Two heads are better than one.
We’ve all heard the saying that goes, “Two heads are better than one”, and this rings true across every facet of life where collaboration exists. Two minds might excel in places where just one person might feel limited, and it is rare to see anybody achieve great things alone.
The situation with music is the same. It is common to have several people work on a song (see Kanye West’s “All of the Lights”), and even more common to have an extensive list of songwriters and producers on an album who contribute to the music in some way.
Today’s topic, though, is about artist-producer combinations. As a creative, I know that it is not so easy to have someone understand your vision, let alone have the skill to help you execute it. In the midst of all that goes on to create important records, I think one of the most important ingredients is synergy between an artist and their producer. Whether the relationship between both parties is good or bad, synergy is a phenomenon that can be heard and felt through music.
We came up with a list of artist-producer combinations that have rocked Nigeria’s music scene across the mainstream and alternative spaces in recent years.
Let’s get right into it.
Naira Marley and Rexxie
Sometimes it feels like Naira and Rexxie were born together. Rexxie masterminded the music Naira put out in his crazy breakout run, crafting instrumentals that keep you close to the street but are still sonically refined. Naira and Rexxie have a lot to thank each other for. As Naira delivered hits like “Japa”, “Mafo” and “Soapy”, Rexxie was put on the map as one of the most promising producers in Nigeria’s music space — being the producer to define an era of music is no easy feat.
Niniola and Sarz
The thing about Niniola and Sarz is they’re so compatible. They even each other out perfectly and have carved out a sound that’s distinct to their combination. After her 2014 breakout, “Ibadi”, Niniola subsequently became known as the Queen of Afrohouse and took the country by storm with “Maradona”, one of her most infectious riddims to date.
Over the years, they’ve had a healthy repertoire of singles they worked on, with “Bana”, “Addicted”, “Omo Rapala” and “Designer” coming within the span of 2018 to 2020. They sure know how to cook up some heat.
Burna Boy and LeriQ
Since Oluwaburna broke out, it’s been nothing short of real music. The early years of his time as a superstar saw him work very closely with LeriQ when they were signed to Aristokrat Records. He produced all of Burna’s L.I.F.E album, and what a debut project it was.
But one of their most significant drops together was the smooth, air-conditioned goodness that is “Comment Tu T’Appelle”. That was one of many songs that really highlighted Burna’s prowess and set the tone for some of the music we hear from him now. They worked together on the all-conquering Twice as Tall, and it was only fitting that Burna hit his pinnacle with one of his day-ones by his side.
Santi and GMK/Genio (Monster Boys)
The evolution of the Monster Boys is another perfect example of what happens when you stick with your day-ones. From the days recording in Magodo as teenagers to gracing the Camp Flog Gnaw stage, the Monster Boys have now successfully carved a niche for themselves and people like them. They are genuine trailblazers on Nigeria’s music scene.
Santi, GMK and Genio have worked on every single project Santi has ever released, for as long as I can remember. Evolving from the Diaries of a Loner tapes to the world of Subaru is pretty crazy when you think about how the music is executed, but in terms of the ideas and the instrumentation, it is a pretty natural progression. Another longtime producer of Santi who deserves an honourable mention here is Bankyondbeatz.
If you are still new to the Monster Boys, you can start your journey by listening to Santi’s 2013 mixtape, Diaries of a Loner: Birth of Santi (https://soundcloud.com/monsterboyz/sets/birth-of-santi)
Davido and Shizzi
You were probably there when Sarz and Shizzi went head to head on Instagram live, playing back-to-back hits. Peak lockdown. It is challenging to leave Shizzi out of this list. And when you call Shizzi, Davido’s name appears in the conversation soon after. They’re a real duo.
They have the scores to prove it, too. Shizzi produced one of Davido’s best-ever songs “Like Dat” in 2017, but their repertoire goes deeper. He handed OBO “Dami Duro” and “Overseas” for OBO: The Genesis in 2011, “Ekuro” in 2012, “Gobe” and the infectious “Skelewu” in 2013, and “Tchelete” featuring Mafikizolo in 2014. Need I say more?
YBNL and Pheelz
This pick was initially supposed to be Olamide and Pheelz, but the producer’s influence on the Nigerian music scene goes beyond Olamide to YBNL as a whole. Pheelz’s penchant for making hits has seen him be Olamide’s go-to man for most of the label’s music. He produced every song bar one on Baddest Guy Ever Liveth, and has stayed close to Olamide since then.
He has conjured several hits for current and ex-YBNL members, from Lil Kesh to Fireboy DML and “Shoki” to “Scatter”. Now putting out his own music, it’ll be interesting to see what Pheelz’s career morphs into over the years.
Ajebutter and Studio Magic
Ajebutter burst onto the scene in 2014 and he’s helped shape the alternative space in Nigeria, not only through music but lifestyle as well. His debut project Anytime Soon was executively produced by Studio Magic and it housed some really good records. “Omo Pastor” had us in a chokehold for a little while, while “Senrenre” was sweet EDM laced with Yoruba lyricism.
Ajebutter turned out to be a good bridge between the mainstream and alternative spaces alongside Boj, and I’m sure the streets will never forget his contribution to the game.
Blackmagic and IKON
The SYNDIK8 Records era was interesting, to say the least. They had their own sound and brand; it was fresh, it was new, and it stuck. While LYNXXX took SYNDIK8 mainstream with some iconic records, Blackmagic held it down in the alternative space. You could say Blackmagic created a blueprint for crafting niche music with mainstream appeal, and even though we didn’t see that potential realized to the fullest, it was a time the streets won’t forget.
He did this with the help of IKON, SYNDIK8’s in-house producer. In 2011, they worked on Blackmagic’s debut project Blackmagic Version 1.0, putting out “Tomorrow” and “Rainbow”, two one-of-one records that can’t be recreated. Subsequently, they put out the single “Bastard” in 2012, which got a very good reception.