One has learnt in this political season that one has a remarkable threshold for unlooking. And this superhero ability is also applied when one reads or sees mumu talk being disseminated about music and its art forms. But when the source of said mumu talk is someone as revered as Osagie Alonge, it becomes imperative to speak out lest this single narrative becomes etched in impressionable minds indelibly.
I watched Osagie’s recent Facts Only episode with quite some interest as he touched on my favourite genre – hip hop. I largely agree with the critic when he says that Hip Hop is suffering because artists in Nigeria are not doing enough. It is simultaneously frustrating as it is condescending. There is a certain sense of entitlement you get from listening to rappers who believe that their art alone should make all the difference. Sadly, it happens nowhere else. Drop single, no. Hustle for features, mba. But somehow they expect to be rewarded with fame, money and its accessories. Your dreams are valid.
However, it is important to contrast this malaise with its twin – consumer apathy or fan disinterest if you like. Permit me to use one of the sickest hip-hop songs right now – King Kong, to illustrate. Vector, the undisputed king of punch lines, ticked all the boxes on this song. Dope production, bars for days, a seamless transition between Yoruba and English, and damn near impeccable flow. By God, King Kong is such a jam! He then hires Ugo of DUK Arts to shoot a sinfully delightful street themed video. The result? For a video dropped on the 22nd of January, it has just 22,000 views while Collabo by P-Square ft. Don Jazzy was averaging 100,000 views per day in the first week of release. These are the facts. So the expectation that such an artist will be so enthusiastic to release new material subsequently is a bit too much. And lest we forget Beazy put out a new song every week for an entire year. It’s not by that.
One is unsure of the reason for the disdain but it is painful to watch. Sometime last year, Tola Sarumi and I were having drinks at Ikeja City Mall. Guinness was launching the Made of Black campaign at BeerHugz and Phyno and Olamide were performing. People were fully seated with zero regard for the artists. It pained me; I can’t even lie.
I keep asking the exact questions: Who supported Wax Lyrical? How many people have purchased albums? Let’s be clear – We have failed our Hip Hop artists. Of course one is not trying to dictate what the fans can or can not like, but it smacks of raw hypocrisy that Rick Ross can pack out a show in Eko Hotels, Nigeria and Olamide needed the entire Justice League of Nigerian music to achieve the same feat.
It isn’t just the fans. When Osagie Alonge asserts that the media has supported hip-hop in Nigeria, he perhaps isn’t considering every angle. I was watching Sound City Top Ten Southern songs recently and the VJ seemed to suggest that Cassper Nyovest was so big that he was even compared to AKA in South Africa. Such bold ignorance. Clearly, the young lady has never really listened nor followed SA Hip Hop hence her statements. Cassper Nyovest is currently the king of SA Hip Hop by a long mile – a cursory research will show that. With such brazen disinterest in the genre, it is no wonder why there is that gulf between genres.
The point in this video that I find completely illogical is when Osagie declares Local Rappers by Reminisce ft Olamide & Phyno an unnecessary song. According to him, there is no reason for Reminisce to sing about a lifestyle since he is already living the reality. To lean on the words of Prof Wole Soyinka, “a tiger does not proclaim his trigritude“. On the surface it sounds like a sensible argument but no hip-hop head can say that as this is what happens in almost all hip-hop joints.
Grandstanding is a core part of hip-hop. By this same logic, when Nas said: “My first album had no famous guest appearances; the outcome – I’m crowned the best lyricist” he was basically saying something needless seeing as he had done it before. Again, when people say that the song sought to denigrate punch lines, it is an argument lacking in rigorous thought. Local Rappers was basically signalling their reign on the hip-hop throne – nothing different from what Modenine did on Elbow Room nor what M.I did on Undisputed.
While rappers were importing accents from choice countries, these men were steady working and expressing themselves how they felt. They have earned the right to gloat. Again, It is hip-hop: a genre where Local Rappers and King Kong (replete with punch lines) can co-exist in perfect harmony. Heck, Kendrick basically shut the Internet down for his verse on Control. It bees like that, honestly.
Permit me to summarise my diatribe:
- Alaga Remilekun Abdulkalid Safaru has gained success doing hip-hop his way. Like every other rapper in the world, he is permitted, even compelled to rap about it.
- Hip Hop’s weakness in Nigeria is as much a result of the mental slothfulness of rappers as it is about the fan’s bad belle.
- Osagie Alonge is smoking something premium. And he has refused to share.
Follow this writer on Twitter @UcheBriggs