Early life, career beginnings, and songwriting
Tiwa Savage was born in Ikeja, the capital of Lagos State. Her family relocated to London when she was 11 years old. While attending high school, she was a trombone player for her school’s orchestra band. Savage had a healthy upbringing; she grew up in a multicultural setting due to her migration from Nigeria to the United Kingdom, and from the United Kingdom to the United States. After graduating with a degree in Business administration from the University of Kent, Savage started working at The Royal Bank of Scotland. She did backup vocals for George Michael at the age of 16, and lent vocals to other musicians such as Mary J. Blige, Chaka Khan, Blu Cantrell, Emma Bunton, Kelly Clarkson, Andrea Bocelli, and Ms. Dynamite, amongst others. Furthermore, she has performed on stage with Sting, 50 Cent, The Black Eyed Peas, Eminem, Robbie Williams and Destiny’s Child, to name a few.
Savage enrolled at Berklee College of Music and graduated with a degree in professional music at the age of 27. While reminiscing about her experiences there, she said she was motivated by the drive and passion of the younger students. She also said she needed the school’s atmosphere. Savage spoke briefly on the challenges musicians face during their transition from backup to lead, and said that artists face more scrutiny when their performances are mediocre. Her business background has helped her fully understand the scope of the Nigerian music industry. Savage spoke about her business background and said that her level of professionalism does not make her susceptible to deception.
Challenges faced in the Nigerian music industry
When Savage stepped onto Nigeria’s musical landscape, she didn’t know what to expect. Moreover, she received a lot of ridicule and hostility from people who believed she wouldn’t make it. She said that numerous people tried to discourage her from settling in Nigeria. Moreover, people told her that she wouldn’t be welcome as a female singer. Furthermore, they said that she wouldn’t be able to share the same stage with the likes of Tuface and Wizkid. Savage didn’t allow people’s negative connotation of her discourage her from doing music. She released her debut single “Kele Kele Love”. The song made its way to the top of several Nigerian music charts.
On 31 January 2014, Savage released “Love in Yellow”, a promotional single meant to celebrate Valentine’s Day 2014. The song, which has a retro R&B and Funk sound, was produced by Spellz.Savage was featured on Reekado Banks’s 2014 single “Turn It Up”, which was produced by Don Jazzy. On 1 May 2014, Mavin Records released “Dorobucci” featuring Savage, Don Jazzy, Dr SID, D’Prince, Reekado Banks, Korede Bello and Di’Ja. The song, which was produced by Don Jazzy, is the record label’s first collaborative release since the release of the Solar Plexus album in 2012.
2014—2016: Musical releases, MTV Africa Music Awards performance, and Roc Nation deal
On 19 May 2014, Foston Musik premiered Patoranking’s “Girlie ‘O’ Remix” featuring Savage. The song was produced by WizzyPro The music video for the song was shot and directed in London by Moe Musa. It was uploaded onto Patroranking’s Vevo account on 20 May 2014, at a total length of 4 minutes and 7 seconds.On 7 June 2014, Savage performed at the 2014 MTV Africa Music Awards alongside Miguel, Flavour N’abania, Davido, Mafikizolo, Uhuru, Oskido and Professor. On 27 May 2014, 323 Entertainment and Mavin Records released the music video for “Wanted”, a song from the Once Upon a Time album. It was directed by Moe Musa in London. The release of the video prompted a huge public backlash across various social networking sites, including Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube
In June 2014, Savage collaborated with Mi Casa, Lola Rae, Sarkodie, Diamond Platnumz, and Davido on a song for DSTV’s Africa Rising campaign, which was designed to inspire Africans to partake in community-based social investment projects. The music video for the song, released on 24 June 2014, was shot and directed by South African production house Callback Dream. The aforementioned artists performed the song at the Africa Rising launch ceremony in Mauritius. In June 2016, there were reports in the media that Savage had signed a management and distribution deal with Roc Nation. On 29 July 2016, she made it official by announcing the deal through her Instagram account, thereby making her the first Nigerian artist to be signed to the label
Tiwa Savage was married to Tunji “Tee Billz” Balogun. On 23 November 2013, the couple held their traditional marriage at the Ark in Lekki. The couple’s white wedding was held on 26 April 2014, at the Armani Hotel in Dubai. On 1 January 2015, Savage and her husband announced that they were expecting their first child together.On 22 July 2015, Tiwa Savage gave birth to her son Jamil Balogun. On 28 April 2016 Balogun, in a series of social media posts, accused his wife of infidelity as well as her mother of witchcraft. In a 45-minute interview conducted by Thisday newspaper and Pulse Nigeria, Tiwa Savage extensively addressed her husband’s lengthy social media posts regarding their marriage. She debunked her husband’s infidelity claims and accused him of financial recklessness, drug addiction, and abandonment. Moreover, she said that her marriage to him is over.