Olamide joins forces with US-based company to bring more Nigerian music to

Unless you are listening to one of the nine albums he’s released since 2011, you won’t hear much from Olamide. The 32-year-old recording artist, born Olamide Gbenga Adedeji in Bariga, Nigeria, doesn’t do many interviews and told CNN that even before the pandemic he had cut down on his public performances.

But the man also known as Baddo has a career that speaks for itself. Aside from a catalogue that racks up millions of streams and views, he has a record label that has been a springboard for several fellow music stars from Nigeria. In 2020 he signed a deal with US-based music company Empire to take what he has done to new global levels. CNN recently spoke with him at Empire’s headquarters in San Francisco.

Nigerian recording artists Olamide (front, far right) and Fireboy DML (back, second fom right) with Empire CEO Ghazi Shami (center) and members of the YBNL/Empire team at Empire's headquarters in San Francisco.

The following interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.

CNN: You decided to start your own label pretty early in your career. What gave you that mindset?

Olamide: There were no doors opening up. So, I had to set up my own building and my own door. I started getting a little change from doing gigs and I just thought I might as well just stack up this money and build my own thing instead of flexing and balling with this money. Let me grind now and smile later, you know?

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Olamide: I signed the likes of Adekunle Gold, Chinko Ekun, Viktoh, Lil Kesh and now Fireboy DML. I love music and I love to see people that can actually do music very well being heard.

CNN: You’ve signed artists who were relatively unknown but then became successful. What’s the key to doing that?

Olamide: I paint pictures a lot in my head so I could see beyond the raw form of these guys.

CNN: Have you ever guessed wrong?

Olamide: Yeah, it’s very difficult to make some people see the potential that they’ve got sometimes. Every now and then I battle with that though … I battle with trying to convince most of these guys to see lots more in themselves like I could.

CNN: Is there a difference between Olamide the artist and Olamide the label executive?

Olamide: When I’m in my CEO mode, like I don’t joke man. And they know, like business is business, we have to get it right. It’s either we go all in or don’t do it at all, you hear me? People might not really know how business-minded Olamide is. Because I don’t really talk too much.

CNN: So let’s talk about the Empire deal that you signed in 2020.

Olamide: The offer was right and it’s the type of deal that gives YBNL [Olamide’s record label] the room to also coexist without losing our identity. It’s a joint venture, so it’s not just Empire owning YBNL or owning Olamide’s brand and all that. So, it’s like we are coming together as two different entities to come together as one.

CNN: Your music does well, if not better than a lot of the other big names out of Nigeria, but you seem to get less press. Do you think you deserve more or do you just purposely like to stay under the radar?

Olamide: What’s key for me is pushing my brand to the extreme and getting the paper [money] right. So, anything else that comes after that is extra. If I see any opportunity to push my brand to the extreme, I would definitely do that, and (any) opportunity to make more paper, I will definitely do that. But blow my trumpet? Nah, that’s not me.

It’s business and there’s something called healthy competition and all that – but my only competition in life is the man I was yesterday. So, I don’t really bother (myself) about who I’m better than, or who’s better than me. I’m more bothered about if I can be way better than I was yesterday. That’s the most important thing for me