Nigerian singer and songwriter Iyanya is perhaps one of the most talented artists to grace the music industry, with tremendous vocals for R&B and Afrobeats. He has, without a doubt been through the highs and lows in the industry. From winning a talent hunt, making hit songs, winning awards, sold-out shows, to career management issues, court battles, romance dramas and the least goes on. Sadly, it looks like he has failed to sustain the limelight and wealth he enjoyed from his earlier days in his career. The big question now is, where did Iyanya go wrong with his music career and, judging from his current situation, will he ever taste fame again?
Iyanya Onoyom Mbuk popularly known as Iyanya is a 33-year-old Nigerian musician and performer who hails from Calabar, Crossriver state Nigeria. He was born on October 31, 1986, and bagged a degree in business management from the University of Calabar. After graduation, he managed a local bar where he sang Karaoke and worked in a hotel, and this allowed him to develop his passion early enough.
According to him, he was influenced by the likes of Craig David and R Kelly, Inspired by 2face and Olumaintain. Iyanya started as a rapper with the stage name “Lofty”.
Not long after, KC from KC Presh who had successfully launched his career with his partner Press after winning a talent hunt, advice Iyanya to partake in the 1st season Project fame. Taking the leap of faith, Iyanya came out a winner in 2008. The win and popularity gave him the needed background to launch his music career.
The ‘Your waist” singer had a fine entrance into the industry showing his R&B skills on his 1st release- “Love Truly”. Fans well accepted it and he was hot and ready to dish out more. But this time, he decided to sample the Afrobeats genre. The move turned out to be an instant success with his major hit single “Kukere” in 2011, supported with the Etigidance step. The song attracted about five major award nominations and two awards between 2012 and 2013. Those were his Golden years. Iyanya became one of the most sort-after artists in the industry getting featured by top artists and sealing big ambassadorial deals. This was when he established himself firmly as a pop celebrity.
His album was massive. A 19-track album, released on February 6 2013. The album had about six major hit songs like Kukere remix, Flavor, Jombolo, Ur waist and Sexy mama. Top artists like MI, Dbanj, Wizkid, Tiwa Savage, Flavor, Tekno and May D were all featured on the album. We should keep in mind that he achieved all these while he was still with MMMG.
But things took a downturn for the Kukere crooner starting from 2015. That year, he released his 20 track album “Applaudise”. The album did woefully compared to his last album. That same year, he ended his relationship with Francis Freda. And it was the same year news started circulating that he had issues with his business partner and manager Ubi Franklyn.
In 2016, the Afrobeats singer who was already gaining international popularity walked away from MMMG record label after being sidelined and allegedly cheated by Ubi Franklin. This was the time Iyanya deiced to make a shocking revelation and claimed that he is a co-owner of the music label MMMG. Stepping away from Ubi Franklin and his team, he promised to launch his own record label, but this never happened. The singer also promised to release a joint album with Banky W, but that too never happened.
He began struggling to keep his career together at this point. But fortunately, he still had the ambassadorial deals and shows to lynch on while hoping for grace. Iyanaya was appointed ambassador of Cross River state on November 22, 2015, with an official car and monthly salary, it felt like grace was still on his side.
After his departure from MMMG music-wise, Iyanya crossed over to Don Jazzy’s Mavin Records in October 2016 although he claimed the move did not involve a legal signing. He released an 8-track EP in April 2017. The project flopped and didn’t do well commercially for lack of hit tracks. He went ahead to release two music videos to augment the EP, music videos without a doubt some times save a song, but it wasn’t happening for Iyanya.
While his music career was suffering, so was his love life. Iyanya love life caught public attention when he began dating Ghanian sweetheart, Yvonne Nelson in 2011. The beautiful actress was smitten by his chiselled body, tattoos and bad boy image. Unfortunately, the relationship didn’t withstand the test of time, Yvonne Nelson tagged him a big fat liar amidst rumours of physical abuse and infidelity from the pop singer. Their Fans heart were broken as Iyanya got blamed for breaking Yyvonn Nelson’s heart. Iyana went on to date other women, including married women according to Ubi Franklin, but none of them got huge attention as his relationship with Yvonne Nelson.
In February 2018, Iyanya decided it was time to leave mavin after two years of struggling to make an impact. His next destination was Temples music, a new record label which was launched a year earlier with artists like 9ice, Bisola Aiyeola, DJ Jimmy Jat on its camp. Iyanya saw it as a family company and got signed.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t long after he started having internal issues yet again. It was rumoured that he was fiddling with another record label which is contrary to the contract he signed with Temples Music. He eventually left the label to stand alone.
The “Kukere” hit singer music career and love life kind of, speeds down the escalator for there as he began to appear in the news for all the wrong reasons. He started 2020 with court issues after being accused of stealing a car. The car allegedly belonged to Temple music, but Iyanya continued to use it even after leaving the label. He was granted bail of N20m, and the case adjourned for May 27 and 28 2020 for trial. We don’t know if he is going to come out of this without much damage.
That, however, is not the 1st time that Iyanya will be facing legal issues. In 2013, he was alleged to have declared wanted by the Nigerian Police in Port Harcourt for defrauding popular show organizer Ole William of N1.7m payment of the singer’s performance at two events which he never showed up for. The case was resolved when Ubi Franklyn, his then manager went to the police to refund the money.
Iyanya like many other artists who came into the industry during his era has gone silent, and are letting second generation Afro artists take frontstage. While some of his loyal fans are still convinced that he has what it takes to rise among the top acts, others see him as an upcoming artist who stands little chance of gaining relevance in the very competitive music industry.
Iyanya sure has the talent, but only time will tell if he will rise back on top. After the release of his recent EP in Feb 2020, we keep our fingers crossed to see how far fans accept his music. We also hope he escapes his legal battles and set things right for himself.