Dapper Music: The pipeline between the Street and the global stage

Dapper Music: The pipeline between the Street and the global stage

Seyi Vibez and Shallipopi both appeared on the fast-rising list and the list is not only what they share in common.

Seyi Vibez is a Street Hop act delivering a modern take on Apala which he blends with Hip Hop, White garment-styled gospel music, and a sprinkling of his Islamic background. Likewise, Shallipopi is a Street-Hop act who combines hip-hop with his Benin heritage to create a captivating fusion. Together with their indigenous leanings, their music captures the tales of inner-city realities.

Aside from being Street acts, Shallipopi and Seyi Vibez both share the same label which is Dapper Music, a company that is playing a vital role in shaping Street music and giving street acts a voice.

“The Trenches Diddy” is a name used to describe Damilola Akinwunmi AKA Dapper Dam who is the founder and CEO of Dapper Music. The name was meant to capture his label’s success in servicing Street acts by helping them get their music to a larger audience. The comparison to American Hip Hop mogul SeanDiddyCombs quite effectively captures Dapper’s role in the Nigerian music industry.

Amidst Afrobeats’ record commercial peak, Street music continues to play a central role in documenting the realities of the inner city areas through hit records that offer a glimpse of the diversity that abound in Nigerian music. And when the subject of street music in the era of “Afrobeats to the world” is broached, the conversation cannot be complete without discussing the role of Dapper Music.

Before Dapper Music, Nigerian street music has always found its way to the mainstream audience either through CDs, Blogs, DJ mixes, clubs, and paltry airplay since the music is ordinarily considered not radio friendly. The advent of music streaming and its growing popularity in the mid-2010s meant that street acts had to find ways to deploy the streaming platforms and with most distribution companies focused on servicing the mainstream Pop and Hip Hop market, Dapper appeared to be the pipeline that connects street acts to digital streaming platforms.

According to its founder Damilola Akinwunmi, his company never set out to solely focus on servicing street acts. The company’s approach was centered around capitalizing on available opportunities and maintaining an approach to partner up with talented acts with the potential to achieve stardom. And while Dapper Music offered its services to top-notch mainstream acts, it’s the Street acts that form a volume of its clientele and it’s their success that earns the label a sort of Street credibility only few can manage.

In 2020, Dapper distributed Rexxie‘s ‘Ko Por Ke’. The single would take over speakers around the country and shoot Rexxie and Mohbad to huge mainstream success. From a business perspective, ‘KPK’s’ success was another high point for the digital commerciality of Street acts.

Since then, Dapper Music has distributed music for numerous Street acts, some of whom have enjoyed digital success that broke them into the mainstream urban listener base. The success recorded with Rexxie has been replicated with TI Blaze, Balloranking, Seyi Vibez, and Shallipopi.

Undoubtedly, Seyi Vibez‘s mainstream ascension following the release of his 2022 hit single ‘Chance’ makes him Dapper’s music most successful Street act. Since arresting mainstream attention in 2022, Seyi Vibez has released four projects (3 albums and 1 EP) while being chaperoned to superstar status by Dapper Music. He has won a Headies Award for Best Street Act and Headlined his sold-out show O2 Brixton Arena both of which are big wins for Dapper Music.

And just while some listeners might be tempted to think Seyi Vibez’s success was a one-off aided by some sonic similarity to the superstar Asake whose music was defining the mainstream, Dapper Music made it back-to-back success with the ascension of Shallipopi who is one of the major breakout stars of 2023.

After overseeing the mainstream success of Street acts based in the South West, Dapper Music is showcasing the multiplicity that exists in Nigerian street music through the success of the Bini-born Shallipopi whose music highlights the inner city realities of the South-South.

Since its establishment in 2018, Dapper Music has aided the success of Street acts far above any other label in Nigerian music.

With its subsidiaries that include a digital, music, entertainment, film, Live event, and publishing arm, the company is best positioned to offer career-changing services to artists who ordinarily wouldn’t have access to them.

Although Dapper Music offers robust services of all kinds to talented artists, its success with street acts has earned it respect and admiration as a street-focused label albeit this is a tag that doesn’t comprehensively capture the company’s outlook.

The future of Street music in Afrobeats is positive. Following Shallipopi’s success, it’s likely that there will be more acts emerging from other parts of the country that will light up the scene through an infusion of their cultural diversity and unique experiences. And with more funding from Afrobeats’ international success, more labels might be willing to take the risk to explore other creative hubs outside Lagos. Dapper Music can be expected to continue to be a central figure as it all unfolds.

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