Hip-Hop/Rap peaked in Nigeria in 2010 when rappers were the most sought after artistes in the industry. There was also a long list of acclaimed projects released in that calendar year with M.I Abaga releasing “MI2”, Dagrin redefined indigenous rap with C.E.O (Chief Executive Omota), Modenine released Da Vinci Mode, Sauce Kid also dropped his debut album “African American”. Rap fans were treated to a lot of great music in 2010; in fact, the biggest song of the year 2010 was arguably Ice Prince’s Brymo-assisted single – “Oleku” which spawned the most covers for a Nigerian song till date. “Oleku” was so big, it helped unearth another rapper in Yung6ix whose cover was co-signed by M.I. Abaga on the microblogging site twitter.
In the late 90’s and early 2000’s when the likes of Eedris Abdulkareem and Trybesmen were in the forefront of Nigerian Hip-Hop, they served up songs with heavy melodies and easy-to-understand lyrics, blending pidgin with African melodies which made their songs dance-ready. Then came the emergence of boom bap-type-rap with Modenine championing that with his “Malcom IX” and Pentium IX mixtapes which was not well received by the Nigerian music lovers. Their argument: his lyrics were dense -too hard to understand.
M.I Abaga made rap cool again in Nigeria when he released his debut album “Talk About It”. The album was filled with melodies, dope hooks, relatable and easy-to-understand lyrics. The album also put artists like Wizkid, YQ and Praiz on because they were allowed to showcase their talents by delivering catchy hooks on the full-length.
The success of “Oleku” in 2010 also helped reshape the landscape of commercial rap music in Nigeria with several rappers trying the Ice Prince formula; heavy melodies, catchy hook, light lyrics and dance-ready, just the way Nigerians like their rap served. This saw a growth in rap in Nigeria for a few years.
Fast forward to 2017, the two biggest rappers in the country – Olamide and Phyno – will easily pass as pop stars with their biggest singles being Afro-pop songs. Are we going to put the blame for the current state of rap in Nigeria on the rappers or the fans?
When you think about it, Olamide started out rapping his heart out with “Eni Duro”. His debut album “Rap Sodi” was also filled with heartfelt rap songs. Before “Fada Fada”, Phyno’s biggest song was “Alobam”, a dope hip-hop record. Reminisce did not make his breakthrough until he switched up and dropped the street-tailored “Kako Bii Chicken”, Ice Prince’s recent buzz single – “Boss” is an Afro-pop song
produced by Tekno, and obviously tailored for the clubs. M.I Abaga’s last album “Chairman” housed a bunch of club-tailored singles.
One could argue on behalf of the rappers that rap is not as bankable as Afro-pop, but then again we’ve seen M.I Abaga and Ice Prince enjoy pop success by rapping and rapping alone. Is the rise of Afro-pop or “Afrobeats”, as it is referred to these days, responsible for the ruins Nigerian Hip-Hop/Rap is currently suffering? Or are rappers just too lazy to churn out rap records that cut across like “Oleku” did in 2010?
Of course, we still have the likes of iLLBLiSS, Show Dem Camp, A-Q, Poe, Boogey etc. still serving Hip-Hop/Rap in its purest form, but the sad thing is they are not enjoying endorsement deals and earning megabucks like Olamide and Phyno, who arguably ‘sold out’ on rap to have ‘sold out’ shows.
Hip-Hop/Rap has certainly regressed in Nigeria over the past few years. We can only hope new cats like Ycee, Dremo, Mojeed, Ozone, which a lot of rap fans are now tuned to, help resurrect the ailing genre.