Coming from ID Cabasa’s Coded Tunes, Olamide understands the importance of a strong movement. Coded Tunes had 9ice, Reminisce, Seriki, Pheelz and Lord of Ajasa amongst others. Olamide witnessed the reign of 9ice’s Gongo Aso album which precipitated the Coded wave that lasted for a couple of years. Upon Olamide’s controversy free departure (taking Pheelz with him) he immediately branded YBNL without an actual label showing some foresight. Under YBNL, Olamide has found himself and his formula and risen to the top tier in the industry. Once an artist does that, it’s only right he/she finds some young talent to sign. Not only for the sake of giving back but for strategic purposes. These signees if successful tend to lengthen the life span of their bosses indirectly. Not a lot of artistes have pulled off record labels successfully. Aside from the likes of Don Jazzy, Banky W, Kcee, Iyanya and 2 face very few Nigerian artistes have successfully taken their acts to the big time. They have their own careers to focus on leaving their signees with inadequate promotion and activity. There is also a tendency on the part of the signees to get lazy. After being on every stage in a number of cities and countries backing up their bosses, the big star experience can make them lax. This is a charge that can particularly be leveled at the first wave of HKN signees.
Last year, Olamide introduced two new teenage acts last year- Viktoh & Lil Kesh. A smart move in that the young blood have the potential to energize their boss and prevent him from looking out of touch. It is also possible they do some ghostwriting for their bosses. First came Viktoh- a street pretty boy appealing to teenage girls. Though he has not produced a hit, his singles have been okay. Notwithstanding Olamide’s leadership is clearly spot on as he ensures Viktoh is busy so he has a growing following before the hit comes. Olamide understands that each artist has a different path and time. He has also admitted that Viktoh has some brushing up to do in terms of hit making.
Lil Kesh the young rapper, unlike Viktoh is quickly finding his spot. His first YBNL release was Lyrical, a traditional hip hop record. The song might not have gotten commercial success but it marked Lil Kesh as one to watch. The word play on the song was simply incredible. Not too long after, YBNL released Shoki. Olamide being an attentive leader knew the song could be a hit, and decided to make a remix with himself and Davido, a sure recipe for success. Indeed it worked. Since then, Lil Kesh has been churning out hit after hit. It’s not an overstatement to say that outside of the three heavyweights (Wizkid, Davido and Olamide), Kesh had the hottest 2015 in Nigerian music. Lil Kesh is on three of the biggest hits in the country right now. Ladi, Gbese and Efejoku – very impressive for a rookie.
One must note how the YBNL camp never stall when it comes to videos or releases. Once a song seems to be getting buzz, a video is shot. They never seem to shoot flashy or high budget videos and conveniently, it goes with the YBNL street brand. Olamide is particular on his artistes developing their own brands so he tends to stay away from their videos. He is also one of the few acts who never use signees as back up acts. When a signee is always on stage with his boss, there’s a case to be made that it provides experience and exposure but it can be bad for business. As a show promoter, why should I book B Red separately from Davido when I can book Davido and get B Red and a battalion of others? But if I want Olamide and Lil Kesh , I’d have to book them separately to please my audience meaning more money for YBNL.
Olamide’s latest signee might be his greatest yet: Adekunle Gold. Adekunle Gold came into our consciousness with Sade- a One Direction cover that generated buzz online. Showing strength in A&R, news filtered that YBNL had signed him a few weeks after that release. As a record label, it is very important to have ears on the street looking for the next big thing and Adekunle’s signing proved just that. In true YBNL fashion the video for Sade dropped a few weeks after, successfully kick starting his career. Adekunle Gold has been credited with writing for big names like Darey Art Alade. The sound aesthetic of his music is very foreign but the lyrics are traditional. Adekunle Gold is clearly here to stay as his new single, Orente proves. Adekunle Gold has created his own lane and Olamide has sensibly given him leeway to build himself despite being cut from a different cloth to the rest of the label.
Olamide has successfully assembled a well working machine. He recently brought in Young Jonn, a previously unknown producer who has defined the landscape of Nigerian music over the last year. The Young Jonn sound is ruling clubs. His credits include: Story for the Gods, Bobo, Gbese and Efejoku.
The YBNL team have a gigantic influence on street culture. Shoki was the main move of 2014. 2015 saw the Bobo dance as the default movement. Shoki was made by the hood and popularised by Lil Kesh however the Bobo dance was invented by YBNL DJ and younger brother to Olamide, Dj Eni Money who is also becoming a brand of his own.
The YBNL crew is far from done as the current Yoruba freestyle king, Chinko Ekun is a bomb waiting to explode. The final year Law student has been a topic of discussion for a while now. His YouTube freestyles are harder than nails. He has not dropped an official single due to his educational pursuits but his YouTube freestyles and two street singles are enough indication that he has a bright future. Chinko Ekun has already gathered a fan base, especially on the campus circuit. All that’s left is an official single from him.
Olamide has built the YBNL label to the point where it holds 3 relevant acts (Olamide, Kesh & Adekunle Gold) at the same time. Most new labels have one or two at a time. Olamide currently heads the hottest indigenous label and shows no sign of slowing down. Whilst most labels are moving like glorified groups, Olamide is fulfilling a vision of establishing singular brands that can stand alone independent of the label. Any party play list in any club presently consists of a good number of YBNL records. Never has a label in Nigeria had such success with strictly indigenous music (since Coded tunes). YBNL might arguably be the strongest label in the country after the Mavins and Chocolate City. The label is going to be around for a while and the reign is just beginning. All the signees are not up to two years old in the mainstream and are yet to drop debut albums. Even if Olamide might slow down which is seemingly impossible right now, his acts are surely going to keep the YBNL flag flying high. And that explains why he’s at the forefront as a nurturer of talent.