for ‘Assurance’ did for David’s career in Barbados. We went back to Barbados last Christmas in December. We did a festival there and if David likes today David should sing ‘We are the World’. It cannot be bigger than ‘Assurance’ in Barbados. The Barbados people love David for the fact that David came to Barbados with his babe and shot the video there. I know how many people came to us.
And the funny thing is that when we went to Barbados the next time, we came with Chioma again. I remember that the fire spitter in the video is a celebrity of his own there. He’s like the DMW Barbados representative there. I know how much David’s affiliation with Popcaan has done for us in the Caribbean. Like ‘I will sleep and wake up on a random day and I’d get an alert: ‘Risky’ is number one in one Island I’ve never heard of before. That’s why collaboration is so important. I think it was in 2018 or 2019, we performed in Suriname. I knew where Suriname was before I got the message—because obviously a lot of Dutch footballers especially the black ones are originally from Suriname. Because of my love for football and my interest in football, I know that Clarence Seedorf is from Suriname. I knew nothing else about the country. We got a booking in Amsterdam and the promoter said ‘oh the day after Amsterdam, I want to take you guys to Suriname.’ And I was like ‘who the hell is going to know us in Suriname?’
I remember we went to Suriname just after – I think it was either ‘Assurance’ or ‘Fia’ that had just dropped. And we were like ‘which songs are we going to perform?’ And I remember when David came and was performing songs like ‘Gallardo’ and was getting a reaction. That show was like 10,000 people. I remember asking the promoter there, ‘do you guys have shows there?’ Because Suriname is a funny Island. The airport is miles away from the city. You drive for like two hours, it’s like one straight road. You don’t see anything. It’s literally just trees. Once in a while, you’d see a restaurant or a gas station. And I was like how are we going to perform here for over an hour? Before we did that show, the last show there was maybe like two years ago, Rick Ross. I didn’t even have a basis to even collate or even think of how we’re even going, think of even pulling this off.
What’s the point of Jay-z being in the ROC Nation office by himself? Ty Ty is there, Emory’s there. It’s like me and Bizzle. I and Bizzle argue all the time. But it’s for a common goal. Bizzle and I still fought like two days ago, that we had a huge argument. But we have processed that why did we argue? Why did we do this and we keep it moving? Because with The Plug, we’re here to try and kick as many doors down as possible and strategize. And put this entertainment space in a better place for the people that are coming after us. It makes no sense to us that in ten years from now, the next batch of people are fighting the same battles that we’re fighting. It makes no sense. It makes no sense that artists are still signing these guinea pigs contracts that we went through. It makes no sense.
We know how it goes. At the end of the day, I’m like guy, do you want to collect 50k, 60k now when you can grind it, arrange your album? It might take you longer. It might be harder, but then. Not many people are opportune to have the kind of deal that David has where he still owns his masters. Do you want to waste the peak years of your career as a guinea pig? Because at the end of the day, these people are still beginners in our industry. They don’t know how Afrobeats work. The Def Jam Africa that they announced the other day is still experimental. Hip-hop is still an experiment here. At the end of the day, these major labels are still reaching out to people like The Plug to work for them.
So why am I going to let my Lil bro who I know has the potential to be one of the biggest artists from our continent, sign to somebody that’s going to come and call me to do the work? When I and you can still lock heads together, hustle this thing and share the money amongst ourselves.
There’s no problem collaborating with labels abroad and doing stuff. Let it be a win-win situation. The major labels never lose. So you have to go through these scenarios knowing that, me, I’m signing with this label for this reason. For example, I and David tell people all the time. This Sony that we’ve signed to, we know what we want to collect from them. Yes, we suffered to get to where we wanted to get to. If tomorrow we don’t agree with Sony, I feel like between two of us, we have learnt enough. We’ve been to certain places where we can make certain phone calls ourselves. Yes, in America the way the structure is there are some certain things you still need a major. But you can knock on that door to a certain extent. You will be let into that door. With consistency and working the right way. So it’s just about working smart and us working together.
Look at Latino music. Jamaican music like reggae dancehall was about to get there. We all know the story. It is our responsibility not to make that mistake. The reason why major labels put so much into Latino music is because they are making money. There’s a system. They are seeing that, if I put a million dollars behind JBalvin in January I’d get my million dollars back in October. If I put a million dollars behind so so so artist from Africa, it might take me two years to make that same money back. Why? Because Latino people have built an ecosystem of their own. Collaborate amongst themselves. You can see a Latino record now Ozuna and J Balvin, the six biggest guys. You can never see Davido, Wizkid, Burna, Tiwa Savage, Olamide, Wande Coal on a record here. Inferiority complex. Ego. But at the end of the day, these are the people that are meant to be taking us to the next level.
If I call certain people and say guys this deal dey on ground o, because it’s coming from Davido’s manager, this person doesn’t want to do it. He doesn’t want me to know how much he wants to collect. It’s dumb stuff. I’m like bro, you’re staying at home with a big fat slice of nothing. Me, you and four other guys could have shared three million dollars. Made real money. Not going to go and perform at Eko Hotel money. How long do you want to perform for? Those are the things that people need to realise.
That’s why I said Corona is a blessing in disguise for our industry. People need to realise that the live concert is not where the money is. Yes, it’s nice to perform, it’s nice to make your money there. But how long can you perform for? Look at Akon for example. People’d say Akon fell off, Akon this. Akon performs once or twice a year, you know how much he makes. Eminem performs how many times a year? The biggest artist in Nigeria does not make the money Eminem makes in a year with his performance money.
Another thing is research. Everybody is forming ‘I know it all. Baba, you don’t know shit.’ I’m learning every day. If you go and check the history on my laptop, I’m always Googling. Publishing law or how to deliver this? How to get my song playlisted? And then share knowledge. It’s so crazy that I’ve worked in the music industry for close to 10 to 12 years. I can count on one hand, the managers that I can call in this Nigeria and have a real conversation with. And say, yes, this thing is ten percent o. This thing is 50k. Other guys, we’d be lying to ourselves on the phone. I can only call maybe Godwin Tom. Sam Phrank doesn’t count ’cause Sam is in-house. Osagie. If I remove everybody that works in-house like Mayorkun, Peruzzi’s teams, maybe the only people that I can tell you. Yes, these people are telling me the truths are Godwin and Osagie.
Everybody else, even the people that I even advise will lie about the money they are collecting. And what’s crazy is, I’m like bro, we’re actually not on the same level. I’m not competing for money with you. I’m trying to point you in the right direction. But I see with the new batch of artists coming, the managers are more exposed. There are one or two guys that I can mention that before they take certain decisions he’d call me like ‘Asa o, William Morris booking agency want to sign us internationally, what do you think? I can learn things from you because at the end of the day, my artist is not on the same stage yours is at. My artist was not opportune to be at that stage in his career and have international recognition.
So we’re all going to learn from each other. You hide in your corner, forming ‘I too know,’ insecure or lying about figures, it makes no sense. Not one person can kick this door alone. ‘Despascito’ is not one person. And the sooner we learn that…because time waits for no man. The way Afrobeats is cool now, in three years they’re going to come out and say K-pop is what Americans like or what the whole world is interested in. And at the end of the day, K-pop has more numbers than us. They’d kick us out of the door with one kick. And it’d just be like remembering that time wey we dey go Grammy, wey we dey sit down for RCA office. I don’t want to have those conversations.