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Phyno Biography: Early life, education, music career, awards and facts

Phyno is a renowned Nigerian indigenous rapper that raps mainly in the Igbo language. While he is not the first rapper in the industry to use the language, he is considered one of those that made it appeal to others who did not understand a word of Igbo. In this biography about Phyno, we provide updated details about the artist.

The rapper began his career in music as a producer but drastically morphed into one of the best songwriters and rappers in Nigeria. As part of this biography, we provide an updated and complete list of all songs and major projects by Phyno. To set the ball rolling, we compiled a list of top important facts that you should know about the artist.

Top 10 important facts about Phyno

  1. Phyno was born as Chibuzor Nelson Azubuike on 9th October 1986 to Igbo parents in Enugu State. While he grew up in the State where he was born, Phyno is an indigene of Anambra State.
  2. Initially, his dream was to become a pilot. Then, he wanted to become a doctor. Instead of any of these, Phyno ended up obtaining a degree in public administration at the Institute of Management and Technology (IMT) in Enugu.
  3. Phyno had a surprising start to his music career, he had been more interested in sound engineering and production than in actually singing. He started as a producer.
  4. At the start of his career in 2010, Phyno was signed to Sputnet record label. In 2011, he founded his own record label named Penthauze and later, it was renamed Penthauze Music.
  5. Phyno’s official debut single was “Ghost Mode”, a collaboration with Olamide. It won Best Collabo awards at both the 2012 The Headies Awards and 2013 Nigeria Entertainment Awards.
  6. He has dropped three albums to date, namely, “No Guts No Glory” (2014), “The Playmaker” (2016) and “Deal With It” (2019). He also released a collabo album with Olamide in 2015 titled “2 Kings”.
  7. Phyno won the Best Rap Single award at The Headies in 2014 and the Rap Artist of the Year at the City People Entertainment Awards in 2014.
  8. In 2018, Phyno made his film debut on Genevieve Nnaji’s “Lionheart”. He had a major role in the film and his 2016 single “Obiagu” was used as the film’s main track sound.
  9. During the EndSARS protest in 2020, Phyno led a massive crowd of protesters in Enugu.
  10. When it comes to relationships, Phyno is single and he has not revealed being in a romantic relationship before.

Also read: D’banj Biography: Early life, education, music career, family, awards and facts

Phyno Biography: Early life and education

Phyno’s real name is Chibuzor Nelson Azubuike. He was born on 9th October 1986 to Igbo parents in Enugu State. While he grew up in the State where he was born, Phyno is an indigene of Anambra State. He identifies more as an Enugu State man because it was where he planted his roots and grew into maturity.

We do not have any information on who Phyno’s parents are and what they did for a living. But they certainly loved education and wanted the best for their son. This was evident in the fact that they put him through school up to higher education. Like most Nigerian parents, his father had not approved of his interest in becoming a musician.

Additionally, Phyno has four siblings and he is the fourth child of the family. Growing up in a large family, he had the opportunity to entertain his siblings as a child. Initially, his dream was to become a pilot then, he wanted to become a doctor. Instead of any of these, Phyno ended up obtaining a degree in public administration at the Institute of Management and Technology (IMT) in Enugu.

Phyno Biography: Music career

Early music career

Phyno had a surprising start to his music career. As a secondary school student, he had been more interested in sound engineering and production than actually singing. At the time, he had to make do with creating a version of every song he heard. He also learned to play the drums and piano as well.

Phyno biography

It was during his secondary school days that he got the nickname ‘Phyno’, which will replace his real name Chibuzor Nelson Azubuike for most of his life. According to the rapper, a classmate had coined it from the word ‘phenomenal’. This was because of his apparent music talent.

While he was at IMT in Enugu, Phyno had also begun making money from producing music. He realised that he could make a career out of it and subsequently began to focus on it full time.

Ghost Mode (2012)

According to Phyno, one of the few Nigerian celebrities he looked up to when he began his career was Mr Raw. Mr Raw, whose real name is Okechukwu Edwards Ukeje, is a pioneer in Igbo rap. While Mr Raw was an indigene of Abia State, he too grew up in Enugu just like Phyno. He made his name in the early 2000s.

Thus, Phyno had footsteps to follow. But to fully actualise his dream of becoming a music star, he did one major thing first; he relocated from Enugu to Lagos State in 2010. By 2012, he began to work on his first studio album. On 25th September 2012, Phyno dropped “Ghost Mode” featuring Olamide as the lead single for the coming album, released under Sputnet Records and Penthauze record labels.

“Ghost Mode” was a success for many reasons. For one, it was lyrically strong and unmatched by any other rap song released that year in Nigeria. Also, Olamide and Phyno’s Yoruba-Igbo collaboration was a major adventure that people appreciated. It won Best Collabo awards at both the 2012 The Headies Awards and 2013 Nigeria Entertainment Awards.

Man of the Year (Obago) (2013)

Then, in March 2013, Phyno released the album’s second single, “Man of the Year (Obago)” under Sputnet Records. It won the Best Rap Single at The Headies Awards 2013. Its video was released via YouTube on 20th August 2013. Top Nigerian video director Clarence Peters shot and directed the video, while indigenous Igbo rapper and actor Illbliss made a cameo appearance in the song.

In September 2013, the Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation banned the song from being aired. According to YNaija, the ban was because of its ‘explicit’ lyric content and it had no radio-friendly version ready at the time.

Parcel and O Set (2013 – 2014)

Still building up anticipation for his debut album, Phyno released “Parcel” in October 2013. According to sources close to the rapper, the song’s original title was “Parcel (a BIG Nwa)” but the shorter version was eventually decided upon. Again, Clarence Peters shot the video for the single and it was released in February 2014.

Returning with a big feature, Phyno released “O Set” in March 2014 with the Okoye twins who were known as PSquare at the time. The video was shot and directed by the brothers’ elder brother, Jude Engees Okoye.

No Guts No Glory (2014)

Phyno finally released his debut album “No Guts No Glory” on 20th March 2014, under Sputnet Records and Penthauze Music record labels. The album features guest appearances from PSquare, Omawumi, Olamide, Storm Rex, Efa, Flavour N’abania, Runtown, Ice Prince, M.I, Mr Raw, Timaya and Illbliss.

Producers such as Major Bangz, WizzyPro, Chopstix and JStunt worked on it as well. Phyno’s team even rolled out t-shirts with the No Guts No Glory or NGNG logo on them to drive awareness. While the album did not win a major award upon its release, it was nominated as Best Rap album of the year at The Headies and City People Entertainment Awards in 2014. “Parcel”, a single from the project, won the Best Rap Single award at The Headies 2014.

The album cuts across several genres. While its overall tone is to sound like a rap album, it has many tracks that soothe different moods. For example, the “Good Die Young” track is a sombre tune dedicated to the friends the rapper lost. While “Chukwu Na Enye” (featuring Omawunmi) is a cross of highlife and gospel. “Nme Nme” is a complete highlife track.

“No Guts No Glory” received an overwhelmingly positive reception after its release.

Alobam (2014)

Phyno hit a major gold mine when he released his fifth single, “Alobam” in May 2014 off of the “No Guts No Glory” album.

“Alobam” was allegedly coined from the word ‘alibi’ which meant ‘ride or die’ friends, according to Genius. However, the term goes back to at least the 80s and 90s when it was used in Igbo-speaking eastern states to refer to very good and loyal friends.

In the single “Alobam”, Phyno remembers friends who had helped him through the industry and he name-dropped many Nigerian artists in the closing parts of the song.

“Alobam” became a trendsetting song and soon, Nigerians (especially Igbos) started using it again as slang for ‘friend’. It also began appearing on t-shirts as well.

2 Kings (2015)

By 2015, Phyno and Olamide had featured each other on many songs. The duo gave Nigerians the memorable “Ghost Mode” and “Dope Money” tracks. There were several others as well such as “In My Circle”, “Aju”, and so on. Thus, when Olamide announced in January 2014 that he and Phyno were working on a collaborative project, it was exciting news.

In fact, when it was postponed from 2014 to 2015, it led to criticism from displeased fans. The album “2 Kings” was dropped in April 2015. It was released under Penthauze Music and YBNL Nation. The project featured Wixkid, Lil Kesh and Storm Rex. Producers such as Pheelz, Major Bangz, B.Banks and Young John worked on individual tracks.

“2 Kings” contains 10 tracks and produced steaming hot singles like “Confam Ni”, “Une” and “Ladi”. The overall reception was positive. The Headies gave it a nod for Best Rap Album of 2014 and so did City People Entertainment Awards.

Phyno ended 2015 in a strong fashion with the big hit track titled “Connect”. It was produced by Tspize and the lyrics pander towards the importance of ‘knowing someone’ to achieve something in Nigeria. Regardless of its meaning, the song is up there as one of the rapper’s most popular songs.

The Playmaker (2016)

In 2016, Phyno was already a major force to reckon with in the Nigerian rap industry. He had made a name in the industry within about four years of consistency. He was pulling massive crowds at events both in Nigeria and even outside the country.

Phyno’s “Ezege” was released in March 2016 and it was a soothing rap song that further endeared the rapper to fans. In May 2016, he released “Fada Fada” with the assistance of Olamide and the song was rightly nicknamed Ghetto Gospel. It became an instant banger and could be played anywhere; at the clubs, in weddings, in churches, anywhere at all. Everyone could sing it as well and its lyrics were child-friendly while appealing to older people as well. It cut across age and class demographics with the ease of a laser sabre.

“Pino Pino” was released in October 2016, and while some may interpret it as a love song, it actually is a cheeky song that is more about a good time. It was also a big hit and was popular at nightclubs during the end of the year.

In November 2016, Phyno dropped his sophomore album titled “The Playmaker”. The album contains 20 tracks with features from PSquare, Onyeka Owenu, 2Baba, Burna Boy, Flavour, Decarlo, Mr Eazi, and Olamide. Major Bangz, Masterkraft, Kezyklef, T-Spize, and Del’B were on the production team while George Nathaniel mixed and mastered the sound.

“The Playmaker” was released under Penthauze Music. Besides the singles mentioned above the album has top songs like “Financial Woman”, “E Sure For Me”, “Obiagu”, “Joy Comes in The Morning” and “So Far So Good”.

Augment & Onyeoma (2017-2018)

October 2017 witnessed another Phyno-Olamide masterclass as the two collaborated to serve fans a new single titled “Augment”. The single was produced by Masterkraft and features a blend of singing, rapping and name-dropping praises that makes Nigerian songs great. While Augment may not be the duo’s finest song, it is certainly up there with the most popular of them. They also released “Onyeoma”, another popular track in 2018.

Deal With It (2019)

Phyno’s third album “Deal With It” came in September 2019 and it contains 21 tracks. Motolani Alake of Pulse noted in an article that the album release had been wrongly timed as it came during the period of Xenophobic attacks in South Africa. “As such, attention and PR were automatically against him and his album,” Alake noted.

On “Deal With It”, Phyno features Runtown, Falz, Phenom, Davido, Flavour, Cheque, Teni, Don Jazzy, Olamide, Zoro, Duncan Mighty, Nuno, Harmonize and Rhatti. The album holds tracks like “The Bag”, “Fuwa Sewa”, “Agu” and “Blessings”.

Phynofest

Phyno is not just popular for his lyrics and songs, the rapper is also well known for his memorable stage performances. In fact, at the start of his career, Phyno thrilled fans gathered in Owerri in June 2013 at the Star Music Trek tour. He had kept them entertained for 25 minutes.

That same year, he was part of the Hennessy Artistry Club Tour and he travelled with D’banj, Burna Boy, Chidinma, Vector, Pucado, Seyi Shay, Show Dem Camp, Kay Switch and Sean Tizzle. Phyno also returned to his childhood town Enugu in 2014 to perform as part of the year’s Star Music Trek tour.

Thus, given his good performance track record, Phyno began his yearly concert called Phynofest in 2015. The first concert took place at the Chuba Ikpeazu Stadium in Onitsha, Anambra State and it pulled about 12,000 people.

In 2016, Phynofest was held in Enugu State at the Nnamdi Azikiwe Stadium and it featured appearances from PSquare, Onyeka Owenu, Olamide, Mr Eazi, Lil Kesh, M.I, Burnaboy, Kcee, Zoro and Patoranking. There were about 30,000 people in attendance at the second Phynofest.

Using the same location in 2017, Phyno hosted what was termed the biggest music event in 2017 in Africa. That year Phynofest attracted over 50,000 people and it had the following stays on its list of performances; D’banj, Yemi Alade, Timaya, Runtown, Zoro, Ycee, Flavour, Lil Kesh, Mayorkun and Duncan Mighty. Since then, the festival has been on pause and Phyno to the best of our knowledge has not made any pronouncement regarding what will be the festival’s final fate.

Film career

Lionheart (2018)

In 2018, Phyno made his film debut on Genevieve Nnaji’s Lionheart. He had a major role in the film and his 2016 single “Obiagu” was used as the film’s main song.

Phyno Biography: Penthauze Music

At the start of his career in 2010, Phyno was signed to Sputnet record label. In 2011, he founded his own record label named Penthauze, which was renamed Penthauze Music. The record label first signed Nigerian artist Runtown and then Shugaboi and Flipside. In 2014, Penthauze signed a deal with Storm Rex.

Phyno released “No Guts No Glory” in 2014 under Penthauze Music and Sputnet. Runtown parted ways with the music company in 2013 but he continued to work with Phyno years later.

Phyno Biography: Net worth

According to 360 Report, Phyno was worth about $10 million in 2020 while another local blog Naija Home Based claimed that the rapper is worth $5 million. It is difficult to trust any of these sources as they do not provide proof of how they arrived at the figure.

Phyno Biography

Phyno is one of the biggest artists in Nigeria and besides making money from his songs, he also had endorsement deals with big brands in Nigeria such as Nairabet, Nigeria Breweries, Monster Energy and Airtel. The rapper has an impressive collection of cars that includes a Bentley, Rolls-Royce Phantom, Range Rover and many more.

Phyno Biography: Personal life

Phyno is one of the few Nigerian celebrities that leads a very private life. He has not been seen in public with a member of the opposite sex that he is engaged in a relationship with. As far as we know, Phyno is single. He once revealed that he had a huge crush on Genevieve Nnaji, a Nigerian actress, filmmaker and director. Incidentally, Genevieve was the director of Phyno’s debut film, Lionheart.

Phyno Biography: Controversy

There were rumours that Phyno had impregnated an up and coming singer named Rita Edmond. In an interview with PUNCH, the rapper claimed that he was not responsible for Edmond’s pregnancy.

Additionally, there were rumours that Phyno might be gay after a photo of him and singer Kcee appeared. They had been standing so close that their lips were almost touching. Again, Phyno had to debunk these assumptions about his sexuality.

During EndSARS protest

On 13th October 2020, The Sun reported that Phyno, along with Enugu-based singers Zoro and Kcee, led a massive protest against police brutality that attracted about 5,000 people. He and other Nigerian celebrities led EndSARS protests in several regions of the country at the time.

Final thoughts…

Phyno or Chibuzor Nelson Azubuike have come a long way from the scrawny light-skinned rapper that was just trying to make it in Lagos in 2010. He has established himself as the most popular Igbo indigenous rapper in Nigeria.

His success has been largely due to his talent and hard work. Phyno has a large body of work to show for his years in the music industry. He has also won many awards that shows that he is well appreciated. In all of this, the artist has managed to keep his career free of scandal, which is equally impressive.

Additional information about Phyno

List of albums

  1. No Guts No Glory

  • Intro (Chibuzo) (ft. Stormrex)
  • Alobam
  • Set (ft. PSquare)
  • Nme Nme
  • Man of the Year (Obago)
  • Chukwu Na Enye (ft. Omawumi)
  • Aju (She Know It) (ft. Olamide and Efa)
  • Parcel Skit (ft. Chigul)
  • Parcel
  • Kush Music
  • Authe (Authentic) (ft. Flavour N’abania)
  • Anamachi Versace (ft. Runtown)
  • Good Die Young
  • Ojigi
  • Icholiya (ft. Ice Prince and M.I)
  • Shey U Know
  • Ghost Mode (ft. Olamide)
  • Holiday (ft. Runtown)
  • Multiply (ft. Mr Raw, Timaya, Flavour N’abania and M.I)
  • Paper Chaser (ft. Illbliss)
  1. 2 Kings (with Olamide)

  • Cypher
  • Koba Koba
  • Nobody’s Fault
  • Ladi (ft. Lil Kesh)
  • God Be With Us
  • Une
  • Real Nigga
  • Confam Ni (ft. Wizkid)
  • Carry Me Go (ft. Storm Rex)
  • For My City
  1. The Playmaker

  • Yes, I pray (Nwa Oge Nta)
  • Abulo
  • Financial Woman (ft. P Square)
  • Ino Nma
  • Best Rapper
  • E sure for me
  • Link up (ft. MI and Burna Boy)
  • Pino Pino
  • Okpeke (ft. 2Baba and Flavour)
  • Obiagu
  • Joy Comes in The Morning
  • SFSG (So Far So Good)
  • I’m a fan (ft. Decarlo and Mr Eazi)
  • Mistakes
  • Ochie Dike (Mama) (ft. Onyeka Onwenu)
  • Fada Fada (ft. Olamide)
  • Mkpotu (ft. Zoro and Tidinz)
  • Ezege
  • No be my style (ft. Burna Boy)
  • Connect
  1. Deal With It

  • Intro (Deal With It)
  • Oso Ga Ene
  • Ma Chi
  • Gods Willing (ft. Runtown)
  • Get the Info (ft. Falz & Phenom)
  • Ride For You (ft. Davido)
  • Speak Life (On God)
  • I Got Your Back
  • Recognize (ft. Cheque)
  • Vibe (ft. Flavour)
  • Deri
  • Ka Anyi Na Ayo (ft. Teni)
  • Ke Ife O
  • Problem
  • Blessings (ft. Don Jazzy & Olamide)
  • Agu
  • Body (ft. Harmonize)
  • The Bag
  • Ojimo
  • Uwam (ft. Zoro)
  • Fuwa Sewa Refix (ft. Nuno & Rhatti)
  • All I See (ft. Duncan Mighty)

Other Phyno singles

  • Oringo
  • Yayo
  • Asai
  • Got it in my Vein (ft. De Boss and RunTown)
  • Nnunu (ft. Stormrex)
  • Isi Ego
  • Augment(ft. Olamide)
  • Onyeoma (ft. Olamide)
  • NWA (ft. Wale)
  • IWA (ft. Tekno)
  • Oil
  • Iyulu Ife
  • Never

List of Phyno awards

  1. Best Collabo at the Nigeria Entertainment Awards (2013)
  2. Best Collabo at The Headies (2013)
  3. Best Rap Single at The Headies (2013)
  4. Best Rap Single at The Headies (2014)
  5. Rap Artist of the Year at the City People Entertainment Awards (2014)
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