The true mark of a person's talent, even when alive is how highly they are regarded by their contemporaries.
Not many regular music fans would have heard of him, if not for the fundraising appeal started by his late friend Nomoreloss three years ago. The fundraising succeeded in raising enough money for OJB Jezreel to be flown abroad for a kidney transplant and have his medical expenses taken care of.
Much fewer would have felt the touch of his music but the mark of his hand in the development of popular Nigerian music is indelible.
The true mark of a person’s talent, even when alive, is how highly they are regarded by their contemporaries. And Jigga, as those who knew him called him, was held in high esteem.
Born Babatunde Jezebel Okungbowa, the list of artistes this Delta State native has worked with reads like a who-is-who of the pioneers of Nigerian pop music.
He along with the three Dairo brothers, including Paul Play himself had formed a production crew called Playground, House and Effects (PHE), which made beats for popular Nigerian musicians in the late ’80s.
But it was with 2face that he would produce his greatest song, producing the worldwide hit, ‘African Queen’. The song sold massively in Nigeria with millions of copies sold internationally too.
He would later produce Baba Dee‘s hit single ‘Governor’s Daughter’ and Daddy Showkey‘s second album, The Name.
He wasn’t just a prolific producer. At a time when Nigerian contemporary music was in its infancy, OJB released an album. And what an album it was. Released in 2006 to critical and commercial success, No Drama, had bangers before we knew what bangers were.
With songs like ‘Pretete’, ‘Oochilacoochaleso’, ‘Searching’, the album held its own in the music space, despite not being backed by the star power of a popular name.
He was much more than your regular producer though. He signed a deal with Kennis Music to do a remake of the classic Sir Shina Peters album, Ace, originally released in 1989.
Sadly, that was the highlight of his career. Soon his excesses would have the better of him. He married three times, sired a bunch of kids and was rumoured to have developed an unhealthy lifestyle.
Not too long after he developed health problems, he announced in 2013 that both his kidneys had stopped working.
Despite the fundraising appeal and the kidney donated by one of his wives, and many false dawns, it would eventually claim his life in the Isolo General Hospital on this day a year ago.
OJB Jezreel was 49 years old when he died, leaving behind three wives and eight children.
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