Classy, suave and velvet-voiced, EME front man Olubankole Wellington aka Banky W is every inch the poster boy for Nigerian R&B music. From the moment he burst into public consciousness in 2008 with the release of ‘Ebute Metta’, a remix of Rihanna’s then hugely popular ‘Umbrella’ which was received with a lot of criticism, Banky W has fought to prove his mettle as a singer/song-writer and today as boss of EME records, he stands as one of the most influential Nigerian artistes…and eligible bachelors(that’s right ladies, he’s currently unattached and has no baby mamas running around). Asides being an accomplished singer/songwriter and label boss, there are also many other sides to the ‘Yes/No’ crooner and today we present to you 10 of such sides.
Qualified Engineer: That’s right folks, he’s Engineer Wellington! A graduate of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, New York, United States (on scholarship for that matter), Banky W practised as a qualified Engineer for a bit in the United States before the call of nature (not that kind) became too strong to ignore and he traded his hard hat for a microphone.
Loves to write: a self-confessed lover of writing, Banky W is an accomplished writer often penning the lyrics to his songs. He also has a blog ‘The Bank Statements’ where he puts down his thoughts on varied issues. Also not forgetting the highly articulate article he wrote in response to Reuben Abati a few years ago..incase you missed that, Google is your friend.
American citizen: he may be the King of the Lagos party but Banky W was actually born in the United States and moved back to Nigeria with his family when he was 5 years. He spent the rest of the time in Nigeria and only returned to the States for his university education.
Loves to cook: a master chef in the making (ok maybe not quite), Banky W makes no bones about the fact that he loves to cook and constantly uploads photos of his latest cooking experiment on his social media pages.
Dedicated Arsenal Fan: a die hard Arsenal fan, Banky W has been known to take to whining on Twitter when his beloved club side loses.
Sense of humour: asides the suave looks and velvet-voice, Banky W has a light side and is known for his playful and witty nature. Ever the life of the party, his blog posts also tend to portray his funny, witty side.
Established career in the United States: before his return to Nigeria, Mr Wellington had established a name for himself in the local New York music scene, winning the Albany Idol Contest in 2003 as an undergraduate. He also went on to win several other awards with the release of his debut album ‘Back in the Building’ including the John Lennon Song writing Awards in the R&B category and the 2003 R&B Soul Artiste at the Urban Independent Music Awards in addition to signing a lucrative US publishing deal and touring North America and Europe.
Activist/Philanthropist: Banky W has been actively involved in several Nigerian campaigns/empowering projects including the ‘Occupy Nigeria’ rally in which he played a major role in mobilising youths. He was also very vocal during the 2011 general elections. He is also the brains behind the “I am Capable” scholarship fund which aids university undergraduates who are in need of financial assistance and who meet the grade requirement.
Business Acumen: as a young and starry-eyed 21-year old, Banky W teamed up with his friends to establish Empire Mate$ Entertainment (EME) which gained a lot of prominence in their mid-Hudson Valley, New York base. Their highly successful grass root marketing campaign with the sale of his first EP ‘Undeniable’ was featured on Fox 23 News New York which led to a distribution deal with TransWorld (Coconut’s, Warehouse Music, Spec’s Music). Back home in Nigeria, he also been featured in several successful Corporate Marketing Campaigns including Etisalat’s 0809ja’s launch, Coca-Cola’s World Cup Theme Song,Microsoft’s Anti-Cyber Crime Initiative and most recently Samsung.
Family Man: Banky is unashamedly fond of his family and never hesitates to send a loving shout-out their way when the occasion calls for it. He also makes no bones about the fact that he’s looking forward to raising a family of his own someday so ladies, take a hint!
Life and career
Early life and career beginnings
Wellington was born in the United States to Nigerian parents, but the family moved back to Lagos Nigeria when he was five years old where he began singing in his church choir at the age of 8. After completing his secondary school Education at Home Science Association Secondary School, he moved to New York to attend college on a scholarship; earning a degree in Engineering at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.While still in college, he won the ‘Albany Idol’ competition, which catapulted him into the spotlight. He overcame many personal trials and obstacles to quickly become an in-demand artist on the local music scene; performing alongside major acts on tour. He wowed audiences with his silky smooth voice while building a loyal following; he established the Empire Mates Entertainment (E.M.E.) record label as a platform to get his music to his fans and began work on an EP. He along with Sasha P were the first official ambassadors of Samsung electronics in Nigeria. He is a brand ambassador for Ciroc, ultra-premium vodka.
Under the name Banky W, he released the EP Undeniable in 2003, as the first release on his jointly owned E.M.E Records. The EP was released on his own label, and was sold on the internet and out of the trunks of cars. The buzz around the album caught the ears of the executives at Fox 23 News New York who promptly dispatched a reporter with a camera crew to investigate the phenomenon sweeping the area. They were surprised it was a three-person company executing a highly successful grassroots marketing campaign. The report became a two part special they aired leading to a distribution deal with TransWorld (Coconut’s, Warehouse Music, Spec’s Music); one of North America’s largest music distributors. It became one of the top selling independent records, won him the 2003 R&B/Soul Artist of the Year at the Urban Independent Music Awards.His career was for a while threatened by cancer in the shoulder, but he managed to make a recovery from the illness.
2005–2006: Back in the Building
In 2005 he released his first album, titled Back in the Building, containing the award-winning song “My Regret”. The R&B/Soul album was released to critical acclaim; he had crafted a classic record and solidified his status as ground breaking artist. The album spawned the award winning song ‘My Regret’ and on the strength of this enduring single he became an urban-underground-yet-international icon. The awards and accolades followed with a US Songwriting Award, 2006 Nigerian Entertainment Award – R&B/Soul Artist of the Year and 2007 International Single of the Year to name a few. Banky followed this up by winning the prestigious worldwide John Lennon Songwriting Award in the R&B Category and signing a lucrative US Publishing deal. He was also a featured artist on AOL and Cingular Wireless Hip Hop Superstar with MTV’s Xzibit, numerous magazines covers, as well as touring North America Africa & Europe.
2008–2009: Mr Capable
In 2008 he moved to Nigeria after the completion of his latest highly anticipated album Mr Capable under the name Banky W. With the sole mission of exposing African music to the world and bringing a high profile presence to the industry. On MySpace he garnered over 1 million song plays; on YouTube, hundreds of thousands of views for his videos; and on Facebook, his recently created fan page has over 447,705 registered fans, growing at a rate of over 500 new fans per week.
2009–2010: The W Experience
In December 2009, Banky W dropped his much anticipated second album in Nigeria, titled The W Experience . A strong contender for the best album of 2009/2010 in Africa, it features production from Nigeria’s most sought-after talents, and showcases Banky W. as he combines global R&B/Pop with African rhythms and influences to create an entirely unique and impressive sound. The 15-track album features collaborations from the internationally acclaimed and Interscope-signed artiste, Verse Simmonds; it also introduces his newly signed E.M.E acts, WIZKID and SKALES; and solidifies Banky W as the crown Prince of African Soul/R&B.
2012 -2013: R&BW
A day after Valentine of 2013, he launched his new album “R&BW” with a concert tagged the “The Grand Love Concert” at the Civic Centre, Ozumba Mbadiwe, Victoria Island, Lagos, which featured several other artistes including Iyanya, Waje and more. The first two singles from the album “Lowkey” and “Yes/No” (which has a spectacular video to it), are already receiving rave reviews.
Not to be outdone by his exploits in the music world, he is also accomplished in several other fields. He’s a published writer, as articles from his blog (http://bankyw.blogspot.com) have been featured in numerous Nigerian Newspapers, magazines and websites. As a philanthropist, he launched the “I AM CAPABLE” scholarship fund, which provides tuition, room & board at private universities for youth who are in need and meet the grade requirements. He’s also on the board of trustees of the “LightupNigeria” Project, which is focused on achieving constant electrical power supply in Nigeria, as well as various other charitable society building and empowering projects. He has also been extremely successful in many Corporate Marketing Campaigns, having been featured prominently in projects like Etisalat’s 0809ja Launch, Cocacola-Nigeria’s World Cup Theme Song, and Microsoft’s Anti-Cyber Crime Initiative. Last but not least, he is an accomplished Master of Ceremonies/Host, as he has successfully anchored numerous high profile events such as The HipHop World Awards (2009), Nigerian Breweries Legend Extra Stout Product Launch, and The Gulder Ultimate Search Celebrity TV Show Launch.
Banky played a major role in mobilizing the Nigerian youth to participate in the Occupy Nigeria series of protests in January 2012. The protests were to resist the implementation of the government’s fuel subsidy removal policy.
2003: Undeniable (EP)
2005: Back in the Building
2008: Mr. Capable
2009: The W Experience
2012: Empire Mates State of Mind
Awards and nominations
John Lennon Song Writing Award 2006, R&B Category, for ‘My Regret’
Best R&B Artiste, Nigerian Entertainment Awards 2006
Best Male R&B Artiste, Urban Independent Music Awards, USA, 2006
Best International Album, Nigerian Entertainment Awards 2007 for ‘Mr Capable’
Best R&B Video, Nigerian Music Video Awards 2008 for ‘Don’t Break My Heart’
Best Male Vocal Performance, Hip hop World Awards 2009 for ‘Don’t Break My Heart’
R&B Single of the year, 2010 Hip Hop World Awards for ‘Strong Ting’
Best R&B Singer (Male) and Best Music Video 2010 City People Entertainment Awards
Best R&B/Pop Album (Mr. Capable), Hiphop World Awards 2009
Hiphop World Revelation 2009
Best Pop/R&B (Don’t Break My Heart), Soundcity Music Video Awards 2009
Best Male Video (Don’t Break My Heart), Soundcity Music Video Awards 2009
Best R&B Singer, City People Entertainment Awards 2009
Musician of the Year, Future Awards 2009
Best International Artiste, Nigerian Entertainment Awards 2009
Recording of the Year, Best Vocal Performance (Male) – Hip Hop World Awards 2010
Musician of the Year, Future Awards 2010
Artiste of the Year, Dynamix Awards 2010
Semi-finalist, African Artiste of the Year, KORA Awards 2010
Best Music Video and Best R&B Act, 2010 Nigerian Entertainment Awards