Known by a feminine Yoruba name, “Asake” is not the given name of Nigeria’s latest musical revelation—but the name of his mother. “Ololade mi Asake” (Asake my beloved), is, as a result, both a wholesome preamble to the pack of hit songs delivered by Ahmed Ololade in 2022 and his calling card on a track. Newly minted as a signee to legendary Nigerian rapper Olamide’s YBNL label in January, the celebratory “Omo Ope,” featuring Olamide himself, introduced Asake’s spirited persona to Nigerian listeners.
His debut EP Ololade Asake arrived in February, and with it continued Asake’s ascent through the suggestive “Sungba.” The fuji-amapiano fusion attracted Burna Boy to hop on a remix in March, Re-Upped in April by Audiomack. The cosign from Burna Boy elevated Asake to another plane, and stamped him as Nigeria’s first big breakout of 2022. It was a lofty achievement at the time, but more was to come.
Asake’s tone centers on using his journey as a case study for overcoming the struggles of young Nigerians. Prior to this year’s breakthrough, he spent many years toiling in the entertainment space. During his time at Obafemi Awolowo University, he was part of a set of renowned creators on campus who would find later success, such as Fireboy DML, Blaqbonez, Cheque, and more. So when he sings, “I just blow but omo I know my set” on his June single “Peace Be Unto You (PBUY),” it comes from a place of prolonged yearning, and persistence in the face of despair.
“PALAZZO,” with Nigerian DJ Spinall, was the next rabbit to emerge from Asake’s hat. Almost a month before its official drop in May, both artists posted snippets of the song in a style becoming signature to Asake on social media to a rousing reception. By the time the single was officially out, it seemed like streaming and local radio charts were waiting for it to take its place at the top, which it did.
Asake’s achievements quickly became a blur: “PBUY,” “Bandana” with Fireboy DML, a deal with independent juggernaut EMPIRE, “Terminator.” In September, Asake released his debut album Mr. Money With The Vibe, a 30-minute bombardment of party-starters. Making its debut at No. 66 on the Billboard 200, Mr. Money With The Vibe set the record as the highest-charting debut album from a Nigerian artist ever. The album has over 330 million streams on Audiomack, just two full months after release.
This year, Asake redefined what it means to be a breakout artist. Amidst an explosion of amapiano, and West African music’s continued global rise, Asake has conquered cross-cultural fusion like no one else, to the point of putting South African music heavyweights on notice. Asake’s blend of fuji music, Afrobeats, and amapiano combined with his anthemic choral vocals speaks to the global need for triumph, and reflects his worldwide takeover. Hearing his music at the clubs and kickbacks, and seeing him in major magazines, it’s easy to think Asake’s lightning ascent is at least partly staged. More truthfully, the artist seized a Promethean fire, arriving right as the world was ready to open itself up to dance.