28.2 C
Monday, May 29, 2023

The Never-Ending Feud Between Artists and Record Labels in Nigeria

Since the dawn of Afrobeats, artists and record labels in Nigeria have always had a standoff. It is an unsaid fact about the Nigerian music industry.

The recent face-off between Mohbad and label boss Naira Marley further buttresses this point. As I mentioned in the first paragraph of this piece, this is not the first of its kind. Though, the manner of exposure to the limelight was not this rampant.

Over the years many Nigerian artists, such as D’banj, Wizkid, Brymo, Kizz Daniel, Harry Song, Iyanya, Runtown, Barry Jay, Bad Boy Timz and now Mohbad have had issues with their former record labels. To better understand this issue we need to know the real crux of this beat between Naira Marley and Mohbad.

On December 30, 2019, Naira Marley launched his record label ‘Marlian Records’. Then, he unveiled his signees C Blvck, Zinoleesky, Fabian Blu and Mohbad. This announcement was made during the ‘Marlian Fest’ at the Eko hotels and suites, in Lagos, Nigeria.


Interestingly, all four acts were no average joes in the Nigerian music scene. C Blvck and Naira Marley had recorded two songs together, ‘Ogologo” and ‘Tingbasa’. Zinoleesky previously released a song titled ‘Joromi’ after the success of his well-accepted collaboration with Zlatan on a song titled ‘Money’. While Mohbad, an indigenous rapper, was the lead singer of Bankz Nation Entertainment. He was famous for his single ‘Jaabo’.

Mohbad released a couple of songs under his new imprint but it was the release of ‘KPK’ with Rexxie that did the magic. According to critics, it ranks among the top 10 songs in terms of impact on the industry and culture over the years.

Marlian music was doing nicely as a record label, the artists were giving good accounts of themselves. Mohbad had a fantastic 2021, Zinoleesky was pretty much the face of the label and Lyta joined the family. However, things started taking a dark tone in the fourth quarter of last year. Initially, these reports were treated as rumours. However, there were noticeable differences in the creative direction of the music for the label, as the artists had no control over this.

Things got a lot messier as both parties had expectations for each other. The clear point of impact was when Mohbad wanted to leave the label. Earlier this year after his joint arrest with Zinoleesky by the agents of the NDLEA, Mohbad made a video alleging that his life was in danger. He accused his boss of spearheading this action and adding that if anything should happen to him, Naira Marley should be held responsible.

This was immediately dismissed by Naira Marley, who said that Mohbad was high when he made the video and many took his word for it, as these guys appeared to be a family. So, we thought. Over time some reliable sources said that Mohbad was not high when he made the video.

Now the recent melee between Mohbad and Marlian music, most likely got bloody as Mohbad alleged that he was beaten up badly and injured by members of the Marlian music house. According to sources, Mohbad wanted to change his manager and the conversation about leaving has been ongoing for a while due to royalties and the unfriendly working environment. But the label has been reluctant to let him go and this caused a lot of trouble.

So far, no one knows who is in the right, as this is just the side of Mohbad. Naira Marley has not categorically given a clear statement on this matter that will help address this issue. Though Mohbad has taken some legal steps on the matter calling out Marlian music, as they have a case to answer. But no one from Marlian music has responded.

Contracts between labels and artists in the past were very slippery. But these days they have improved, artists can negotiate certain aspects of the agreement not favourable to them and get higher gains. In Nigeria, record labels take a higher risk when they sign an act. So, their priority on the artist’s bag is not high on their list, as they seek to make a return on their investment. Besides you as a rising star have no leverage and all the money for the music to become successful comes from the label.

The Mohbad vs Naira Marley saga could if care is not taken, get ugly. I would personally advise that both parties take legal steps in this matter, as it is quite controversial and technical.

Artist and label situations are very touchy and the history of such situations has always exposed the artists as the guilty ones or in breach of contract. Although the public in most cases sides with the artist due to their popularity and being the underdog in the fight.

But don’t get it twisted there are cases where record labels can be dubious. For example, not giving artists their dues and cheating them out of their hard-earned gains. This can be attributed to greed, narcissistic behaviour or just being wicked, not understanding that a person has a God-given right to do what is in their best interest which is leaving a place they are no longer comfortable in.

Suge Knight should be proud, some Nigerian record labels are really doing the most. Abeg make una take am easy a record deal is not tantamount to slavery. In all honesty, an artist’s performance will not be top-notch when they no longer want to be part of the label, no matter the amount of pressure the label puts in. It is better for both parties to fulfil both sides of their bargain. And always make sure that the artist is happy, his physical, mental and other valid areas need to be taken proper care of. Come on, this is a business and the artist(s) are your most valuable asset. Hence no stable artist, no good product and no money made.

There should be room for the negotiation of contracts, upgrade to contracts, agreed percentages and also seeking other sources of revenue. Concessions must be made by both parties for things to fall into the proper place. The Nigerian music industry needs to do better in this aspect. This is not the first time nor will it be the last time such drift will happen.

A lot needs to be done, conversations should be held in the industry and steps need to be taken for better outcomes to emerge. I would to the best of my knowledge advise Mohbad and Naira Marley to settle out of court, as we know how all these kinds of cases turn out, many years in court, time wasted and a large pile of court fees to pay. I call on the key stakeholders, veterans and big shots in the industry to step in and resolve the situation.

Diss tracks will not help Mohbad’s case, as this will only heighten the tension between both parties. Violence is never the answer.

Solomon Obi
Solomon Obi
Solomon Obi is a writer and content creator. He loves sharing his innate thoughts on Nigerian pop culture. His hobbies include reading and movies. We all are on a voyage of discovery to unearth the never-ending infinite of knowledge.

Related Articles

Stay Connected


Latest Articles