I guess I’m not the only one who thinks Chocolate City and Empire Mates Entertainment are now a haggard looking shadow of what the used to be to Nigerian music lovers.
A popular verse of the bible struck me, as I thought a little longer it occurred to me that verse of the bible today mighty as well be directly referring to once vibrant and highly raved Nigerian record labels Chocolate City and Empire Mates Entertainment (EME).
“Thy glory, O Israel is slain upon thy high places: how are the mighty fallen!” 2 Samuel 1:19. That is the verse of the bible I’m referring to. Kindly replace Israel with Chocolate City or EME and it will completely make sense.
Everything we have known Chocolate city for and everything they stood for is slowly being corroded. Chocolate City was easily known as an ‘institution of rappers’, with MI, Jesse Jagz and Ice Prince on the front burner. The choc boys finally made being a rapper look so cool and fly in Nigeria. I know a couple friends who started nursing dreams of becoming rap icons like them MI, Ice Prince and Jesse Jagz, let’s say the inspired many more young Nigerian youths.
Choc boy Ice Prince showed us that rappers could make continent-wide hits hands down, all glory to ‘Oleku’. MI finessed the art of making intellectual rap music and Jesse was a genius as a choc boys’ music producer cum rapper. Brymo’s vocal made ordinary songs surreal and so it was.
Choc boys’ nation brought us nothing less than joy; it was always delightful to hear dem choc boys on a record together. Even up till to date, anytime I play an old material from the choc boys I can’t help wondering whatever befell them. Maybe now you’ll realize that aphorism “ten children cannot play together for ten years” becomes a hurting truth. Their collaborations were amazing; every individual artiste on the label was doing well, and it looked like they all go their shit together. Earnest that era was epic and I miss that.
Banky W’s EME started gaining some real good traction with his younger recruits Wizkid and Skales. The group rapidly became a force in the Nigerian music scene. Nigeria found a “Justin Bieber” in Wizkid. Yes, Nigeria had never before seen a young and yet very talented music superstar, it was ultimately seductive.
Empire State Of Mind Album is the best collective album since Mo’Hits All Stars Album. The lead single from the Empire State Of Mind album ‘Baddest Boy‘ was a smash hit, and many other songs on the album were quite good. The heights of it all was EME embarking on a highly successful UK tour. EME was the hottest label hands down, mostly from Wizkid’s contribution.
Nonetheless, EME was the dream team, they sold us so much hope on a platter. The truth is they did so much when the team concentrated it efforts. We couldn’t wait for everyone on the label to finally blow as much as Wizkid in this order: Skales, Niyola, Shaydee. It was only with time we realized no one from EME would accomplish as much as Wizkid. Then things fell apart.
How did Once High Chocolate City And EME Get This Low?
One major reason for the retrogression could be that everyone was not satisfied on these labels!
And the label and artistes altercation began. A new kind of drama between the resident artistes and label executives set in.
For Chocolate City, Brymo decided to quit the label, as he always said in interviews ‘chocolate city wasn’t doing enough for him as an artiste on the label’. He mentions that some projects were financed by him without reimbursement from the label.
Another reason for a devalued Chocolate city might have been ‘creativity control’. Jesse Jagz once said he felt his creative under CC was restricted. This made him seek for an autonomous control of his music and creativity. He had to find an exit, so he could express himself without constraints.
CC has witnessed many an exodus from its once high stables, DJ Caise, Pryse, Milli, Khali Abdu, VHS Safari etc. Mainly because they aren’t satisfied and didn’t get the opportunity to shine bright on the platform. Hold on, Victoria Kimani will also join the exodus as she has already hinted on her exit from the label.
Now I’ll have to doubt that statement that there is always enough room to shine when I think of CC. Obviously, there’s not enough room for all to shine!
The same story can be said about Skales, he suffered a bit of neglect. EME would rather put more money on Wizkid because he was bringing in more returns at the end of the day. So Skales suffered because he wasn’t spinning much money, hence he was the second fiddle. The same narrative could be the case of Shaydee who just bowed out of EME, surely he wasn’t shinning after Wizkid departed. Where the heck is Niyola after “Toh Bad“? She is probably the only artiste on the label besides Banky.
As I would observe from my point of view, the label heads at EME & CC have not pushed their artistes enough up to the point they can break even and profits flow.
Mentoring in Nigerian music is something I really doubt now. I guess some labels have only always been lucky with their signings. Because success is hardly replicated over and over again in a record label.
Let’s say any artiste on a record label was doing very well, why would they hold back from renewing their contracts at the label?
Music labels to a large extent are just like our favorite football clubs. High-performing players more often than not always renew club contracts because they are doing fine (winning trophies, a nice paycheck, and enough playtime) and also enjoy a good working relationship with the coaches.
CC & EME are like a “sunken place” that’s why artistes “get out”.