Note: This article was originally published on the 18th of June, 2021 as ‘The Meaning And Significance Of Our Favourite Nigerian Musicians’ Nicknames’. More on the story below.
Names and album titles, cover arts, press images and singing style, these are all some of the finer elements of the music craft that make up a musician’s artistry and connects them further to consumers who eventually make up their fanbase and in turn, their stardom. However, at times, some of these elements tend to be confused among artistes as indeed, no ideas are unique to any one mind, likewise art direction. Despite this and the fact that the Nigerian music industry is bursting with talents, one thing that remains entirely unique is the nicknames and epithets of the stars that grace it. In fact, the art of Nigerian musicians having nicknames and epithets or descriptors has become a strong subculture in the music industry, with up-and-coming acts hitting the scene with ready-set nicknames that soon grow on their budding fanbase. It is also a long-steeped culture that was actively seen in the earlier days of the Nigerian music scene, going as far back as the heydays of Fuji music, Fela afrobeat, and highlife.
In a bid to pay homage to the subculture of nicknames in the music industry, in this list, aim has been taken to break down the meaning and significance of some of our favourite Nigerian musician’s nicknames and epithets:
1. Wizkid, ‘Machala’
This nickname has been so deeply accepted by Wizkid’s fans– members of the Wizkid FC, that in several corridors of the internet that house members of this fanbase, you can see several iterations as either their usernames or an identifier in their self-written biography.
The meaning and origin of ‘Machala’ itself however appears to be a thing of legend as there isn’t one particular answer.
An internet search will provide varying answers from the cliche hyper-religious connotation to claim that is a Greek word meaning ‘demon,’ to alternate claims that it means ‘King’ and for some ‘Back and forth’ denoting Wizkid’s instrumental role in bringing Nigerian music to the global spotlight.
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Further research among Nigerian music savants and one Wizkid FC member will reveal answers that claim Machala means ‘Lion,’ ‘Eleniyan’ which translates to ‘man of the people’ in Yoruba and is a term associated with Wizkid, to ‘strong man’ and finally ‘Fresh man’ which is said to be a Warri slang.
One thing for sure, while we may never really know except Wizkid himself chooses to demystify the name, all versions of the meaning ‘Machala’ denote greatness.
2. Olamide ‘Baddoo’
While Olamide calls himself the ‘Young Erikina’ which is believed by many to mean ‘young beast,’ no other moniker has struck a chord with fans and friends of the rapper as ‘Baddoo’ has.
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A name with roots from his days as an undergraduate in Tai Solarin University of Education, it was easily absorbed by the streets and his fans as his hard-hitting bars and fiery flows proved that he was truly bad and his street hop leanings certified his personification of the name by being ‘Baddoo.’
3. Nigerian musicians and their nicknames; Phyno ‘Ezege’
In 2016, Phyno shook the airwaves with his Del B-produced single Ezege. Since then, he’s come to be addressed by himself, fans and contemporaries as ‘Ezege.’
While coined from the Igbo word for ‘King’ with possible meanings that translate to ‘King of Kings’ or ‘Master of kings,’ the title Ezege isn’t actually an Igbo word but a street slang.
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Given the context with which Phyno used it in the song, its meaning further varies from being a superlative term for king to denoting supremacy as a boss.
4. Davido ‘OBO’
This is an abbreviation for the words ‘Omo Baba Olowo’ which means ‘child of a wealthy man’ and is not only associated with Davido but was popularised by him following the success of his breakout single Dami Duro.
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For Davido, this moniker is a cheeky, self-assured statement on his opulent background as the last son of a billionaire and business magnate. While it is a nickname that has also opened him up to abusive remarks, he has with it, gone ahead to build himself a reputation and an alias which in its complete glory goes ‘OBO Baddest.’
5. Tiwa Savage, ‘African Bad Gyal’, ‘Mama Jam Jam’
When Tiwa Savage broke out in 2013, there were even fewer women in the male-dominated music scene. In addition to this, there was no female artiste with her sultry brand and style and this easily culminated in her being referred to as the African Bad Gyal.
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Later on in 2015, the alluring singer gave birth to a son, Jamil Balogun, who like his mom, became a household name, following a Pampers’ advert that brought mother and child closer to Nigerians. Since then, Jamil became fondly referred to by not just his mother but fans of his mother, as ‘Jam Jam’ and Tiwa Savage ‘Mama Jam Jam.’
6. Nigerian musicians and their nicknames; Burna Boy ‘African Giant’ and ‘Odogwu’
In January 2019, Burna Boy had a Twitter outburst– an act he is popular on the app for– at Coachella’s representation of his name in small prints. For him, this was an act he thought unbefitting of his status as an ‘African Giant’ as he so described himself. That moment birthed the title of his next album which earned him his first Grammy nomination and that self-given title stuck ever since.
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Burna Boy next had yet another self-christening moment with the release of his first single of the year 2020 when he released ‘Odogwu’ which according to the lyric lines, he was called in the Eastern region of the country. The ceremony was then visually sealed in March with a video that showcased Igbo culture and depicted Burna Boy being sworn in as a leader of an Igbo clan, which is essentially the meaning of the title, Odogwu.
7. Timaya, Egberi Papa 1 of Bayelsa
In 2018, Timaya had featured a now off-the-scene Shayo Pisanta to make a declaration that he’d come into his fame with the record, I Don Blow. That was however not the only powerful declaration the proudly Bayelsan musician had made on the track as he’d also proclaimed himself the Egberi Papa One of Bayelsa.
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This self-given title was also not a minor one as according to music journalist Ralph Okobz, “Egberi Papa is an ex-militant from the Niger Delta region. There is no official statement regarding why Timaya began to bear the name, but it can be related to him asserting his musical dominance in the South-South region as at then. He more or less came up with the nickname to prove that he is the commander/pointman/Badoo of Bayelsa/Niger Delta when it comes to music.”
8. D’banj ‘Kokomaster’ and ‘Bangalee’
To trace D’banj’s origin as the Kokomaster, one has to go the very beginning of his remarkable career when he broke into the then-budding music industry with Tongolo. On the record, he’d promised to tell Nigerians and all lovers of Nigerian music about ‘the koko’ which loosely translates to ‘the big deal.’ Of course, D’banj was ‘the koko’. And as a result, soon afterward branded himself The Kokomaster.
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‘Bangalee’ had come much later when his career had lasted a good decade and more and he’d persisted with banger tracks.
9. Nigerian musicians and their nicknames; Teni ‘Makanaki’ ‘Sugar Mummy of Lagos’
Not many artistes are colourful in the way that Teni is. It is this colourful persona that has spilled over into her formulation of different aliases for herself.
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These names range from ‘Makanaki’ which is street slang for ‘Maestro,’ to ‘Sugar Mummy’ which was the title of her 2019 hit single. There’s also ‘Oba Orin’ which means ‘King of Melodies’ as well as her social media description; ‘Teni D Entertainer.’
10. Blaqbonez ‘Emeka the Stallion’
Thanks to American rapper, Megan Thee Stallion, the term ‘stallion’ has popularly come to signify an agile sexual partner. It is this persona Blaqbonez assumed on his BBC single where he was introduced to us as Emeka the Stallion before going on a sex-driven, self-assured rampage on his Sex Over Love album.
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It’s noteworthy to point out that the nicknames in this list are non-exhaustive as most artistes have several nicknames in different parts of the country and abroad. We would however love to know your favourite of all the Nigerian musician’s nicknames. Was it mentioned in the list or was it left out? Tell us all about it in the comments section.