Nurturing The Next Generation: The Mentor & Protégé Relationship

Mentoring is a relationship between an established artist in the industry and someone less experienced, who is at a point of change or transition. Acting as a trusted advisor, the mentor-protégé relationship can help nurture significant personal and professional development, and becomes a kind of balancing act. Craig David’s recent collab with Nippa in “G Love” demonstrates an explosive and interesting new mentor-type relationship, where the established, and Garage-influenced R&B sound of David meets Nippa’s explosive rising star energy. But this relationship of nurturing and motivation is not the first of its kind. 

Craig David’s song “Re-Rewind” with Artful Dodger, was the first of sixteen UK top 10 hits, when released in 2000. His follow-up single “Fill Me In,” billed this time as David’s solo debut, shot to No.1, making history as the youngest British male singer to reach the top of the charts. “Re-Rewind” and “Fill Me In” are staples of every themed throwback party, and David is currently performing all over the UK and even has an Ibiza residency. The question is who is his young protégé Nippa? 

Nippa’s smash hit “Change My Tone” made a bold statement as the new kid on the block with playful and heartfelt energy to charm anyone. “Squeezin’ Ya” with its addictive rhythm was a bouncy dance hit, demonstrating his refreshing and innovative approach mixed in with his honeyed vocals. With recent singles “Ride or Die” and “Situation,” we see Nippa’s magnetic mix of Funk, Pop, Soul, and Hip-Hop. Labelled as a champion of the Rhythm and Blues renaissance, it is easy to see why Craig David, (an innovator in his own right) and Nippa hit it off. 

What is mentoring and why is it so key in today’s music industry? Lessons about music can only be passed on through the generations. Craig David’s mentorship of Nippa is reminiscent of a recent trend of late 2021 and 2022: Sam Smith and Cat Burns, Machine Gun Kelly and Glaive, Ed Sheeran and Camilla Cabello, and so on. However, mentorship has dated back to the days of Bob Dylan and Woody Guthrie, or Ray Charles and Quincy Jones in the 1950s. With a well documented history of mentors passing on experience to a protégé , what can be expected of the mentorship between Craig David and Nippa?

Cat Burns and Sam Smith

Craig David and Nippa stand out as potentially ground-breaking, given Nippa’s slightly niche status and Craig’s household nostalgic quality. Mentorship relationships are proven to be a powerful tool, opening an opportunity and space for the younger artists who are lacking experience, and the older artists, looking to teach. Craig David has experience in riding the waves of popularity and producing hit singles but has now become more of a nostalgia hit-maker as opposed to the power-house artist he set out to be. Nippa seems to also be a young prodigy unsure how to secure a place for himself long-term. The question becomes what can Craig David teach Nippa about the ruthless unpredictability and endless opportunity of the music industry?

The music business is generally seen as unfriendly, and inaccessible to all but the chosen few. However, mentoring is proven to empower people to take charge of their careers and fulfil their potential.

A mentor will work to advise you and help you grow by drawing off their own experiences, skills, and connections. Kanye West was told to mentor John Legend, and before that Jay-Z mentored Kanye.  Eminem mentored 50 Cent and was mentored by Dr. Dre. Soon a spider-web of connections, clout,  and talent forms. Mentorship is the inheritance of wisdom and power between the generations; leaders are raised by leaders, and protégés often become mentors. Some relationships ended badly, like that of John Legend and Kanye West, but most last lifetimes. As Jay Z once said of his relationship with Kanye: “That’s my brother, we’re beyond friends.”

While many do not have Dr. Dre on speed dial, it is useful to know that nurturing relationships of mentorship to protégé can happen to anyone. A lot of it lies in the art of asking. Someone looking to grow significantly in their talent may know that they may be able to learn more from them than they would from someone more advanced in their career. There’s something about going through a journey together that can be truly inspiring for everyone involved. So what do we think of mentorship relationships? Nippa and Craig David may be the OG duo of 2022.  As the boundaries are dissolving in their hierarchies of the music industry, now seems like the time for young, protégé musicians to receive the skills and wisdom from the veterans of the industry.

Eminem, 50 Cent and Dr. Dre
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