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For younger generations who don’t know enough about OJB Jezreel’s importance to Nigerian music, the producer and singer served as a consequential stepping stone for a horde of careers still relevant in the industry today. From new school leaders like Wizkid to near-legend outliers like D’banj and 2baba, OJB helped in smithing some of their first attempts at cropping fan bases out of the industry.
The producer began music in the late 80s, opening his doors to serve as an abode for upcoming acts in the Surulere area before gaining prominence all over the country – thanks to an unsaturated music economy left behind after many international labels closed up shop in the 90s. Over the years, OJB etched hits for himself and other Nigerian artists as a multi skilled artist, songwriter, and producer.
All of this musical awesomeness did not stop his eventual decline, professionally and health wise in his later years. In 2013, OJB Jezreel came out public with a diagnosis of a kidney related ailment, demanding public support for donations towards getting a kidney transplant in India. The music industry he worked so many years for, scrambled around, pointing fingers over financial donations. After a small media ruckus and generous government donations, OJB was finally able to get the treatment he desperately needed in India. Sadly the same kidney transplant he fought for was the cause of his death earlier today.
There are lessons to be learnt from OJB Jezreel’s life.
Born Babatunde Okungbowa in 1966, OJB was a victim in a series of industry events tracing back to a dearth of a viable structure. Even worse, he rose to fame and career prominence at a time when piracy was rife, corporations mostly ignored the industry and the music itself had little to no value to fans, since artistes themselves paid very little attention to artistry or content direction. For an artist with such an extensive library of credits, any other music economy would have owed OJB countless cheques in music royalties and production credits.
A bigger picture consequence of such a structure would have equipped OJB with resources and technical know-how to incorporate himself into the evolving industry we have today. Between an inability to adapt to the changing world around him- possibly due to health challenges,- and an industry lacking standing structures to give artistes past their peak a reliable fall back plan for their later years, OJB’s story is one younger artists can draw inferences from.
Everyone cannot stay in their limelight forever. If the focus towards giving the industry a standing organisation is channelled towards merely snagging single hits and landing shows instead, a future like OJB’s will easily await every chart topper today.
Young vibrant leaders of today’s new school have to understand that if they fail to put structures in place to cushion their fall from celebrity, they will always come crashing hard. OJB is just one of many, who fell while the rest of the world kept walking because he did not have much of a support system to keep him standing after the technology changed, the sound evolved and every career he helped make stopped making out calls to him. History can repeat itself, but we don’t have to let it.
Rest in peace OJB, even if the world forgets, we won’t and we never will.
OJB Jezreel was 49 years old. He is survived by three wives, June, Korede, Mabel and eight children.