As far as bands and groups go, Nigerians make notoriously fickle bedfellows.
Nigeria’s longest surviving(ish) group is Styl Plus, who have had enough roster changes that they might as well be a new group altogether. We have the continuing sagas of the explosive disintegration of the Remedies (Eedris Abdulkareem is still talking shit about everybody else till today) and Plantashun Boiz (BlackFace can’t seem to keep 2face’s name out of his mouth) and of course Storm Rex who was part of the insanely popular Desperate Chicks. Zulezoo fell off the earth, Ashionye murdered Emete and used it’s carcass to start her solo career. The Psquare duo and their manager brother used the better part of a year to drag each other through the dregs of the internet before ‘reconciling’ because nobody gave a shit about them as individual artists.
Groups don’t last even when they are populated by people who share geographical and ethnic similarities. So it is somewhat surprising that Nigeria’s most successful super group Phyno and Olamide, aren’t officially a group, or even from the same part of the country.
Olamide and Phyno’s bromance is doing a better job of integrating the Yoruba and Igbo than any thing government has done or will ever do.
— Nwakibeya (@Dikachim) June 9, 2016
The only reason we can think of for why Olamide and Phyno have continued to work together, support each other’s music and even release joint albums is that they have transcended industry pettiness and politics and genuinely come to care for each other as friends. Their perfect bromance started in 2011, Olamide had just released Yahoo Boy No Laptop (YBNL) and was getting compared to the recently deceased DaGrin for his extensive use of Yoruba and his unconventional punchlines. Phyno on the other hand was well known in Eastern Nigeria’s high-life and hip-hop circuits as producer but he was looking to make the jump to rap. Perhaps it was because they both rapped in pidgin but someone somewhere insisted they collaborate and they made “Ghost Mode”. With visuals that ripped of Nicki Minaj’s Massive Attack and complementary rap styles like we’ve never heard before, by the end of the year everyone was rooting for both of them.
But what really sold Olamide and Phyno to us as a super group was their stagecraft. Olamide and Phyno together on a stage are electric and promoters knew it. Olamide featured Phyno on 2013’s Baddest Guy Ever Liveth and 2014’s Street OT and Phyno returned the favor on his 2014 debut album No Guts No Glory, remastering Ghost Mode as a second collaborative single on the album. This was sans one off singles that they put out solidifying themselves as the kings of the ‘local rapper’ movement. By then promoters and fans knew these one off collaborations was simply not enough and began to agitate for a joint album.
We got one in 2015’s Two Kings. This was a few years after Jay-Z and Kanye West’s Watch The Throne, so everyone knew two rappers could work a project together. But Olamide and Phyno proved that it could happen in Nigeria. The album was given a surprise release in April and Olamide brought in long-time collaborator Pheelz to produce, Young John the Wicked producer (who would go on to work a madness at Made Men Music Group) represented for Phyno. It was a measured album, only ten tracks long in an industry where artists routinely put out twenty track albums without a forethought and covered a whole range of themes. Finally Olamide and Phyno had material they could tour with as a super group and they rode that train into the sunset.
Together Olamide and Phyno have collaborated on 19 songs in 5 years, including an official LP. They are a constant at each other’s concerts and Olamide helped Phyno sell out the Naira Bet sponsored #PhynoFest, and when Olamide had the very public beef with Don Jazzy, Phyno took his side, publicly condemning Don Jazzy for underhandedness. When Phyno was humiliated at the 2016 Headies after winning Song of the Year for ‘Fada Fada’, Olamide offered to give him one of his plaques.
We need to protect what Olamide and Phyno have, this kind of public support and camaraderie between two impossibly successful high profile artists at the top of their industry is the kind of example that we need to celebrate. Olamide and Phyno have overcome the hypermasculinity of the hip-hop, promoted inter-ethnic bonding through their music, elevated Nigerian languages as a respected medium of expression and continue to prove that black boy joy is a thing. Sure they are Nigeria’s most successful super group, but they are also our most high profile bromance, one forged on excellence, craft and mutual respect.
What’s not to love about that?