“Local Rapper”: The Fate of Indigenous Nigerian Hip-Hop

With the hit banger, “Local Rapper”, by the troika, Olamide, Reminisce and Phyno, it has become clear that, if anything, indigenous Nigerian hip-hop, or pop culture, has come to stay—and, if care isn’t taken, wipe out the use the English-based style mainly used in Nigerian hip-hop. Any who is conversant with the timeworn beef (or, dem still dey beef?) between Mode 9 (the die-hard unadulterated hip hop head) and Rugged Man (the ‘sold-out’ rapper) would acknowledge that there has always been this contention amongst music lovers about which style of rapping was better: the local style (which fuses hip hop with an erotic local content, especially in the use of Nigerian languages, like Yoruba, Igbo, and Hausa), or the use of English language loaded with word plays (punch lines).

Initially, it appeared the Mode 9 camp would win the debate (at least, Moddy almost turned the Hip-Hop World award for lyricist of the year to an exclusive prize for himself for some years), while Lord of Ajasa couldn’t keep up with his indigenous kind of rap (sadly, he has now joined the relegation league of failed artistes in Nigeria). Meanwhile, Rugged Man and 9ice asserted then that artistes must make music that has local content if they were to be relevant. In a line in his verse in the track, “Ruggedy Baba”, featuring 9ice, Rugged Man said: “Do what you and your own people can feel.” The Chorus by 9ice captures their main point:

We speak in pidgin where we come from
You better show where you belong

Speak more in your mother tongue
To the people yea yea they want more

Even though hip-hop artiste such as M.I, Ice Prince, Vector, Phenom,Naeto C, Young Six, etc., can still be seen asrepping the game with their punch-line-laden English-based rap lyrics, it is becoming clear now that indigenous rap music, especially with the fierce competition, and, indeed, outshining that M.I met with the emergence of Dagrin, has won the hearts of many lovers of hip-hop culture. Thus, even though Dagrin left the scene earlier than we had expected as a result of his untimely death, it is now generally agreed that his influence on Nigerian hip-hop culture, especially indigenous rapping, is yet to be matched by any other Nigerian artiste.

Thanks to the efforts of Nigga Raw and Dagrin, many Nigerian artistes, like Chidinma, Wizkid, Davido, Omawunmi, Phyno, Olamide and, recently, Lil Kesh, Base One, CDQ, ChinkoEkun, and a host of others can now confidently sing or infuse their songs with a local Nigerian language (content). I must quickly add that although Dagrin and M.I toed the line of Lord of Ajasa and Rugged Man respectively, they could be said to have perfected a method of beat synchronization such that there became an African undertone to most of their hit songs.

On a general note though, doing ‘what you and your own people can feel’ have meant that the line between rapping and singing for many of the reigning Nigerian artistes is no longer drawn, especially as rap artistes now switch to commercials (remember Eldee and Dr. Sid?), to meet the needs of the Nigerian audience, which is essentially a dancing one (in any case, what is music if it can’t be danced to?).

Before I draw the curtain, I feel we must address the fate of indigenous Nigerian music. How far can it go, seeing that its primary audience is essentially a local one, not an international one, which the use of English would naturally afford them? If you ask me, I will say that I see a brighter future for the kind of music that Nigerians are bringing to world music. Make no doubt about it, they are getting (and will still get) more and more recognition for the unique feel of their music. Nigerians are everywhere, for one thing. For another, a look at the reach of other African artistes suchas Sarkodie, K.O, JohMakini, to mention just three, shows that more than the language itself, the rhythm of their beats and the flow of their lyrics can get them a fair hearing from any rap-inclined listener. The stigma which used to be on indigenous style of rap has been removed. In fact, die-hard English-based Nigerian hip-hop artistes are advised to reconsider their position. It’s better to join the movement, than to become broke-asses all in the name of staying true to hip-hop in the English way!

Indigenous style of singing or rapping has not only the benefit of bringing in the cash flow to its practitioners, but also the benefit of promoting and exporting Nigerian Culture (language being its most important feature) to the rest of the world. Indeed, music lovers now use their mouth to call local rappers ‘number one’, as Reminisce prayed in his verse (“Local Rapper”).

Street ti take over
Punch line ko ja wo mo
Street ti take over
Tucking-in ko ja wo mo

I must add that there is no need for Nigerian indigenous rappers to have (or induce) confrontations with their counterparts, the English-based rappers, as the sky is so wide for all kinds of bird to fly. Moreover, we cannot fully tag the indigenous rappers as fully indigenous. There is also the question of punch lines. I fear that in the song, “Local Rapper”, the trio—Phyno, Olamide and

Reminisce—made at least one blunder that may pass them as ignoramuses. They gave the impression that ‘spitting’ in English doesn’t pay anymore; meanwhile they all still infused English in their verses (however little it may seem). The issue of whether ‘spitting’ in an indigenous language should be an excuse for not given punch lines is another subject I will discuss later. In any case, seeing that Nigerian hip-hop (at least right now)cannot boast of good rappers without mentioning Phyno, Olamide, and Reminisce (not to add other indigenous artistes) is a testimony to their own assertion: “street ti take over!”


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