After graduating from the University of Calabar, he worked in a hotel and sang karaoke at a local bar he managed. Iyanya began developing his vocal abilities at local bars which include: Fiesta Fries Bar, Mirage Nite Club, and West-Life. Iyanya cited British singer Craig David and American hip hop artist R Kelly as his key musical influences. Iyanya was motivated to pursue music professionally after watching the celebrity lifestyle of 2 Face Idibia and Olu Maintain. Iyanya started as a rapper, going by the name “Lofty”.
MTN Project Fame
In 2008, KC from KC Presh group convinced Iyanya to partake in MTN’s first ever Project Fame singing competition.Iyanya emerged the winner of the competition after battling numerous people who had the same aspirations as him. The 2008 MTN Project Fame Competition was the beginning of Iyanya’s musical career. Unlike many people who dwindle after a major competition, Iyanya’s success had just begun.
2009: My Story
After winning MTN’s Project Fame, Iyanya began recording his debut album, My Story. The album showed Iyanya’s versatility as an R&B artist, particularly on the self-titled track “Iyanya” and “Love Truly” Iyanya’s debut album was a commercial failure due to problems with distribution and promotion.
2012/2013: Iyanya vs. Desire
After visiting his hometown of Calabar and seeing people’s affection for the Etighi dance, Iyanya decided to do a song that would popularize the dance that originated in Calabar.He teamed up with producer DTunes and recorded “Kukere“, a single that achieved global success, particularly in Nigeria, Ghana, and the United Kingdom. The song was followed with his second single entitled “Ur Waist“.
On October 16, 2013, 360nobs reported that Iyanya became the new ambassador for Solo Phones Nigeria, a mobile phone company situated at Computer Village, Ikeja. The one year deal is allegedly worth $220,000 (35 million niara). In addition, Iyanya got a 2014 Toyota Prado from the deal.
In 2013, Daily Independent reported that Iyanya also signed a one year deal with Zinox Computers (Nigeria’s first certified branded computers), worth $300,000. The deal will feature Iyanya on Zinox billboards and in TV commcercials.
Iyanya started performing ballads, particularly on his debut album, My Story. In an interview with Toolz on Ndani TV, he said he wants to be a versatile artist and wants to be known for his R&B and Afrobeat abilities. In the same interview, he said he switched from R&B to Afrobeat because he wanted to make money and wanted fans to see his versatility.
On November 25, 2012, Iyanya performed at comedian AY Makun show held at the INDIGO2 arena. To promote his sophomore album in the UK, Iyanya headlined the Iyanya vs. Desire concert. The concert started in London and ended in Manchester. The London concert was held at the INDIGO2 arena on June 9, 2013. The concert featured performances by Tonto Dikeh and Iyanya’s label mate Emma Nyra.On June 14, 2013, the Manchester concert commenced and featured performances by Emma Nyra and an up-and-coming act called DRB Lasgidi.Iyanya and his label mate Emma Nyra went on a mini tour across the U.S and Canada in early 2013. Iyanya performed at the Shrine in Chicago on April 11, 2013. He also performed at the African Muzik Magazine launch on April 12, 2013 held in Dallas, Texas. Iyanya serenaded Grammy Award nominee Melanie Fiona at the LTB Jean store in Soho, New York and performed at the world renowned New York Fashion Week