Photo by Gus Sarkodee

Ayo Animashaun, once listed by Nigeria Entertainment Today as one of Nigeria’s most influential people in the entertainment industry, is a force within and outside of Nigeria.

Between the late 90s and now, the Nigerian entertainment industry has grown into one of the largest creative industries on the continent. The common misconception regarding creative industries is that growth primarily lies on the shoulders of talent. However, without organisers, the structure that brings out the best in creatives is non- existent. To wit, without people like Ayo Animashaun, Nigeria’s entertainment industry would not be where it is today. 

Who is Ayo Animashaun? 

The thing about success is that even without knowing it, you may know about a person even if you don’t know them. Ayo Animashaun, once listed by Nigeria Entertainment Today as one of Nigeria’s most influential people in the entertainment industry, is a force within and outside of Nigeria. The Smooth Operations CEO discovered his love for music early in life and took advantage of his passion to make a brand for himself. His is a story of hard work, drive, and audacity that most people will see as ‘ment’. Think about it. What else would possess a twenty-five-year-old boy to start a magazine without any idea of how to fund it? 

Photo by Gus Sarkodee

The beginning of Hip Hop World Magazine and everything else. 

While in tertiary school, Ayo used to compile song lyrics in books for sale. They were a huge success, and the idea for Hip Hop World Magazine was birthed from this small endeavour. But the idea grew incrementally; first as a column in another magazine before Ayo took the leap to turn it into a magazine. Coming from humble beginnings, he worked as an entertainment reporter so he could save money and form the necessary relationships to start his magazine. Hip Hop World was an instant success, and Ayo has never looked back. It ran for over twenty years and was a staple for the entertainment news audience. No longer in print, the magazine has left a big gap yet to be filled. 

And the Award Goes to…The Headies! 

Dominating the entertainment news space was not enough for ambitious Ayo. This was made clear when in 2005, he founded the Hip Hop World Awards, later known as The Headies. The maiden edition of The Headies took place in 2006. Ayo Animashaun established it to recognise and award outstanding achievements in the music industry. The Headies has since then become the most prominent Nigerian music award event. It has grown significantly since 2006, becoming a home for performances by established and upcoming artistes. As a matter of fact, the 15th Edition of The Headies (2022) took place in Atlanta, USA, marking the first time since its establishment that the award scheme was organised out of Nigeria. 

The prestigious Headies Awards are significant because many winners of the Next Rated category have gone on to become household names in Nigeria and beyond. Davido, Wizkid, Mr. Eazi, Mayorkun, and Rema are some past winners of the category. The Headies Hall of Fame also provides an opportunity for the older generation of Nigerian musicians to be honoured. Some names inducted into the Hall of Fame include Shina Peters, Sir Victor Uwaifo, Phillip Trimnel, and Femi Kuti. 

Photo by Gus Sarkodee

Up Next: HipTV. 

Another relevant platform Ayo Animashaun created was HipTV, which started as a 30-minute segment before metamorphosing into a 24-hour cable television channel that shows music videos and other music-related programmes and entertainment content. 

Started in 2007, the channel was migrated to DSTV in 2013 and now boasts of reaching millions of viewers in forty countries. HipTV also has the sole rights to broadcast The Headies award event. 

The Smooth Operator is just getting started. 

These successes aren’t the only projects that Ayo has embarked on. In 2013 he also launched Streethop, a 24-hour online radio, and he’s been involved in many other significant moments in the industry. His importance is not up for debate at all. The entertainment industry is the very definition of fickle. Many people fade out of the public sphere as quickly as they become celebrities, and longevity often speaks to relevance. Ayo Animashaun, since he was twenty-five years starting his magazine, has remained relevant. Twenty-seven years later, he doesn’t seem to be going anywhere anytime soon. Ayo has been actively involved in shaping the Nigerian entertainment industry, and conversations about influential people in that sphere cannot be had without his name being mentioned as a prominent contributor to developments. Winning the Media Excellence Award at this year’s 7th EMY Awards is just another testimony to the fact that the celebrated Nigerian organiser has more to give and more to create. 



Though he’s cemented himself locally and internationally as a force to reckon



To his thirty-seven thousand followers on Instagram, he has opened a digital

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