The likes of Taio Cruz, Skepta, Tinie Tempah, Chamillionaire, Sade Adu and others share one trait; they are far away from their fatherland (Nigeria), yet they have perfected their craft and are holding their own against the very best in the business!
ENCOMIUM Weekly chronicles the exploits of foreign music stars of Nigerian origin – either born in Nigeria or to Nigerian parent(s).
Choosing to stylise the word “Sceptre” to Skepta, the musician and businessman has made a name for himself with his talent. Born Joseph Junior Adenuga on September 19, 1982, to Nigerian parents, Skepta moved to Tottenham, England, with his family at the tender age of three.
The 33-year-old rapper, producer and record label owner started his music career appearing on the pirate radio circuit and performing at various rap contests. He gained popularity in Greater London for his hit single, Private Caller which featured many of his Meridian Crew in Tottenham.
He released his debut studio album Greatest Hits in 2007, and his second, Microphone Champion, in 2009, through his label, before signing with All Around the World Records a year after. In 2010, he reached the Top 40 for the first time with Bad Boy (which peaked at number 26) and Rescue Me peaking number 14. His third album, Doin’ It Again, was released at the beginning of 2011, subsequently peaked at number 19 on the U.K. album chart.
In 2015, he was featured on the remix of Wizkid’s Ojuelegba along with American rap star, Drake. He is regarded as one of the leading figures in grime music; and was influential in its shift from the underground to the pop charts, as well as its resurgence during the mid-2010s.
Not long after he dropped Classic Man, the spotlight was placed on this handsome light-skinned chap.
Born Jidenna Theodore Mobisson to Tama and Oliver Mobisson (who invented the first African commercially-produced personal computers at Anambra State University of Science & Technology). Jidenna spent his early formative years in Enugu, Nigeria until the family moved to Boston, Massachusetts (USA) when he was very young.
Reflecting on his early days and Nigerian ties, he said, “My name is Jidenna, which means “to hold or embrace the father” in Igbo. It was my father who gave me this name and taught me countless parables, proverbs, and principles that made me the man I am today. These same principles helped me to write the record Classic Man. When I brought home a 98 percent on a test, my father would say, “ah ah, where are the other
two points? Go and get them, then bring them back”. My father and Nigerian culture has always stood for excellence. While the majority of my childhood memories are beautiful, I also have experienced the challenges that Nigeria has faced since Independence.”
Jidenna graduated from Milton Academy in Milton, Massachusetts, in 2003 and from Stanford University.
He started music at a young age when he founded a rap group in high school. After graduating from university, he began to pursue music full-time. He released his first single, Classic Man, in February 2015, featuring Roman GianArthur under Wondaland Records. The song brought him much fame as it got heavy rotation throughout the United States and debuted at number 49 on Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Airplay chart. He followed it up with ‘Yoga’ featuring Janelle Monáe.
Jidenna is a founding member of Fear & Fancy, a social club that began in California in 2006. The society is an international collective of entrepreneurs, activists, educators, scientists, and artistes who host soirees, dinner parties, and demonstrations.
Olubowale Victor Akintimehin, better known as Wale, is an American rapper born in Washington D.C. on September 21, 1984, to Yoruba parents. He attended both Robert Morris College and Virginia State University on football scholarships; from where he transferred to Bowie State University but dropped out due to academic reasons.
He rose to prominence with his song Dig Dug (Shake It) in 2006. He got signed to Allido Records the following year; he then went to release several mixtapes and appeared in national media including MTV. In 2008, Wale signed with Interscope Records, and his debut album Attention Deficit was released in 2009 with singles such as Chillin, Pretty Girls“, and World Tour. The album received positive reviews from critics.
He released his second studio album, ‘Ambition’ to mixed reviews on November 1, 2011 after he signed with Rick Ross’ Maybach Music Group (MMG). He hit it big with his third studio album, The Gifted, which was released in June 2013 and debuted at number 1 on the Billboard 200. On March 31, 2015, Wale released his fourth studio album The Album About Nothing – his second number one album in the United States, featuring Jerry Seinfeld, J. Cole, Usher, and SZA among others.
She’s refreshingly beautiful, immensely talented and highly successful queen of Soul, Sade Adu is a real pride.
The English singer-songwriter, composer and record producer was born Helen Folasade Adu on January 16, 1959, in Ibadan, Nigeria. Her parents, Adebisi Adu – Nigerian lecturer and Anne Hayes, an English nurse, moved to Nigeria from London after they met and tied the knot in 1955. They separated, however, and her mother returned to England, taking Sade (four at the time) and older brother, Banji with her.
As a teenager, Sade developed several interests, including singing, fashion design and modeling.
After a brief spell as a fashion designer and model, Adu began backup singing for the band Pride; from there she left and went on to form the band Sade. With members, Paul Denman, Andrew Hale, and Stuart Matthewman, she gained worldwide fame as the lead vocalist of the band.
In the early 1980s, the band signed with Epic Records and released their first album, Diamond Life which had hit singles like Smooth Operator, on July 16, 1984. It was a huge hit, selling over six million copies, and
becoming one of the top-selling debut recordings of the 1980s, and the best-selling debut ever by a British female vocalist.
In late 1985, the band released their second album, Promise, which peaked at number-one in both the UK and the US and became the band’s first album to reach number-one on the US Billboard 200. The album topped the chart in 1986 and spent two weeks at the peak position.
The album went on to sell four million copies in the region and was certified four times platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). The album spawned two singles Never as Good as the First Time and The Sweetest Taboo, which stayed on the US Hot 100 for six months.
In 2002 she was awarded Order of the British Empire (OBE) for services to music. In 2012, Sade was listed at number 30 on VH1’s 100 Greatest Women In Music.
Born Hakeem Seriki on November 28, 1979, to a Nigerian father and American mother, the Houston, Texas star is a rapper, producer and businessman with hands in real estate. Chamillionaire’s parents separated in his early teenage years; and as the eldest child in the household, Chamillionaire had to assume a multitude of
parental responsibilities at a young age, including juggling multiple jobs to help financially support his family.
Rap and other forms of secular music, which his parents had highly opposed in their household, became very appealing to the Grammy award winning artiste.
He signed to Universal Records in 2005 and released The Sound of Revenge which included hit singles Turn It Up with Lil’ Flip and Ridin featuring Krayzie Bone. Ridin reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100, with its video also named Best Rap Video at the 2006 MTV Video Music Awards (VMAs). Also in 2007, he won a Grammy for Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group.
The businessman runs his own record label, Chamillitary Entertainment; and in February 2015, he was appointed an entrepreneur in residence (temporary or informal position for an entrepreneur in the process of starting or expanding his/her new company) at Upfront Ventures, the largest early-stage fund raised in Los Angeles since 2000.
Jacob Tayo Cruz, stylised Taio Cruz, is a British singer, song-writer and producer born in London on April 23, 1985 to a Nigerian father and Brazilian mother.
Cruz began writing songs at 12, but his songwriting career began at 19 as part of Red Zone Entertainment. He achieved some prominence in 2005 when he got a Brit Award for co-writing Idol winner, Will Young’s song, Your Game.
In 2008, he released his debut album ‘Departure’, which he wrote, arranged and produced himself. It achieved some success in the United Kingdom and earned him a Music of Black Origin (MOBO) Award
In October 2009, Cruz released his sophomore album, Rokstarr, which includes the number one singles Break Your Heart (which topped the U.K. singles chart in September 2009) and Dynamite. Break your
heart was re-released internationally and went on to hit number one in several countries, including the United States, where it achieved a record-breaking jump on the Billboard chart – from 53 to the top spot
in one week!
Cruz’s third studio album, ‘T.Y.O’, was first released in Germany in December 2011; and in April 2015, he released Do What You Like off his forthcoming Roses Collection.
Rapper and song-writer, Patrick Chukwuemeka Okogwu, better known as Tinie Tempah, sits comfortably in the big league with many hits.
He was born on November 7, 1988 to Nigerian parents of Igbo origin in London, England. He spent his fledgling years in Aylesbury Estate, London where he lived with his parents and three siblings. Tempah’s music career began in 2005 when he joined the Aftershock Records, recording hundreds of songs. His first mixtape, Chapter 1: Verse 22, was released in 2005. In 2006, Tempah gained a great deal of airplay on British music TV channel Channel AKA for his song, Tears, and later on gained more recognition with Wifey.
He released his debut album, Disc-Overy, in October 2010 which was preceded by two British number-one singles; Pass Out and Written in the Stars featuring Eric Turner, the album charted at number one and was certified Platinum the following year.
In February 2011, he won two British Awards – Best British Breakthrough Act and Best British Single. Written in the Stars has enjoyed massive success – it was chosen by WWE as its theme song for WrestleMania XXVII and by Major League Baseball for their commercials for the 2011 Major League Baseball Postseason. The song was also used as the introduction to the eighth season of the South Asian Softball League; while Sky Sports have been using it as their theme song for the Premier League since the 2011-12 season. It was also used as Miss USA 2011 Evening Gown Competition’s background music; the New York Giants used the song as their entrance song in Super Bowl XLVI in February 2012, and at the closing ceremonies of the London Olympic Games in 2012.
He followed up with his second album in November 2013, entitled ‘Demonstration’. It was preceded by top ten singles, Trampoline and Children of the Sun, the album charted at number three and was certified gold by the BPI the next year.
In 2007, Tempah founded an independent record label, known as Disturbing London with artistes such as WizKid, G Frsh, Jessie J and Sonny Reeves signed on. Tempah is also a prominent figure in modern British fashion. In 2012, he was named best dressed man in GQ’s Men of the Year Awards. In 2015, he was chosen as the new men ambassador for London Menswear Collections, replacing Nick Grimshaw, and was named one of GQ’s 50 best dressed British men.
Nneka Petite, gifted and beautiful Nneka Lucia Egbuna was born December 24, 1980, in Warri, Delta, Nigeria to a Nigerian father and a German mother.
Nneka is a hip hop/soul singer and songwriter who sings in both English and Igbo. Nneka went to the primary school of the Delta Steel Company, from there to the secondary school at the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC). She relished the experience of singing from an early age in her school and in the church choir.
At 19, Nneka left Nigeria to study anthropology at Hamburg University, Germany, as her music career was building steam.
As a budding singer she first gained public attention in 2004 while performing as an opening act for dancehall reggae star, Sean Paul at Hamburg Stadtpark.
Her 2005 debut album Victim of Truth gained rave reviews, hailed by the UK’s Sunday Times “as good as The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill”. In February 2008, she followed it up with her second album, entitled
‘No Longer at Ease’ – a mix of soul, hip-hop and reggae. Most of thesongs on the album touch on the plight of the Niger Delta and the corruption in the country. ‘Heartbeat’, the album’s lead single,
became her first song to break into the German Top 50, and in September 2009, the song entered the UK Singles Chart at number 20, and has been remixed and sampled several times – most notably by Chase & Status and Rita Ora. This was followed up in the succeeding months with tours in France, Italy and
In November 2009, Nneka staged her first concert tour of the United States where she performed shows in New York, Washington D.C., Boston, Philadelphia, Los Angeles and San Francisco. Her song, “Kangpe” is also featured as a soundtrack on the EA Sports FIFA 2010 video game.
Nneka recorded her lastest album – her third – ‘Soul Is Heavy’ in Nigeria. “Shinning Star”, which is off the album, topped global charts in 2013.
On how her early years have influenced her music, she says, “I’m the kind of person who always questions things. It has a lot to do with the way I was brought up, and my surroundings.”
– MICHAEL NWOKIKE