Speaking in the wake of his Insights conference making its debut in the UK earlier this year, with Dave, Jae5 and many more in attendance, the BSB Management co-founder looked back on his career so far.
He recalled the first time he encountered Nigerian star Tems at a Sons Of Sonix recording session in Lagos.
“One of my boys came out of the recording room, and he was like, ‘Dude, we’ve been in a session with this girl, and she’s just been saying ‘no’ to everything we’ve played,’” Awoniyi said. “When I heard that, I already knew this was an artist who knew exactly what she wanted. When they told me her name was Tems, I remembered her from when I used to look for artists to work with on SoundCloud. Back then, I came across one of her songs called Mr Rebel and fell in love with her voice. So I ended up talking to her and the conversation lasted two hours. Then, after about four months of friendship, one day she asked me to be her manager.”
Nigerian executive Awoniyi, who moved to the UK from his home country to study as a teenager, had initially pursued a career in management before pivoting to video production.
But when he met Tems, management came to the fore once again and he has since helped steer a global breakthrough that saw her win Best Melodic Rap Performance at the Grammys for her collaboration on Wait For U with Future and Drake.
“We don’t have an artist-manager relationship,” Awoniyi said. “She is more or less my sibling. It’s like, ‘This is a genuine family relationship and it’s because we met when you were broke and I was broke.’ We started together, so there’s this full understanding of who we are. We also have common values.”
As well as No.8 hit Wait For U, which has 836,922 sales according to the Official Charts Company, Tems has tasted success with Wizkid collaboration Essence (799,449), which hit No.16 in the UK.
However, Awoniyi cautioned that hits don’t change everything instantaneously.
“When you have a hit, it doesn’t automatically mean you are seeing money immediately, but everybody knows your song and everyone wants to meet you,” he said.
“So many celebrities were in Tems’ DMs wanting to meet her and there was a time when Drake came to meet us at an Airbnb we were staying at in LA. Very quickly, he was like, ‘Yo, where you guys are staying is not making sense, so let me put you in another place.’ So, Drake put us in our first ever mansion in LA, and that was another imposter-type thing because it’s like, ‘I’m in a huge-ass mansion, but I haven’t actually got any money in my pockets right now!’”
Awoniyi also looked back on an incident during which he and Tems were detained in Uganda for violating the country’s Covid protocols during the pandemic.
“I was thinking about how, over the past three years, I had worked to make sure that this girl’s mind was fortified in a manner that she had the tools [to cope with the situation],” he said. “And that’s exactly what happened. She ended up running the whole prison and was literally conducting praise and worship in there. She commanded that type of authority, that is rare and I feel privileged to be the custodian of this because it’s real.”
Tems is signed to Since ‘93/RCA in the UK, and Awoniyi said the team couldn’t be happier with the relationship.
“Honestly speaking, it was Glyn [Aikins, RCA & Since ’93 co-president], he really wanted us,” said the executive. “I met him, and I really liked him, then I met Riki [Bleau, Since ’93 co-president] in Ghana and after speaking to my partner Wale we decided to go with them. We also didn’t want a label that had a lot of artists signed to it, you know, so that they could focus on us, but at the same time, what they’ve done and who they are makes sense.”
In terms of Tems’ music, Awoniyi issued a reminder to the industry about its responsibility to artists.
“The responsibility is not just doing things because of financial gain alone, that’s only part of it as good things still sell,” he said. “The second thing is retaining the authenticity of the craft. It’s not just about working with every popping artist. It’s better to focus on building a fanbase with collaborations and partnerships that actually push them. I mean, when I tell people Tems hasn’t released music for two years, they’re like, ‘Huh?’ But it’s because of the potency of our work, so it doesn’t seem that way.”
Subscribers can read the full interview online here.
PHOTOS: Louise Haywood-Schiefer