Sunday, May 10, 2009

THE PLACE OF HIPHOP IN NIGERIA


The explosion of hiphop in Nigeria could be traced to the beginning of the millenium with the rise of the likes of Ruggedman, 2 Shotz, Freestyle, Eldee the Don, Modenine e.t.c.
Between then and now-a relatively short space of time, one would’ve expected a gradual rise in the game or at best a slow and steady kinda climb. Contrarily, Hiphop music and culture has rapidly grown, spread and permeated almost every corner of the nation.
Hiphop music is fastly gaining heavy air play on radio and television stations, there are more Hiphop On Air Presenters and Hiphop shows on radio than has ever been experienced. This has invariably caused a heavy influx of cats into the game and made more converts for the culture.
Hiphop in Nigeria has cut across all ages, gender, disposition and genres.
In the past couple of years, no fewer than multiples of tens of albums and mixtapes are released each year. More than a quarter of these make it to the mainstream thus boldening the outline of Hiphop on the music map.
Nigerian Hiphop videos recently, have been characterised by high quality, rich content screen play which has earned them heavy rotations on international Music Channels like the MTV, Channel O, Soundcity, Nigezie and the rest. Such videos have apart from making CDs move units, also won awards many of which are sponsored by internationally reknown awarding bodies. Examples include Kini Big Deal by Naeto-C which won an MTV Award in 2008; Cry by Modenine which won three Channel O Awards.
Nowadays, we hear a lot of songs which are products of the fusion of hiphop and other music genres. Even a few acts from other genres are sometimes erroneously referred to as rappers. This quite shows the level of appreciation Hiphop is receiving in Nigeria.
Furthermore, a lot of corporate organisations are getting involved, helping to elevate different parts of the culture to great heights. Several of them are stepping up to sponsor competitions. Examples include the Emcee Africa Competition; Malta Guinness Street Dance Competition, Gulder DJ Competition to mention but a few.
Some other bodies organize Hiphop shows and concerts sometimes with international Hiphop veterans and superstars performing live on stage on Nigerian soil. Such shows have drawn the likes of Nas, Talib Kweli, 50 Cent, Ja Rule, Jay-Z, Snoop Dogg, Nelly, Ludacris, Kanye West, Akon, Wyclef to mention but a few.
The Hiphop culture in Nigeria has given rise to a lot of movements in different parts of the country. These movements provide a platform for hiphoppers to converge and articulate on issues concerning the genre and the culture as a whole. These meetings take place periodically and as regularly as possible. Examples include the African Hiphop Movement pioneered by Nigeria’s Modenine, Reflection Easternal which is a hiphop movement for hiphop heads in or connected to the Eastern region of Nigeria, Code 042 pioneered by the Hiphop Community Enugu State
Nigerian Hiphop heads are also heavily involved on online fora. On these fora, hiphop heads frankly express themselves on the goings-on in the genre. Here, they share news, music, videos, views; get involved in lyrical ‘battles’ , dropping freestyles and critical reviews. Worthy of mention are a few online fora like Africanhiphop.com, Nairaland.com, Nigerianhiphop.net.
From my long standing observation of the Nigerian hiphop scene, I’ve observed the seriousness and enthusiasm of hiphop heads around here. Pulling as much resources as possible into making joints and pushing them as far as possible to the mainstream. The calibre of some songs produced in Nigeria sometimes throw jaws apart, yelling “…man! that’s a classic!” .
Nigerian hiphop heads also organize shows where they come together alongside a few resident big names and kick the art of their heart right on stage.
One more thing I know about heads in Nigeria is their zero level of tolerance to wackness. Though praises are showered when due, cats would not hesitate to point out the weaknesses of an MC whether mainstream or underground. Any upcoming MC would be critically reviewed. Mainstream acts are not spared in this drill especially if he/she is ‘slipping’. Heads have argued about the necessity of such criticisms but another school of thought holds that “…if you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen”.
Inspite of the successes recorded in elevating the Hiphop culture in Nigeria, a lot of challenges still abound. While some of these setbacks could be caused by the Hiphoppers themselves, others are blameable on the environment.
A lot of rappers these days are so eager to rush to the studios and record a track. Such do not sit down, listen and improve on their lyrical content and articulation before jumping into the recording booth. At the end of the day, what comes as a finished product sounds like a rehearsal.
Quite a number of hiphop heads cannot draw the line between hate and criticism. Especially on the online forums, a lot of cats would want to talk dirty about another’s music. This solely and conciously stems out from the fact that they have an issue with the dude. Such ones instead of pointing out the loopholes of the artist and suggest how he can improve, bluntly declare “...that dude is wack.”
On the flip side, a lot of emcees have a little hitch with promoting their songs on the air waves (radio & T.V). There have been quite a number of cases where rap artists have to pay radio and T.V dee-jays before their songs receive any rotation. Many of these rappers fund themselves to book studio sessions, record their songs and then they are made to pay (most times) heavily just to be heard? That’s not fair and could discourage a lot of lovers of the game.
Futhermore, there have been heated debates in so many corners on what a true hiphop song should sound like. Should it sound like some Grandmaster Flash or DJ Premiere or Kanye West sample? Or, should it be a club banger which inevitably will sound like the local genres like apala, fuji, afro beat? The protagonists of the dance track thang argue that more people feel their style. They argue that consequently, their records move more units and so their style is real. The hardcore school of thought holds that their style is what hiphop should sound like. The problem with songs with the club/dance feel is that most of them contain poor lyrical content, junk rap and less creativity thereby serving ‘diluted’ hiphop. This has not helped matters as sometimes ‘non-hiphoppers’ are erroneously honored with hiphop awards while the true players of the game are left unrecognized.
Relatedly, there has arisen in many quarters the right language to be used on a true hiphop record: English? Or pidgin and local languages? Today, we have french rappers who rap in French, Puerto Ricans who rap in Puerto Rican, Spaniards who rap in Spanish even Chinese who rap in Chinese…why shouldn’t we rap with our own native languages or at least in pidgin English? There is no much fuss to this, I believe rappers should spit in whatever language that reaches their audience but they must represent Hiphop to the fullest.
Lastly, we have the big monster called lack of funds. A lot needs to be done to elevate hiphop, those initiatives cannot be executed without adequate funds. It is quite expensive to make an album less talk organizing a show or running an award contest. Most rappers in Nigeria are students and so not in the working class. They have to source funds from their meager accounts or a couple of ‘jobs’. This really is a setback.
Conclusively, more needs to be done to elevate the Hiphop culture in Nigeria if not for any other reason but for so at least it could be worth a living.
Firstly, the negative image of Hiphop being a violent or immoral culture should be erased. This campaign has to be spear headed by hiphoppers themselves.
More hiphop heads should get into enterpreneurship to help ease the problem of funding.Jay-Z wouldn’t have a problem carrying out any hiphop project he would want to.
Furthermore, the ‘fat envelope’ attitude of some On Air Hosts should be stopped. This is to encourage hiphop heads to come up with their records for airplay.
More Hiphop movements should spring up in many parts of the country to address the issues concerning the game in such areas. This will also help to sweep more people into the game and project the Nigerian Hiphop scene as one of the best on the African continent and the world in general.
Lastly, more corporate bodies should step up and sponsor Hiphop projects or even initiate some themselves. This will go a long way to put on the limelight skilled emcees who would’ve been otherwise underground.
I’ve tried my best to run an analogy of the situation of Hiphop in Nigeria. I hope this gives an insight to you, the reader.
Thanks for reading and please feel free to drop your comments.
One.

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