Shu’aibu Ahmed Baba popularly known as Lilin Baba is an upcoming artiste who currently stands as one of the best hip-hop gurus in Northern Nigeria. In this interview with ANTHONY ADA ABRAHAM, Lilin Baba shared some of his experience in the music industry and other sundry issues
What inspired you to pursue music as a career?
Actually I always try to keep my story from the media, but I think it is the right time to start sharing some few things.
I was a frustrated teenager mostly depressed. There were times I was bullied or discriminated against for being a broke kid among all other exposed kids around me. My way of life was totally different from my peers, the kind of clothes I wore, the way I talked, and even the way I walked. I wasn’t happy the way my peers were, so I was pretty angry all the time. I felt like I was different and I had different interests in life. I used to write my own short stories, just for myself. I’d write about anything and everything I felt. I wanted to voice out my opinions so I found Rap music as an outlet. It felt so relieved every time I rapped.
The need to tell my story to people and see if there were others that felt like me, was what made me start making rap music in the first place.
What brought about the name Lilin Baba?
I came up with this name when I first started rapping. I searched all over internet platforms initially so as to come up with a stage name which nobody had in the North. I thought I needed one when I decided to make rap music and step out of rap battles.
How did you start off?
I wanted to make songs. I was very much inspired by old school rap and I had constantly listened to rap music from the early 90’s. At that point, most rap songs were about uplifting the Afro-American community, the ghetto and they all spoke of brotherhood.
Mr Bangis is the first person I did rap with; I learnt a lot of things working with him. He is very nice and talented too. I wanted to inspire people and bring them together and have my music represent brotherhood too.
How would you describe your journey so far?
It has definitely been a hard one. Conservatism is a major problem every upcoming singer faces. When I started, most of my friends didn’t take me seriously. Most musicians would form some types of play and get popular. But nobody was ready for rapping. We do not believe that a rapper would even perform on stage. It was quite a difficult journey, but with God’s intervention, we are growing to walk shoulder to shoulder with other international stars.
Why did you choose this genre of music?
It took a while to slowly figure my sound, to be able to fuse rap music with classical music and get people’s attention. Then, I went on to make my own basic music videos that went viral. Slowly started getting calls to rap and play shows. So, things changed for the better over a period of time. But I still wouldn’t call myself a commercial artiste. I’m not a superstar rapper who is a household name or anything. I’m a successful independent rapper that figured a way out to do the kind of music he likes and still make good money. I still have a long way to go. I must thank God for having successfully dropped one album (Sabon Labari) and over 20 singles which include my favourites “Ba Zama” and “Tsaya” featuring Umar M Shariff and Rahama Sadau.
Who do you regard as your mentors?
Precisely, I don’t have anybody that I can call my mentor. But I was greatly inspired by veteran traditional singers like Dr Mamman Shata, Dan Maraya Jos and Sa’adu Bori. I also got a lot of inspirations from 2Pac and Lil Wayne while I have been enjoying a mutual rapport with Umar M Shariff and Mr Bangis. I used to sit and watch their videos and listen to their songs every day. I would write down their lyrics on sheets of papers and try reciting them along with the song. I also did not know anybody from the music or film industry. So, help and guidance were out of the question. It took me a lot of networking and trial and errors to get things right, after which I got the attention of some big names from the industry but then again, not everybody can help you achieve your dreams. They may reduce the hurdles but you still have to jump over them all by yourself.
You’re one of the artistes not involved in controversies. How do you manage to stay unfazed?
I guess I’m not just famous enough. All I ever do is speak my mind out, both in my songs and on my social media pages. Life has its own dimension, but it’s good in a way that less controversy, more peace.
What are your thoughts on the hip-hop/rap in the North compare to cities like Lagos?
In my opinion, they all have very different scenes. I think Southern Nigeria particularly Lagos is going solid with the commercial hip-hop. They do pretty well.
Lagos probably has the most number of active rappers in a single city in Nigeria. Whereas, North has few rappers, but they are the ones who have made it to wherever they are all by themselves.
A southern rapper has all the media attention. Be it movies, magazines, blogs and documentaries. Lagos is everybody’s first or second choices.
So, rappers there get a lot more media and social media coverage. Whereas, in the North, all you have is your talent, a studio and the internet. We have fewer contacts, less people running big channels and stations in the North.
If you are from the North and manage to get big and be known nationwide, it’s because you’ve struggled a lot, been through a lot of failures and eventually figured out things all by yourself, which in turn makes you a hard and a smart worker.
How do you feel about criticism especially if things turn around?
You cannot impress everybody. Some will appreciate your hard work, while some will criticize it. All you have to do is to make it big to a point because of your hard core fans, and then there comes a point in your life where you are given the opportunity to make money. Most people would take that up. It helps you stay financially secure for a very long time.
Your true hard core fans are definitely going to be let down as you don’t make music for them anymore, but what they don’t realize is that it is a skill to write or sing or rap or compose the simplest things and have everybody in the country singing to those tunes. It is a path the artiste decides to take for the betterment of his life.
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