Assuming one does not exist in Igbo or Yoruba, we all need a word for the feeling of happiness mixed with wonder when we get amazing news and begin to understand the factors that have come into play to make it happen. Cases of use for this word include a) When Nigeria telcos first switched from charging per minute to per second b) The arrival of the first stable power banks which saved us from the menace of dead phone batteries and (c When Jay Z first showed an interest in Nigerian music.
The rap mogul is currently executing plans to have a foothold in the vibrant talent pool that the most populous black nation has to offer. His chief aim is to locate extraordinary acts that exhibit the potential to blossom and fetch a good return on investment. Nigeria pop music has been on a steady growth in the past five years, influencing many new sounds and creating an interconnectivity of the listening tastes of music consumers. Also, there’s TIDAL. Relaunched in 2015 after the acquisition by Jay Z, there’s a lot of untapped potential business that could come from expansion into the Nigerian space, bringing on artistes, the consumers, and all that subscription money.
Roc Nation’s business in Nigeria is helmed and ran by music executives and veterans, Tola Odunsi and Obi Asika. They are in charge of overseeing the setup and creating the conduit for effective representation and planning. First came Nigerian rapper, Ice Prince, who had his photo with Jay Z, and shared clips of his entrance into the New York offices. Jay Electronica showed up as a forerunner, worked with Don Jazzy, clubbed and had a social media blast in April 2015. The next month had his cousin and Roc Nation director of mobile strategies, Briant ‘Bee-High’ Biggs fly into the country to ‘scout for new talents’. Bee-High held meetings with MI Abaga and the Chocolate City team as well as Mavin Records before going the way he came.
All of these conversations and cross-Atlantic traffic paid dividends when Tiwa Savage and Don Jazzy, in June 2016, flew to New York to hold a meeting with Jay Z to seal an international management deal for Tiwa in Roc Nation. Although official confirmation has not been given, industry sources say the ink has dried along the dotted lines. It is in the bag.
Right now, two other emissaries from Jay Z’s camp are here. One, Rel Carter, has the distinction of being his nephew and an A&R at Roc Nation. He is with Rodney Williams, the founder and CEO of LISNR, a company that own a high frequency, inaudible technology, and serves as a communication protocol that sends data over audio. His firm is in partnership with Roc Nation. They both arrived in Lagos a few days ago to ‘continue Jay Z’s talent scouting job.’
But what exactly does the industry stand to gain from this endeavour? Will there be a collective boon, which will result in a better industry?
What Roc Nation offers is of two varieties; the international talent management deal, and the export of new acts.
The international management deal is reserved for cream stars who show maximum potential to become more than they are if their brand is exported to the US, and marketed effectively on a global scale. That’s what Tiwa Savage is signed on. The benefits of this deal are immense for Tiwa Savage. It has the potential to make Tiwa Savage the first Nigerian female pop star to crossover into international and perhaps, global recognition. There opportunities for better management and collaborations could help amplify her talent and image in the Western market, thereby enabling more penetration and profit. This is what any other artistes that snags this deal stands to enjoy.
For talent scouting and management, the Jay Z has a track record. Kanye West, Rick Ross, Rihanna, J. Cole, and Lupe Fiasco all came from the god MC. The shifting landscape of pop sounds require that his label scours the earth, and travel to the origins of Afrobeat and Highlife to get new talent. Digitalisation of music and the penetration of the internet have made collaboration across continents seamless, and tapping into new territories for future sounds is a no-brainer. Tola Odunsi and Obi Asika, who made their bones off Storm Records, are the eyes and ears on the ground and local liaisons who would assist this process. Other gains for them might be the sale of high quality merchandise across the continent, and the creation of events and concerts, which would have artistes from their roster, get in on the African action. What we would give for a Roc Fest in Lagos!!!
The gains for these will first be to the benefit of Roc Nation, who are a 21 century business with targets, hard margins, and projections. But if it works and a star is born from this endeavour, an arms race will begin between similar companies who would be looking for the next Wizkid or the next_______________________(fill in the blank space with the future Nigerian star found by Roc Nation). This will provide more light on the industry, attract investment, and grow the economy.