The art of production may have evolved over the years making it an all-comers affair, but there are few who have shown outstanding finesse in their craft.
Every artist needs the right canvas to display his talents and the producers role is steeped in transforming a raw sound into a refined and finished product.
In a culture where beats are vital to the music, the role of a producer has grown over the years from that guy at the other side of the booth, pressing the keys to becoming the individual harmonizing the entire journey, picking the right keys and tempo to get the best performance out of the entire process.
So while there have been producers who have had one hit wonders, or a spell of successful records, there have been others who have upped the bar in influencing and dictating the sound scape through iconic albums or records.
Here is a list of 10 essential Nigerian producers who fall in to this category, that you need to know about.
1. OJB Jezreel
OJB is perhaps the leader of the new Nigerian sound. From his little studio in Surulere, Lagos, the producer who was also referred to as Jigga impacted Nigerian music even beyond our shores.
Despite having been around from the late nineties, OJB is most remembered for his work on 2face Idibia‘s debut solo effort, Face 2 Face.
Solely produced by him, OJB became one with the artist, choosing the right beats to fit 2face’s abilities. He would later go on to create his own production imprint, PointBeatz that birthed younger producers like JoeKaynie.
OJB also had six albums to his name and sadly passed away on June 14 2016 of kidney disease.
Essential Records: 2face’s African Queen, Ruggedman‘s Ehen, OJB‘s Searching and Jazzman Olofin‘s Raise tha roof.
2. Don Jazzy
‘Na who do the beat o, Don Baba J’ was the phrase that we all fell in love with during the Mo Hits era.
Coming from his days as a member of the 419 band, Don Jazzy made a return to the country alongside Dbanj in 2004 and till date, the don has consistently defined the era of Nigerian pop sound.
With Mo Hits, he was the non talking, stick holding creative mafia who championed a new generation of stars in D’banj, Wande Coal, D Prince and Kay Switch.
No Long Thing was a sound like never heard before, The Entertainer was an evolution in stretching the boundaries of rhythm, and after the collapse of Mo Hits, Don Jazzy was tasked with the ‘making another Hov‘ dilemma, and this he achieved with the Mavins.
There are few iconic names in the game that can be compared to Don Jazzy; as the sounds and pace evolved, so also as he managed to be the frontier on most levels and while the don may not be behind every beat out of the Mavin stables these days, he will forever be remembered as the one who left a lasting legacy from the producers chair.
Essential Records: D’Banj – Oliver Twist, Tongolo, Mo gbono feli feli, Wande Coal – Bumper to Bumper, Mavins – Dorobucci and Korede Bello‘s Godwin.
The skillfully gifted, Cobhams remains one of the most consistent and loved names on the scene.
From working on classic albums like Asa‘s debut album and Bez‘s Super sun to displaying his versatility with rappers like Rooftop Mcs and Modenine, there is no range that Cobhams artistic dexterity cannot counquer.
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He carved his niche at an early stage with his type of sound that were not brash or filled with kicks, not really tailored for the dance floors but packed with the right amount of soul to leave listeners engaged in his sound.
Cobhams is ahead of his time, extending his works not just to other artist but his own album, he is not just the ordinary producer, he is one whose tastes reflect in the people he works with and the music he puts out.
Essential Records: Asa – Eye Adaba, Fire on the mountain and Jailer, Darey’s Not the girl, Modenine – Cry and Rooftop Mcs – Lagimo.
4. Paul Play Dairo
While many recognised Paul Play the artist, Paul Play the producer was also behind the scenes influencing the sounds with his timeless beats.
From his debut album which he produced several bangers to working with the likes of Ruff, Rugged and Raw, Toni Tetuila, and others, Paul Play was also instrumental in the discovery of producers like K Solo.
Even his exit from the scene for seven years due to health reasons have not in anyway undermined his contributions to the industry.
Essential Records: Forever, Angel of my Life, Mo so rire, Happy Day. Toni Tetuila- Omode meta n sere
5. ID Cabasa
From 9ice to Olamide, Lord of Ajasa, Reminisce and 2Phatz, everyone of them have ID Cabasa to thank for the role he played in their careers.
The reserved beat-maker is another one who was instrumental in adding musicality to sounds emerging from the Bariga side of Lagos.
At his best, he delivered 9ice’s most impactful album, Gongo Aso and it is no surprise when 9ice released his 8th album in his name.
Essential Records: 9ice’s Gongo Aso album, Olamide Eni Duro, Faze, ‘Kpo po di po‘, Lord of Ajasa ‘Le fenu so’
Another individual that gets credit for shaping the urban contemporary sound.
Sarz built his craft working with the likes of Jahbless on Jor oh remix, Shank’s Salute, Eldee, Skales, Reminisce and more, but his first major recognition came in 2012, when he was nominated in the Best Producer category at the Nigerian Entertainment Awards alongside Don Jazzy. Don Jazzy was announced winner on the night but he ended up giving up the award to Sarz, who he said also deserved it.
However he really started off in 2007 when he produced ‘Banging‘ for Nigerian rap legend Ruggedman. In 2009 he would get a production credit on Dagrin’s seminal sophomore album ‘C.E.O‘ for the track ‘Kondo‘.
Sarz has gone on to work extensively with Nigerian superstar Wizkid.
Biggest Records: Beat of Life (Samba), Reminisce Kako bi Chicken, Niniola – Maradona and Sicker, Eldee Wash, Wizkid ‘Come Closer‘
7. K Solo
In 2007, Timaya burst unto the scene with his debut album, True Story, outside his lyrics, K Solo is the person most responsible for shaping his sound and style.
His aggressive style made his beats difficult to ignore and brought him mainstream recognition. He is responsible for a sound that successfully pushed acts like Danny Young, Kleva Jay and many other.
Studying under the great Paul Play Dairo, K Solo helped cultivate a sound for the ghetto post-Ajegunle dominance of the 90s.
Biggest Records: Timaya‘s True Story, Kefee‘s Kokoroko, Kleva Jay – Koni Koni Lov featuring Danny Young
8. eLDee the Don
This man right here is regarded as the godfather of Nigerian rap music. In 1999, as part of the legendary trio known as Trybesmen moulded the sonic blueprint of Nigerian rap music. eLDee laced his group’s neat and sharp rhymes over groovy tracks inspired by Nigerian sounds to create a template still used by Naija rappers till today.
He pushed his influence with the creation of the rap affiliation Da Trybe post-2000. His production wizardry was responsible for the instant posse cut classic ‘Oya‘.
His solo career boasts of six albums, all solidly produced projects, a hybrid cross of Nigerian rap and pop music. eLDee is a cornerstone of Nigerian contemporary music.
Essential Records: Trybesmen – Shake Bodi, Plenty Things, Da Trybe– Oya
9. Nelson Brown
Nelson Brown was the darling of the eighties to early 2000s production.
The producer was solely responsible for the production work on Plantashun Boiz‘s debut effort, Body and Soul, which is regarded as one of the best RnB/Pop albums that the industry has recorded.
He has also worked with artists from Daddy Showkey, Baba Fryo to Daddy Fresh.
Nelson Brown was awarded winner of AMEN award for best producer in 1998.
Essential Record: Plantashun Boiz – Body and Soul album
He makes 70 beats in a week; check. He never sleeps when he is in the mood; check. He has broken a relatively unknown artist in Dagrin into a superstar; check. Fresh beats on every song; double check.
If the above listed qualities count as what makes a producer iconic, then Sossick ticks all the boxes, a genius workhouse who delivered not just accessible hits but consistent quality.
Oh, let’s not forget that he produced Gino‘s seminal debut album ‘Pain Plus Work‘ in 2007 and was behind Shank‘s big hit ‘Julie‘. If you are in search of a classic, Sossick is the man to call.
Essential Records: Da Grin- Pon Pon Pon and Ghetto Dreams, Naeto C– Day 1, Reminisce – Alagbara, Gino – No Be God, Farabale, Shank – Julie