Rap is one of the elements from hip hop culture, sung and performed particularly by the African Americans. It has global influence on the Nigerian music scene. Down the years, a lot of Nigerian rappers have made their mark on the genre. In this report, SAMUEL ABULUDE and OBINNA EZEALAH, write on the rap genre in Nigeria, the players in the Nigerian industry and their selling point.
In about two months, over 650 Nigerian youths stormed the KOGA studios located at Oregun suburb of Ikeja in Lagos State. Their mission was to get into the Hennessy Artistry V Class auditioning which hosted the Lagos edition. Our correspondent was awed by the crowd of young men and ladies who wanted to use the platform to gain entry to the dynamic music industry.
Hennessy initiated the rap music reality show, tagged Hennessy Artistry which is in its fifth season. Illbliss, Vector the viper, Phlow, Jimmie and other rappers were the umpires or rather judges that made sure young talents that had the potential to hold their own in rap music, made it to the contest proper after other contestants may have been selected from the Benin, Ibadan, Owerri and Abuja auditioning.
Rap music in Nigeria has evolved down the ages. The genre of music which emanated from the Hip-hop culture has recorded so many artistes in Nigeria both male and female as some of them have struggled to be relevant while a few have mastered the game and recorded rap hit songs over and over again. Indeed, as it is said, a Nigerian reggae artiste cannot be more ‘reggaed’ than the Jamaicans who started the genre. Likewise, the rap genre which is hip hop music, developed in the United States by inner-city African Americans in the 1970s and consists of a stylised rhythmic music that commonly accompanies rapping, a rhythmic and rhyming speech that is chanted.
Rap developed as part of hip-hop culture, a subculture defined by four key stylistic elements: MCing/rapping, DJing/scratching with turntables, break dancing, and graffiti writing.
Rap is also akin to conscious music as illbliss stated, “Hiphop is very honest. Hiphop is a honest art form. We live in a rhythmic society. Rappers today are those that have re-invented. It’s difficult to get rappers that put their acts together and consistently.”
Indigenous rappers, i.e., rappers who communicate in the local Nigerian languages have created a niche for themselves. From the defunct group, Pretty & Junior, Weird MC, Nigga Raw who is now Mr Raw to Lord of Ajasa who seems to be struggling now to re-invent himself, to the late Da-grin and Olamide who’s now the face of indigenous rap, indigenous rappers seem to have it locked down and appeals to more fans.
But where are the female rappers, Sasha, Kel, Chemistry, Eva Alordia, Mochedda and the gospel rapper B.O.U.Q.U.I? It seems the industry is cruel to female rappers as there is none presently doing stuff in the domain.
Other Nigerian rappers like Idris Abdulkareem, Naeto C, El Dee, Terry Rapman, Ikechukwu, Rooftop MC, 6footplus, YungSix, G.A.R (Gospel According to Rap), A-Q, Seriki and others are still doing the business of rap music.
Falz The Bahd Guy
From 2014, the Nigerian rap scene has seen the domination of Falz the Bahd Guy. His place in Nigeria’s hip-hop history has been firmly established. Falz whose real name is Folarin Falana has continued to release commercially successful projects starting with this commercial debut ‘Wazup Guy in 2014 which received critical acclaim for its comic rap style flow that resonates with Nigerians. He followed this effort up with the release of ‘Stories That Touch’ in 2015 and ‘27’ in 2017. His rap flow resonates with a lot of Nigerians, hence the mass appeal. He speaks a lot of truth on social and relationship issues. Despite this, he doesn’t take himself too seriously and has learned to embrace the funnier side of life. His comedy skits and alter ego has helped to make him have a greater appeal. Falz, who is the son of the legal luminary, Femi Falana has created a niche for himself even in Nollywood. Hardworking and introspective, his brand continues to soar higher.
Olamide aka “Baddo” is more than your average street rapper. His music is a combination of real-life experiences, butter-smooth flows, and crafty production. He is not only releasing hot records but he’s turning his music into a movement in the streets of Lagos. Olamide is known as an indigenous rapper because his usage of Yoruba language connects easily to the streets. The amiable rapper who stated in a podcast interview that he practically lived in ID Cabasa’s (Coded Tunes) studio for two years and that was where he learnt the arts at the initial stage. Olamide shot into the limelight when he released the song ‘Eni Duro.’ Seven years down the line, Olamide Adedeji has become the King of Street Rap. The man known as Olamide Baddo has given a string of hits that have seen him exercise his range as an artist while keeping the main core of what made him successful. He has taken what another Yoruba rapper, the late Dagrin, started and moved it on another level. With great tunes like Who You Epp, Shakitibobo, Science Student, Story for the Gods, the YBNL honcho will remain relevant to rap music in Nigeria on account of having mastered the art of street music.
Chibuzor Nelson Azubuike, popularly known as Phyno, rides on the waves of being acclaimed the King of Igbo rap music. Having taken the country by storm in 2013 with the release of his singles ‘Multiply’ and ‘Ghost Mode’ featuring Olamide. Phyno, who is also a music producer has remained relevant in the Nigerian music scene particularly the rap genre. His rap style not only satisfies a core group of Igbo speakers but it caught the attention of a wider audience. The release of the single, ‘Man of The Year (Obago)’ solidified him as a mainstay in not only indigenous rap but in mainstream contemporary Nigerian pop music. His debut effort ‘No Guts No Glory’ defied many critics who weren’t convinced by the ability for anyone to bring together the hard edge of hip-hop to the tonal and melodic sounds of the Igbo language, Phyno managed to do it in a way that forces you to take him seriously (whether you’re an Igbo speaker or not). Maintaining a close relationship with his buddy and colleague, Olamide, Phyno has stayed relevant releasing, hit songs like FadaFada which got the Song Of The Year at 2015 Headies Award.
Nicknamed “the chairman,” MI helped establish the genre in Nigeria at a time that saw contemporary afro-pop enter its golden era. This skilled emcee was at the forefront of helping to bring hip hop as an art form in Nigeria. Rising to prominence after three studio albums deemed necessary for the entrenchment of hip hop, MI expanded his profile with each new release. His debut album distinguished itself from the typical Nigerian hip hop style at the time utilizing a more soulful approach, a stark contrast to the more battering ram style that was the norm in the Nigerian hip hop scene at the time. His debut ‘Talk About It’ released in 2008 with the hit single ‘Safe’ was seen as a breath of fresh air with its relaxed delivery and lyrics skillfully weaving through the production.
The next release ‘MI:2’ released two years later saw MI expand his sound, hi goes through great lengths to take his music to another level with his concept album from start to finish. His third album titled ‘Chairman’ consolidated his place in the Nigerian hip hop echelon. Holding sway at the top echelon in ‘Chocolate City’ record label as the CEO, Jude Abaga, deft and intelligent gives a shoulder to the young and aspiring acts at the record label steadying the ship.
Hard core rapper, Babatunde Olusegun Adewale, popularly known by his stage name Mode9, is a seven-time Headies Lyricist on the Roll winner making the 43-year-old to be the most decorated artist. According to a music buff, “Mode9 is the real OG Nigerian rapper, if not one of the first to do commercial hiphop in Nigeria. The rapper helped make rap a regular staple in Nigeria. ModeNine gives us a naija style flow albeit with a bit of cockney.” In 2014, he released a song titled “Super Human” with Jamaican-American rapper Canibus.
Mode9 has stuck to his guns doing mainstream rap music and has garnered followers across the globe. He won’t be tempted into making what they call, ‘commercial rap music’ even it is for the money.
Michael Ugochukwu Stephens, known professionally as Ruggedman, is one of the early rappers whose name evokes memories in the minds of music followers and the younger generation. The graduate of political science as far back as in 1999 started doing music producing his own songs. Known for dissing other singers, Ruggedybaba in the 2000s became one of the most featured rappers in Nigeria. With songs like ‘Wetin Dey,’ ‘Ehen,’ ‘Mother Tongue’ and others. The self-styled rapper inspired other young rappers to stay true to their gift – rap music. His albums were all released on his personal label, Rugged Records. He has performed alongside international acts such as Sean Paul, Wyclef Jean, Akon, Maxi Priest, Kanye West, LL Cool J, T-Pain, and Nas.
Samsung brand ambassador, Reminisce, is in a world of his own. Reminisce developed his rap skills by listening to and mimicking major rap legends. The rapper was discovered by music producer, ID Cabasa alongside other Nigerian music great such as Jahbless, 9ice, Lord of Ajasa and Olamide, and he was given the chance to record his first studio song in 2006 and recorded a hardcore rap album at Coded Tunes.
The album was never released and he decided to focus on his studies and complete schooling. In 2008 Reminisce returned to the music scene, performing a rap verse on a track titled ‘Bachelor’s Life’ off 9ice’s sophomore album titled ‘Gongo Aso.’ His first single, ‘Ever Since’ featured 9ice and was a story about his life till that moment. His second, ‘If Only’ helped to establish him the Nigerian music scene. The rapper has proved that hard work pays and indigenous rap remains the tonic in the rap genre.
One of the early rappers and frontliners in the Nigerian hip-hop music scene, Eedris Abdulkareem is a man worth his onions and one that does not shy away from making a statement or even fighting for his rights. Famous for the brawl with American rapper, 50 Cents, aboard an airplane, Eedris stood his ground when brands used to bring foreign acts to the country and give them A-class treatment while doing far less for the homegrown stars.
Abdulkareem performed with hip-hop band, The Remedies from 1997 until they split in 2002. He continued as a solo artist and released the album ‘P.A.S.S’ (“Pains And Stress = Success”) in 2002. His famous song and album, ‘Mr Lecturer’ spoke about sexual harassment faced by young ladies at the ivory tower.
In 2004 Abdulkareem released his third album ‘Jaga Jaga,’ a Yoruba term for shambles, declaiming corruption and suffering in Nigeria. The title track was banned from radio by then president, Olusegun Obasanjo, but it continued to be played in nightclubs. Eedris continues till to earn respect from younger generation of artistes.