The death of Nigerian singer, MohBad, has come as a shock with young Nigerians pointing fingers at his former management. The issue raises questions about the troubling conditions young artists face while chasing their dreams.
On 12 September 2023, Ilerioluwa Oladimeji popularly known as MohBad passed away. His death sent shockwaves through the nation, while simultaneously sparking controversy around his previous agency, Marlian Records. However, more than the accusations and suspicions, this incident highlights the ugly part of an industry where being young and eager seems to be a dangerous enterprise.
ASK ABOUT MOHBAD
The announcement of MohBad’s passing sent ripples through the internet. X (formerly Twitter) erupted with angry youths who have expressed suspicion in his passing. MohBad rose to fame in 2019 when he released Balan Zia Gar, garnering nationwide support for his energetic street sound.
In 2020, he signed a deal with another widely popular musician, Naira Marley, and joined his label, Marlian Records. There, he released his first EP, Light, but left after two years in 2022 due to an uncomfortable altercation between him and Naira Marley.
The situation went so bad that in February 2022, MohBad went live on Instagram and said that people were trying to kill him and that if he died, Marlian Records should be held responsible. His untimely death has consequently raised eyebrows with fingers pointing at Naira Marley, the record label’s leader. Naira Marley has since released two posts mourning MohBad’s death and has blocked the comments under them amid the backlash. One of the posts was an official statement from Marlian Records where they claimed that ‘no family is perfect’ and that despite MohBad’s departure from the company, they never wished him any harm.
Naira Marley’s friend and associate, Sam Larry, is also under public suspicion for alleged involvement in MohBad’s death. This comes as a video of him harassing Mohbad goes viral. Sam Larry has also denied the allegations.
Fans, fellow artists, and music enthusiasts have voiced their discomfort with the situation with some campaigning for Naira Marley’s arrest and others protesting across the country for police action. But regardless of Naira Marley’s involvement, this situation shines a light on the tainted Nigerian music industry and how young talents are taken advantage of by those meant to represent them.
NO ‘PEACE’ FOR YOUNG ARTISTS
Unfortunately, record labels and managers taking advantage of their artists is a tale as old as the music industry itself. On the international scale, we recall the tragedy of Elvis Presley and even more recently, Jenette McCurdy who in her 2022 memoir wrote that she was glad her mother, who was also her manager, died. Even K-pop stars have dealt with their fair share of bad managers; this includes BLACKPINK’s Lisa who was scammed of nearly 1 billion won (820,000 USD) by her former manager.
There have also been scandals in Nigeria’s entertainment industry between artists and their labels. A popular example is the fallout between Wande Coal and Don Jazzy in 2013 which resulted in the former leaving Mo’hits (now Mavin Records). Kizz Daniel is another Nigerian artist who had an exhaustive court case with his former agency, G-Worldwide. After a fallout, he was forced to change his name from ‘Kiss Daniel’ because of copyright claims laid by G-Worldwide.
In September 2023, former YBNL signee, YBNL Princess, also called out Olamide and his wife for allegedly mistreating her. From being treated as an errand girl, to being called poor and broke, Princess, whose real name is Temmie Ovwasa, said that she was forced to leave as she couldn’t take the abuse anymore. She also added how she wasted her time at the agency as she recorded over 25 songs but only 4 were released.
The Nigerian music industry is highly competitive, and many emerging artists hastily sign contracts with established labels to gain exposure. An example is Asake, who says he begged Olamide for two years before he signed with YBNL. According to Asake, even though he was advised to get a lawyer, he insisted on signing immediately when the opportunity presented itself.
K.M Waziri, a Professor of International Economics and Intellectual Property at the University of Abuja, cautioned record labels against exploiting young artists. He spoke out against the alleged servitude in the industry as well as the unequal bargaining power. He claimed that some record labels manipulate young artists into signing contracts that are anti-labour laws and leave them with little royalty and financial returns for their work.
While Asake’s situation has not yielded any major public fallout, it offers a glimpse of what happens behind the scenes when eager artists desperate to make it forfeit reading through their contracts or weighing their options. But one can’t really blame them when it’s the Nigerian condition mixed with the unyielding passion that urges them to sign these contracts regardless of what could ensue. Some have it better than others like Wizkid who left EME in 2014 without much drama from Banky W. But not everyone is as lucky.
In response to the speculations surrounding MohBad’s death, young Nigerias have launched a campaign calling for accountability and transparency in the entertainment industry. They are demanding a thorough investigation into MohBad’s death and a reassessment of the conditions faced by young artists in their agencies. The issues raised have to do with exploitative contracts, mental abuse, lack of agency support to release music, and of course safety concerns.
While accusations fly from MohBad’s mother, his father is wary about the circumstances of his son’s death, even finding suspicion in the needle used to attend to MohBad in the hospital. Bella Shmurda, MohBad’s close friend and fellow singer, also spoke out to campaign for Naira Marley’s arrest.
MohBad’s passing has not only left a void in the Nigerian music industry but has also brought to light the challenges faced by many young artists. The speculations surrounding his death and the allegations against Naira Marley serve as a reminder of the need for greater transparency and fairness in the relationships between artists and their agencies. There is an urgent need to reform the Nigerian music industry to ensure the well-being and success of its rising talents. Even more so, the Nigerian climate needs to improve significantly to prevent desperate acts from young talents trying to escape poverty⎈
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