Embattled record label, Ambitiouz Entertainment, is facing fresh allegations, this time over taking dubious steps to ensure their artists win awards.
Ambitiouz Entertainment has gone to court after rappers Fifi Cooper, A-Reece and duo B3nchMarq (Benchmark) left the label in a storm of accusations about "corrupt and fraudulent dealings within the company" earlier this week. The matter is unresolved as Ambitiouz Entertainment will face its former artists in court in a battle over mismanaged money — funds and royalties that were allegedly not paid to the artists to whom they were due — and unsigned contracts. However, if allegations are to be believed, this weekend's Metro FM Music Awards ceremony in Durban is set to be an awkward one for all parties involved.
Following a statement released on Monday, the label confirmed that the artists mentioned are no longer with them and that the matter is "before the courts".
Herewith an official statement from Ambitiouz Entertainment.
— Ambitiouz Ent (@Ambitiouz_Ent) February 20, 2017
Two sources — one from within the South African music industry and another with close ties to the industry and who both asked not to be named — spoke to Huffington Post South Africa about how Ambitiouz Entertainment had allegedly pulled strings behind the scenes to secure radio plays and award wins for their artists. Taking to their Twitter account earlier this week, B3nchMarq made the allegation once more, calling rapper Emtee out for the inconsistency in the number of views his videos receive but not having any "sync deals or endorsements". Emtee responded saying he is happier "than ever" at Ambitiouz Entertainment and will not be leaving.
Speaking to HuffPost SA, a member of the Ambitiouz Entertainment PR team whose name was given only as Kgadi, said that, as per their media statement, they are "unable to make any comment" on the artists who have recently left the label "due to the litigation process that is underway". Responding to the allegations that Ambitiouz Entertainment has in any way influenced the outcome of the 2017 Metro FM Music Awards, she categorically stated that the claims were "false". However, she went on to say that the label made a "big push" to get votes through for their artists and said that they "even had an event where each entry was four votes and there were more than 200,000 people there".
The first industry source, who works in the South African music industry, alleged that through ANC funding the label was able to start and channel large amounts of money into expensive marketing for its unknown artists. According to this source, Ambitiouz CEO Kgosi Mahumapelo is allegedly linked to North West Premier Supra Mahumapelo. This allegation was repeated by the second industry source with close ties to the industry, who also claimed that Kgosi is related to Mahumapelo.
A woman known as Gaba, who is an Ambitiouz Entertainment PR representative, told The Huffington Post South Africa that she "thinks they [Kgosi and Supra] are related, maybe cousins", but added that "they are definitely not brothers".
Mahumapelo's spokesperson, Brian Setswambung, said: "I cannot give any answers about whether or not they are related in any way. I do not know who Kgosi is. And I do not know if he is related to the premier"
The label previously took home R900,000 in prize money as Fifi Cooper and Emtee won 9 awards between them in the 2016 Metro FM Music Awards. Each category win carries R100,000 in prize money.The source from within the industry said: "Ambitiouz started with a lot of money and stunned the industry by winning awards."
But the 2017 Metro FM Music Awards are said to potentially take a different direction for the label compared to the previous event. According to the first source, the label allegedly "bought" the categories that their artists have been nominated in by paying for votes to be cast. This is an allegation that was also raised by the second source, who claimed that Ambitiouz Entertainment had bought votes in order for their artists to win in their respective categories.
The winners of the Metro FM Music Awards are determined by public vote and voting takes place via SMS — with voters limited to a maximum of 500 SMSs per cellphone number. According to the first source, Ambitiouz Entertainment had allegedly bought "hundreds" of SIM cards to vote for their artists and secure their wins.
According to the first industry source, unlike last year, where their artists were some of the night's biggest winners, the 2017 ceremony is going to hit the label's pockets harder than anticipated.
"They're going to win everything because they've bought those categories, but the artists will take that money, not the label," the first source said. The label has faced allegations of "buying awards" before, but denied this was happening. According to the first source, in previous years the label allegedly claimed the winnings back from their artists as "marketing expenses", something they will be unable to do this year as the artists have left the label and there are allegedly no contracts in place between the artists and the label.
The allegations against Ambitiouz Entertainment surrounding their vote buying is based on the premise that if artists have won awards, they are more likely to be booked by promoters. However, this is apparently not the case according to the first source. "They skewed the music industry and influenced how people listened to South African music. Their record sales simply have not lined up with radio plays or awards," the source said.
According to the second source, the label allegedly created an industry bias by buying back their artists' albums and inflating sales figures.
However, despite what has happened between the label and their artists, according to the PR representative, the label is looking forward to this year's awards ceremony and is "hoping for the best".
"We hope that the push we did at Ambitiouz will be enough for our artists and we know we could not have done it without the fans and the media," said Gaba. She further stated that the label "takes pride in having taken unknown names and made them relevant".