The full story of how Ubi Franklin and Iyanya founded a label, and ultimately supervised its demise through drama, in-fighting, and bad business decisions.
“It was just a dream.” Iyanya said, as the cameras clicked and everyone applauded.
This was the year 2014, at a special edition of weekly concert Industry Nite. Made Men Music Group was launching their label compilation album titled “Evolution”, and everyone in the industry were out to see them.
On the side stood Tekno, Baci, Selebobo, Emma Nyra, and co-owner Ubi Franklin, who was beaming with smiles. This was his moment, that blessed time and space where all of his childhood aspirations had come true.
Ubi Franklin had stars signed to him, a producer who was the toast of town, a younger Tekno, who had begun to show flashes of his brilliance, and a budding relationship with Emma Nyra, the love of his life, who he offered a contract that essentially mixed business and pleasure.
Three years later, the label has become a shadow of itself. Everything has fallen apart and there are no signs of growth. Welcome to 2017 Made Men Music Group. Iyanya has pitched camp with Mavin Records, Tekno is in bed with Paul Okoye of Upfront and Personal, and Emma Nyra is far from the picture. Selebobo retains just an affiliation in title with the fallen house, and Baci cried his way out of the house.
How did it all happen? How did a house that looked set to compete for the top positions in the industry become this fallen, fragmented and empty?
Ubi Franklin whose real name is Ubi Ekapong Ofem was born on February 2, 1986, with a twin, who is now late. The artiste manager and entrepreneur is the founder of popular music label Made Men Music Group, Triple MG.
He is from a large family, the 11th child out of 15 in the family hails from Cross River State. A Law graduate from Madonna University, and the son of a former High Court Judge, Ubi got married to Nollywood actress, Lilian Esoro on October 30, 2015 at a traditional marriage but had their wedding on November 1, 2015.
That wedding has currently hit the rocks, but it produced a son.
Ubi has always been a hustler. From being an ‘industry guy’ – as people with no clear cut work are referred to in the entertainment industry – His first major gig was with Julius Agwu, where he served as an assistant to the comedian. He also worked with AY Makun, and a few others, before promoting shows, and getting paid for gigs.
Iyanya's story began when he won the first edition of reality TV show MTN Project Fame West Africa. He was celebrated across Nigeria and released his debut album titled "My Story".
That album flopped badly.
Iyanya moved from Abuja to Lagos after the flop of his debut album “My Story” in 2009. In 2010, he moved in under arrangement with a sponsor, who named Ubi Franklin as his manager. All of the planning and recording of ‘Kukere’ was done at this point.
Iyanya and Ubi partnered when ‘Kukere’ was released, and it became a hit.
Iyanya’s success eventually culminated in the creation of a sophomore album titled “Iyanya Vs Desire”, which had the hit songs ‘Ur Waist’, ‘Sexy Mama’, ‘Flavour’ and others.
Under Made Men Music Group, Ubi managed the firm and the talent. Iyanya’s job was very limited to creating the content, and handing over to Ubi, and working on the performance. It was Ubi who did the bookings, handled the business end of everything, digital sales, expansion and more.
Iyanya took care of powering in the money via entertainment, recording, releasing and performing music. That combination has worked wonders for a period in the Nigerian music space. Expansion came in 2014, with more talent signed and the business grown. Iyanya’s money had afforded them the financial freedom to make bigger decisions, and they did.
The new co-founders then struck out with the expansion of the label. They proceeded to build a record label, initially signing four more talents.
Baci, the singer was never truly signed to MMMG. He moved with the crew from inception and served as a backup singer for Iyanya. He also toured with them, and released a number singles with the imprint. But he was never offered a professional contract.
Emma Nyra (real name Emma Chukwugoziam Obi) is a Nigerian singer and songwriter.
Nyra was born on July 18, 1988, in California and raised in Texas. Her father is a pharmacist and her mother has had a home health practice.
When Emma Nyra was six years old, she already liked to sing and wanted to become a singer. She pursued a Bachelor of Science Degree in Health Administration at the Texas Southern University in Houston, Texas, to please her parents and only then Nyra insisted on relocating to Nigeria.
In 2010, Emma Nyra met her manager, Ubi Franklin, during one of her Christmas visits to Nigeria.
In 2011, Ubi Franklin was working with Iyanya, who was just beginning to experience his first taste of success through the hit single ‘Kukere’. Iyanya later went on to cement his success with hit singles, ‘Flavour’, ‘Sexy Mama’, ‘Jombolo’ and ‘Ur Waist’ from his sophomore album 'Iyanya VS Desire'.
With fame came money for Iyanya and also Ubi Franklin, who close friends say had fallen deep in love with Emma Nyra.
Emma, was immediately signed to the newly created MMMG label and had her first feature on Iyanya’s hit single ‘Ur Waist’. Sources however tell Pulse that the single had controversy in its creation; as Emma Nyra's vocals were originally written and voiced by someone else.
Sources says the chorus and original vocals were rendered photographer-turned-singer, Toni Tones but was replaced by Emma Nyra without a notice. The song was released in July 2012, and quickly became a hit, with Emma Nyra starring in it, and scoring her first flirt with popularity.
‘Ur Waist’ was nominated for ‘Best Pop Single’ and ‘Song of the Year’ at The Headies 2013. To this day, ‘Ur Waist’ is seen in some quarters as Emma’s best contribution to music in Nigeria.
With the financial rewards gotten by Iyanya’s music, and deals struck by Ubi Franklin, Ubi now focused on breaking Emma Nyra into the Nigerian music scene just as he had done with Iyanya.
In 2012, Nyra came to Lagos after her manager helped to convince her parents to allow her relocate in search of a thriving music career. Industry insiders say Iyanya was however not in support of the move.
"He had just began to reap financial rewards and did not want to channel his funds to promoting another artiste", one source told Pulse.
Once in Nigeria, work was put into her career with massive funding channelled by Ubi Franklin into her career. High budget videos were shot for her. The first of which is ‘Ori Mi Wu’, directed by Moe Musa. The song was released in July 2012, with the video released in January 2013.
In 2013, Emma Nyra released three high budget videos; ‘Ori Mi Wu’ (January), ‘Everything I Do’ featuring Iyanya (March), ‘Kere Shere’ (October).
Also in 2013, Iyanya and Emma Nyra set out on US/Canada tour to promote Iyanya’s sophomore album, which contained the collaboration, ‘Ur Waist’. The tour packaged by Big A Entertainment is regarded as one of the most successful US tours by a Nigerian performer.
Augustine Miles Kelechi (born December 17, 1992) popularly known by his stage name Tekno Miles or Tekno, is a Nigerian singer-songwriter, producer, performer and dancer. He is from Ebonyi state. He was born in Bauchi, Bauchi State, Nigeria.
Tekno Miles was first signed under K-Money Entertainment. His first single titled "Holiday" was released under the imprint. With featured vocals from Davido, "Holiday" was positively accepted and gained massive airplay.
In 2012 while in Abuja, Tekno Miles was spotted by renowned Nigerian comedian Julius Agwu at an event after Tekno Miles received a standing ovation following the performance of a song titled "Onye Ne Kwu", his remix of Ice Prince's "Oleku".
It was at the same event he met Iyanya and Ubi Franklyn, the manager of Made Men Music Group who he became friends with. Ubi and Iyanya eventually encouraged Tekno Miles to move to Lagos to further his music career.
On October 5, 2013, he signed a music contract with Made Men Music Group under which he released singles like "Dance" and "Anything" which won him a nomination in the "Best New act of the Year" category at the 2014 Nigeria Entertainment Awards.
On June 18, 2015, Tekno Miles released a song titled "Duro" which was positively received. A remix which featured Phyno and Flavour N'abania was released on November 16, 2015.
"Duro" was produced by DJ Coublon. It topped several charts in Nigeria and on the international scene, it peaked at #5 on Capital XTRA's "Afrobeats Chart: Top 10" for September 2015. On November 20, 2015, Tekno Miles released a single titled "Wash". The song was produced by DJ Coublon with the video directed by AJE Films.
Udoka Chigozie Oku (born July 29, 1991 in Enugu, Enugu State, Nigeria), popularly known by his stage name Selebobo or Bobo of Africa, is a Nigerian singer-songwriter and creative producer.
Although Selebobo counts his career from the re-release of the song, ‘Yoyo’, he has done songs like “Lose Control”, “Odeshi” featuring Flavour, “No Letting Go” featuring Uganda’s Keko (rapper), “Kulenje” featuring Stormrex prior to joining TripleMG.
Selebobo became prominent after he wrote and produced Yemi Alade's hit single, 'Johnny', but he refused to sign with her record lable, Effizy Music. He signed with TripleMG in 2014.
Since then he has released singles like "Selfie" and "Tonyor" featuring Mr P of P-Square. He also has notable production credits to his name like Johnny (Yemi Alade song),"Nagode" and "Tangerine" by Yemi Alade, "Ada Ada", "Mmege by Flavour N'abania, "Mr Oreo" by Iyanya, "Where" by Tekno, "Iyeri by Bracket.
Charles Ugochukwu Akwuba aka DJ Coublon is a producer and sound engineer who until 2016, was signed to Made Men Music Group (Triple MG). Between late 2014 through 2015, he began his most prolific spell. From scoring on Iyanya’s ‘Le kwa Ukwu’, the man has worked through a number of hit songs, including Kiss Daniel’s ‘Woju’ and ‘Laye’, ‘Good time’, and ‘Raba’.
What Coublon did was slow down the tempo of mainstream music, and by providing hits, he reset the production style of many of his contemporaries to get hits out. With Tekno, he was responsible for ‘Duro’ and ‘Wash’. While also getting co-production credits for his work on Patoranking’s ‘My woman my everything’.
After completing the signing of all these artistes, Ubi Franklin and Iyanya had a full house. They were releasing music with the proceeds from Iyanya’s fame and success. Shows came in thick and fast, as everyone wanted to a piece of Iyanya.
To mark the time, and showcase the talents in their record label, in May 2014, MMMG dropped a compilation album titled “The Evolution”.
The album's production was primarily handled by Selebobo along with additional production from Tekno and DJ Coublon. Selebobo also mixed and mastered the album. The title of the album references evolution within the Nigerian Music Industry.
A 14-track album, the project failed to gather traction. This was because the label tried to replicate the success of the Mavins, but failed. The final work was poor, and all the artistes held back their best songs from the project.
This made them all fail to gel, and although on the outside, they looked like a close-knit family, the music proved the opposite, and it showed on the album.
It was a flop.
The Beginning Of The End
Triple MG’s decline began with the exit of Emma Nyra.
With all of investment going her way, Emma Nyra unfortunately failed to excite a huge number of Nigerian fans. The success gained by Tiwa Savage, Omawumi and Waje, eluded Emma Nyra, and so frustration set in. Which made her begin to search for other options.
Emma’s frustration with the state of her career which had failed to skyrocket, made her try out different options. Emma was still in a relationship with Ubi Franklin, but the rumour mill went viral, as unconfirmed sources began to bear stories of a fling with Chocolate City’s Ice Prince, and Mavin Records, D’Prince.
Reports have it that Ubi Franklin had once or twice physically assaulted Emma Nyra. This is however unconfirmed as both parties have distanced themselves from such rumours.
The lowest point of their relationship was reached in December 2013, when Emma gave an interview to Channels TV, stating that she had left the label.
“The label, yeah, we are no longer together, nothing happened, I just didn’t renew my contract.” Emma Nyra disclosed.
Emma also harboured plans to start a movement for emerging female artistes, a movement she dubbed, the ‘Girl Power Movement’.
With the news in the open, Emma opened talks with various industry players, expecting people to rally behind her, and support her movement. That support never came, and frustrated further, she relocated back home to Texas, and began a new phase of planning.
Ubi Franklin made the move for reconciliation, which was accepted, and she was brought into the fold, moving back to Nigeria in 2014, to join the creation of the MMMG label roaster.
Tekno had earlier been signed in October 2013, Selebobo was signed in March 2014, Baci had been a regular with Iyanya, having made his bones as a creative force behind-the-scenes, and in public as a backup singer to Iyanya.
With Emma Nyra’s return in 2014, Triple MG worked on their compilation debut album, with a massive promotional campaign masterminded by Ubi. Emma released the solo single, ‘Amigo’.
The debut album entitled ‘Evolution’ was successfully released in May 2014. Emma Nyra’s solo single was well-received, but it wasn’t well promoted, and didn’t get a video to go with it.
In April 2014, Emma Nyra released a song with Davido titled ‘Elele’. The song received good airplay and a video was released in September 2014.
A follow-up single was released in late 2014 - the Dancehall single ‘For My Matter’. A video was also released in December 2014.
But the rumours of physical abuse never stopped.
In November 2014, Beat FM OAP Fade Ogunro, took to Instagram to allegedly vent at Ubi’s behaviour (albeit, without directly pointing fingers), insinuating he was still physically abusing Emma Nyra.
I have learnt that In life, people will try and lie about you, bring you down, those that hurt you most are the ones that disguise themselves as friends. There’s one particular person in the industry that tries everyday to infiltrate my life and break up my relationship. Jesus will always stop you from hurting me emotionally, physically, mentally. When Jesus says yes, no man can say no! Meanwhile this person stays beating up girls, he stays smacking the girl that is signed to his label, they pretend they are in a loving relationship. Nope, she cheats, he beats her. She has never admitted that she is your girlfriend, she is clearly embarrassed by you. #DumbAss.
Same nigga wants to lie about me, why you so extra? Stay outta my life, reality is im in love and he hates that. Anyone who is any type of happy he wants to bring them down. Go focus on your sad negative life. No matter what, God has blessed me, deal with it. I have a wealthy heart and I’m cute. You just mad that the only girls you can get are my mans leftovers from 5 years ago. You ugly, you heart is ugly, your intentions are ugly. You will end up lonely and still ugly. FOH!
The world will see you for who you really are! #HaterAlert
The girl who has been in a loving 2 year relationship.
That story put the heat on Ubi Franklin, but he remained quiet, refusing to respond to the allegations.
Exit Of The Players
Ubi Franklin’s engagement to Nollywood actress, Lilian Esoro caught many by surprise.
On March 19, 2014, Lilian Esoro finally it the cat out of the bag that she had agreed to get married to Ubi Franklin.
This sparked quite an uproar on social media, with a lot of people sharing polarized opinions about the new development. Emma Nyra didn’t join the others in congratulating the couple. She was at the time attending the 2015 SXSW event in Austin, Texas. She is currently still in Houston.
Emma Nyra finally left Made Men Music Group (Triple MG) and Nigeria after over 3 years with the label.
According to reliable sources within the recording house, the singer quit the record label due to personal issues with her boss, Ubi Franklin.
“Emma has left their record label. She not only left, she has relocated back to the USA where she came from. Emma left due to personal reasons with Ubi Franklin”, a source told Pulse.
After Emma’s exit, the label’s focus was still on Iyanya, who had already began to feel his grip on pop music loosen. New artistes breaking through meant that more competition was created in the industry, and he slowly fell down the pecking order.
Although he had the big name, he slowly became cold.
In 2015, Iyanya took another shot at releasing a full-length project. The album “Applaudise” was launched by the title single.
Containing 20 tracks, none of the singles peaked and achieved penetration. The project was produced by a select group of music makers and engineers which include MMMG in-house producers DJ Coublon,the proven Tee-Y Mix, Spellz, Black Jerzy, Selebobo,Mystro Princeton, Wizzy Pro, and London Boys, Mr Chido.
This diversity created an incoherent album which ruined the direction, and the album flopped woefully.
DJ Coublon, Baci Exit
In 2016, the exits from MMMG was swift. DJ Coublon had long uncoupled his business from the label. His contract ran out in November 2016, and he chose not to extend.
Baci, who has been in long-term service of Triple MG decided to leave and he was vocal about it. In the interview carried out at the Pulse Nigeria office, Baci spoke fully about his time and verbal contracts with Ubi Franklin, and how he was never signed after six years of promises.
Speaking on the relationship between him and Ubi, the singer who was once earned his stripes playing backup for Iyanya and featuring on a limited number of singles, revealed a number of promises, which were never fulfilled.
Baci admitted that he was never signed to MMMG, and that six years after they made promises to sign him, there was still no deal.
“I’ve never been officially signed on to MMMG. As it is, it feels like nothing is happening for me, so I figured instead of sitting all the while and waiting, let me just go all the way and push as I can, leave doors open for people to see what I can do and come for me.”
Entrance, Exit Of Tonye Garrick
In April 2016, Ubi Franklin's Made Men Music Group (MMMG) announced the signing of new singer Tonye Garrick.
The British- Nigerian singer and songwriter shot into arrived on the scene in 2010 after her Accapella song titled ‘What About Us?’ was used at the Nigerian Youth Presidential debate in 2011.
In 2015, she released a marriage-themed single title ‘Ari Belema’ which got her a nomination in the ‘Most Promising Act’ category at the 2015 Nigeria Entertainment Awards.
But a few months later, she silently exited the label and took off all mentions of MMMG from her social media. According to sources, Ubi Franklin and her personal team had ‘irreconcilable differences’ which forced the split after the fanfare that announced her presence.
Ubi Franklin also announced the signing of a new artist, Chibbz, who is still with the record label.
Rise Of Tekno and Exit Of Iyanya
In July 2016, Iyanya announced his exit from MMMG. A co-owner of the label, his announcement caused an uproar on social media.
The Made Men Music Group (MMMG) singer and co-owner has had difficulty getting a hit song out in the past year, with his “Applaudise” album flopping. He needed a new move to spark his career. But none of that was forthcoming from his manager, Ubi Franklin.
So he took the next step to leave.
“I'll be launching my new label and new album soon”, the singer wrote on Instagram.
The announcement was the culmination of a long period of incessant in-fighting and clash of decisions. Ubi and Iyanya, have been at loggerheads over finances and a lot of other key decisions on the running of the label.
According to sources, the exits of Emma Nyra and Baci, did not go down well with Iyanya. Baci, most especially, enjoyed a special bond with Iyanya, a friendship that had been honed over several years.
Financial mismanagement issues were also a huge part of the disagreement. Iyanya and Ubi have long not seen eye to eye over the remittance of booking and appearance fees. According to our source, there have been concerns over Ubi’s handling of the business finances.
Things got worse during and after Ubi’s celebrity wedding to Nollywood actress, Lilian Esoro, in November 2015. It is believed that Iyanya is not in favour of the union, and the effect it has on the financials of the business.
Ubi spent a fortune on the wedding.
Active management of the record label was shifted to Paul, a staff of the record label, who handled day-to-day management of the record label, and was also directly involved with booking fees and performances. Tekno and his management (Ubi), were also, called out by a Canadian show promoter, Bless Ehannire, for not showing up for a concert.
Iyanya would later relinquish his shares to Ubi Franklin and move to Don Jazzy’s Mavin Records. Ubi would go on to sell them to music mogul, Paul Okoye, CEO of Upfront & Personal.
With Iyanya’s exit came the rise of Tekno who became a pop star with a string of hit singles. His 2016 smash hit record ‘Pana’, brought the eyes of Columbia Records, who backed him up with a deal to release 3 singles under them.
Unconfirmed information from inside sources say that Tekno’s career and contract was contained in the 50% shares that was sold to Paul Okoye. That means that although Tekno was still under MMMG, his entire business was run by Paul.
It was Paul who drove the Columbia Records deal and sealed it, before going on Instagram to scream: "four million dollars, Sony money".
What Went Wrong?
Today, MMMG is a shadow of itself. Only the struggling Selebobo, and the unknown Chibbz are signed to the label. A combination of bad business decisions, alleged financial misappropriation and poor management tactics, and bad man management has killed the business.
Where they were once properly set up and funded to achieve greatness, the future looks uncertain for the company. Ubi Franklin has admitted to sources that he is working on rebuilding the business, and signing on new acts.
All of her alumni are working on their personal projects. Emma Nyra is engaged with her personal imprint, Nyra Nation. Iyanya is working on a comeback with Don Jazzy’s Mavin Records. Tekno, who still bears the name of label due to signed agreements is working on new business with Paul Okoye, and Baci is releasing new music to pick up steam.
But the name, Made Men Music Group, has lost its substance, and is used in the industry as a bad example of how to run a record label.
MMMG was a dream, and one that became real in 2013, and 3years later, everyone woke up in 2016.