Across the world, composers are underrated. Performers consistently forget the material nature of beats to everything they do - barring Ladysmith Black Mambazo, that is.
Producers create the canvas on which the songs are created. A beat can be good without a song, but most pop/dance songs are nothing without beats. At Pulse, we understand that. Over the past decade in Nigerian music, producers have written stories as much as artistes. But due to their elusiveness, most of them are easily forgettable.
The start of the past decade heralded a sonic revolution. The first wave led by Jay Sleek, Samklef and Sarz disrupted the pop space with avant-garde sounds and reworked Eurodance percussion. On the Hip-Hop side, work was also done. The journey led straight into the heart of the decade and to this point we find ourselves.
While some of these producers have faded with time, some still remain. While some have never been pronounced, others have become household names with transcendent sounds. To celebrate these brave men of sonic might, Pulse releases this list of the biggest producers this decade.
They were picked on the criteria; hits, impact, acclaim and awards. Albums produced are added advantage.
10) Legendury Beatz
This spot was keenly contested between Legendury Beatz, Del B, Cobhams, Maleek Berry and MikkyMe. Pulse ultimately decided to go with Legendury Beatz.
The reason is simple, the production duo of brothers, Uzezi Oniko and Okiemute Oniko have produced more groundbreaking songs with more consistency than the other candidates. They also introduced a new sound into Nigerian pop space in the early 2010s. This sound birthed ‘2Mussh’ by Reminisce, ‘Baddest Boy’ and ‘Emi Ni Baller’ by Chidinma.
The sound was usually drum-heavy and appregio-reliant. The underlying strings were always backed up by early bass and this version of pop was always slower and infectious. More importantly, they produced ‘Ojuelegba’ for which they won Producer of the Year at the 2015 Headies.
They also produced some impressive numbers like ‘Won Gbo Mi’ for Shaydee, ‘Caro’ for L.A.X, ‘Eledumare’ for Wizkid and so forth.
9) Jesse Jagz
Jesse Jagz is an enigma. His ability as a versatile music maker is definitely not in doubt, but the consistency of it has always been in question. Since the turn of the decade, he has produced four albums for himself, been heavily involved with MI Abaga second album, one Brymo album and one Ice Prince album.
Guys, at least three of those albums are great albums with significant impact on the Nigerian soundscape. Yes, he has underachieved in his career, but his reps as a producer will remain intact.
Masterkraft is both underrated and valued. He has never been the biggest name in Nigerian music production, but he remains on the lips of creators. He has also earned a copious amount of respect for his creative vision and his musical mind.
What he lacks in virality, he makes up for in consistency and excellence whenever he’s called upon. He is also a multi-instrumentalist who has moved into OG status. Since the turn of the decade, he has worked with Flavour N'abania, Bracket, Banky W., Sound Sultan, Timaya, Lynxxx, M.I and J. Martins.
Arguably, he did some of his best work with Banky W.
7) Young Jonn
‘Young Jonn the wicked producer’ grew before our eyes. He came with the storm that birthed Lil Kesh in all his trendy madness and sonic takeover. He produced all the hit singles we got from Lil Kesh’s 2015. He also produced ‘Story For The Gods’ for Olamide while with The Hit Factory.
In his career, he has worked on YAGI by Lil Kesh, Street OT by Olamide and 2Kings by Olamide and Phyno.
If you followed D’Tunes, you might have noticed a string of gospel songs he produced in 2010. But his calling card came with Iyanya in 2011. After Iyanya's album, My Story didn’t perform at optimum levels, he came back in 2011. Armed with the growing influence of Ubi Franklin, D’Tunes provided the fire for Iyanya’s rocket.
The song was titled ‘Kukure’ and it housed some of the most nihilistic, enjoyable percussion and drum arrangement modern Nigerian pop has seen. Has anybody sat down to analyse the drums on that song? As if that wasn’t enough, D’Tunes went bonkers with the percussion on ‘Kukere (Remix)’ featuring D’Banj. The snares on 00:21 of that song - Lord God!
Soon after, ‘It’s D’Tunez again o’ became popular and the producer’s life changed. He moved from there to produce the Headies-nominated album, Desire. On that album were hits like ‘Ur Waist,’ ‘Jombolo’ and ‘Sexy Mama.’
Iyanya was named the artist of the year at the 2013 Headies. D’Tunez didn’t stop - he continued his amazing work with Sean Tizzle and his 2014 timeless album, The Journey. He went quiet after The Journey, but his legacy was already sealed - he produced two of the best albums of the decade. Most Nigerian producers can’t lay such claim.
The underrated king. Some have placed his durability at the feet of elusiveness, but it comes down to his ability to reinvent himself. Over the past 10 years, it's difficult to see a Nigerian producer who has worked with more artists than Spellz. He has helped by their lack of obligation to any label or contract.
Due to this creative flexibility, Spellz has worked with everybody; Wizkid, Runtown, Tiwa Savage, Davido, Burna and so forth. At the start of the decade, he announced himself with the smash hit, ‘Gaga Crazy’ for Chudy K. He followed it with amazing work on 9ice’s double album, Basorun Gaa and Versus.
Due to a working relationship with Banky W, he produced a seven songs on the collaborative EME album - one of them is ‘Roll It.’ On R&BW, Banky’s critically-acclaimed album, Spellz produced four songs. As the decade became years, his influence never waned and he somehow found ways to evolve and blend with the demands of time.
Guys, please remember that Shizzi produced ‘Body,’ the Wizkid solo from that EME album. This writer would like to stop here, but the Editors won’t permit. That song best encapsulates the raw imagination that has defined Shizzi’s career as a composer.
Before then, Shizzi was mostly known for working with Davido. He produced the 2011 smash hit, ‘Dami Duro' as well as hits, ‘Gobe,' ‘Ekuro’ and the most songs on Davido’s debut album, Omo Baba Olowo. He also produced the hit, ‘Love My Baby’ from Wizkid’s debut album, Superstar. After that era, he produced ‘Skelewu’ for Davido and ‘Go Low’ for Wande Coal.
During that run, Shizzi produced ‘Rands and Naira (Remix)’ by Emmy Gee featuring Ice Prince, Cassper Nyovest, Phyno, ANATII, Dj Dimplez and AB Crazy. He stretched his trap sounds with ‘Fans Mi’ by Davido featuring Meek Mill.
On Wizkid’s sophomore album, Shizzi produced two songs. After that period, Shizzi produced three songs on Runtown’s debut album, Ghetto University. The he aided Olamide with ‘Who You Epp,’ ‘Show You Off’ for Wurld and ‘Like Dat’ for Davido. In 2018, he was slightly quiet, but 2019 has already seen him produce ‘Blow My Mind’ for Davido.
He also produced a handful of songs on Davido’s sophomore album, A Good Time and was part of the contingent that worked on Beyonce’s album, The Lion King: The Gift.
‘Sarz on the beat AKA Knackademus’ has now become the passively arrogant ‘Really?’ The power of the music always resided in him, but the range only got broader by the year. After producing songs for Ruggedman, Shank and Dagrin before the turn of the decade, he launched a new era with smash hit singles for Reminisce, Jahbless and Wizkid.
Guys, he produced, 'Kako Bi Chicken' for Reminisce. Then, he continued with the madness of ‘Keresimesi’ for Skales. He wasn’t done yet as he led ‘Beat of Life,’ Wizkid’s famous freestyle which became a hit. He then worked on Eldee’s album and other songs before a stellar 2016. He was credited on ‘One Dance’ while he produced ‘Come Closer,’ another Wizkid and Drake collaboration.
Over the years, the argument against Sarz has been his lack of self-produced albums. But since the turn of 2019, Sarz has released two albums. First, he released Sarz Is Not Your Mate and with Wurld, the beautiful collaborative album, I Like Girls With Trobul. Sarz is not only one of the producers of the decade, he’s one of Nigeria’s greatest producers ever.
Pheelz has staying power. For rebrand, he has even gone from ‘Pheelz Mr. Producer,’ to ‘Riddimacoolayor.’ In 2012, he launched onto the scene when he produced all but one of the songs on Olamide’s Baddest Guy Ever Liveth. The album was named the second best album of the decade by Pulse.
Since then, he has produced on more Olamide albums. Although Young Jonn stole some of his spotlight during Lil Kesh’s run, he remained in the game and never stopped. He worked with Runtown, Seyi Shay and so forth.
On the bright side of things, Pheelz has produced most of the songs on Olamide’s albums - he even has the most credits on 2Kings, Olamide’s collaborative album with Phyno.
Although he was quiet between 2017 and the early parts of 2018, he produced a chunk of the songs on YBNL Nation, the label’s collaborative album in 2018. 2019 has seen him expand his credits with works for Tiwa Savage and Teni. Pheelz tops many on this list for the sheer amount of hits he has produced over the past 10 years, but it's not just about hits.
The moment that truly defines Pheelz as a producer is the hip-hop sound that defines Nigeria. The sound can be felt on ‘Awon Goons Mi’ by Olamide and ‘Cause Trouble’ by Lil Kesh. He merged traditional Yoruba music with hard trap drums on 130 beats per minute. The result is an afro-pop spirit and trap essence.
That sound is the Nigerian version of trap-EDM that trailblazing producers like Flume and Diplo were known for.
1) Don Jazzy
Don Jazzy’s place as the greatest Nigerian producer of all time is only threatened by Nelson Brown. But this decade, he has been peerless. Just before the decade started, a discussion led by Sizwe Dhlomo on MTVBase named Don Jazzy the most important figure in modern Nigerian music. They were right.
Over the past decade, Don Jazzy produced three classic albums. The start of this decade brought a rebrand to MAVIN Records, but with it came Don Jazzy 2.0. Just before then, he produced both versions of ‘Mr. Endowed’ for D’Banj and the classic, ‘Oliver Twist.’ Then, he produced two albums for Tiwa Savage, one for Reekado Banks, one for Korede Bello and one MAVIN album.
More importantly, he also produced smash hits like ‘Surulere,’ ‘Dorobucci,’ ‘Eminado’ and so forth. He has been quiet for three years, but the work of the seven years before then shall not be forgotten.