Assimilation should best describe Nigeria’s relationship with foreign music. Truly, there’s not a genre that crosses these green borders without getting jumped by Nigeria’s eclectic talents. Amazing how much creativity bubbles just beneath the surface, among them lie the crux of this piece; an impressive set shrouded behind the thick curtain of crazed stans and unassuming stars. Fire spitting beasts with hard verse pegged to cocksure flow; hiphop bosses, marking their territory among the fold.
Hip hop isn’t new around here. You could say it’s a stone the Naija industry cast away. The genre’s influence in Nigeria dates back to the early 2000s, a time when Lagos based legends from Modenine, Ruggedman, Eedris Abdulkareem, Naeto C, Sauce Kid, were adored by the industry. Then M.I Abaga hit the scene, followed shortly by Vector, Da Grin, Olamide, Phyno and the rest is history. Those were prime years for rap culture around here, the influence was widespread. So much so that younguns across the country staged rap battles among themselves every other day, wielding polished punchlines like ammunition as they clambered for top spot in their circles.
Alas that status changed in subsequent years, the sun went down on the genre and it was relegated to the sidelines. Rappers went through their worst times battling for individual relevance with only a handful finding a foothold in the industry. Be it from the volatility of Nigeria’s young music industry of the times or from a general lack of enterprise from the community, the future looked bleak for rap in Nigeria.
The good book says it’s always darkest before dawn and that seems to be the case exactly. Lately hip hop has seen massive returns with the crowd and industry as a whole. Refreshing acts like Ladipoe, Boogey, Dremo and Showdem Camp come with verses so cold it burns, discovering a niche for themselves within the industry and creating a steady stream of followers.
These individual talents (and many more) secure hip hop on their backs, staying true to the coast city’s creative virility. Just last night the Henessy Cypher 2020 featured the best of the best butting heads in guerilla style matchups and, take it from me, it was amazing. The industry has also never been more welcoming of new talents, it’s beautiful to watch.
Competition precedes progress, this much is true across various industries. As hip hop’s influence spreads again across the nation it’s important to take stock of emerging talents. Rap culture has had its most fruitful years in Lagos but in recent times, Abuja’s seen its fair share of prolific rappers, these badmen from the northside come bearing rap tidings and have made a name for themselves.
Capital city rappers like PsychoYP, Zilla Oaks, Eeskay and Odumodublvck consistently crush beats with their tenacious bars and set fire to party bangers and raves. To the dismay of rap enthusiasts in Lagos, Abuja may become the next Hip Hop Hub. 2020 alone saw dozens of lit tracks from these musical monsters and the heat is only going up.
The 2020 Hennessy Cypher came with its share of amazing sessions and put a number of ideas in my mischievous mind. What if events like these are what it takes to sustain rap culture across Nigeria? Consistently pitting rappers the industry has to offer would do wonders for the culture, especially in a time like this when the pandemic puts a hold on concerts. I’m drooling at the thought of pitting Lagos based rappers against Abuja based rappers and seeing what happens. The results would be intergalactic; just like the Atlanta/ New York Hip-hop rivalry.
So there you have it, although Naija hip hop isn’t exactly thriving, it’s definitely on the way there. As a devoted fan of the genre I have the best wishes for every artist spitting core hip hop and defying odds with hard or soft rap at various tempos. Once again the future is bright for hip hop in the big green and white, hopefully the sun won’t go down on it this time.
P.S: I’m rooting for the capital city (naturally). Rappers in the Capital are HARDAF. Lagosians better watch out, 12/12/1991 go soon repeat itself.