Like anyone else who cared and loved Nigerian music the Don Jazzy Tweet more or less confirming the end of his almost decade long union with Don Jazzy was a rude shock to me. It was difficult to comprehend why a union that has given us so much beautiful music in the past was now no more. Ironically, it was probably easier to conclude who of the two parties involved in the feud was to blame and who stood to loose the most. Even I assumed D’Banj the less talented of the two probably will loose out as it is widely believed Don Jazzy’s beats made him the super star that he is today.
But then emotions shouldn’t come before constructive reasoning. Don Jazzy may have been the brain behind the music but was he the brain behind the commercial success? According to views from people who know about the business dynamics of the duo, whilst Don Jazzy was considered by fans as the leader and probably the brain behind Mo’hits, a lot of the elites, high net-worth individuals and corporates considered D’Banj the face of Mo’hits. To them, D’Banj was the one singing the songs and the guy they could see taking of his shirts, wooing the crowds and doing the well too familiar koko songs. He was in other words the commercial face of the band and as such attracted the most interest in the “right places”. When show organisers want an artist they ask for D’Banj and not Don Jazzy. Same with endorsement deals, promotional arrangements, photo ops, interviews etc. All of these have what is most important, commercial value. In fact, unconfirmed reports suggest the duo via D’Banj’s connections got an oil deal with the Ministry of Petroleum Resources that fetched them about $2m.
Musicians have proven over time to possess far more commercial potential than their producers or managers or founders or even mentors. Michael Jackson went on to become far richer and more successful than his Dad & Barry Gordi, both of whom either discovered him and/or ushered him to the world. Boyz II Men also did much better than their mentor and sponsor Michael Bivins, after the duo left. The much hyped feud between Rocafella founders, Jay Z and Damon Dash is also a typical example. Once they parted ways it was obvious who parted with the commercial appeal and hence is making the most money. Even in Nigeria, the moment 2face left Kennis Music, you could see the beginning of the end of their dominance in the music scene. If P Square decides to break-up with Jude who do you think will suffer. I could go on and on.
So here is my take; in the short to medium term D’Banj will probably turn out the more successful of the duo. He will churn out hits with G.O.O.D Music, sell more records garner a lot more international appeal and attract endorsements. He might struggle locally but will be much compensated with his new international audience. He will surely ride on the stardom and commercial milestone of Kanye West which as you may well known is as good as it gets. His image will get the much needed re-jiggering to compliment his new international appeal. He is already showing sign of some form of re-branding going by his latest “oliver” video. However, In spite of all the potential D’Banj has to achieve far more success, he also does not control is fate. That will be determined by his producers, record label and fans alike. Besides, by spending most of his time abroad he will loose the very reliable financial support the local scene in Nigeria provides. In fact, he might be quickly forgotten by the ever dynamic music loving Nigerians.
For Don Jazzy, he is going to have to lie low for while as he hopes the dust caused by the split settles. This will mostly lead to loss of major revenue for him, the commercial power of D’Banj having left him. The likes of D’Prince and Dr Sid (despite their public support for him) will someday decide to leave him or at least reduce their dependence on him. For this, he will turn to fresh talents who take time to start to make the type of money he is used to seeing. He probably will also tee up with a lot more artist in the industry just as Cobhams has done over the years. He will feel so much pressure to succeed in the same vein people expect D’Banj to prove success without him. All of these will pose a snag to his finances in the short term but may turn out a launching pad for a new era of quality production and world class artiste.
At the end of the day, the industry stands to gain the most. Just like in every other business, smaller competitors savour the demise and break of bigger and stiffer competition. Consequently, the music industry will benefit from this break-up. Smart record labels will seize on this opportunity to fill and solidify the gap which their break-up has suddenly provided. Some artiste who have been on the fringes for years can also latch up the opportunity to make a name for themselves if they can just have Don Jazzy produce for them. As usual, history serves as a guide. Without the Deathrow break-up there probably would not have been a certain Eminem which I believe is what this break-up will turn out to be. Question now is who is the new “Eminem”?