In this article, we explore Naira Marley, uncovering 10 lesser-known aspects of the embattled Afrobeats artiste you might not be familiar with.
Naira Marley’s ascent to stardom has been nothing short of spectacular, marked by a string of hit songs since his breakout in 2018. Nevertheless, his journey has been marred by numerous controversies, which have galvanized his cult fan base, and have also earned him detractors in equal measure.
As the latest controversies surrounding the tragic loss of his former label signee, MohBad, unfold, let’s delve into 10 lesser-known facts about the embattled Afrobeats star.
1. Birth & Early Life
Naira Marley was born Azeez Adeshina Fashola in 1991 in Lagos, Nigeria. He was born to Yoruba parents and spent his early years in Nigeria. He was born into a Muslim household, as evidenced by his first name, Azeez. He also mentioned his Islamic upbringing in his song “Soapy” in 2019 when he sang, “Mo kewu mo ni Qur’an,” suggesting that he has a strong connection to Islamic teachings.
2. Life in the UK
When he was 11 years old, Naira Marley relocated to the United Kingdom, settling in Peckham, South London. His educational path saw him start at Porlock Hall before transferring to Walworth School, where he achieved success in his GCSEs. He later graduated with honors in Business from Peckham Academy and extended his studies in Business Law at Crossways College.
3. History of Gang Crime & Arrests
Naira Marley was affiliated with the infamous ‘No Mannaz’ gang, notorious for their involvement in brutal violence within the Peckham neighborhood of South London. In a Noisey interview and corroborated by multiple sources, it’s claimed that Naira Marley faced arrest in the UK roughly 124 times, with the majority of these arrests linked to criminal gang activities. Notably, some Twitter users managed to unearth a mugshot of the rapper.
4. Musical Debut
Naira Marley’s initial career aspirations were surprisingly unrelated to music. In an interview with OAP Olisa Adibua on “The Truth,” he revealed his initial intention was to invest in the talented London-based artistes he associated with during that period. However, fate had different ideas, and he unexpectedly found himself stepping into the recording studio. In 2014, he officially launched his music career with the release of his debut track, “Marry Juana,” marking the beginning of his musical journey. The subsequent year saw the release of his debut EP titled “Gotta Dance.”
5. He Could Have Been A Footballer
In a recent interview with Cool FM Nigeria in Lagos, Naira Marley shared that he played for the Arsenal youth, Millwall, and Charlton teams during his upbringing in London, England, revealing a lesser-known aspect of his life. He mentioned that he could have pursued a career in football.
6. Breakout Hit in Nigeria
Naira Marley skyrocketed to fame within the Nigerian music scene thanks to his hit song “Issa Goal”. This track featured collaborations with Olamide and Lil Kesh, becoming an anthem during the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia, where it was used to rally support for the Super Eagles of Nigeria. The song’s immense popularity didn’t go unnoticed, as Coca-Cola took an interest and sponsored a remix. This remix featured prominent artistes such as Lil Kesh, Olamide, Simi, Falz, and Slimcase.
7. Bob Marley Connection
Naira Marley’s stylized stage name hints at his admiration for reggae legend Bob Marley. However, despite the reference to the legendary Jamaican in his name, the two artistes have remarkably little in common. The only notable similarity between them might just be their choice of dreadlocks hairstyle.
Stylized as “Marlians,” they were a band of radical, cult-like fans that Naira Marley had when he rose to fame, known for their “No Mannaz” tag. It was a significant phenomenon with rules to follow, like the “No Belt Gang” and more. Although it has faded over time, it was era-defining.
9. EFCC Allegations
In May 2019, Naira Marley, along with musical collaborator Zlatan Ibile and others, faced arrest by the EFCC (Economic and Financial Crimes Commission). This arrest followed the release of Naira Marley’s controversial “Am I A Yahoo Boy” video. While Zlatan and the others were released five days later, Naira Marley remained in custody, facing 11 counts of fraud charges in Lagos. During this period, Zlatan released a track titled “4 Nights In Ekohtiebo,” which delved into Naira Marley’s experiences. In May, Naira Marley entered a plea of not guilty, and a bail hearing was scheduled for May 30. Marking this pivotal moment, Naira Marley released “Why”, a song that featured an image of himself in handcuffs. Finally, on June 14, 2019, he secured his release on a ₦2,000,000 bail.
10. Marlian Music Controversies
Naira Marley is the founder and CEO of Marlian Music, a record label known for bringing out artistes such as Cblvck, Zinoleesky, MohBad, and Fabian Blu. However, on October 5, 2022, a significant controversy emerged as Marley faced accusations of assault from his former signee, MohBad. MohBad made a series of statements on his social media, accompanied by pictures and videos displaying noticeable injuries that required hospitalization. It’s important to note that these accusations came shortly after MohBad’s departure from the label. Notably, MohBad made allegations on social media, suggesting that if anything happened to him, Naira Marley should be held responsible. Tragically, MohBad passed away under mysterious circumstances on September 12, 2023, sparking a frenzy on social media and within the Nigerian music scene. This led to increased scrutiny of Naira Marley and his record label’s activities. In response, Naira Marley has vehemently denied all the allegations against him.