The Rise and Rise of Phyno – Nigeria’s Best Igbo Rapper

This article was written on Saturday, 22nd March 2014.

– Gist Editor


I woke up this Saturday morning with only one plan on my mind – to purchase ‘No Guts No Glory’ – the debut album of one of Nigeria’s premier indigenous artists – Phyno. Now, I pride myself as the kind of person to discover a prospect as soon as he or she bursts onto the stage, but for Phyno, it was very different. I first came across his music unwittingly in early 2009 back in my school days. It was a remix of Okpomekwe(A very ‘igbotic’ though highly didactic track) which was a hit back in the east. Big Phyno(his moniker back then) was completely outshined on the track by Slow Dog and Desperate Chicks and barely registered in my memory. In the same year, the name Phyno popped up again in my consciousness as I discovered that he produced the beat for ‘Life Anagaga'(one of my top Nigerian songs in 2009). Months later, I heard Phyno’s ‘Multiply’ featuring  some of Nigeria’s musical heavyweights(Flavour, Timaya, M.I etc) and once more Phyno was comfortably outclassed. I really couldn’t see what he had going for him other than the fact that he seemed to be pretty good at musical production. I couldn’t have been more off the mark.

Phyno 1Yep . . . couldn’t see any talent in this guy

It wasn’t too long after, and while camped in the remote Nsit Atai, that I first heard ‘Anamachikwanu’ – the first song I felt showed a new side to a rapper who would soon become a nationwide phenomenon. At this time, Phyno was barely known in the east or pretty much anywhere outside Enugu. But the moment ‘Anamachikwanu’ dropped – he blew up all over the east and most parts of the South-South region of the nation. He didn’t drop a single line apart from the chorus but the unique edge he  brought to the song was clear for everyone to see and I sat up and took notice. After the ‘Anamachikwanu’ buzz died down a bit, he released a few more admirable singles – ‘Shutdown’ and ‘Can’t you see’ to name a few.  He also featured on many others gradually outshining fellow features and on a few occasions, the actual track owners. By December 2012, Phyno went national with one of the biggest hits Nigeria has seen in a long while – ‘Ghost Mode’ featuring Olamide (another indigenous great). The track had everything . . . there was rhythm, wordplay, punchlines, witty back and forths, exceptional delivery and bite. Both artists brought their A-game and neither was outshined.

PhynoPhyno – Eerily Talented

All of a sudden, you were just as likely to hear a Phyno track being played in a bar somewhere in Onitsha as you were to hear it played at an ‘Owambe’ somewhere in Ibadan. Refusing to rest on his laurels, he released ‘Man of the Year’ – a sensational Igbo rap roller coaster which you couldn’t help shaking your head to (in appreciation) regardless of your level of understanding of the language. The track eventually won him ‘The Headies Best Rap Single’ Award and firmly ensured this ‘east coast n*gga was now firmly banging in the west’. The Igbo word ‘Obago’ means ‘he has entered’ and Phyno had well and truly entered the elite of Nigerian rap, and mainstream music for that matter, now ‘making commercial money without a dance track’.

Phyno 2Now he’s finally here – ‘Obago’

Phyno truly ensured he remained 2013’s ‘Man of the Year’ by releasing a series of killer singles and videos which shot him into 3rd place in Nigeria’s top 10 Most Gifted Rappers list by’s premier music website. The numerous number of tracks and albums he featured on in 2013 went further to cement his place among Nigeria’s top musicians. Olamide, Yung6ix, Dr SID and Phenom are just a few of the rappers who had no choice but to put him on their projects and as expected, Phyno delivered to perfection. His rise and improvement have been almost astronomic and he showed exactly how a transition from mediocrity to excellence could be achieved, to a degree rarely ever seen in the Nigerian music industry. His creativity is the one thing that sets him apart from the rest of the crowd and if he keeps up his level of  ambition he could be the first Nigerian export to go truly global with indigenous rap.

Phyno has shown no signs of stopping, no signs of slacking, no signs of letting up or even cutting back on his improvement levels. As I head out to purchase my most anticipated album of 2014, I expect nothing less than brilliance from ‘Phynofino’ – ‘the playmaker’, the self acclaimed ‘man of the year’ who keeps assuring us that ‘Onwe be di ihe i fu'(You haven’t seen anything yet). If it is true that we haven’t seen the half of this man’s talent, then Nigerian music is in for a period of utter dominance by Phyno and tracks like Splash’s ‘Onye Ije’ where the young upstart was torn to shreds by Phyno in less than a quarter of the track will become more common but with bigger more accomplished rappers.

Phyno-Parcel-VideoPhyno, now “A big Nwa” – murdering rappers with ease

Phyno(Azubuike Chibuzo Nelson) has taken indigenous rap(and Igbo rap in particular) to the next level. I look forward to hearing a lot more from Phyno in the coming years and I believe the vast majority of music-loving Nigerians look forward to the same too. He’s a good singer, a better producer and one of the best rappers in the country. Hopefully he doesn’t lose the fire or get sidetracked like the once great M.I. did so spectacularly. If he doesn’t, ‘No Guts No Glory’ will merely be a launch pad for a truly ‘phyno’menal rapper and an even better musician ‘representing the best albinos'(according to Slow Dog).

By I.V Okata . . . A lover of good music

Follow him on Twitter @IzutaDGaffer


Blast from the Past

The rain was about to start pouring, I could hear thunder rumbling somewhere in the sky, strong winds already huffing and puffing in a desperate effort to rip out the already loose roofing sheets of my house. There I was, chillaxing on my sofa, wondering if it was possible for this Saturday afternoon to get any more boring, almost immediately, as if in response to my thoughts, I heard a tone from my phone, “clum, cluum”, … Every Nigerian mobile phone user’s nightmare… the sound of your phone switching itself off… NEPAAA!

No phone! No electricity! Trapped in my house because of this blasted rain! ….Catastrophic Trilogy!

What would I do now? Then it hit me… Books! My trusted old books! I made a bee-line to my chest of awesome novels and immediately started hunting for the right one. While searching, I stumbled upon my collection of old Nigerian songs.

Later that evening, after the Power Holders finally restored power, I decided to play some of the old music videos just for the nostalgic high . . . I was treated to a rude shock. When we watch Nigerian music videos today, we see very crisp clear videos recorded by cameras that would make the human eye pull its hair out (if it had one) in jealousy. We also see amazing special effects, animations, cars I can only dream of (and have dreamt of), hot babes with bodies to die for, and creativity at its zenith. It wasn’t always like this… The disparity between these old videos and the present ones is shockingly enormous. I will now cite examples of these ancient crappy videos.

Tony Tetuila ft Plantashun boiz and Ruff, Rugged, and Raw – Omode Meta

This has to rank high up in anybody’s list of Nigeria’s worst videos ever! This video lacks everything a music video should have. There was absolutely no creativity, the picture quality was terrible, the full video was virtually shot in one room, and to crown it all, there was smoke everywhere I couldn’t see anything. This video is a disaster! The director of this video should be punished for subjecting people to such torture.

Tuface – Ole

Where do I start? What is the rationale behind those people just walking aimlessly around 2baba? How does that even relate to the song? If the song title had been ‘confused Nigerian Jaywalkers’, then maybe, just maybe, it wouldn’t have been mentioned in his article.

The Remedies – Shakomo

This is one very funny video! What was the director thinking? Three agile artistes in a choreography so embarrassing that even my 6-year-old nephew laughed when he saw it. This video can accurately be described as a mish-mash of random clips collated with zero creativity. Watch out for the scene where the remedies decided to model some ‘cool shades’, Stevie Wonder would really enjoy that scene if he sees it. …oops!

In the midst of these videos, one particular video stuck out like a sore thumb, it was really impressive and I believe it revolutionized the art of video shooting in the Nigerian music industry, that video is none other than… yeah, you guessed it… P-Square – Get Squared!

Watching Nigerian music videos of today and comparing them with these older videos, it’s amazing to see how far along the industry has come. With this in mind, I guess it’s safe to say, WE’RE HEADED STRAIGHT TO THE TOP!!!

By Chike ‘Loposki’ Ayogu… an Art Enthusiast

He’s on BBM, here’s his PIN : 29321860

Who will fill the Void?

Five-thirty a.m, my alarm should have already been ringing for about a minute. I get up for my daily early morning jog. I slip on my sweatpants and a shirt, put on my socks and canvas, unplug my phone from the computer-it should be fully charged by now-, plug in my ear phones (preferably beat-by-dre), press play and begin my jog. Music, rap music in particular, is a very important part of my life and without a music player, I am almost sure the time allocated for my morning jog will automatically be reallocated to sleep. However, in recent times, the terrible quality of tracks being churned out by our increasingly lazy  rap artists has made me consider reallocating the time to some other activity, any other activity that I could engage in without having to listen to some of the ‘banging tracks’ on offer. I’ve considered watching paint dry, listening to toads croak and so many other standard mind numbing activities.

This morning I was jogging down a road for the first time when I paused to catch my breath. Just beside me was a very deep hole, probably dug by the road construction company for drainage but had apparently been forgotten and left open long after the road had been completed. This hole seemed deeper than any standard one and for some reason, as I pondered the possible rationales for which this potentially virulent hazard was left exposed, the music shuffled to Chairman by MI, I felt weird and a tad disheartened.

I’m not sure anyone was more excited than I was when MI came on the scene about five years ago with the classic album ‘talk about it’. It was good music produced here in Nigeria and it came at a time when the industry was severely in need of a ‘microphone magician’. Back then, the Nigerian rap industry was flooded with mediocre artists and a few very good ones whose lyrics were significantly inscrutable to the average Nigerian (Mode 9). There was a void in the industry, a chasm, very much like the worryingly deep construction hole I was staring at, one MI filled to near perfection.

guatemala-sink-hole-2-tmOk, not that deep . . . or wide . . . but equally distressing . . . ok, maybe not

Nevertheless, recently, MI has become annoyingly banal with his lyrics. He spends the majority of his time on the mic bragging and attacking critics when he should be more focused on cementing his legendary status with more timeless music. Some have suggested a burn-out due to the sheer massive number of tracks he has released since he stormed the industry but for whatever reason, the void he filled so gloriously a few years back seems to have reappeared.

A lot of pretenders to the throne have shown up recently. Vector, Olamide, Phenom, Yung6ix, Phyno, Ice Prince and numerous others have become more popular but none is yet to truly claim the crown for himself. For the sake of my fitness, I honestly wish someone comes in and takes this budding industry to the next level ala MI in 2008. I’m sure tomorrow morning when I take off on yet another jog and am forced to listen to the latest ‘hot naija rap tracks’, the moment I jog past that scary construction hole, the only question on my mind with regards the hole and the nigerian hip hop industry will be; ‘who will fill the void?’ I can only wonder . . .


Who’s hot enough to fill the void?

By I.V Okata . . . a voice of reason

Follow him on Twitter @izutadgaffer