July 21, 2012 by www.msn.com
Most African musicians find it easy maintaining their form after they land mainstream success, while others simply lose grit, and slowly but regrettably, sink into complete oblivion after working hard to get to the top.
In this part of the world, there is a wide, blurred gap between underground acts and those in the A-List category. The setting is such that unsigned acts struggle to even get their demos played on radio. Plus, there is an accompanying pain of staying irrelevant as a yet-to-be-signed act for a very long time.
Underground acts always watch from afar, almost with a show of life in the fast-lane and how-sweet-it-will-sound while still being irrelevant. Half of the time, they never get to experience real mainstream status and how well the big boys and girls live. It’s a tough environment out here.
The features of persevering and keeping hope alive as an underground act often include being stripped of everything you’ve put together over the years or being taken for granted by a not-so-qualified producer who doesn’t have the slightest clue what the business of music is all about.
So when, through an artist’s hard work and persistence, he is able to penetrate into mainstream appreciation, it is important that the hustle that led him to the Promised Land must be protected or at least revered. Some respect this creed, others don’t.
Nigerian music duo P Square is one of the continent’s finest pair of musicians, who are protecting the years of hard work that got them into the top core of the continent’s most respected acts.
Recently collaborating with Maybach Music boss Rick Ross and fellow African-American Akon on songs off their current album The Invasion to wild global reviews, there is certainly no stopping them, as they take the competition to their contemporaries.
The duo, made up of twin brothers Peter and Paul Okoye, is Nigeria’s biggest and most successful musical duo of the past decade, winning multiple awards and being nominated by a good number of award schemes domestically and internationally.
P Square’s consistency and sense of force over the years has endeared them to a very large following that is almost becoming cult-like. Across the continent, and in most parts of the world, they sell out shows, command a lot of local presence, and are able to sell thousands of records apart from the ready-made sales in Nigeria – a rare occurrence in the life of an African musician.
The Invasion, a solid album made up of beautifully-calculated and well-composed songs produced with a global audience in mind, has proven to be filled with well thought-out material.
Chop my Money, a fast, up-tempo song off the album, is already topping the charts in most parts of the continent. The song and P Square’s ratings were both refreshed by the collaboration of Senegalese-born American singer Akon on it, which led to a remix version.
The union with Akon was the result of the duo signing with his Konvict Muzik label in a deal that will see P Square and other Nigerian acts Wizkid and Tuface acting as representatives of Akon’s label in Africa. P Square thus joins other international acts like Brick and Lace, T-Pain, and Lady Gaga who are also part of the Konvict Muzik family.
And just when the collaboration with Akon became the talk of the town, a video of a remixed version of their ‘Beautiful Onyinye’ track – also from the current album – featuring hip hop heavyweight Rick Ross started making waves. Social media networks buzzed with intense blitz about how awesome the video was.
The idea to have Ross, who is considered a modern day hip hop class act, chant a few lines on a track that had its own beauty worked a lot of magic, and the video has remained one of the most watched online.
For most African acts, this is the farthest and highest you can go.
However, the duo still shows no signs of letting up. They are clearly interested in spreading their wings, and have also signed a strategic deal with Universal Music Group of South Africa in an agreement that will see the music company handle P Square’s digital and CD sales all over the world.
The deal reportedly “covers P-Square’s past albums and DVDs, including, Game Over, their 2007 album,” which sold millions of copies worldwide.
“It’s a great pleasure and excitement to announce that from today onwards P Square is signing to Universal music,” The New Age newspaper quotes executive director at Universal Music SA, Lindelani Mkhize as saying.
“This is a platform that will allow our fans to get our music as it is released, anywhere you are if P-Square says our album is coming out … you’ll be able to get it,” said Peter Okoye.
From very humble beginnings, P Square has gradually matured into the duo every investor interested in music as a commercial venture would want to work with.
Through a lot of hard work, the duo has almost become synonymous with success. Their 2009 album Danger, for instance, sold some one million copies in just eight days after official release. That was a huge figure.
P Square started off as dancers during their school days, where they formed a group that mainly mimicked the steps of other iconic dancers like Michael Jackson and MC Hammer.
The twin brothers later found music a worthy experiment, and got their breakthrough with the 2003 album Last Night. The album made P Square an instant household name in Nigeria, and in Africa. Other albums like Get Squared (2005), Game Over (2007), and Danger have followed.
A talented duo with very danceable songs to their credit – the type most of their fans have got used to – P Square’s line of music usually focuses on the more afro-centric kind that combines Western and African rhythms to create a fine tapestry of eclectic, soulful, yet hard-hitting drum patterns, chord progressions, and lyrics of sampled songs.
The end result usually is a carefully-created electronic hook or rhythm, with a feel that can only be awesome, cutting across various age, gender, and geographical boundaries, hence their huge popularity base across the world.
That they are popular across the continent is known to them, and something they are ready to hold on for a very long time to come.
“When you become one of the biggest acts (on) a continent, you get to have many challenges in keeping up with and not disappointing your fans, because all eyes are on you. We’re the greatest for some time now in Africa and we working very hard to keep it that way,” the group said in a recent interview.
The inspiration to do more in music they believe comes from the likes of the late Michael Jackson and R&B and hip hop superstar R. Kelly, who they say have shaped what they do now.
“Our biggest musical inspiration is the late Michael Jackson and R. Kelly. Jackson, because we started off imitating his moves and R. Kelly because he’s a great song writer, producer, and composer all in one, just like we are. And he knows how to follow music trends,” they told Apinke Magazine.
For years to come, P Square will surely be making good music, and will be selling platinum albums. After all, that has been their trump card.
Nigerians and Africans to a larger extent can be proud of this unique group, as they continue to raise the flag of the continent high.
And like always, if we don’t appreciate the dark side of a continent that already has too many unresolved issues, ‘stuff’ like what P Square is offering, can always cheer us up.
Rick Ross gives a good picture of what would become of P Square years from now: in a line in his verse on that Beautiful Onyinye song he said “turn up the music, we are bumping with P-Square, number one in the game, we’re going to be here … always making it…”.
That they will continue to make it, as Ross suggests, will surely happen, and, when it does, Peter and Paul will always cast their minds back to the very first talent competition they won in 2001, which got this whole craze off to a squared and well-figured-out start.