The words, ‘Legend’, ‘Greatest of all Time (G.O.A.T)’, ‘Classic’ have edged its way as not just the most used but also most trivialised ones on the lips of music lovers and this time, the narrative being pushed is that 2face Idibia is the greatest Nigerian artist of all time.
Innocent Ujah Idibia, popularly known as 2face Idibia or 2baba is the man of the people, who have been there, done that and seen it all.
From being identified as a leading member of the popular boy group, Plantashun Boiz, to being the cat with nine lives after more than one near-death encounter, his shot at politics and activism and then his impressive music catalogue.
There is no doubt that 2face is a musical genius that has constantly reinvented himself to remain relevant 18 years after he first popped up on the scene with the Plantashun Boiz group album, Body and Soul in 2000, and 14 years after his debut solo effort, Face 2 Face.
Rapper Falz was recently asked at an event if he would be willing to record a song with 2face, to this Falz replied;
”Of course, I will, it was supposed to have even happened and I will make sure it does.
Then he goes on, ”See 2face is one of the people I respect the most in this industry, I doubt many artists of my own generation can achieve what he has done, before I released my first music, we have been listening to 2face and this is 2018, he is still here making hits.”
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This view by Falz is one that a number of the Nigerian music audience hold, with many even regarding him as Nigeria’s greatest artist of all time, a claim that if properly scrutinized holds a fair level of merit.
There is no doubt that 2face Idibia is one of the names who will get some form of credit for the feats enjoyed today by the likes of Wizkid and Davido, who seem to have finally cracked the global morse code and stamped their name fully on the international scene.
Arguably, his most memorable song, ‘African Queen’ is evergreen and is largely responsible for the ground-breaking successes he has achieved on the global stage.
When MTV Base Africa premiered in 2005, it was 2face’s ‘African Queen’ video that was used to launch the station, the song also featured as a soundtrack on the 2006 American romantic comedy movie, Phat Girlz.
2face alongside D’banj were also the first winners of the BET Best International Act category in 2011, as well as numerous other awards to his name.
He has also worked with some of the biggest international artists during different points of their careers like Beenie Man (Nfana Ibaga Remix), R Kelly (Flex and Hands Across The World), T-Pain (Rainbow Remix) as well as six studio albums with at least 2 arguably certified as classics.
For the rest of his career, 2face has been able to drop projects that even if not stellar, have somehow kept his name in the conversation, with a number of hits always making him prominent on the scene and concert line-ups.
He is not just an artist who makes a commercial hit record, 2face is also regarded as one of the few whose music bears lyrical substance and a key inspiration to the generation of young talents who returned home to pursue a career in music, simply because he made a success out of it and showed all that it could be very lucrative.
2face is a creator, who also understands when he needs to adapt to trending styles.
In the era of the Pon Pon vibe, a sound that infuses Ghanaian synths into contemporary Nigerian sound, 2face in his own way did ‘Gaga Shuffle’, which became a huge record.
His recent single, ‘Amaka’ is fast becoming a fans favourite, as the 42-year-old continues to maintain a place on the scene at a time when artists of his generation have either quit making music or barely get any buzz with their songs.
But has he done enough to be called the greatest?
On the surface, it looks like its clear-cut as 2face’s discography not only packs commercial and critical hit songs, it has also influenced at several periods a number of younger pop talents and their style of music.
But like it happens in the football circle, when names like Ronaldo and Messi are constantly debated as the greatest to ever do it, most of these comparisons and hyper conclusions come from fans who are only swayed by things they have seen and not bothered about precedents that have been set.
But as of today, stripped of emotions and sentiments, there is no way 2face Idibia can be regarded as the greatest Nigerian artist of all time.
If there is one name that deserves to be bestowed with such esteemed honour, then it should be Fela Anikulapo Kuti.
Placing any artist over a Fela Anikulapo Kuti on the Nigerian music stage is one kite that has holes even before being cast in the air, as 21 years after his death, a period that 2face has had his career span, it is with the help of a genre that he piloted, Afrobeat, that every young artist of African descent now associate with to break the international ceiling.
Fela Anikulapo Kuti single-handedly championed a genre, that has now been passed on for many generations, Fela’s lyrics are timeless and with every passing day, his words are re-echoed on social media, in the buses, during conversations and social dialogues.
His influence goes beyond just the music, as Fela also permeated the cultural landscape, with his dance moves, costumes, the signature raising of his fists and trademark bants continuously replicated both on the streets and on stage.
Fela enjoys a cult following like no other, such that the African Shrine, set up as his performance venue became a sort of religious home for his legions of followers.
Those who were privileged to watch Fela on stage call him the ‘greatest performer of his generation’, his music has been vastly sampled by both indigenous and international artists.
He alongside members of his Egypt 70 band toured across various continents including performing at the over 80,000 capacity Giants Stadium in New Jersey in 1986 alongside Bono and Carlos Santana as part of the Amnesty International concert, while his music is today replicated on the broadway.
On both the activist and the artistic side, Fela stands heads and shoulders above any name and trying to assess his huge legacy will be undone in a generation where history classes don’t feature strongly on the syllabus any longer.
2face is, without doubt, one of the greatest musical talents of his generation, a once-in-a-lifetime star and a genius in the midst of men, we pay him his due respect and his name dangles in the conversation of who the greatest is, but that is where it ends, and maybe with time, he will eventually edge his name higher.
To some Fela Anikulapo Kuti was a mystery, to others, he was a creative genius, but almost 21 years after his death, time has cemented his legacy as the greatest Nigerian artist of all time and the gap is not even close.