When the organisers of the Castle Lite Unlocks Musical concert announced plans to secure multi-platinum selling American rapper, J.Cole, as a headliner for the show many people thought the decision was flawed. Flawed because for so long Nigerians have paid little or no attention to hard core rap, favouring instead RnB, street and alternative music.
Over the years, there have been a few hopefuls who had desperately tried to break into the Nigerian hip hop industry and for a short while experienced a measurable amount of success.
Mode 9, Ruggedman, Ikechukwu, Bouqui, Weird MC and even self-acclaimed first lady of Nigerian Hip Hop, Sasha P, slowly began to change the face of Nigerian rap, amassing die-hard fans willing to go to war to defend the honour of their favourite rap artiste.
Nigeria, at some point enjoyed its own version of the popular American East Coast – West Coast rivalry with Mode 9 as Nigeria’s Notorious B.I.G and Ruggedman, our very own TuPac. The two artistes fuelled some sort of beef between their camps, attacking each other every chance they got.
Like their music, however, their supports were fickle and the same acts who had once sold out stadiums and enjoyed a huge following began drifting into oblivion.
Slowly, rap music began to evolve into sing song rhyme with acts like Ice Prince, Jesse Jags and Neato C – a sound similar to Canadian singer, Drake.
While there have been a few fresh attempts to revive rap by artistes like M.I Abaga who recently bagged the Headies Award for Lyricist on the Roll for his single “You Rappers Should Fix Up Your Lives”, an ode to former Nigerian rappers, there seems to still be a wide gap in the rap music industry in Nigeria or is there?
BET Hip Hop Award winner, J.Coles visit to Nigeria facilitated by AB InBev for the Castle Lite Unlocks Concert was not only entertaining but proof beyond a doubt that there is a fan base for rap in Nigeria.
The 6,000 capacity hall where the event was held was filled with lovers of rap and beer. At first glance it was easy to presume most of the crowd had come because of the heavy weight local artistes like Tiwa Savage, Wizkid and Davido billed to perform, a misconception easily dispelled by the wild reception J.Cole received.
There was no question as to why the crowd had come as they instantly morphed into hungry eager rap enthusiasts matching J.Cole lyric for lyric.
Performing songs off his debut, “Cole World”, “2014Forest Hills Drive” and “4 Your Eyez Only” albums, the rap maestro could not hide his shock at how much his music was being appreciated in this side of West Africa.
The crowd’s reaction to his music was so intense; J.Cole completely went off script deciding to perform songs off his latest album, KOD.
KOD made music history by recording over 64.5 millions streams on Apple Music and 36.7 million streams on Spotify setting a new record on Apple Music for most album streams, eclipsing Drake’s views by almost a million streams.
It is safe to assume several of those downloads came from Nigeria because the crowd came ready, as they lit up like fireflies on a cold night, spitting lyrics to songs released only a few days before J.Coles trip to Nigeria.
According to the rapper, his intention when deciding to perform songs off KOD was as test run. He wanted to feel the pulse of the crowd, so he could gauge fan reception to his new sound.
“One week ago I put out this album it’s called KOD. Yall heard it? I know you don’t know the words yet, he assumed on behalf of the crowd. I probably don’t even know the words yet. But can I just press play on one of the songs and see what happens? I just want to see how it sounds at the shows. I can’t promise you that I know all the words, ”he said.
To his utmost surprise, the audience knew every word, a reality that further thrilled the super star.
Never forget, he said. “The first time I’ve ever performed any song from KOD was on Nigerian soil. I didn’t know if yall was gon know the words. I guess I was f***ing up by not coming to Nigeria. I f***ed up. My bad,” he pleaded.
Who would have thought Nigerians were so in love with rap music? Not Kel, former Nigerian rapper, who expressed her shock and excitement on social media.
“After last night, you can’t tell me Nigerians don’t like rap music, because this album was just released about a week ago. And then he (Cole) performed some old stuff, which people sang along to as well with just as much, even more enthusiasm.”
It might have taken an international act and Castle Lites progressive move to remind Nigerians of their love affair with rap music, however it happened, the movement has begun and like M.I said to former Nigerian rappers who have now switched to singing to get popular, “You rappers are under performing.”
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