To be as big as Naeto C or MI, you‘d have spent more than 5 consecutive years doing the following (no exceptions):
- making songs big enough to be on cover page of those N100 lyric books.
- making songs impressive enough to direct music culture during an era where many Nigerians couldn’t relate to properly constructed sentences.
- steady supplying hit songs that made it to ringtone status on our Nokia and BlackBerry phones.
- making songs that resonated as background music for major adverts on TV and radio.
- having stickers of you on Okadas and Keke NAPEPs.
To get your flowers in the Storm Records-Choc Boys era, everyone had to know the lyrics to your tunes.
It wasn’t necessarily a game of numbers, it was always about the artistry. It wasn’t about stirring up controversy or desperately factless and ignorant beef, it was about expressing genius. Fans were in it to figure out the latest punchline, memorise the lyrics and chant slangs. Everybody wanted the next anthem, there was none of this unnecessary comparison we see catfish accounts doing today.
It’d also be mighty unfair to deny the presence of the “unseen” cogs that made the wheels spin like a Rollie. Institutions like Jimmy’s Jump Off, Star Trek, Notjustokay, great producers like E Kelly, loyal DJs like Neptune and other factors fuelled Nigeria’s hip-hop culture. For instance, MI noted that it was the 5 second loop in Duncan Mighty’s “I Love You” intro, that drove him into creating the masterpiece– “Action Film”.
Between both artistes are over 30 hit songs. You must keep in mind that these guys were singing to a population with a literacy rate similar to war torn countries at the time. They were rapping to people who scarcely understood the concept of puns and punchlines. They captured the younger demographic and drew the curve that currently inspires today’s music. They created an alliance in hip-hop.
There’s no Honour in Poverty
There’s a need to address the obscene need of Nigerians to glorify poverty like there is some distinction to be gained from it. We find ways to do this in religion, education and unfortunately, music. We search for and find honour in an artistes having poor backgrounds. It almost seems like we believe that poverty alters an artiste’s DNA and adds talent or hard work to it – it really doesn’t. We must renounce that fundamentally defective thought process.
For those who glorify poverty and drag hardworking artistes for having different backgrounds than everyone else, Naeto C is proof that there are no handouts in Nigeria. You either have it or you don’t. Bad belle is allowed but it’ll not take anybody anywhere.
“If It’s Wasn’t Recorded, It Might Not Exist”
Similar to the mentality problem is how we managed to forget to properly curate our music for decades. The problem is not that Nigerian music became fatherless or motherless. Our Aunties and Uncles just forgot to take notes. Now the children have to explain to their own children and there are hardly any facts around. There’s little hard proof to evidence the blood, sweat and tears. Those who spoke either spewed lies or didn’t say enough.
Guys like M and Naeto C delivered undiluted hip-hop and genuine artistry. We bought CDs at stores and in traffic. Some went for shows. Sadly, no one curated enough of the pre-2010 era. There’s literally no standardised chart data or similar records for one of the best periods for Nigerian hip-hop. For instance, the lyrics and numbers for Neptune’s “123 (remix)” aren’t on any major music intelligence databases.
“Last Last, Na by Hits”
Unfortunately, one sore point is that as an artiste, this industry will measure your status by the number of hits in your back pocket. Nigerian artistes and labels are doing this music thing in hard mode. To become what Naeto or M is, you’d have to have the longevity and dedication to execute around 15–20 hit songs in your career. This is the difference between both artistes and many of their time. It’s also why around 9,000 people stayed up for over 2 hours to give MI and Naeto C their roses.
Love and Light.❤️