Fans can be incredibly selfish people at times.
When we first discover an artist, we treat that artist like a perishable item that can finish if too many people get to know about them. We’re quite happy to be the only ones that enjoy their music and derive satisfaction in knowing that every other person that knows about the artist got to know about them through us. When a lot more people get to know about them outside our word-of-mouth network, the artist suddenly outgrows our selfish heart’s capacity to love them.
When an artist that already has an established fan base, especially one with an intimate relationship with the artist, goes on to sign a “big” record deal, they’re essentially saying that that our collective word-of-mouth network is no longer big enough for them anymore.
In ’03, when Ruggedman signed that ill-fated N1m record deal with Little Fish Records, a section of his fans felt the controversial rapper was breaking bread with some of the very “Big Broses” he stood against. When his friend-turned-foe Mode nine, pitched his tent with Question mark a few years later, the MC went on to release some of his most commercially successful records, some of which are his biggest songs till this very day and earned him endorsements from big brands. However, a section of his fans weren’t impressed either, the tough-as-nails MC had compromised the integrity of his sound to gain mainstream acceptance, they argued.
Those kinds of fans are great for an artist’s ego and critical acclaim, but destructive to their growth and financial health. Those kinds of fans are the kind that Khaled refers to as “they”, there is a thin line between they and fan luv. It’s always love with fan luv but they? They simply do not care whether this music thing is making the artist have to soak garri just to put out the records that they love. They don’t care if you have bigger dreams for yourself too, you must not be seen to be a “sell out” or else…
We are about to find out if the same rules of “selling out” apply for alternative artist BOJ as they did for those respected MC’s. BOJ recently ran into the house that Zeez ran out of a few months ago and signed a record deal with HF Music. The move seemed to come a bit out of left field – if there was any group of artists that looked like they could hold on to their independence and still prosper in their chosen niche, the 3-man DRB Lasgidi crew was that group.
How the crew was able to become the darling of school children, particular on the island, without a huge record or the backing of a big machine, is a formula that needs to be studied like a thesis. The growth happened organically too over a span of roughly 4 years, by maintaining an always-there presence regardless of whether they were in the country or not and performing at smaller, more intimate shows whenever they were, DRB developed an understanding with their young fans that transcended the music.
BOJ emerged as the crew’s front man and is easily its most recognizable member. His last record, “Phantom” featured Runtown and was pushed by Asa Asika’s Stargaze to become one of the singer’s biggest solo records thus far. Perhaps noticing that he had reached a glass ceiling with his audience, BOJ decided his career needed to go on to the next level, especially now that he’s back in the country for good. Hear him explain his reason for signing with HF Music –
There was a lot of structure at the record label at the time. That’s what really made me sign, they had structure and I just felt like I needed structure behind me to put out music… I felt like I needed that backing, that structure and that injection of funds also, so I think signing to HF was a very good move for me
The immediate result was a little troubling at first, BOJ’s label mate bigLITTLE put out the “Get Down” record a couple of weeks ago and it had a verse from the DRB man that fit the single’s formulaic Nigerian club song template.
But BOJ has shown us how adaptive he can be to other artist’s musical styles without adulterating his with successful features on AjeButter22 and Naeto C’s singles in the past, so his first solo single on the label was always going to be a better test.
On the love song “Ire”, the eternally hatted BOJ remained the gravelly-voiced, laid back singer that his fans got to know and love. This will calm the nerves of some of his fans that were worried that his unique sound was about to get sped up and kpalongo-nized so that the label could find it easier to promote. The lane for alternative music isn’t very wide at the moment but BOJ had a better chance of making a way for himself with HF’s caterpillar than his own rake and shovel.
However, do not expect BOJ to remain stagnant, his music could evolve in the coming months. With the help of his in-house producer Magik, the singer should be able to take more risks with his sounds as he has done with his career by entrusting it in HF’s care. I’m not sure how signing with the company affects the rest of the DRB collective but all I see is positive signs for BOJ. Perhaps this could have a ripple effect on Fresh L and TeeZee, especially if the core of BOJ’s sound and distinct brand remain intact, but the currently limiting word-of-mouth network expands to be as big as it possibly can be.
In expanding brand BOJ (and by extension brand DRB), the singer will lose some of the types of fans I talked about earlier, but he’ll also gain a bunch of new ones. Hopefully, he gains far more fans than he losses, so that the net effect will be the same as our outlook on his career going forward- positive.