PHYNO — The evolution of a Playmaker
‘For those that never saw Phyno coming in this industry, for those that doubted him because they had never seen anything like him before, for all the accolades and side boos, for all the awards and lack of nominations, nothing matters to Phyno as long as he continues to unveil how unique he is with every single‘
Six years ago, it was one of those busy evenings where I had to beat the traffic to see Jude Engees, the manager of P-Square in their home. As I made it through the stairs to the upper floor to Jude’s room, I opened the door and I saw Phyno sitting in one corner of the room. I could not mistake him for anyone despite the fact that it was my first time of seeing him. I had heard so much about him from Illbliss, Mr. Raw and the duo of P-square. So much had been said of how prolific and impactful he was as a music producer and how unique he is as an artiste. We exchanged compliments and contacts. What I saw in his eyes that day was a guy equipped and hungry for stardom; there’s so much more to him than meets the eyes. He’s that guy that has been behind the production of some of the major hit songs that have rocked the airwaves at one point or the other. He’s that puppet master and playmaker that continues to evolve.
Less than few months after, in October 2011, veteran lyricist ILLBLISS (aka DAT IBO BOY) returned with a brand new song, a banger titled ‘ANAM ACHIKWANU’ (You know I’m not laughing) in Igbo. He unleashed Phyno who was featured on the song on the industry like a raging tornado. Never had the industry had someone drop rap verses in Igbo dialect with so much precision, creativity and arrogance. It was like every gospel preached by Mr. Raw and Illbliss about sticking to your roots came to light in one song. The success of that song broke down language barriers more than ever done before in the music industry. Google immediately got more engaged with the brand Phyno; everyone was searching to know who the new guy was. The few pundits who are sound were saying this guy is the real deal while the doubting Thomases said he wouldn’t stand the test of time. Depending on what side of the line you are, the industry was only judging by what they had seen up to a point, ignorant of the fact that Phyno was simply a playmaker that continued to evolve. The producer was gradually evolving to unveil the performing musician in him. The lyricist in him was unleashed but that was only the tip of the iceberg. All we had heard and seen so far is that the guy featured in ‘Anam Achikwanu’. Phyno does not just understand the rudiments of music production but he also has knowledge of all the intricacies of the business. He proved that in September 2012, when he teamed up with one of the rising music forces from the west in the person of Olamide. He dropped the single ‘Ghost Mode’ and the music industry has never remained the same since then. Like a politician that knows he needs to expand his base by appealing to votes from the west to stand a chance to win the presidency, Phyno’s Ghost Mode conquered the west, thus expanding his base from the east to the south and north west. With that single, the language barrier in the industry was pulled down significantly like the wall of Jericho. Every primetime on radio and TV needed a bit of Ghost Mode to stay relevant with the audience. The evolution of Phyno is now a cover worthy editorial but still, more than a few in the media industry did not have the guts to go all way out to do a cover story until Mystreetz magazine did the cover titled PhynoThesis. Much like Barcelona FC, while the Messi will always get the attention, playmakers like Xavi and Inesta represents the oil that keeps the engine running. The impact of Phyno in the Nigerian music industry is even more than the impact of the Xavis of the world of football. He was writing his own story never read before.
With every award that came in with the success of the single Ghost Mode like the 2012 Headies ‘Best Collaboration’ and 2013 ‘Best collaboration’ at the Nigerian Entertainment Awards, nothing was stopping Phyno from releasing the single that became a game changer: ‘Man of The Year’ (Obago)’ in March 2013. Just like the single’s name, he became the man of the year; his critics now his cheerleaders. The next single ‘Parcel’ (the third single off the No Guts No Glory album), released 11th of October, 2013, received tremendous applause. The WizzyPro produced ‘O Set’ featuring P-square released March 4th, 2014, instantly became another regional success. Like a Roman army lord, every indication pointed to the fact that Phyno was conquering regions in a way that had never been recorded for an artiste. No one saw it coming. It wasn’t until he released ‘Alobam’ on the 22nd of May, 2014, that his national acclaim was finally certified. He got everyone buzzing not just for the fact that the song became a national anthem, the release of the Alobam T-shirts franchise swept the industry off her feet. The brand was so successful, demand exceeded supply and pirates jumped on that loophole to make millions off it. His debut album ‘No Guts No Glory’ dropped in 2014 and lived up to expectations. With Star Music The Trek, he toured regions his peers could only dream of. The Phyno brand became so synonymous with urban success, it led to his endorsement as a brand ambassador with Guinness in the 2014 Made of Black Campaign. But while he has ticked all the boxes of what a successful Nigerian artiste is, while everyone couldn’t see him beyond the already made rap artiste, Phyno knew his brand was still evolving. The playmaker in him is not ready to be put in a box. In 2015, Phyno teamed up with Olamide to release the album titled 2 Kings. In an industry filled with ego and pride, Phyno and his fellow comrade deliver on this album. Arguably they are the first artistes to do such.
From 2014 when he released his last album till date, the Phyno brand has continued to metamorphose beyond what has ever been recorded by an artiste. It’s strange but we have never recorded a dull quarter with him. The so-called indigenous Igbo rap phenomenon is proving to the industry that he should be respected first as a musician before you even hail him as a Rap god. Phyno has put his credentials as a musician to the test by dropping songs from other genres of music. He delivered ‘Connect’ from the genre of music known, as ‘Gyration’ and it became a hit. He made a romance with Afro-beat with the single ‘E Sure For Me’ and the verdict was excellent. From the Aria aria music genre, he delivered ‘Fada Fada’, one of the most successful songs of 2016. As an artiste that is never satisfied, he stunned the industry with a Highlife masterpiece ‘Pino Pino’. Whichever way you look at it, Phyno is proving to be the playmaker in this industry. He’s among the elite calibre of artistes that continue to give us a variety of songs to sing along to at concerts and dance to at nightclubs. In an industry crippled by stereotypes, Phyno is a breath of fresh air. He’s an enigma. Before the spotlight shone on him in the music industry, he had cooked beats and done productions for artistes like Timaya and Bracket to name a few. Some of his successful singles that almost went under the radar include ‘Shout’ and ‘Multiply’ featuring MI, Timaya, Flavour and Mr. Raw. Two years after his debut album, in the last quarter of 2016, Phyno came back with a sophomore album titled The Play Maker. Just like the album title, the story of Phyno as a playmaker in the Nigeria music industry will continue to unfold. This twenty-track album is another chapter in the book called Phyno. The intrigues and suspense that comes with this artiste will continue to certify him as one of the most interesting artistes of this generation. . I hail The Play Maker.
Phynofest 2016 was a vindication that Phyno is in a league of his own. They said Casper Nyovest filled up a whole stadium in South Africa but Phyno’s Phynofest2016 went further to break that record. The idea of the annual show was to shutdown the stadium popularly called The Cathedral, instead, he went further and shutdown the entire city of Enugu on the 20th of November 2016.
It also never came as a surprise as his song Fada fada was rated as the number one top 20 songs on MTV in 2016.
IN CASE YOU DON’T KNOW THE MAN PHYNO:
Azubuike Chibuzo Nelson was born and raised in Enugu State. His stage name Phyno, which is derived from the word phenomenal, was the nickname given to him by one of his high school friends named Emeka. Phyno developed an interest for music production during his secondary school days. He initially wanted to become a pilot, but was told that he could be a doctor. Throughout high school, he learned to play the drums and piano. He also learned to create his own rendition of every recording he heard. He studied Public Administration at the Institute of Management and Technology in Enugu, and started profiting from music during his second year at IMT. Phyno told Ifeoma Onoye that Mr. Raw is one of the few people he looks up to. Phyno started rapping in 2010 and relocated to Lagos to continue his music career.
Culled from Mystreetz Magazine
Story by – Sesan Adeniji
Cover Photography – Paul Ukonu
Cover Graphics – @trans4mazfotography