Record labels are an important part of singers and they play important roles in their music as well. Record labels can make or mar a singer, irrespective of their talent. This list is about top 5 Nigerian singers who after leaving their known record label were still able to stay in the spotlight and move to the top of the ladder, till today.
1. Adekunle Gold
Adekunle Kosoko, known professionally as Adekunle Gold or AG baby, is a Nigerian highlife singer, songwriter and graphic designer. He gained widespread attention after releasing the 2015 hit single Sade, a highlife cover of One Direction’s Story of My Life. That same year, he signed a record deal with Olamide Badoo’s YBNL Nation. While with the label, his singles, Sade, Orente and Pick Up became mega-hits and resulted in Sade winning best alternative song at The Headies 2016. In 2016, he left the label after releasing his debut album, Gold on July 28, 2016. Gold debuted at number 7 on the world albums chart.
After his exit from YBNL, Adekunle Gold unveiled his band The 79th element in reference to the atomic number of gold. On the 15th of January, 2018, Unity Bank unveiled Adekunle Gold as their brand ambassador and since then there has been no going back.
Adekunle Gold has wowed us with top notch songs, back to back, gotten endorsement deals, and has been doing so well. His albums have been top chart, ranging from About 30 (2018), Afro Pop Vol. 1 (2020), Catch Me If You Can (2022), AG baby is just getting started. He also has many singles that are hits like; Ire (2018), Before You Wake Up (2019), Kelegbe Megbe, Jore feat Kizz Daniel (2020), Something Different (2020), AG Baby feat Nailah Blackman (2020),Sinner(2021), High feat Davido (2021).
2. Burna Boy
Born Damini Ebunoluwa Ogulu, Burna Boy, is a Nigerian singer and rapper. He is one of the biggest and most successful African artists. The Odogwu barely needs an introduction since being an ‘African Giant’ is not a day’s job.
Burna has worked his was to the top and he has successfully stayed there. He got into the music industry in 2011 and has managed to stay relevant since then even after parting ways with Aristocrat records in 2014.
Prior his exit from Aristocrat records, his debut studio album L.I.F.E was released August 2013, serving as the follow-up to his second mixtape Burn Identity(2011). The album sold 40,000 copies on the first day of its release. Aristokrat records later sold its marketing rights to Uba Pacific for ₦10 million. The album’s release was preceded by five singles that were all hits: Like to Party, Tonight, Always Love You, Run My Race and Yawa Dey. Then in February 2015, Burna founded his record label, Spaceship entertainment. He knew what he wanted and he went for it. In 2017, Burna Boy signed with Bad Habit/Atlantic Records in the United States and Warner Music Group internationally.
He has since released four more albums; On a Spaceship 2015, Outside 2018, Steel and Copper (EP) 2019, African Giant 2019, Twice as Tall 2020. That is aside many hit singles and collaborations. Burna sure has a lot of firsts; he is the first African artiste to bag three nominations and wins consecutively, having won the BET Award in 2019, 2020 and 2021.
In November 2019, Burna Boy became the first Afrobeat artist to sell out the SSE Arena (formerly known as the Wembley arena). He won the best global music album award for his album Twice as Tall, a first for a Nigerian as a solo artist and the first Nigerian with back-to-back nominations at the Grammy’s.
3. Tiwa Savage
Tiwa Savage is a Nigerian singer, songwriter and actress. Born in Lagos, she relocated to London at the age of 11. Savage moved back to Nigeria and signed with Mavin records in 2012.
She established the 323 Entertainment record label with her former manager and ex-husband Tunji “Tee Billz” Balogun. Tiwa Savage then made her debut appearance after signing with Mavin records on the label’s 2012 compilation album Solar Plexus. Her debut studio album Once Upon a Time was released in 2013 and was supported by seven hit singles: Kele Kele Love, Love Me (3x), Without My Heart, Ife Wa Gbona, Folarin, Olorun Mi and Eminado. The album was nominated for best album of the year at the 2014 Nigeria Entertainment Awards and for best R&B/Pop album at The Headies 2014. Savage’s second studio album R.E.D was released 2015. It yielded two hit singles: My Darlin and Standing Ovation.
In June 2016, Savage signed a management and publishing deal with Roc Nation. In September 2017, she released her debut EP Sugarcane. R.E.D and Sugarcane have both been nominated for Best album at the Nigeria Entertainment Awards. In 2014, Tiwa Savage was the first female Nigerian artiste to be nominated for BET awards. In this same year (2014), she won best female category in the Channel O music awards show.
She was also nominated in 2018 for the same award. In 2014, she was also nominated for the MTV European Music award which was later nominated for and won in 2018. In November 2018, Savage won best African act at the 2018 MTV Europe music awards, becoming the first woman to win the category.
In May 2019, she announced her record deal with Universal music group and exit from Mavin records. Despite her exit from Mavin records, Tiwa Savage has successfully continued to thrive in the music industry. She is atop her game and is flourishing despite being in a male dominated industry. Signing with UMG, the biggest music company in the world, and one of the “big three” record labels, along with Sony music and Warner music group, is no doubt one of Tiwa’s best decisions. Last year, Tiwa released her second EP, Water & Garri through Universal music group, Motown records and Capitol records. The album did well, especially Somebody’s Son featuring Brandy.
David Adedeji Adeleke, popularly known as Davido, is a Nigerian singer, songwriter, and record producer. Davido has also been able to carve a niche for himself after getting into the music industry in 2010. The OBO himself, released his debut studio album Omo Baba Olowo in 2012 while signed to HKN music. The album garnered a lot of awards despite negative reviews from some critics.
Davido won the Next Rated award in 2012 at The Headies after releasing Dami Duro, the second single from his debut studio album Omo Baba Olowo. Between 2013 and 2015, he released a number of hit singles and in January 2016 he signed a record deal with Sony music after his exit from HKN music. He went ahead to start his own record label Davido Music Worldwide (DMW). And in October 2016, he released the 5-track EP Son of Mercy, which was supported by the singles Gbagbe Oshi, How Long and Coolest Kid in Africa.
In April 2017, Davido renegotiated his contract with Sony due to creative control issues and later that year he released five singles including If and Fall. If generated worldwide social media activity while Fall became the longest-charting Nigerian pop song in Billboard history. Davido has since been famously referred to as ‘The king of modern-day afrobeats’.
Davido released, his second studio album, A Good Time in 2019, supported by hit singles including Blow My Mind featuring popular American singer, Chris Brown. He released his third studio album A Better Time, in 2020. Currently, Davido is the second most followed African on the social media app, Instagram. Despite his exit from HKN music which moulded his music career, Davido has successfully managed to keep moving forward.
Ayodeji Ibrahim Balogun, popularly known as Wizkid, is a Nigerian singer and songwriter. Wizkid is also a big fish in the music industry despite exiting his known record label, Banky W’s Empire mates entertainment (E.M.E) amidst controversies.
He signed with EME in 2009 and rose to limelight after releasing Holla at Your Boy, the lead single from his debut studio album, Superstar (2011), which also spawned the singles Tease Me/Bad Guys and Don’t Dull, which all turned out to be hits. In September 2014, he released the self-titled second studio album, Ayo. The album was supported by six singles, including the award-winning song Jaiye Jaiye. Wizkid departed E.M.E following the release of his second studio album and the expiration of his five-year contract. He went ahead to establish his label imprint, Starboy Entertainment in March 2013.
By 2016, Wizkid had achieved international recognition following his collaboration with Drake on the hit single One Dance, which reached number-one on the US Billboard Hot 100, and topped the charts in 14 additional countries. The song broke multiple records, making Wizkid the first Afrobeats artist to appear in the Guinness World Records. In March 2017, he signed a multi-album deal with RCA Records and released his third studio album Sounds from the Other Side, later that year. The album was supported by five singles, including Come Closer featuring Drake.
In 2018, he was featured on the song Checklist by Normani and Calvin Harris, which reached number-one on the Billboard World Digital Song Sales chart. The following year, he was featured on Beyoncé‘s project The Lion King: The Gift on the single Brown Skin Girl, which also reached number-one on the World Digital Song Sales chart, and won him a Grammy Award for Best music video.
In October 2020, he released his fourth album, Made in Lagos, which received commercial success and acclaim, reaching number-one on the Billboard World Album Chart. The album includes the single Essence featuring Tems, which became the first Nigerian song to chart on the Billboard Hot 100 and reached the top ten following a remix released by Justin Bieber. By February 2021, Wizkid was the most-streamed Nigerian artist of all time on Spotify, with over 3.4 billion streams across all credits. Wizkid’s exit from E.M.E records was amidst controversies. It was also reported that money was at the centre of the controversy and in a video interview with Capitol Xtra in October 2019, Wizkid said he left the label without any money but Machala of today, is not to be played with in the industry, he has obviously payed his dues.