The state of hip hop in Nigeria has been an ongoing conversation for years now. A genre that is regarded as a competitive sport is bound to face a battle for the throne every now and then. Lyrical jousting is a major feature of this art form and if you make a claim, better be ready to back it up. This has been the case since hip-hop went mainstream in America. When it landed on the shores of Nigeria, different rap feuds helped to shape the genre into what it is today. Modenine went against Ruggedman. Sinzu and Godwon went head to head in 2013. In 2017, M.I Abaga’s “fix up your lives” statement, Nigerian hip-hop has witnessed its fair share of rap feuds.
The martell cypher helped to push the hip hop conversation in the country this year
What Started the Hip Hop Beef?
When Blaqbonez returned from a social media hiatus with a freestyle declaring himself the best in Africa, few questions ran through my mind; Was this a publicity stunt for his Mamiwota video? Was he just flexing on the mic? Or did he really mean what he said? That freestyle became the conversation starter for the Nigerian hip-hop community. A lot of rap heads got offended with Mr Boombastic for having the nerve to call himself the best in Africa. Twitter fingers started chirping out thoughts on this delicate subject matter. The 100 crowns artist took advantage of this and fuelled the fire. He started by extending a hand of battle to some OGs in the game notably Ghost (SDC). At this point, a lot of people felt Blaqbonez was being ridiculous.
Shots start flying from different angles
Things finally moved from Twitter to wax with Tentik’s release of“Blaq Friday”. Payper Corleone followed up with “everybody dies”. These songs took direct shots at Blaqbonez, attacking his deal, his fashion sense and questioning his streaming numbers. The battle line had been drawn. Blaqbonez could not stand behind the shadow of Twitter anymore. Africa needed answers so off he went from twitter straight to the booth. The Best Rapper In Africa (BRIA) single was birthed. Some might say it was up to par with his claim. Others will say it was wack and belongs in the bin.
At this point, the engagement surrounding hip-hop was high up with trends on twitter and views on YouTube. Arguments ensued concerning who had the best diss songs and whose bars hit close to home. Timely diss records from Payper Corleone (Sacrificial LAMB) and Vader (Improper Fracture) kept the conversation going for a while. The showdown at the PGM club and Meji’s 100 clowns video, also brought a certain level of spice which has been missing for a while. Chants, celebrating the return of hip-hop began to pop out in certain areas. But how long can this be sustained?
This tactic of getting to the top of the throne looked familiar. The diss songs roll out, some underground rappers jump out and reply, and they gain some exposure. The fans are entertained for a few days then it is back to the regularly scheduled programme. But what is the end game here? How can Nigerian hip hop have a lasting impact that goes beyond diss records and noise of who the best rapper is?
I must commend Mr Boombastic and his team though, for working hard to stay relevant and remain in the spotlight. His social media engagement with fans is top-notch. He also brings a lot of joy and humour to a lot of people online. After a long spell underground, he has put in the work to make sure he got signed and gain some level of success. Also, most of the diss songs were above average and came with videos that were creatively put together. This shows the effort these rappers are ready to put to get their stuff noticed.
Ladipoe declared himself the leader of the revival last July
What does Nigerian Hip Hop Need?
Looking at the state of hip hop in Nigeria can easily make you get excited with diss records. What Nigerian hip-hop, needs right now goes beyond these diss records. More collaborative efforts among rappers, more cyphers, more festivals and rap battles to help strengthen the esprit de corps among the soldiers of the game. To get this done, rappers need to lose the ego on who can spit better. They need to work to foster relationships that will help them grow and learn from each other. Shows like Dj Jimmy Jatts “Jimmy Jumpoff” helped to get a lot of rappers on. Today kudos to the likes of platforms like the Zone out sessions for giving rappers a platform to showcase their skills but more of such opportunities are needed.
In the area of festivals and hip-hop shows, M.I Abaga for example has been teasing his WAHA festival since 2017 and we are hoping this dream comes to reality someday. Some years back Loose Kaynons Waxing Lyrical was the place to be for hip hop fans and they were selling out venues by just simply creating an environment where rappers can exhibit their skill. Today, platforms like “The Coronation”by 100 crowns records and “Palmwine Music Festival”by Show Dem Camp and the Basement Gigare some of the few shows that are out there trying to represent for hip-hop. More of such shows and festivals are actually needed in different cities around the country to foster this growth. Hip-hop lovers exist in cities outside Lagos. A cult following can therefore be built in these cities to help promote the culture. This will also go a long way in reviving the state of hip hop in Nigeria
The purists also have to come to terms with the fact that hip-hop as a genre has evolved over the years and no era of music is better than the other. It is most likely what we listened to during the time we were developing into who we are that made us to vibe to the music we are enjoying to this day. If you can’t evolve with the times you can at least respect them for what they are doing if they are successful with it. The new school should also study those that came before them and take note of things they didn’t do right and try to do it better. In areas that they were successful, ask questions on how they made things happen and fly with it.
Relatability with the audience is still a major issue with the genre. Not everyone is interested in hearing you rap about guns you never shot or talk about Brooklyn when you are in Surulere. You therefore have to give the fans something they can relate to and understand. It is also really important to fuse your beats with elements related to Nigeria/Africa so the music can sound like ours at any given time.
Rap duo Paybac and Boogey make up the Lost & Found
These days, the presence of a record deal goes a long way but it still doesn’t guarantee success. You as an artist still have to come up with ways to market yourself. If you are an independent act, do not ignore any streaming platform when pushing your music. At least that will go a long way in helping you gain some exposure. Social media engagement and sale of merchandise also play vital roles considering your pocket size. I must commend rap duo of the “Lost and Found” Paybac and Boogey, for taking the merchandise route with their latest offering “Alternate Ending.” Funding is hard to come by in the industry and with the economic woes present in the country, rappers need to come up with ways to grow their industry.
The Best Rapper in Africa conversation has brought more exposure to the artistry of Blaqbonez, Tentik, Payper Corleone, Meji, Vader and many more but exposure can only take you a distance. These great MCs have greater potential to achieve more as a collective. AQ has explained that the meaning of 100 crowns is that many people can wear the crown at the same time and every rapper is a king. We believe there is enough room in the sky for every rapper to soar if they really want to.
Hip-hop turned 46 years old in America on the 11th of August and it is barely 20 years old here in Nigeria. We can say we have barely scratched the surface and there is still room for much to be done in the genre. We wait with belief that things fall into place correctly and the genre becomes a leading force someday in the country. This will in turn help improve the state of hip hop in Nigeria.
Written by : Oyale Adejo
Oyale is a writer and avid reader of books with interests in African culture, politics and history. @OyaleA_