Since the days of Fela Anikulapo Kuti's highly percussive rhythms reverberating across Africa, the Afrobeat sound has filled the globe, with people from different parts of the world unable to resist its tunes and beats.
While the quality of the musical genre meets and, perhaps, surpasses global standards, technology has played a significant role in making it ubiquitous. And discovering and accessing it has become very easy with the advent of music streaming platforms.
However, music consumption could be on the verge of an evolution related to emerging technologies like blockchain to create non-fungible tokens (NFT).
Iyobosa Rehoboth, popularly known as Prodigeezy, is in the middle of this evolution, helping one of Nigeria's biggest artistes connect with fans through the blockchain.
"My name is Iyobosa Rehoboth, but I also go by the pseudonym, Prodigeezy. I'm currently the Product Development Lead at Floats Metaverse Systems. At Floats, we're researching, designing, and distributing crypto-economic opportunities for Africans. That means a lot of things to us, but at the forefront of most of it is onboarding as many people as we can onto the blockchain in innovative and user-friendly ways.”
Before Prodigeezy focused on onboarding Africans on the blockchain and building metaverses, he was just a passionate storyteller with a camera.
“When I was done with film school, I returned to Lagos, Nigeria, and looked around for who was doing what and who was making the most interesting things, and at the time, music was just very, very fascinating to me.
“I just thought it was a great way to visually express yourself because you could pack as much as possible into a three or four-minute clip. So I said, ‘You know what, I'm going to shoot music videos for a while.”
Prodigeezy is responsible for music video hits such as Falz's This is Nigeria and Burna Boy's Boshe Nlo. However, after growing a career as a music video director, his foray into the emerging tech world happened because of his childhood love for tech.
Tech before music
Growing up, Prodigeezy loved to do anything related to storytelling and art; however, tech also had a special place in his heart. His father was a scholar and a pastor, so there was never a shortage of information; he was constantly soaking up knowledge as a child.
“I was soaked up in a lot of passive learning and imitating the behaviour of the people around me. My upbringing was, to a certain extent, conservative, but I really just enjoyed staying indoors and reading books.
“I read a ton of books and watched a lot of television. After a while, I was privileged to have the Internet, which was rare for an early 2000s Nigerian kid, but this just changed my life trajectory.”
Books, TV, and access to the Internet turned Prodigeezy into what he describes as a full-blown nerd; he was almost always indoors playing games and surfing the web.
He could not get into a university immediately after secondary school, so he had an extra year to learn more about computers, games, and many other things that aligned with his interests.
Interestingly, he got into the National Institute of Information Technology (NIIT), where he studied the basics of computer network engineering.
“I already knew where I was going at the time and wanted to be a computer scientist or engineer. Either way, it just had to be computers. You barely had to know me for an hour before you realised I was a nerd.”
When Prodigeezy finally got into the university, he discovered another interest — graphic design — which was a good source of income for him. He only enjoyed school because he studied computer science and could realise new areas of interest.
Unfortunately, his learning and discovery streak was cut short by strike actions, a common occurrence in Nigeria’s public universities. Back home, the zeal to continue learning and discovering new things wasn't there until his dad gave him a delightful surprise.
“My father got me a camera as a present; it was a DSLR Canon 600 D. It wasn't something that I was crazy about at the time, but I'd been mentioning it in passing.”
While he wasn't thrilled about the camera when he got it, it was the reason he became a music video director.
Out of curiosity, he tried to figure out how the camera worked. Several YouTube videos later, he began to get the hang of it. He started taking pictures everywhere he went, and it became a habit.
Before long, film and photography became his new interest, but his father was not fond of his new obsession. Understandably so, because he was mostly out of the house taking pictures until very late at night.
Eventually, his parents acquiesced after he convinced them that he had found his new passion and was ready to make it his career. He then went on to study film-making in India.
Music to tech
"It was an amazing time in my life, learning about film, the science of storytelling, emotions and basically how to paint the right pictures with visuals."
On his return to Nigeria, he landed an internship with Aje Filmworks, where he learnt a lot and made great connections. From there, he moved on to Aristokrat Vision Production.
His company — Global Creative Operations (GCO) — launched in 2018 and is now an established production and creative outfit. GCO is evolving to become a tech company as Prodigeezy infuses his exciting discoveries from the pandemic into the company.
Just like the lecturers' strike action that led to his obsession with the camera, the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 gave Prodigeezy another opportunity to pause and make discoveries.
"During the pandemic, I discovered virtual reality (VR). As always, it started out of curiosity, but I jumped into the rabbit hole and discovered this new immersive experience, and suddenly, my love for computer logic came back."
He decided to get an Oculus Quest VR headset and delved into the world of virtual reality. Without the distraction from work, he kept learning more about virtual reality.
Blockchain meets VR
While learning so much about VR, he came across the metaverse, Web3, NFTs, and the blockchain ecosystem. By the end of 2021, he had acquired so much knowledge about the space and had plans to integrate an NFT product within his company.
The Wizkid, Burna Boy, and Davido NFT idea
"I told my guys we have to start a new company because this is the future, and that's how Floats was born. And a lot of my attention has been directed at this."
He created Floats Metaverse Systems under GCO, and they began to work on some exciting projects, none of which took off. And then they had a crazy project idea to bring Wizkid, Davido, and Burna Boy — Nigeria’s biggest artistes — together.
"By the end of the year, we started playing around with this idea of a collaboration between Burna Boy, Wizkid, and Davido as an NFT.
"It was an amazing idea; we got some prototypes, did the artwork, created a custom smart contract, and did the entire thing. And this was with a lean team at that point, but it fell through."
Anyone familiar with the Nigerian music industry knows that it would be a cold day in hell before Burna Boy, Wizkid and Davido, currently Nigeria’s most prominent artistes, collaborate. Having worked in the music industry, Prodigeezy knew this but what he had planned was bigger than the big three's rivalry.
He continued pitching the idea to many other artistes. Still, no one could envision merging NFTs with music the way he did until he met Daniel Benson, known professionally as Bnxn and formerly as Buju.
"We eventually got across to Buju, and it was a match made in heaven. He was already exploring how to creatively interpret his journey through comics and give that as a limited artefact to his fans.
"So we said, ‘You know what, this is cool. Let's do this as part of an NFT project, as part of a bigger community,’ and the conversation just kept getting broader. Buju really cares about his fans, like he really loves his fans, and he truly wants to be an innovative force as a musician.
"He doesn't just want to make music; he is a creative person and wants his creativity to extend to how he relates with his fans."
According to Prodigeezy, Buju had always been about giving back to the fans, and NFTs were a great way to do that. The Heads by Bnxn NTF collection was created so Buju’s fans can connect with him and profit from sales.
The NFT project will have 10,001 unique NFTs of Bnxn's face — the kind used as the art cover for his hit song Italy. Holders of the NFT will automatically have access to Bnxn’s physical and virtual concerts. They will also get to claim ownership of some songs and snippets, making them eligible to receive streaming revenue.
Although the sharing arrangement hasn't been created yet, 10% of the profit from the project will go to a creator fund, and the community will vote for which project the money will be used.
In addition, being a part of the Heads By Bnxn community also gives access to education about all things Web3.
Prodigeezy, Bnxn, and the team behind the project have bigger plans beyond just being an NFT collection.
“We're also big on the metaverse. We've done a lot of experiments, and we built a game a couple of months ago. Our goal is really to be able to replicate this virtual space of Benson's creation in the metaverse. And that means virtual concerts and everything it means to be an artiste.
“As the technology evolves, we will continue building more around it. That's the roadmap we promised the community. Benson also supports this, and he's giving us a lot, from music to many other resources.”
Combining NFTs with music is still new worldwide, and Prodigeezy is easily a pioneer in the space. According to him, the community is on the verge of something groundbreaking, and while he's not sure what the final picture will look like, for the first time in a while, true freedom is coming to the creative space.