In 2009, Knighthouse released the classic song, ‘Da Finest’ featuring Sinzu [then Sauce Kid] and Teeto Ceemos. But then, there was another pint-sized featured on the song. At the start of the video she was dressed in all-black. She was bada** and fabulous at the same time. Her name was Mo’Cheddah.
By the time she stepped off the bike and took off her helmet, she had no make-up on and her looped vocals, “Won won beri…” forever became etched in the folklore of Nigerian Hip-Hop. From there, she never looked back. Looking back ‘Da Finest’ has to be one of the finest subtle launchpads for any contemporary Nigerian superstar – alongside ‘Fast Money, Fast Cars.’
Who knew that the XO-produced record was going to be that big. The answer is simple; Knighthouse did – Temi Gomez definitely did. While eLDee was the target to be featured in the video, Teeto Ceemos found a way to get Sinzu on the record. By the time the Clarence Peters-directed video dropped, the song went nuclear. It was the ‘Purple’ that worked.
She was rising at the same time as Wizkid, Davido, MI Abaga, Jesse Jagz, Burna Boy and more. During her recent interview on BlackBoxInterview with Ebuka, Tiwa Savage namechecked Mo’Cheddah alongside MI Abaga, Wizkid, Mo’Hits and more as some of the people who inspired her to leave Sony ATV and come back to Lagos, Nigeria to make Afro-pop.
By 2010, Mo’Cheddah had seen two hit singles, ‘If You Want Me’ and ‘Ko Ma Roll’ – which was a smash. Later in the year, she won ‘Best New Act’ at the 2020 MTV African Music Awards. She also released her debut album, Franchise Celebrity on October 20, 2020. The sky was the limit for the 20-year-old University of Lagos undergraduate.
On the album cover was one of the most thought-provoking album arts in contemporary Nigerian times. It depicted the gorgeous Mo’Cheddah as some sort of Vogue UK-esque cover girl in an imperfect setting.
She wore a denim jacket, wore a gold chain and revealed some cleavage, but the photo was shot with Mo’Cheddah backing three cars in a regular compound – not an elite photo studio.
The art perfectly captures the album’s title, ‘Franchise Celebrity’ and the album title perfectly captured Mo’Cheddah’s standing at the time. While that album didn’t exactly break the ground like Wizkid’s ‘Superstar’ did, everybody who knew something recognized its quality. However, the album never really got accolades and praise it deserved.
With the aid of Rogba Aromiri, Temi Gomez’s protege hit the big time. When Mo’Cheddah rapped and sang on ‘Da Finest,’ most people perceived her as a rapper. But when ‘If You Want Me’ dropped, Nigeria saw the early markings of a pop star and a dancer.
But then, ‘Ko Ma Roll’ saw her incorporate her Rapper side into a sung-rapped delivery on a superbly-produced Afro-pop record. Nigeria praises Banky W and EME’s masterful handling of Wizkid’s career progression and illuminating brand management and rightly so, but the same should be said of what Knighthouse, Aromiri and Gomez did with Mo’Cheddah.
If they hadn’t handled her properly, she could have been pigeonholed into that ‘rapper’ description. And when she started singing, nobody called her a sell-out. While Mo’Cheddah’s voice wasn’t the greatest, it had this unique allure about how she was able to manipulate its pitch successfully. While it had effects, Mo’Cheddah’s talent definitely shone like a million stars.
DJ Klem, Temi Gomez and Rogba Aromiro did something amazing to find the sound of this project. While the mixing and the songwriting on a song like ‘What’s Your Fuji’ haven’t aged well, the production and the infusion of Fuji with R&B/Pop and the sung-rapped style of Mo’Cheddah’s delivery will always be amazing.
The effortless way with which she glided and switched styles was amazing. In a way, the song felt like bringing all the members of early 2000s Black Eyed Peas onto a Cobhams-produced song for Adekunle Fuji or mid-2000s Darey Art Alade.
Franchise Celebrity can then be best described as a product of every sound that punctuated the Nigerian mainstream pop sound in the 2000s.
It was Hip-Hop, it was R&B, it was Fuji, it was Afro-fusion and it was Folk. As we heard on the Naeto C-assisted ‘In The Morning,’ it was also contemporary Pop/R&B like Rihanna, Keri Hilson, Nelly Furtado and the likes were making at the time. And the way the vocals were warped out to aid the hook as an instrument was so creative.
It was also Folk-Pop as we heard on ‘Maybe,’ which might be the most rounded and balanced song on the album. In the end, one can assert that it was the most appropriately rounded album from her generation of debuts. Jesse Jagz’s Jagz of All Trades – which also turned 10 earlier this year – is a close second and Wizkid’s Superstar will arguably ranked at third.
What’s interesting is that this was the only way to properly market Mo’Cheddah without confusing people or pulling her into a pigeonhole and it was achieved. It’s just a shame that she didn’t last as long as everyone hoped she would. She later released two EPs and ‘Destinambari’ featuring Phyno in 2012, but her consistency couldn’t match up.
These days, she is a married businesswoman living her best life.