The Headies is a much anticipated music award show that was first established 15 years ago, precisely March 10, 2006 by the Hip Hop World Magazine of Nigeria to recognize outstanding achievements in the Nigerian music industry.
The annual ceremony features performances by established and promising artists. It is broadcast live on HipTV to viewers across Nigeria, however amongst all the awards presented at the event, the only one that seems to always catch everyone’s attention is the controversial Next Rated awards.
In addition to receiving the award plaque, recipients of the Next Rated awardee is given a vehicle, making the award more competitive and controversial than any other category. This year a lot of significant changes have been made concerning the Headies which was originally called the Hip Hop World Awards.
For the first time ever, the awards this year will take place in USA on July 2, 2022 and not in Nigeria as expected, new categories have been added and astonishingly, the winner of the Next Rated awards goes home with a 2022 Bentley Bentayga said to be worth over N140m.
Over the years, we have seen so many thrilling incidents and controversies surround the Next rated Headies award. In this write-up, we’ll revisit the past winners of the Next Rated awards and yearly controversial moments around it, especially how many fans and viewers feel wronged about the winner not deserving the plaque; Starting with the most recent:
The next rated award constitutes 4 music stars:
As usual, Twitter has been hot with arguments since the nomination list was dropped ranging from who will win this year’s headies award and who deserves to win it. Each singer on the nomination list have their fans to back them up but fingers crossed as we wait to see the drama that will most definitely unfold regarding the Next Rated award.
Winner — Omah Lay
Those who made the next rated nomination list were: Omah Lay, Bella Shmurda, Oxlade and Tems. Surprisingly, it wasn’t as controversial as previous years when Omah Lay won the award and he let Oxlade and Bella accompany him to the stage to collect the award. There wasn’t any physical bad blood or beef despite the list being really competitive one; all the singers who made the list deserved to win with their hit songs.
Winner — Rema
Rema won the Next Rated award, beating Fireboy DML, Joeboy, Lyta, Victor AD and Zlatan to it. Many of the awardees didn’t even bother to show up to the event but there was barely a controversial moment regarding the award in particular.
Sometimes, you just know you’re witnessing a special artist right from the moment they appear. Immediately Rema dropped his debut eponymous Ep, it was undeniable that he is as special as they come. The diversity and stunning quality of his two subsequent EPs, Freestyle and Bad Commando only cemented that idea and it was more than enough for the Benin-born artist to race his way to the Next Rated award of the 2019 Headies.
To be fair, the nominee list was packed with worthy contenders who had proven themselves and have continued to build towards distinguished careers.
Winner — Mayorkun
(Nominees: Maleek Berry, Johnny Drille, Dice Ailes, Zoro)
Similar to his label boss in 2012, there was really no getting in Mayorkun’s way when he confidently and comfortably won the Next Rated award in 2018. Although he was in the midst of talented and promising prospects, Mayorkun had already made it to stardom with a string of big singles and it didn’t seem like he was going to stop. He eclipsed any doubts with his successful debut album, The Mayor of Lagos, and he’s only vaulted further into superstar territory with multiple headlining concerts and hit songs.
Winner – Mr Eazi
(Nominees: Tekno, Ycee, Humblesmith, Aramide)
There’s a possibility that Mr Eazi would have had stronger competition for his Next Rated run, had Tekno not rescinded his nomination. Tekno claimed he is bigger than the Next Rated award.
The remaining trio of contenders—Ycee, Humblesmith and Aramide—had had breakout years as well and have continued to press on with their respective careers, but there’s no denying that Mr Eazi was a dominant force in a fairytale year that saw him greatly impact all of afropop.
Winner – Reekado Banks
(Nominees: Lil Kesh, Kiss Daniel, Korede Bello, Cynthia Morgan)
Arguably the most infamous moment in the history of the award show, was Reekado Banks winning Next Rated over Lil Kesh which sparked an embittered exchange between both artists’ label bosses, Don Jazzy and Olamide.
Going into the ceremony, most people fancied Lil Kesh as the runaway winner of the category, as Olamide said “every single was a hit, back to back to back.” It wasn’t that Reekado wasn’t a strong contender, it’s that Lil Kesh’s numerous hits helped him reign over the year in review.
But for an award that also places a premium on potential, the Headies seem to have been vindicated in retrospect. While Reekado is no longer with Mavin Records, he is still a pretty reliable hit maker, Kesh today is no longer with YBNL Records and he is not as notable on the scene as he once was.
From an objective standpoint, however, Kiss (now Kizz) Daniel would have been the best pick, as not only did he release a widely acclaimed debut—something that eluded his other contenders—Kizz has remained at the cutting edge of afropop ever since, sidestepping the dreaded sophomore slump. He has kept the hits flowing till today with his latest album Barnabas (2021) still topping many charts in 2022.
Winner – Patoranking
(Nominees: Runtown, Yemi Alade, Skales, Orezi)
With his distinct reggae/dancehall-influenced sound, and the hit songs Alubarika and the Tiwa Savage-assisted Girlie O, Patoranking was in pole position to poach the Next Rated award ahead of a talented set of competitors. While all the nominated artists are still active to varying but notable degrees of success, Patoranking’s consistency in quality and continued evolution as a bona fide part of afropop’s global push has helped in proving his potential with his top hit singles like Abule (2020) and Celebrate me(2021).
Winner – Sean Tizzle
(Nominees: Burna Boy, Dammy Krane, Seyi Shay, Phyno)
Perhaps the tightest set in terms of competition, each of the nominees for the 2013 Next Rated award had a legitimate shot at winning but it didn’t really come as a surprise when Sean Tizzle picked up the plaque and the car.
At the time, Sean Tizzle had a huge hit in Sho Lee and subsequent singles touted him as a special talent, which he proved to some extent with his well-received debut album, The Journey.
It seemed he didn’t even think he could win because when he was announced, he ran unto the stage like a man possessed and prostrated on stage. He then ran around the stage like a man in a haze before collecting the microphone to give the most awkward speech ever.
However, his win was a snub for Burna Boy, who would’ve been the ideal candidate with the gift of hindsight.
Similarly to Kanye after he lost at the Best New Artist award at the 2004 American Music Awards, Burna Boy exited the venue shortly after Tizzle’s win was announced, clearly slighted by the snub. Justifying his slight, even after already dropping a great debut album, L.I.F.E, Burna has gone on to hit undeniable levels of success and flipped a rough patch after his sophomore album into one of the most dominant runs contemporary afropop has seen. In 2020, his album Twice as Tall was nominated for the same category at the 63rd Annual Grammy Awards, making him the first Nigerian with back-to-back nominations at the Grammys. In 2021, Twice as Tall won the Best Works Music Album at the 63rd Annual Grammy Awards, making Burna Boy the first Nigerian to win as a solo artist.
Winner – Davido
(Nominees: Eva Alordiah, Praiz, Chuddy K)
For the second time in a row, the Headies were given a surefire winner even though the competition wasn’t as tightly packed as the preceding year. Recall there were jokes about how Davido was about to add another car to his fleet while Eva Alordiah was going to continue moving around in cabs and on bikes – the rapper playfully admitted to her means of mobility in the campaign for the award. Regardless, Davido was utterly deserving of his win.
After pulling a 180 from the grass to grace story of his breakout single, Back When, Davido owned his privilege with Dami Duro, a smash banger of epic proportions. Similar to Wizkid, Davido’s Next Rated win was merely an acknowledgement of his world-beating talent and tenacity, all of which has manifested in a phenomenal career brimming with hit singles and sold-out shows across the world.
Winner – Wizkid
(Nominees: Ice Prince, Olamide, Tiwa Savage)
In contrast to the preceding year, this set of artists was packed with artistes who definitely went on to impact afropop significantly, even till date. Ice Prince took the definition of what it means to be a commercially successful rapper in Nigeria to another level; Olamide is arguably the greatest and most prolific rapper Nigeria has ever seen; and Tiwa Savage is amongst the artists that have continued to raise the bar for excellence in Nigeria pop music.
However, much like Wande Coal’s set in 2008, there was no competition where Wizkid was concerned.
After showcasing his potential with his stunning appearance on M.I’s Fast Money Fast Cars, Wizkid established himself as afropop’s hottest prospect since Wande Coal with two scene-stealing features on Banky W’s sophomore album, The W Experience and solo smash singles Holla at your Boy, Tease Me and Don’t Dull.
Winner – Skuki
(Nominees: General Pype, Mo’Cheddah, Jesse Jagz, D’Prince)
Looking back at 2010s group of Next Rated nominees, this particular list can make one have a lot of mixed feelings. In a baffling turn of events, these artists seemed to peak only around the period of their nominations. No one could have guessed they weren’t going to be around for the long run. The fact that it took only less than two years for their fuel to run out is very telling.
Winner – Omawumi
Starting off with her South African folk-infused debut single, In the Music, Omawumi quickly began to establish herself as one of the very few anomalies, repeating the huge singing talents she showed as the runner-up of the 2007 West African Idols. She also managed to make a statement as a newly minted artist with the potential for longevity.
Outlasting other nominees in the category, Omawumi has acquitted her Next Rated win in convincing fashion. While she is sometimes omitted in the conversation of perennially reliable artists, Omawumi has thrived in a space that hasn’t always been kind towards women and her continuous stream of new music is proof that she has more to offer and isn’t planning to fizzle out anytime soon.
Winner – Wande Coal
(Nominees: GT the Guitarman, M.I Abaga, Banky W, Cyrus da Virus)
At the time, nobody in their right minds expected any other artist but Wande Coal to pick up the Headies plaque and car at the event. The competition was pretty formidable though; M.I and Banky went on to become two of Nigeria’s most revered, boundary-pushing artists – but at the time, Wande Coal had already proven himself as a superstar in the waiting. There were literally zero doubts about the ‘havoc he was set to wreak’ — in a good way.
In 2007, the legendary (now defunct) Mo’Hits crew (in)arguably delivered the greatest compilation project in modern afropop, Curriculum Vitae, and Wande was the undoubted star of the show.
After his win, Wande effortlessly proved everyone right, inarguably delivering the greatest debut album in modern afropop, Mushin 2 Mo’Hits.
His legend was signed and sealed; no matter how you feel about the inconsistencies since then, there’s no question that Wande Coal and his debut are a cornerstone in the ongoing global acceptance of African music.
Winner – Overdose
(Nominees: Naeto C, Lawal Olumo, Kage, C-Mion, Gino, Blaise)
The year 2007 was a tipping point as many people thought the Kaduna-born rapper Overdose was going to be on the frontlines of the movement. The previous year, OD had scored a hit with Don’t Hate, a song that flexed his undeniable strengths as a lyricist and also showed his innate understanding of the Nigerian market he was appealing. In other words, he was the promise of a rapper who could be the best of both worlds, therefore, the appeal of him being Next Rated was glaring. Unfortunately, the hope sizzled out after a while – in 2009, OD signed with X3M, and dropped a few hits, Drinks in a Glass and Alujo, but he never really fulfilled the potential many saw for him.
The same can be said for most of the other nominees— Blaise is a classic case of what could have been; Lawal Olumo barely made any dent; Gino fizzled out quicker than expected.
In hindsight, with what we know now, Naeto C would’ve been the best pick amongst the bunch. He was still able to make a positive impact with many hits to his name for over a decade, before totally fizzling out in 2019.
Winner – Asa
This must be the year the Headies have no regrets whatsoever because with two instantly striking, classic singles Eye Adaba and Fire on the Mountain, Asa was the ideal generational talent to kick-start the Next Rated award.
Not only was her music unique, she also had the star quality needed for the long game. At the time, the singer was signed to the rising label, Question Mark Records, an arrangement which publicly and controversially fell apart later that year. Instead of disrupting her momentum, that unfortunate situation turned out to be a catalyst to her success as Asa signed to another label and released her unanimously classic debut LP in 2007. Asa was a resounding success, confirming Asa’s entry into the rarefied territory as a game-changing superstar, a status she’s held on to till today with her latest album, V in 2022.