For many, the Nigerian songwriter, record producer, entrepreneur and philanthropist, 2face Idibia, is the true definition of pop royalty. In 2019, he is marking 20 years of an illustrious music career, having been the most consistent headliner in the global Afro Pop and Afro beats movement. This career milestone is no mean feat, in Africa or any other continent. While showbiz is fickle, the music business is unpredictable. Many artists have wasted years of music productivity or even gave up their careers because of either falling into the wrong hands or bad deals, so it’s truly worthy of celebration to have had a long standing career as successful as Idibia’s. Inspired by his status of a musical father to many, he rebranded to a new stage name 2Baba (July 2014).
What is the secret to the longevity? As I arrive at his private Fete tagged #20YearsAKing in Lagos, Nigeria (17th of April, 2019) at the Echos of Calabar, Victoria Island—this is the one question I must ask 2Baba.
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Dressed in a modern-style grey traditional Agbada outfit and a sleek velvety black hat, 2Baba simply states, “I try to do my thing by being straight and making music that is not time-based so that 20 years from now you will still love it.” True to his word, his timeless music has won him multiple awards including Artist of the year at the MTV Africa Music Awards 2010, Channel O Music Videos Awards (2011) for The Most Gifted Video of the Year for the hit “Only Me” and the Leadership in Music Awards in 2014 at the AFRIMMA.
Before Nigerian music industry went global with their pop sounds and musical giants like Davido, Wizkid and Burnaboy, there was 2baba. It all started with 1999 release of “Knock Mi Off”—his first taste of major league success alongside Plantashun Boiz. He’s since released a plethora of hits like “No Shaking”, “True Love”, “If Love is a crime”, “Let Somebody Love You” and “Implications” among six music albums and countless collaborations and stand along singles. Today, he’s still among Africa’s music acts and is celebrated as one of the pioneers of new-age Afro Pop sounds from Africa, cutting across a blend of reggae, R&B and traditional African music, always maintaining a clear African identity. It was the pairing of the songs and his unique style that changed the course of Nigerian entertainment scene which spilled over to how many audiences across Africa perceived and received African music from African stars. 2Baba says, “I always appreciate that I’m part of the revolution of the new movement in music in Africa and I don’t want take all the credit. There are a lot of artists from Kenya, Tanzania and South Africa and many other African countries that made this happen. We just need our own people [African music fans] to appreciate our music.”
I enjoyed Echoes of Calabar’s mouthwatering Nigerian dishes and exquisite dining experience. During the dinner, 2Baba would freely interact with all guests and even be seen on queue awaiting food. While many top stars go for the fancy and flashy events, 2Baba’s fete presented an intimate yet exclusive appreciation dinner with about 100 key brands, corporates and individual partners “whose invaluable support have enabled my successes”— 2Baba. I worked with him as a Music Publicist on Coke Studio Africa (2016 and 2017) and on the Kenya leg of Disruption Africa Tour in 2016. I never met a more focused, humble and down to earth artist. He says of his personal character that has seen him reach the status of King today, “I have learnt that life is simple. I never think about problems rather, I choose to think about the solutions. I’ve also learnt that there is no speed limit or time limit among people, everyone is moving at their own pace and the only constant thing is death… So move at your own pace and do not compare yourself with others.
2Baba’s manager and long-term business partner Efe Omorogbe announced 2Baba and his label Hypertech Digital’s ultimate challenge for the project, “There will also be a #20YearsAKing online challenge, which will be a search for Africa’s next Clarence Peters and an Africa boy band, who must have great vocalists and performing skills.”
The #20YearsAKing project offerings will include an autobiography, documentary, merchandise, new album, charity work, world concerts/club tours and are expected to run throughout 2019. 2Baba concludes, “One thing I know is African music is undeniable. It has been there and is part of what everybody has been pinching from. So it goes out there and is recycled back to us then we start praising it…I’m happy that the spotlight is coming and that the world will have a chance to really feel us now. We should cease our music and have entrepreneurs willing to invest in us,” adding, “I am looking forward to the next step for African entertainment.
BONUS: My interview with 2Baba from 2016: “Why I don’t let hype get to me – 2 Face Idibia”.