Ruger has been talented from the jump. The self-titled afro-dancehall artist didn’t break into the mainstream until his 2021 single, Bounce, took off few months after his debut. But he only had to put out song covers on IG for nine months before he was discovered in 2019. Since then, he’s gone on to make hits, creating a unique spot for himself among peers.
As we prepare for his forthcoming debut album, RU THE WORLD, let’s dive into his musical journey.
When Michael Adebayo Olayinka began his journey to becoming a recording and performing artist, he was sure he’d make hits. But he didn’t know he’d have to be Ruger — a highly fatal firearm used at close range — first. The Nigerian artist FKA Mikky Drey got his current name because of his habit of making gun fingers in the studio. By 2019, afrobeats had another bad boy on its hands, with a name-change, pink-dyed hair and an eyepatch reminiscent of Baba Fryo.
After waiting three years for a university admission, Ruger got serious with his music while learning to repair phones at the popular Computer Village in Lagos. In November 2019, former Mavin artist, D’Prince, saw his content on IG and has since put him under his wings, talent management and music label.
Throughout the 2020 lockdown, Ruger recorded across music studios and hotel rooms and underwent some artist development. And in January 2021, Jonzing World released One Shirt on which Ruger led the first verse and chorus. This afropop song about humble beginnings and disappointments was his official musical introduction, a showcase of the youngster’s head for captivating lyricism and vocals. D’Prince put down gems and Rema delivered a beautiful verse, but Ruger carried the song on his back. He didn’t even need anybody else on the song.
A proper introduction came with a self-titled single, Ruger. Ru Boy, as he’s fondly called by fans, glided over the African percussion fused with 808 drum kicks, likening his arrival in the industry to the deadly coronavirus. The track opened his EP, titled PANDEMIC, a month later. On this EP, Ruger swam in and out of different sounds from the second track to the sixth, including uptempo afropop (Monalisa, Yekpa) and dancehall (Bow and Bounce). He sang exclusively to women, showing off his patois, pun strength, good-boy-gone-bad charisma and hypersexuality.
PANDEMIC came out to mild reception and didn’t cut deep into the mainstream until Bounce took on a life of its own and turned into one of the biggest songs of 2021. It went on to debut no. 39 on TurnTable’s Top 50 Chart and number two on the Apple Music Top Afrobeats Songs, giving Ruger his first global recognition, after which he linked with Jamaican artist, Projexx, on the mid-tempo dancehall Sidepiece remix.
Ruger closed 2021 out with the release of The Second Wave (four-track EP) in November, around the time COVID-19 made a comeback. On Champion, Ruger accepts his newfound stardom, expressing this through an afropop flavour similar to his early One Shirt jam. Useless has a dancehall-galala vibe that’ll get even Daddy Showkey up from his seat, throwing the popular “konto” dance.
He put the TikTok-friendly closing tracks, Snapchat and Dior, with the smash hit Girlfriend, WeWe and Warning — on which he mentioned his influences, like Lucky Dube, 2Baba and the late Sound Sultan — on a deluxe album in June 2022. This move gave Dior its time in the sun as it became a hit. At this point, Ruger had morphed into a full-blown bad boy, accepting his wayward playboy role. Girlfriend had everyone tilting their waists anytime it came on, and with it, he owned the IG, Snapchat and TikTok streets for a while.
Then came the back-and-forths with BNXN which birthed Asiwaju, a track on which he claimed superiority over his peers. However, the public accused him of making a campaign song for the agbado government. The hit song was rich in replay value with dramatic lyricism and all the nuance that make certified Naija jams.
Red Flag was his last drop of 2022 — a problematic song that saw him relishing in toxic masculinity, with lines like “you saw the red flags, baby, but you ignored the red flags / baby, you con dey vex, see, I can’t change / baby, you better rest or end this now” — maintaining the honesty of a villain who’s come to terms with himself. But on his first offering of 2023, Ruger took a U-turn from his Red Flag confessions to become a preacher of sweet love on DJ Neptune’s Bienvenue, without losing his sensual one-liners. You know you’re a hitmaker in the Naija music scene when popular DJs feature you on their songs. That’s how far Ruger has come since 2019.
On May 12, 2023, he began the journey to his debut album by releasing two singles: the amapiano-inspired, booty appreciation song, Bun Bun with Jugglerz; and Jonzing Boy, an allegiance record to the label that pays him. Jonzing Boy later appeared on a two-song pack, Kristy, that came out in July.
It’s clear that fun, hedonism and dancehall-galala aren’t leaving Ruger anywhere anytime soon, not even with his successful tours across Africa, Europe, and currently, the U.S. Since his nationwide six-concert deal with Eko Hotel & Suites and opening performance at Burna Boy’s 02 Arena concert, both in 2021, Ruger has been booked and busy on the road.
And he has managed to turn every performance to a debauchery show, grinding and dry humping willing fans, dressed in his iconic singlet, belt and ripped jeans. Just two days after his U.S tour, he announced his debut album, titled RU THE WORLD, drops on September 1st.
Ruger shared that his most stressful session on the album was with Legendury Beatz, as he was under pressure to deliver a great record like the other heavy hittas — Wizkid, Wale, Bad Bunny and Seyi Shay — who have worked with the production team.
We’ll also get some relationship confessions, like Dear Ex, an unreleased song he described as an apology to three babes he’d led on. In the announcement video he posted on his socials on August 28, he shared a preview of a drill jam we first heard on his Boston show.
We believe Ru To World will be multi-genre as he continues his penmanship flex as a wild, sweet-tongued singer exploring his youth. While he builds a solid CV as a stage performer, Ruger would finally have a full-length project to present on tour. The 23-year-old looks to be slowly bringing dancehall music back to the mainstream, following in the footsteps of Yung L, Patoranking, Timaya and General Pype.