THE EVOLUTION OF BLAQBONEZ FROM BATTLE RAP TO MAINSTREAM

Written by | Media, Music, Sarauta Spotlight

Blaqbonez

Blaqbonez’s journey as a rapper is not one that had a straight trajectory. However, it seems right from when he set his foot in the booth, he knew he wanted to go mainstream. The Nigerian music industry is not one for the soft-hearted. It takes a certain level of resilience, luck and a real passion for the art, to remain steadfast amidst all the trials. Blaqbonez stayed steadfast and finally got that shine.

EARLY DAYS

Blaqbonez’s journey into music was not a deliberate one. When he was young, he listened to a lot of music and usually criticised rappers. His cousin and challenged him to write his first rap verse and when he did that he noticed it was dope. Writing rhymes on Facebook groups and challenging people in hip-hop circles became his mode of operation coming up.

In 2012, Blaqbonez was the winner of Terry Tha Rapman’s zombie contest which had over 3000 entries. Later that year, he followed up with his first mixtape “hip hop in blaq”. He went further to get involved in the battle rap community. His most famous battle is his well-publicized battle with Holyfield. These days he laughs at his battle days as he did on the listening sessions podcast and credits the situation with helping him prepare his mindset for future losses. He further went on to participate in the Henessy vs class, coming out on top in 2016. He credits people like Terry Tha Rapman and Vector for giving him a shot in his early days

By 2017, Blaqbonez already had a strong following in the underground. He had proven himself as a rapper, he could spit bars, drop cyphers and most importantly he had collaborated with a lot of people within the underground hip-hop space. With six mixtapes in, (the last of which was “last time under”), numerous cyphers, battle and freestyle sessions, Blaqbonez set his mind on greater things for the future.

JOURNEY TO THE MAINSTREAM

Rap legend, M.I Abaga put out his controversial single “You Rappers Should Fix Up Your Lives”. He described the single as a wake-up call to rappers across Nigeria. Blaqbonez was among the rappers that replied to the controversial track. His reply centred on the fact that he had done everything from mixtapes to cyphers. Apparently, at that time, he was already in talks with the label on an impending record deal. This deal came through 100 Crowns records an imprint under Chocolate City, owned by A-Q and Loose Kaynon.

However, the deal wasn’t announced till April 2018 when M.I and his team came up with a rollout plan known as L.A.M.B August. This got the hip hop world excited with three different projects dropping in the span of three weeks. All three projects were to be Executive Produced by M.I Abaga. In the build-up to the release, Blaqbonez put out the single Play. Play was entirely different from his underground songs and this helped to introduce him to a wider audience. Unfortunately, the video for Play came quite late with a feature from Ycee. The buildup to the album release also had Blaqbonez in a video declaring himself as a “humble guy”. This helped introduce fans to the funny side of Blaqbonez.

BadboyBlaq dropped in the mainstream and had hits like Denied, mamiwota featuring Oxlade and Play. However, the album wasn’t pushed as much as people expected. For example, the video for Mamiwota came almost a year after release. Also, Blaqbonez introduction into the mainstream didn’t sit well with part of his underground core fan base as they felt he was selling out on hip hop and pursuing radio-friendly hits. This didn’t faze Blaqbonez as he soldiered on and kept on moving forward. He also ended the year with a feature in the New York times as one of the rappers to watch out for in Nigeria.

THE CORONATION

One major benefit that came from Blaqbonez deal with 100 crowns and Chocolate City music was that he was the flagship artist for 100 crowns records. This was the hip hop side of the label. He had three major people to guide him on his journey. M.I Abaga arguably one of the greatest rappers on the continent, AQ who had been in the game for almost two decades. A-Q knew everything from the snakes in the industry to the people on the radio who will try to strong-arm you. Loose Kaynon also came up hosting wax lyrical at Koko Lounge which helped to put many rappers on, over a decade ago.

Therefore, when they announced “The Coronation” as a hip-hop show to showcase the raw talent around hip hop, it was favourable for an artist like Blaqbonez. Apart from song performances, other side events like rap battles and freestyles took place there. This was a familiar place for Blaqbonez to remain in his element and not drift too far from the core tenets of hip-hop. His record deal also afforded him the opportunity to always be among the lineup of performers.

MARTELL CYPHERS AND B.R.I.A

After the progress Blaqbonez made in 2018, he continued to build upon it with skits across Twitter and Instagram which helped boost his engagements online. In January 2019, the buzz surrounding L.A.M.B August had kinda grown cold. Few videos were released and due to the nature of the music industry, fans had moved on to the next trending thing.

Behind the scene though, Blaqbonez and his mentors were plotting something big. A few days into the new year, a snippet came out of the Martell cypher coming from the four men. The cypher dropped with stellar verses and jabs sent toward another brand. This created more conversation around hip hop. Furthermore, Blaqbonez was one of the most searched names from the cypher. The cypher is presently the most viewed Nigerian cypher on Youtube. He followed up on the buzz and released “bad boy blaq the re-up” in February 2019. The re-up featured some new songs and remixes of the old songs.

Subsequent months passed and Blaqbonez proceeded on a social media hiatus for about two months. By the end of June, he returned with a freestyle where he declared himself the Best Rapper in Africa. His comments did not sit well with many rappers and they started sending Subliminals his way. That whole issue resulted in some diss tracks flying around which we covered in detail, here

One major incident from the whole BRIA situation was the situation at Beat 99 FM. Blaqbonez was on the PGM show to defend his claim when a surprise guest and fellow rapper Vader the Wildcard showed up. They were asked to battle but Blaqbonez who was there with his label boss AQ chose to walk away. AQ blamed the host Douglas Jekan for trying to set up his artist in the wrong way. Since then, neither AQ nor Blaqbonez has returned to the PGM club section of Beat FM.

In September 2019, the second instalment of the Martell cypher dropped titled “The Purification”. Blaqbonez took shots at people hating at him for being the best rapper in Africa and came particularly for Vader on that track. Vader replied to him on “The Purge” which also had Vector and Payper Corleone on it. Unfortunately, the Vector and M.I feud overshadowed every other major beef in the industry.

Blaqbonez
MR BOOMBASTIC AND HIS FIRST HEADLINE SHOW

The success of the Martell cyphers and his BRIA declaration seemed to help Blaqbonez put hip hop in its place. It also gave him the opportunity to build some buzz around his upcoming EP, Mr Boombastic. He went ahead to release Mr Boombastic with a major single Shut Up. Shut Up had people in white gowns riding bikes. It was a mainstream success and it seemed people were finally beginning to pay attention to Blaq. That November he was also in the UK with label mate Ckay where they appeared on different radio stations. Also, around this time he made traffic after traffic, a remix to parte after parte. All through this, he maintained his stance as the best rapper on the continent.

However, he had to cut his UK journey short and return for his headline show that December. The show featured fellow rappers but had quite a low turnout. The promotion for the build-up to the show started quite late, which affected the show. All in all, he still brought his best and delivered his performance with ease and joy. Some of his peers were there to support him.

LOCKDOWN AND STREAM HABA

Things started looking serious for Blaqbonez. Chocolate city went into partnership with warner music. This provided Blaqbonez with a wider reach for his music in terms of distribution. 2020 began for him with a short lived feud betweem him and Kenyan rapper Khaligraph Jones. Something went on during the soundcity music awards which didn’t sit well with Blaqbonez and this resulted in their beef. Unfortunately, Covid 19 struck and took people’s attention away from the feud as countries embarked on lockdown to survive. Few months later, Blaqbonez put out his single “Haba” but in a lockdown, he had to find a way to push his craft. Everyone was at home apart from essential workers so one thing he had on his side was time. Blaqbonez started coming up with funny skits all around begging people to stream his music, particularly Haba.

With playlisting playing a major role in how the music is marketed these days, Blaqbonez had to always try and get involved with his art by telling people to stream his songs. He was in people’s replies on Twitter, on people’s IG live videos and everywhere he could drop it, he had one message “stream Haba”. He went to the extent of customising an AS Roma jersey to amplify his message. Ladipoe also came up with a bar when he jumped on Rexxie’s Opor remix “for goodness sake please stream Haba”. Unfortunately, the main video vixen featured in Haba passed away during this same period.

This strategy helped to expand Blaqbonez reach in mainstream circles. His online skits on Instagram and Twitter were always heartwarming to watch, helping to brighten up the mood of people at such a downtime. At this point, he wasn’t just getting casual fans that were going to be here today and gone tomorrow. Rather he ended up building a loyal fan base ready to ride through the music journey with him. It was clear the “Blaqforce” were fully present with him.

BBC, BISI AND A REMIX WITH TIWA SAVAGE

After the success of haba during the lockdown period, Blaqbonez was ready with his second single BBC. There was some talk about Santi being on the track with him. Unfortunately, Blaqbonez said in an interview with Urban 96 FM that Santi started acting weird about the release. For this reason, he decided to take Santi off and do it on his own. Due to the EndSars protests though, he had to delay the promotion of the song. A live cock called Bisi followed him around and helped with the press runs. BBC was a success enabling him to add another hit to his catalogue. He went on to score a remix with the Queen of Afro pop, Tiwa Savage in February 2021. This helped to make the song bigger.  

Blaqbonez
COSIGNS FROM WIZKID, BLING, LEMON PEPPER FREESTYLE AND SEX > LOVE

One of the happiest days of Blaqs life was the day Wizkid finally played his song (BBC) on his Instagram stories. Blaqbonez had been tweeting at Wizkid for over two years and finally got the love. He called Wizkid one of his biggest inspirations and it meant a lot to him. Don Jazzy has also been readily available to provide the ever funny skits and help support.

Blaqbonez announced that his next studio album was going to be the best thing out of the continent. For the build-up to the release of his album, Blaqbonez released the Lemon Pepper freestyle. This freestyle garnered over 200 thousand views in less than 24 hours on Twitter. Unfortunately, it was taken down but can be found on YouTube. Bling, the first single from the album was released the first week of April.

On the 30th of April Sex > Love album dropped to critical acclaim. It features guest appearances from Nasty C, Buju, Tiwa Savage, A-Q and a host of others. The album debuted on the number one spot on Apple music where it stayed for 2 weeks. Bling also made it to the number one spot on apple music in Nigeria. So far the album has 20 million streams on Audiomack. Wizkid, Burna Boy, Don Jazzy, M.I and A-Q were some of the big names who went on to show support for the album

Final Thoughts

Blaqbonez career trajectory over the last decade is something to marvel about. His career shows there is a possibility for rappers to have a place in the mainstream industry. From getting cosigns from some of the biggest names in hip hop, he went ahead and received love from the biggest names in Africa. The sky is definitely the limit for Blaqbonez. Coming up in those early days of battling, cyphers, mixtapes and shows, to reinventing himself all through the process. Blaqbonez has gone from being a humble guy, to Mr. Boombastic and now Emeka the Stallion. He got his screenshot for having the number one song and album on apple music Nigeria and multiple streams across other platforms. He doesn’t seem to be stopping anytime soon and we are looking forward to what he has planned next.

Last modified: May 21, 2021

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