While he had a following as an on-air personality and enjoyed reasonable success, his real success was forged during his 9 months recuperation from the spinal cord injury that resulted from that accident.
Yinka Ayefele (MON), was advised to record some songs by his friendand fellow radio veteran, Kola Olootu who advised himto record some songs, upon being discharged from the hospital.
The recorded songs ended up being material for his first album, Bitter Experience, which became a critical and commercial success upon release.
From thereon, Ayefele never looked back, going from strength to strength and waxing stronger, creating dance routines and setting dance floors on fire across the nation while Iya Hafusa, the music aficionado, pepper seller celebrates her hero.
The cumulative effect of Ayefele’s moves over the past 20 years is making him arguably one of the most widely accepted Nigerian pop culture phenomenon in the South-West of the past 15 years across ages, tribes and social classes.
His stance arguably also transcends tribes and styles — especially with his party songs and styles. Arguably, most bands at Nigerian parties are Ayefelereincarnates — they all try to recreate his style and delivery.
But before anything else, the great pop culture achievement is bridging the gap between the enlightened and less than enlightened, regular people.
Ayefelefound a way to appeal to everyone, regardless of tribe, class, education, enlightenment or wealth. His lingo and deliveries, even the ratchet ones resonate with all classes, with hilarity at the centre of it all.
Asides the humour as the link and trigger to his success, there are working reasons for his success.
Hybrid Music/Genre Fusion/Unique Style
Yinka Ayefele’s music cannot be put in a box — it is a fusion of different genres; Nigerian folk, Highlife, sometimes makossa/soukous, sometimes Ekiti indigenous, other times juju, sometimes gospel and a lot more other genres/subgenres.
Asides that, he knows how to recreate trends with his music without being a vulture. When he released his second album, Sweet Experience in 1999, Awilo Longombawas trending.
So were other makossa/soukous acts like Kofi Olomide and Sakiss. Everybody, even Tope Alabi recreated the sound for gospel purposes, but Ayefele didn’t lift it entirely.
He touched the flavour, but added a different shade with the guitar riffs that made it sound in part like the Igbo Highlife music.
Asides that, he made it cool to bare one’s weaknesses on the music, way before Falz. On his songs, you get him saying “Shai” instead of “Shall” for relatability.
Noteworthy, most of Ayefele’s early albums were performed to live instrumentation.
While this was not new, he made it cool to do it modern times, and even more so, made it cool to celebrate Nigerians, without seeming like a sycophant.
This alone alerted us to Nigerians doing exploits in diaspora, unknown to Nigerians back home. For some of them that needed the publicity, he helped them with it. For example, this singer learned about Oba Akinruntan Obateru on an Ayefele song.
The modern style trendsetter for Nigerian parties
As noted earlier, while Ayefele himself has influences that can be traced back to already existent legends, he warped the sounds without stagnating on one genre.
It made him relevant to generations, without seeming like a vulture. As noted earlier, a little bit of Ayefele can be found in most live bands — especially those who perform at parties, events and functions.
That is creation of livelihood and affording evolution through vision.
His music is the modern standard for party/owanbe music.
He proved anything was possible
The greatest allure Ayefele created for himself also set him on his part to being a pop culture phenomenon.
Everyone likes a good story, with a happy ending. Despite Ayefele’s supposed limitations, he found a way to succeed even more than when he was whole. He showed people that
This story resonated with people. Coupled with how he constantly made good. Music, evolving in sound and never staying stagnant with each new album, it was easy to gravitate toward him.
Incidentally, this also created a pop culture storm when he first started getting success in music. Considering our highly spiritual environment, it was inevitable, but also worrying when rumours swirled that he was a ritualist.
If anything, he contributed to that era of popular culture.
Despite the advent of Spesh and Igwe Tupac’s hypeman, Boy Wonder, as more elite friendly hypemen, Ayefele’s Hypeman created the raw feel of fuji hypemen and even created a rush of slangs and humour.
While the hype of Spesh and Igwe Tupac’s hypeman are impeccable for pop culture, they are limited in scope and advent.
The advent of Ayefele’s hypeman bridged that gap. Our parents might not relate with Spesh or Boy Wonder, but a lot of people from our generation relate with Ayefele’s hypeman culture like our parents.
In some ways, it was vertical integration that scares when one examines it.
The cumulative of mentioned factors
They made Ayefele a pop culture icon that transcends tribes and social hierarchy. Everyone vibes to Ayefele, regardless of even age or era.
While people can choose to not listen to Davido, almost everyone listens to Ayefele.