Over the last few years, we’ve had artists who made a special entrance into the mainstream music space. Each of them has that X-factor and made a strong impression on all listeners but none has been like Ololade Asake.
“I just blow but, omo, I know my set / Before dem use me, I go use my sense”
These are the words from the hottest voice coming out of Nigeria at this moment. I find it interesting that there is seemingly insufficient effort to document his fast rise in writing so far, so I am here to share a few thoughts about the impression Asake has left on me.
This is not the first time Asake has gone mainstream. Months before we entered the Sungbaverse, “Mr Money” had been banging in the club and other places of interest since our release from the shackles of COVID-19. In retrospect, Asake was only preparing us for what we are experiencing now. He has always been in our midst, biding his time and waiting for his moment — similar to a gas leak that only needs a little spark to explode.
And what an explosion it has been. His debut project, Ololade Asake, housed four songs that displayed the range of musicality he is capable of. You can hear the influences of Fuji in his vocal delivery, and his choruses are choir-esque. He subsequently stumbled on something special with “Sungba” and has carved out a run with this fusion of Amapiano and Fuji — one that has put him on the podium as one of the most significant breakout stars in Nigerian music in recent memory.
Born Ahmed Ololade Asake, he stuck with the mononym as his friends called him, due to his mum teaching in his secondary school. He studied Drama and Performing Arts at Obafemi Awolowo University and started as a dancer. After releasing “Joha” in 2015 to a great reception in his school, he switched to music entirely and carried with him a penchant for captivating crowds with his performances.
In the years that followed, he continued working earnestly, looking for that significant breakthrough. After the first sniff with “Mr Money”, he kept in touch with Olamide through text and got the YBNL boss to feature on “Omo Ope” through his friend and A&R, Yhemo Lee. Eventually, that important text came and Asake signed with YBNL early in 2022. He recorded “Sungba” and “Trabaye” shortly after, with Olamide playing the bass on the latter.
Asake has done a couple of radio interviews over the past few months and he has revealed some aspects of his personality. He is calm with a welcoming aura, and even with his glasses on you can tell he has a glint in his eye when he talks about his journey. In front of the camera, he taps into something different and moves with a charisma that is reminiscent of a young Lil’ Wayne in 2008. You can tell he was made for this moment.
What makes Asake so special is that there really isn’t anyone like him out right now. That can’t be said about a lot of artists, you would know because Nigerian music lovers can’t hold themselves from comparing one artist to another.
He also displays a type of craftsmanship with the way he puts hit records together; he has four songs in the Top 20 of Nigeria’s Top 100 chart on Apple Music, with “Peace Be Unto You” at #1 and “PALAZZO” at #5. But like Pulse’s Motolani Alake says, it’s not solely about the charts — it’s about the fact that you know the songs hit upon listening. You feel it in your senses, from your ears to your brain.
Over the last few years, we’ve had artists who made a special entrance into the mainstream music space. Each of them has that X-factor and made a strong impression on all listeners, both at home and abroad. Upon entry, it was obvious that Rema had that star power that made him tick. His distinct sound was initially mocked as a watered down Bollywood knock-off, but it is not surprising as the masses tend to grapple with anything remotely new or different. Asake currently faces the same thing with the Sungba-man allegations, but why should he change a winning formula so soon?
Omah Lay’s burst onto the scene was a spectacle. No one expected a young, relatively unknown face from Port Harcourt to dominate Nigeria’s charts and win our hearts, at least not as quickly or seemingly easily as he did. Asake’s aura is his most endearing trait — despite coming from humble beginnings his entire carriage screams superstar. There’s even a running joke that Olamide had Asake frozen in a lab, waiting for the exact moment to unleash him. Social media is undefeated.
Asake’s friend and label mate, Fireboy DML, had a similar story leading up to the moment he penned his name on his YBNL contract. Fireboy started recording Laughter, Tears and Goosebumps almost as he got his documents sorted. “King” dropped, then “Jealous”, and the rest — as they say — is history.
Mr Money is towing a similar line: he recorded “Trabaye” and “Sungba” on the evening he got signed, “Omo Ope” dropped in January, and the Ololade EP got released in February. He has already announced that his debut album Mr Money With The Vibe is on the way, and everyone is watching closely for the other tricks Sungba-man has up his sleeve.
With everything that has gone on so far, it is difficult to think that Asake is not destined for the top. He just started out though, and regardless of how much we want him to succeed, a lot of it is out of our control. He still has to earn his stripes, but with a new album on the way, you would hope that he crafts it in a way that showcases his range and talent with songs that have replay value. Until then, let us enjoy Mr Money’s special vibe and everything he is currently offering.
Featured Image credit: Walter Banks