A young-world revolution is unfolding before our eyes, rupturing the idea that only experience can change the world. Increasingly, young people are participating actively in all aspects of human life, and changing the way we think, look and do what we do.
At YNaija, we know these stars from across Nigeria – the decision-makers, changemakers, and influencers breaking boundaries in Nigeria; and we’ve made it our duty annually, to celebrate them over the last nine years. In delivering this year’s edition, we have worked with an eminent jury to review and ensure it remains truly ‘powerful.’
‘Legendary’ and ‘consistent’ are some of the superlatives used to describe multi-platinum-selling musician Wizkid. Add ‘impactful,’ as his influence transcends the music scene. ‘The Wizkid effect’ has added more sauce to the Afropop conversation, globally, and there’s no sighted end to his influence off and on the music scene. When he tweets ‘Album up, August 24,’ the entertainment industry waits for it.
Wizkid became the first Afrobeat artist to appear in the 2018 Guinness World Records for being on the ‘One Dance’ song. His collaboration with Beyoncé on the ‘Brown Skin Girl’ song drove conversations in and out of Nigeria, and he has gone on to have other global-level collaborations.
Constantly out of Nigeria for one concert or the other, Wizkid sells out concert halls abroad and cause raised eyebrows on the international scene. This, no doubt, opens up opportunities for other artists in the industry, and you wonder how he does what he does effortlessly.
Call him the influencer too, with a fanbase so loyal, he is saintly in their eyes. ‘We just want to hear him sing,’ they might say. Subconsciously, they take him as a role model.
David Adedeji Adeleke
Davido’s now quiet dive into the political scene is no news and we won’t be surprised if he decides to declare his intention to run for a top office in 2023. But that’s not where he exactly has ‘power,’ and when he recently announced his vacation from social media, there was a ‘we will miss you’ national anthem released for him. Indeed, his numerous awards don’t quite do justice to the magnificent brand he has built for himself over the last 10 years.
As far as influence goes, Davido is the only person who can boast of going toe-to-toe with Wizkid. His vibe is contagious, his energy a palpable force his fans want to relate with. Back in January 2019, Davido sold out The O2 Arena in London, becoming the first solo African artist to do so. It takes more than a singer to do that. He has consistently shown personal will for impact while entertaining.
Sony Music celebrated ‘Africa Month’ with Davido as he announced ‘Fall’ is Gold in US and Canada, dropped an ‘Africa Month’ playlists with AppleMusic and is on the cover of this month’s @Billboard celebrating African artists.
His song ‘Fall’ was certified RIAA gold on May 29 and already heading for Platinum.
Teni came into limelight in 2018 and won Rookie of the Year in that same year. Since then, she has remained the entertainer she likes to be called and exerts a happy vibe that warms the heart and endears her to fans of all ages. 2019 is her best year yet, as she released hit songs that still bless the airwaves.
As the younger sister of Afrohouse sensation Niniola Apata, Teni has had to forge her own path, but she has not only managed this, she has excelled, becoming one of the few female artists to challenge gendered stereotypes for female musicians and genuinely crossover into global markets.
Teni’s personal philosophies are just as intriguing as her powerful music, she is an advocate for self-acceptance, radiates joy in her music and her interactions with others. She is only at the beginning of her career, but with a coveted Next Rated Headies Award and dozens of other accolades, the entertainer has the charisma and the fanbase to go all the way.
Josh Alfred Chibuike
If you never ‘added your voice’ to the #DontLeaveMe challenge either as an actor, a spectator or a cinematographer, you probably just came from Mars; you are welcome.
This now global challenge was made possible by the unique personality of Josh2funny who has been on the comedy scene for longer than you will realise. He came to the limelight in 2016 when he featured in the Nigerian action-comedy; The Interview. Since then, Josh2Funny has honed his comedic timing, creating challenges and characters that satirise Nigeria’s obsession with religion, our unhealthy relationship with demagogues and our penchant to proselytize at the expense of being understood.
It helps that Josh2funny is willing to go where ever the comedy needs him to go. His costume, the skits all come together in one connected web of poetry and the beautiful messages therein are passed with such finesse.
The Nigerian stand-up comedian – and actor – known for creating original skits with more than ten characters portrays a typical Igbo woman with a core traditional accent.
Damini Ebunoluwa Ogulu Rex
The Grammy-nominated Burna Boy has as many friends as ‘not friends,’ but who does not like some controversy? ‘Normal is boring’, they say.
He is known to speak out when he sees supposed injustice and initiates conversations in the process. His influence, therefore, spreads beyond the music scene. When he speaks, we have conversations around culture, music, relationships, family, politics, etc.
In 2019, he won Best International Act at the 2019 BET Awards and was announced as an Apple Music Up Next artist. His fourth studio album African Giant was released in July 2019 and won Album of the Year at the 2019 at the All Africa Music Awards and was nominated for Best World Music Album at the 62nd Annual Grammy Awards.
In June 2020, for the second consecutive time, he won the BET Best International Act.
Interestingly, he is in a world of his own and is hardly compared to anyone else in the industry, yet has a fan base that wants to see him around for longer than he might want to be.
Asides being a great artist, Mr Eazi is doing a lot of great work creating music incubation hubs for emerging artists in Africa, and raising millions of funds to drive his various tech innovations.
Mr Eazi launched emPawa in 2018 with the goal of investing in promising artists early so they could develop self-sustaining careers. “He always told us the story of the $1,000 investment someone made in his career and how that made a huge difference,” E Kelly, a producer and close collaborator told Rolling Stone in 2019. “If he can give other artists a good kickstart, they can find their feet from then on.” The strategy seemed to work for singers like Joeboy and J. Derobie, who scored hits last year after connecting with emPawa. Initially, Mr. Eazi helped a pool of 100 artists in Africa with $3,000 grants. The money was meant to cover the cost of a music video.
The superstar and music executive has announced the formation of the Africa Music Fund (AMF), a financial vehicle which will invest in African talent. The fund is raising $20 million in its initial investment round, according to a press release announcing the fund. 88mph, a seed fund and accelerator which invests in mobile/web-based startups targeting Africa, has joined as lead investor.
In order of public recognition, only a few persons would put Nollywood, Nigeria’s growing film industry on par with its peers, Yollywood and Kannywood. But that is only because they underestimate the niche and loyal audiences Nigeria’s indigenous film industries serve. Nigeria is a country with many talents and powerful men and women changing the status quo. Adam Zango is one such people.
Known professionally as Usher or Gwaska, Adam’s musical career started from secondary school and he entered the Hausa film industry in 2001 as a music composer. He advantageously started his acting profession from there and appeared in over 100 Hausa movies – a fast-growing industry that now boasts presence on the international scene.
He has been described as one of the most influential Hausa actors of all time. Why not? Kannywood surely wants this one around for a long time.
Laolu Senbanjo’s life has changed quite a lot in a little amount of time. A decade ago, he worked as the Senior Legal Officer for Nigeria’s National Human Rights Commission(NHRC). Now, he’s a New York City-based artist, whose “Afromysterics” style has appeared on everything from Nike shoes to television screens worldwide.
Laolu is a world music artist who draws influences from Fela Kuti, Sade (singer), Bob Marley, and King Sunny Adé. His musical style is deeply rooted in the traditions of Afrobeat and High Life, mixed with Afro-Soul and Reggae. Senbanjo blends singing in his native Yoruba language and often translates Yoruba folk songs, proverbs and his oriki into English.
Florence Ifeoluwa Otedola
Known popularly as DJ Cuppy, the daughter of Nigerian billionaire does more than music. In July 2018, she launched the Cuppy Foundation and in November 2019, the foundation organised the Gold Gala and raised over N5 billion for the Save the Children initiative.
She is a disc jockey, a producer and Ambassador for Save the Children UK – an organisation present in over 100 countries including the UK, that helps children stay safe, healthy and learning. They lead the way in tackling big problems like pneumonia, hunger and protecting children in war while ensuring each child’s unique needs are cared for.
DJ Cuppy is, indeed, an influential musician who has been giving back to the society through her foundation and philanthropic acts.
Kemi has become a voice more people want to listen to. She made more common, the cinema-standard film trend and continues to tell stories in amazing ways. She is a filmmaker, media entrepreneur and music video director.
If you remember ‘The Wedding Party I & II’, ‘King of Boys’, and some other award-winning films she directed, you will remember how the stories led conversations for weeks; and still continue to. When she announced a possible ‘King of Boys II’, social media gave it a yes.
She has numerous awards to her name – deservedly so – and is a voice to reckon with in Nigeria’s entertainment industry. Her charming and endearing personality attracts people to her. The multi-talented Kemi has been able to build a niche for herself. Watch out for this one.
Beverly Ifunaya Bassey
The British-born Nigerian actress is a multiple award-winning actress and a staunch advocate, inspiring young girls to stop bleaching their skin and embrace themselves – their skin colour.
She began acting at the age of 17 and studied film-making at Roehampton University, London. In 2011, she was named the “fastest rising actress” in the City People Entertainment Awards in Nigeria and has gone on to appear in countless award-winning films, including the popular TV series – Tinsel.
To explore colourism in Africa, Beverly produced a documentary on Netflix titled “Skin.” – an hour-long documentary, that compiles the stories of Black women in Nigeria who have been treated differently for having dark skin. They speak openly about the pressures of being defined by their skin colour.
Beverly said that in her early 20s, she began to work on regaining her self-confidence by learning to love herself and launching an anti-bullying campaign. “I want to inspire young people to love themselves. And I decide to use my documentary, ‘Skin,’ because I didn’t want to restrict my message to a small community. I knew it was important to get the message further,” she said, according to the BBC.
Hadiza Aliyu also known as Hadiza Gabon is a Nigerian professional Actress and filmmaker, she acts in both Hausa and English movies.
In 2016, Hadiza founded a charitable organisation called HAG Foundation, aimed at improving the lives of ordinary people by way of providing help in the educational and healthcare sectors as well as food security.
She became one of the first actresses in the history of Kannywood to have offered such a humanitarian help and in 2019, she was honoured by the Hausa Students Association of Nigeria (BUK) for her widespread philanthropy.
Rahama is a Nigerian actress, filmmaker, and singer. Born and raised in Kaduna, Rahama performed in dancing competitions as a child and during her school years. She rose to fame in late 2013 after joining the Kannywood movie industry with her first movie, Gani ga Wane.
By 2016, she was recognised as the ‘Face of Kannywood.’ In 2017, she formed a production company named Sadau Pictures where she produced her first movie, Rariya starring Ali Nuhu, Sani Musa Danja, among others. She returned to acting, playing the career teacher in MTV Shuga.
In 2019, Rahama was one of returning actors for the new series, ‘Choices’ which included Timini Egbuson, Yakubu Mohammed, Uzoamaka Aniunoh and Ruby Akabueze.
In addition to acting, Rahama participates in charity work and has visited an Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) camp to help less privileged people. Through Ray of Hope, she aimed to feed 500 people in a Ramadan feeding program to reach less privileged people.
Ikorodu Bois probably influences culture more than we imagine. They consistently churn out imitation videos – attempting to copy Hollywood movies – and you realise people have a conversation on their creativity and the ideas that you could do the unimaginable without recourse to age.
The group began in 2017 when Babatunde Sanni decided to share their skills to the world via social media. In an interview with CNN, Sanni said, “I felt like ‘these things we are doing in our house — why don’t we start putting them online?’”. “Our house is like a comedy house — we play too much,” Babatunde Sanni told CNN.
The group make use of household items to depict top gears used in movies. They also use the local wheelbarrow to replicate luxury cars.
In April 2020, US actor and rapper, Will Smith shared a clip of the Ikorodu Bois ‘Bad Boys Forever’ on his Instagram page with the caption “This is GENIUS @ikorodu_bois!!”.
Ikorodu Bois have also done replica videos of DJ Cuppy, Davido, American Actor and WWE star Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Roddy Rich, Justin Bieber, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari and did a farewell replica of NBA Star, Kobe Bryant shortly after his death.
After 17 years in the movie industry, Toyin exerts a reputation for being a celebrity that’s not necessarily flamboyant. She has insisted that though her husband loves fashion, she is not inclined towards paying too much attention to it. She says she just wants to look good.
Beyond acting; Toyin continues to show concern for the plight of poor Nigerians, does outreaches as much as she can. During the lockdown, Toyin became a mother of some sort, and apart from distributing nose masks and sanitisers, she gave out food items and helped distribute same to cushion the effects of the pandemic.
Since she debuted in the industry in 2003, Toyin has not looked back in her bid to rule the screen. She’s one actress who is good at what she is doing. The actress made headlines in 2018 when her second cinema movie ‘Ghost and The Tout’ a collaboration between her outfit and Samuel Olatunji’s Big Sam Media reportedly shattered existing box office records.
What if we counted other films she has produced?