Childhood & Early Life
Tiwatope Savage–Balogun was born on February 5, 1980, in Ikeja, the capital of Lagos State. The singer is secretive about her personal life, but it is reported that she has at least two brothers and one sister.
Her family relocated to London, UK, when she was 11, allowing the singer to receive a truly multicultural upbringing. While attending high school in the UK, Savage played the trombone in her school’s orchestra band.
Savage attended the ‘University of Kent’ and received a degree in business administration, which has reportedly helped her navigate the intricacies of the international music business. Following this degree, Savage worked for the ‘Royal Bank of Scotland’ for a while.
Having received an opportunity to sing back-up vocals for Mary J. Blige, she decided to focus more intently on music. She received a scholarship to study professional music at the acclaimed ‘Berklee College of Music,’ from where she graduated at the age of 27. She then launched a successful career in music.
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Savage began her career at the age of 16, singing back-up vocals for British pop star George Michael. Since then, she has sung with global sensations Mary J. Blige, Blue Cantrell, Emma Bunton, Kelly Clarkson, and Andrea Bocelli among others. She has shared stage space with leading performers such as Destiny’s Child, Sting, 50 Cent, ‘The Black Eyed Peas,’ Robbie Williams, Eminem, and other stalwarts.
In 2006, she entered the UK edition of the reality show ‘The X Factor’ while still at ‘Berklee.’ Although she advanced to the final 24, Savage recalls her stint at the show as a sobering sojourn into the dark side of fame. The singer allegedly had a difficult time adjusting to the spotlight and later described the news that she would not progress to the final 12 as “painful.”
In 2009, she was able to finalize a songwriting deal with industry giant ‘Sony/ ATV,’ which helped her write gigs with Fantasia Barrino, Monica, Babyface, and Mýa. The most notable of these collaborations include her soul-influenced ballad with Monica, ‘Catch Me.’ Another noteworthy collaboration was for ‘Collard Greens & Cornbread’ with Fantasia, which received a ‘Grammy’ nomination the following year.
Savage wrote Kat Deluna’s single ‘Push Push’ (featuring DJ David Guetta and Senegalese sensation Akon) and Bajan pop musician Jaicko’s song ‘Oh Yeah’ (featuring American rap giant Snoop Dogg) during this period. She also sang background vocals in Whitney Houston’s final studio album ‘I Look to You’ (2009).
In 2011, the singer made her acting debut with ‘For Coloured Girls,’ the Nigerian adaptation of an American play. She also became the first female African musician to sign an endorsement deal with ‘Pepsi.’ She also co-hosted the second season of ‘Nigerian Idol’ with MC IllRymz.
After a meeting with Tunji Balogun, her future husband and the then-A&R operative at ‘Interscope Records,’ Savage became aware of the rapidly growing Afropop scene back in Nigeria. Looking to finally build a solo career, she moved back to Nigeria, where she initially faced some hostility. However, she persevered and soon set up ‘323 Entertainment,’ her own label imprint, with Balogun.
‘323 Entertainment’ soon began collaborating with award-winning Nigerian producer Don Jazzy’s newly minted label, ‘Mavin Records.’ Savage herself signed with ‘Mavin’ in 2012 and later featured on their 2012 compilation, ‘Solar Plexus.’
‘Mavin’ and ‘323’ jointly released Savage’s first single, ‘Kele Kele Love,’ to huge success and acclaim, before following it up with ‘Ife Wa Gbona,’ ‘Without My Heart,’ and ‘Love Me (3x).’ These singles eventually supported her debut album, ‘Once Upon a Time’ (2013), which was ultimately nominated for several awards.
In 2013, Savage furthered her acting career with an appearance in the ‘MTV’ series ‘Shuga.’ She soon declared that she wished to act more and had “the knack” for it. She also signed endorsement deals with ‘MTN Nigeria,’ ‘Nestlé’-owned ‘Maggi,’ and ‘Forte Oil.’
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She released promotional singles (‘Love in Yellow’), collaborations with label-mates (‘Dorobucci’), and music videos (‘Wanted’ from her debut album), in 2014. ‘Wanted’ elicited massive public backlash across social media platforms. Undeterred, Savage performed at the 2014 ‘MTV Africa Music Awards,’ alongside Miguel, Professor, and others. She also collaborated with several global artists on a song for ‘DSTV’s ‘Africa Rising’ campaign, to encourage African involvement in community-based social investment projects.
In 2016, she became the first Nigerian artist to sign with ‘Roc Nation,’ which negotiated a management and distribution contract with her.
Savage has released two studio albums, ‘Once Upon a Time’ (2013) and ‘R.E.D’ (2015). Her first single from her first album, ‘Kele Kele Love,’ was immensely successful.
The singer has earned several nominations and has won a number of awards over her long career. Some of her most noteworthy wins were the ‘MTV Africa Music Award’ for ‘Best Female’ (2014), two ‘Headies’ awards (2012, 2014), two ‘Channel O Music Video Awards’ (2012, 2014), and one ‘Nigeria Music Video Award’ for ‘Best Highlife’ (2012). She was also nominated for a ‘BET Award’ for ‘Best International Act: Africa’ in 2014.
Savage got married to her partner, Tunji “Tee Billz” Balogun, in a traditional ceremony on November 23, 2013. They had another “white wedding” the following year in Dubai.
Savage and Balogun announced Savage’s pregnancy in January 2015. She gave birth to their son, Jamil Balogun, in June 2015.
Balogun went on a social media rampage in 2016, accusing his wife of infidelity and her family members of witchcraft. Savage later revealed that Balogun had a serious drug issue and was financially reckless and that their marriage had been “over for a while.”