During one of the Saturday night raves at Big Brother Naija: Double Wahala in 2018, the DJ pressed play on MI Abaga’s socio-politically charged commentary, ‘Lekki.’ The bass staccato, which serves as the song’s opening 10 seconds was strong enough to make all the contestants stand still and pay attention.
“Shout-out to the girls that like to party Aristokrat…”
As that Odunsi opener launched, the dance floor caught fire and all the contestants swam in its flames. Anika swapped her dull demeanour for a bright smile. Although the song was released in January 2018, as part of MI Abaga’s critically-acclaimed playlist, Rendezvous, it trended for a second time that night.
2020 brought viewers BBNaija: Lockdown. On the first night, a certain easily missable, soft-spoken but highly intellectual Laycon trended. But about 48 minutes later, Laycon performed his song, ‘Fierce’ to his fellow housemates and Twitter caught fire. In that moment, Laycon shed away all the vestiges of ‘easily missable’ and became Laycon, the artist.
When Laycon went into the house, ‘Fierce’ had under 500,000 views. Within 12 weeks, the record hit one million views and became a new favorite for radio stations.
“The success of ‘Fierce’ while Laycon was in Big Brother’s house shows the importance of having a track record of quality as an artiste,” says an OG journalist in a 2020 interview. “But I wonder what would have happened if the record had dropped immediately after Laycon left the house. It would have gone nuclear.”
The journalist wasn’t wrong. After Laycon got out of the house, he had amassed an incredibly large fanbase due to his personality, his success story and his journey. Acts like DJ Neptune, Blaqbonez and more featured him, to tap into his streaming potential.
“I went into the house because of my music, but I came out as a winner,” says Laycon, in October 2021. “I didn’t only do that, I had the whole world listening to my music while I was in the house and after I came out. BBNaija is a platform, if you can use it properly.”
In the 2000s, Obi Asika was one of the biggest names in Nigerian music. He was a Nigerian Entertainment maven and the founder of Storm 360, which produced award-winning continental stars Naeto C, Ikechukwu, Sasha P, General Pype, L.O.S., Ms Jaie, Tosin Martins, and Yung 6ix.
In an episode of Ayo Shonaiya’s soon-to-be-released groundbreaking documentary about Afrobeats, Asika described his passion for Nigerian music as a 20-something UK returnee in the late 80’s and the early 90s. A fan of music, he was driven to create modern day Nigerian pop stars and founded Storm Records.
In 2006, he became the Executive Producer of Big Brother Nigeria, where he along with his partner, Remi Ogunpitan, inspired a culture: music was going to be a core part of the show and the music would be 100% Nigerian.
“At the time, Nigerian music wasn’t as big as it is now, but I felt like we had a duty to be proud of our own music. It was a part of our culture and the potential has always been there,” Asika tells Pulse in October 2021. “We had a duty to create a culture, where people will find our sounds to be attractive.”
For that reason, there were three main avenues to showcase Nigerian music;
- Saturday night parties will be anchored by a DJ, who will only play Nigerian music.
- Sunday night events, where only Nigerian music will be played.
- Speakers in the house, that will give people a taste of what Nigerian music feels like, regardless of trends.
Four: Nigeria in the 90’s
In the mid-to-late 90’s, Nigerian Folk/Traditional sounds like Fuji, Juju, Apala, Highlife and so forth were still buzzing and they had major superstars, but even those superstars had begun to find a ‘cool’ for their brand.
In a review for KWAM 1’s Fuji The Sound, this writer noted that, “By the late 90s and the early 2000s, Nigerian contemporary pop got birthed. The younger Gen Xers slowly moved away from those traditional genres into Hip-Hop, R&B and the earliest versions of formless Nigerian pop. Sensing a change in the atmosphere, Fuji artists led the way with foreign/westernized infusions into their music.
“Pasuma became African Puff Daddy who serially collaborated with pop stars. Obesere became more avant-garde in his fashion, Saheed Osupa sang more in English and Shako Rashidi became African Little Bow Wow.
“On the Apala side, Musiliu Haruna Ishola’s classic, ‘Soyoyo’ featured a rapped verse. Dele Ojo also did the same with his classic number, ‘Terena.’
“Adewale Ayuba evolved drastically as his songs tied directly into pop culture. He was always the most attractive brand in Nigerian Fuji as he intersected the traditional Fuji with the cool, but by his 2001 album Turn Me On, he had drastically changed sounds and fused with pop culture.
“King Wasiu Ayinde Marshall [KWAM 1] was already a great of Nigerian music by ‘95 and he had little to prove so he remained true to their form and style. What he switched was his mode of delivery – starting on his 1991 album, American Tips and majorly on his 1997 album, Berlin Compact Disk, he made better love songs, sang more in English and even made Latin pop in 2001.”
In a previous article, this writer also wrote about how foreign genres like Hip-Hop and R&B dominated Nigerian airplay.
In 1999, it forced the Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation to promulgate a law, which mandated all radio stations to play 70% Nigerian songs. It’s no coincidence that around that time, Nigerian music found its first wave of contemporary superstars.
That increased need to propagate Nigerian music across the board influenced the decision to promote Nigerian music via Big Brother Naija.
“We saw that Big Brother had become a cultural phenomenon in more than six countries and we thought that it could be big here, if done right,” Asika notes. “Part of doing it right was putting in place certain key Nigerian elements like music. If a show blows up on a continental or global level, it’s important that our music is a part of that.”
Today, Big Brother Nigeria has died. In its place is Big Brother Naija, one of the biggest shows in the world.
Earlier in 2021, David Adeleke, in his newsletter, Communique, described BBNaija as Africa’s Super Bowl that runs for three months – he was right. .
BBNaija has morphed into a living, breathing business venture and public relations strategy
They are now a core part of the BBNaija culture and on their shoulders lay the burden of making Saturday nights a blast for over 300 million viewers. Earlier in 2021, DJ Sean got a gig on Pulse Nigeria’s Fun Facts and became the official DJ for Pulse Influencer Awards after he DJed a Saturday night party on BBNaija.
Music in the house
Records that are randomly played during chill hours in the house, have become a prayer for many artists. People know that their record is fantastic and it gets played, chances are that someone will tweet about it, shazam it or talk about it.
At every eviction party, tons of Nigerian artists try to come correct. On that stage, they perform their buzzing records and test the waters of what might or might not become a single. They also use the platform to hone their stage craft. Any artist who doesn’t come correct gets dragged by BBNaija viewers on social media.
Like Laycon, Rico Swavey, Teddy A, Bam Bam, Avala, Veeiye and many more apply to the show, as a launchpad for their respective music careers.
As Afrobeats continues to surge into becoming a global phenomenon, BBNaija continues to soar as a cash cow.
Six: Music Premiere
In 2020 and 2021 respectively, Burna Boy and Tiwa Savage respectively premiered new music to contestants in the house. They simply leveraged on the platform to do what a listening party can’t do. There’s nowhere else to get 200 million viewers in one sitting. These artists then trend on-the-go on social media as a result.
This was in line with a Facts Only episode by this writer, charging Nigerian artists to take advantage of BBNaija beyond simple spins in the house.
Stan culture is toxic, stans fuel the success of BBNaija. Contestants are usually alluring personalities that attract people for who they are. This then proceeds to split opinion and drives social media activity as allegiances are formed by viewers, based on who they like and who they dislike.
For artists like Laycon and Veeiye, these viewers have become their fans, who drive conversations around their music. As much as the show aids culture, it also thrusts the artists into scrutiny.
“If I could survive BBNaija, I know I can survive any type of criticism,” says Laycon.
In terms of music, who benefits from the music phenomenon on BBNaija?
Everybody benefits. The viewers get to enjoy the best of Nigerian music, housemates who are artists get to showcase their skills, other artists and DJs get to use the platform as a launchpad and the organizers get to fulfill an unintended corporate social responsibility, which propels the culture.