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As an A & R it is important you take credit and build your catalogue- Wisdom Ehijele

 In 2019, Wisdom left S.A to join his partner in Nigeria, a year later he heads the A and R department at Aristokrat Records and things just got interesting.

“I think you might have to double the vocals here”, Wiz as he is popularly referred by tells his artiste, Aristokrat/Universal Music signee Juju boy.  It’s 2.45 pm, and Wiz has kept me waiting all day. It’s an eventful day at the label though, one embedded with client’s meetings, listening sessions so getting him to finish up a statement without interference has been the next mission impossible movie.

 Have you always worked with artistes?

Yep I’ve been doing this for a bit. I started working with artistes far back in my university days.

 So like A and R or management?

Hmm so at that time I didn’t label the role as anything, it was simply driven by passion. I just knew I wanted to get my peoples music out there and I was really excited about facilitating sessions, getting artistes in the studio and other promotional motives. It was a whole lot really but looking back now I did mostly A and R and management.

 Why did you end up in Artiste Management?

I am the kind of person eager to understand the 360 of any venture I dive into. I wanted to fully grasp what happens at the back end in the industry. My time in Ghana gave me certain insights to what goes on behind the scenes and I needed to understand more.

Ghana?

Yep I went to Ghana for university. I studied information technology there. It was also there I met my business partner Shay, who was also a student.

So you both managed artistes?

Not initially. In fact, I managed him as an artiste at first.

For real?

Yep. He (Shay) started this movement back in school called Jones movement. We started off throwing the maddest parties in the university. Then, music came along because he is a talented rapper and later on fashion.

What year did you decide to do it professional? Like Management?

So, it’s more like growing into a more music business environment. It was always done professionally I just didn’t have as much knowledge as I do now. It was in 2018 I decided to do it with a well-structured label. As at 2014, we already had a management/creative company registered. So it’s growing into a more structured environment.

And the journey, what was it like?

Like as a proper business venture, we started 2013. It was that year my partner and I knew it was music, clothing and brand lifestyle. Then we were doing it from the scratch so we were the managers, the designers, the graphic guys. We moved later to styling artistes, and aided brand management and creatively managed their look. We then agreed to leverage on our relationship with Aristokrat. We had had a pre- existing relationship the record label where we had creatively worked with some of their acts. Then in 2018, we made a decision to be in the system and join this body and see what results could come out of it.

Why Aristokrat?

Besides the fact that we had a relationship and had done business together. It was also the fact the organization was one we could relate with on different aspects and they understood what we were trying to do and it align to ours.

 So you joined them?

Yeah But firstly I needed to go South Africa to further my knowledge in cinematography and video direction that aided our motives. So it was just a thing of coming back and joining my partner who started before I did.

What has been the most exciting project you have worked on?

Okay before 2018 would be Jones lifestyle. This was the first project we released under our thing. It was exciting because the production and promotion was done between Ghana and Nigeria. The producer of the project, Greg Jones, a crazy talented guy started working on the project with shay in Lagos. There was a lot going on between school, recording, and the support around us was magnificent. I mean everybody wanted to be called a jones, they wanted to be part of what we were building. We had gotten so much attention from the parties we threw at the university, now we were building a lifestyle and creating a project around it. So it was a vibe and a lot of creativity from hungry people. I mean we could set up a studio session for recording and end up creating designs for merch. In fact we got the name for the EP while we were designing merch. It was a memorable one.

Nice, Memories don’t die. After 2018?

That would be Diamond in the Rough by Ceeza Milli.

Really Why? What was that like?

 I mean Ceeza is a super talented artiste.

Do you think people know that?

I believe people know that .But there is still a lot of strategy that needs to be done. He is an awesome songwriter and singer. I didn’t bring him into the label though, he was assigned to me. Although I knew him and we had met on cordial basis and i already loved his music before then, I also was interested in getting to know him personally and as an artiste. So it was more of what kind I really do for this person kind of thing.

Relationship wise how was it?

Being the middle man, I spent most the time trying to make the relationship between the label and the artistes okay. His songs were music I related to and that made me happy and they were a lot. Trust me Ceeza has a lot of dope songs enough for albums in years. In the process of creating diamonds in the rough playlist we created other albums. One interesting thing was that I got to understand the different sides of an artiste, there were times where Ceeza was the most understandable, there were also times he was quite difficult.  One exciting memory I can’t forget is the process of shooting the album cover in Shitta, Surulere and using elements of the hood to create that piece of art. Everything around that project was beautiful.

How was the process of curating the project?

First of all, being an A and R you need to have good ears for music. You need to understand what the artiste is heading for, and also what he doesn’t hear. For instance, he had lot of songs with different themes, the club bangers, the romantic ones, the social awareness ones, so I mean you cannot have five songs talking about the situation in your country when you are not the revolutionary brand of artiste. So it was more like “this is what I am about to give you but I also want to touch on some topics’.

 Why Diamond in the Rough?

For me it was the experiences he had faced as a person. If you know Ceeza you’ll know that he has hopped different labels looking for the best deals and has written for a lot of artistes in the industry. So he really is a gem. Having an artiste like Ceeza is like a jackpot. But the reality of the state we are in, the country we are in, the industry, the market so yeah that direction was like this is the diamond we have amongst our reality which is the rough. So, Diamond in the Rough.

Wow, makes a lot of sense

Yeah, it wasn’t coiled by me but I was able to interpret and reflect that on the body of work. I used that as an umbrella to create the project.

Dope, so you lead the A and R team at Aristokrat, what is it like working and overseeing the A and R of over 12 artistes. What challenges do you face?

Like I said, it’s a process, for me it’s a growing thing, I would not be given the opportunity to spearhead this if they taught I couldn’t. When I started I just A and R’d for Ceeza, but at that time the label had only two artistes, Ceeza and Tneeya. It was a gradual process. But now I have a team built around me so it’s a matter of sharing ideas because we have a knack for idea generation in our department.

What is like working with Seyi Shay?

Haha. Even Seyi knows she can be a lot. But that is expected from artistes in her level. Seyi is up there, she is an amazing artiste and has been consistent over the years .She also being the CEO of her label also has experience in the business part of the label so you are not just talking to an artiste but you are also talking to a business person. You are not just projecting ideas you think would work for her but you need convince them business wise that this is a good one.

When do you know a song is dope?

Bro I have to feel it. It needs to do something to me.

How challenging is it to get different artistes to make music together?

Mehn Nigeria is different market entirely. A lot of people are proud. A lot of people are pompous, people have one hit song and feel like they are there. But this is a business and consistency is key. I see it as if I am in real estate I have to sell houses, even though I sold one that gave me 50 million last week, I still need to sell more. We need such mentality in this game, don’t drop one song and relax, that hunger should always be there and make whatever you are selling have a standard and should not go below that standard. You always need to hunt producers, I mean I manage a producer and even Wizkid as big as he is still messages him and comes to where he is to get stuff done.

What is it like working with Kel p?

So I am part of the team working with Kel but I’m not his direct manager.          But heading the department his stuff crosses my table. But Kel is one of favorites, he knows what he wants so he allows everyone to play their part.

What is the most important ingredient you think an artiste should have?

 Consistency. Because I am certain you had passion before you went into the music. Consistency can lead you to finding a good record, that and having a good team.

How can A and R protect themselves from ungrateful artistes?

As an A and R, it is important to take your credit and build your catalogue. Also contracts are important. Here is thing being dropped may not necessary be a bad thing, maybe the artiste wants a new direction or next level exposure. Also as an a and r you should not be tied to one artiste, the point of being an a and r is creating music as well from as many people.

Written by

Joseph Dike Abiagom

Read also: Nigerian-Canadian Singer, Shopé Drops His Debut ‘Rikiki’ Ep

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