Over time, we’ve seen how the Nigerian music industry has evolved and with this evolution, we can see how all the different parts that make it up, contribute to the finessing of the sound and each role’s importance to the success of this genre – Afrobeats, and the industry as a whole. With this growth curve, we can also see how the presence or lack of presence of people in these roles affects an artist and their sound and so this piece is focused on the A & R department or personnel.
A lot of the time, when someone asks what you do and you offhandedly reply “Oh, I’m an A&R” 87.6+% of the time you’re met with a kind of confusion. When one further goes on to explain that an A&R means – “Artiste & Repertoire” one will be met with additional confusion. At the end of the day, it’s mostly only media heads, industry people, or entertainment people who know what they are and the importance of their role.
The basic definition of what being an A&R is – A person who is responsible for the music style and recording processes in a label or with an artist. This ranges from helping the artist with selecting the best producer, managing time in a recording studio, and providing guidance to the artist on all elements of creating the best possible track. Some even say that the best A&Rs are producers – simply because they have an intricate understanding of sound engineering. But all in all, they are essential in defining and curating the culture that is Afrobeats.
With particular interest, this piece focuses on 10Ten, also known as Osagie Onobun who is currently the head of A&R at Chocolate City Music. He’s known for his contributions to Blaqbonez’s Sex Over Love and Young Preacher. Ten produces, writes, and is on a mission to advance African music both on the administrative and creative side of the industry. He has a keen eye for talent and a sharp ear for distinct sounds.
For the last three years, Chocolate City’s A&R process has been overseen by 10Ten, a dedicated producer and teacher whose expertise is instrumental to the fast-rising Hip-Hop and Afrobeats superstar- Blaqbonez’s journey. Contributions to projects like “Sex over Love” and “Young Preacher” is a testament to his creative abilities – which have cumulated over 60 million streams across all platforms leaving a lasting influence in the industry. Furthermore, his sharp eye for undiscovered talent has led him to find and support emerging talents, bringing them into the warm embrace of the Chocolate City family.
Like most musicians, 10 started his musical journey in the church. He started as a drummer in the choir and later grew to lead the choir. Over the course of his career 10 has worked with several musicians outside of the Chocolate City family like Cheque and Oxlade and what’s prominent to notice is that he works best with artists who have a distinct sound or better said, trying to do something different than the usual. So far so good Ten says “It’s been good working with different artists but I am starting to settle into the phase of dropping A&R projects now”.
The sense of anxiety and excitement is palpable as we continue our discussion. He doesn’t overestimate his importance in the lives of the artists he has worked with; he’s only happy to be able to contribute to their craft at every point of their interaction. Aside from being able to write and produce, Ten says that he decided to start dropping personal projects when he realized he could create the perfect avenue to allow artists to be “recklessly creative” and that’s a major steez.
This reserved creative has marked another milestone in his journey as he has released his debut single – “Dealer” featuring Blaqbonez and Tar1q. It’s a smooth blend of hip-hop and afrobeats. The flow and cadence of the track, along with Tar1q’s quickness, make it an instant hit. With writing, production, and performing credits on the single, Ten expertly expresses the idea of buried grief and indomitable optimism for a brighter future by combining heartbreaking lyrics and inviting sounds while being vulnerable with his guys.
On speaking about working on the track with these 2 powerhouses, he says “It’s a moment for me because these are my brothers. Blaq is the first artist I worked with on a professional level and Tariq is the first artist I signed”. Blaq’s delivery on the track is as smooth and bar-heavy as we could expect from the stallion and Tar1q is giving his all on the two verses allowing us to see a new side to the budding artist.
He follows up this fresh release with crisp visuals for the track. It features both artists and the creator himself in wide-angled shots filled with the story of the song. What we can expect from Ten in the near future is a complete project that he hopes is inspiring to his listeners.