Whether its hot takes about new and old cats, or which artist really took afrobeats to the world, conversations about the Nigerian music scene seem to be limited to the Big Three (Wizkid, Davido and Burna Boy), OGs (2baba, Don Jazzy and P-Square) and the new streaming kids (Tems, Rema and Omah Lay). But this leaves several musicians in between, whose artistry has been just as influential on the scene.
One of these artistes is Kcee. With 20 years in the game, Kcee has had an enduring career that’s outlasted many of our faves from back in the day. While many other artistes from the early 2000s have struggled with keeping up with the times, Kcee has reinvented himself repeatedly, reappearing on the charts and in conversations you least expect him in.
With the increasing popularity of his latest hit, Ojapiano, we’ve decided to revisit his career and give flowers to a hitmaker who’s transcended multiple generations.
The Kennis Music Era
We can’t talk about Kcee without mentioning his KC Presh days. Kcee, alongside his friend Precious John, became famous as KC Presh in 2002, when they won the maiden edition of the reality singing series, Star Quest. The win got them a deal with Kennis Music — home to Eedris Abdulkareem, Tuface Idibia (now known as 2Baba) and Tony Tetuila — where they released their gospel-inspired debut album in 2003 and delivered jams like Sio Npo (Make a Noise), KC Presh Anthem and My Reign with Zaaki.
The Blingz Record Era
Stepping away from a major label can either make or break an artiste. So it’s safe to say audiences were shocked when KC Presh decided to leave Kennis Music, arguably the biggest record label at the time, to start their label, KP Records, in 2006.
Two years later, the duo re-launched the label as Blingz Record and finally released their first album post-Kennis Music, No Time, in 2008. The album was responsible for hits like Shokori Bobo, U Said U Love Me and Ginger Your Swagger with Timaya.
Just Kcee, no Presh: The solo hit maker
2011 was the year KC Presh decided to say goodbye to each other, after over a decade of hits. This breakup notably impacted the Nigerian music scene at the time. Just like Plantashun Boiz before them and P-Square after, the separation put a lot of pressure on the now solo artistes to deliver songs to rival their group efforts.
Kcee flourished under the pressure, returning with a string of hits that solidified his spot as a major player in the game. There was no escaping Limpopo in 2012, and his 2013 debut solo album, Take Over, introduced us to Pullover with Wizkid and Don Jazzy and the wildly underrated Give it to Me with Flavour.
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Batman Kcee, meet Robin Harrysong
Kcee might’ve been solo after leaving KC Presh, but that didn’t mean he was alone. Like Don Jazzy and D’Banj back then, and Olamide and Asake now, Kcee buddied up with Harrysong, his Star Music labelmate. They became inseparable, giving us bangers from 2014 to 2017, when they allegedly parted ways.
Kcee goes to church
The lockdown of 2020 changed us in many ways. Some of us considered opening a bakery after successfully baking one loaf of banana bread. But for Kcee, it meant going back to his gospel roots. In 2021, he collaborated with Okwesili Eze Group to take gospel music to the clubs with Cultural Praise. The song had everyone in the spirit and became such a cultural phenomenon that Kcee decided to tap into his inner Nathaniel Bassey with Volume Two to Volume Five, and a sequel, Cultural Vibes, at the end of that year.
What happens when you mix Amapiano with palm wine music?
Everyone is making Amapiano music now. From Wande Coal to Asake, an Amapiano hit is the music version of when Nigerian tech bros decide it’s time to grow dreadlocks, pierce their eyelids and paint their nails. How else will you know you’ve made it in 2023 if people can’t blow loud whistles to your song?
Kcee understood the Amapiano craze but took it a step further. Instead of making a random Amapiano song, he created a sound that merged the South African import with his signature Igbo instruments and melody, delivering one of the year’s biggest hits, Ojapiano.
With Ojapiano, Kcee has reinvented himself one more time, fitting comfortably into the current trend without losing the ethos of what made his music popular 20 years ago.