Erigga is a true son of the soil. And much like its predecessors, his latest offering, “The Erigma II” is a fitting testament to that fact. Released right in the eye of the buzzing Nigerian hip-hop civil war, this long-overdue sequel to his 2012 stunner “The Erigma” is a celebration of Warri, a city he has come to own.
You don’t need a Google search to know where Erigga comes from. All it takes is to just hit play on any of his tracks and you’d most likely find out in the first four bars. The rapper has over the years proven himself a fitting mascot of Warri; the South-South oil-rich city, famed and celebrated for its pidgin, candour and fabled machismo. If you know Erigga or his music well, you’d know this is what he represents.
Nigerian hip-hop has greatly suffered from the absence of a supportive local culture for a while now. In the futile quest for ‘purity’, Nigerian rappers, particularly English-centric ones isolated themselves from the local audience. The people simply don’t find them relatable or accessible, so the music doesn’t connect. But that is one thing Erigga and some of the indigenous rappers have found a way around, earning them an expansive and loyal fanbase.
Technically, Erigga might not be the most skilled or most gifted. But he stands as what hip-hop should represent. He has an unfiltered connection to his community and through him, their voices are amplified. The street at every point wants its story told, and over time, Erigga has proven himself a willing and worthy griot. That’s probably why his bars hit home and resonate the most.
See, you don’t need a 140-point IQ or Genius annotations to decode Erigga’s punchlines. You simply need to be a Nigerian. And if by chance you are quite proficient in pidgin or come from the South-South, that’s a bonus. When you hear lines like “Who wahala naked follow no dey use English pray” or “Fuck the world even if na me prick go pain” you’d probably pause the track and ask yourself, “na who born this guy??”
But this regional dominance has a downside. Warri just isn’t Lagos. As Nigeria’s financial capital, Lagos sits as the heartbeat of the local music industry. You can’t exactly be seen as fully “blown” if you haven’t conquered Gidi. And despite flashes of crossover successes — most recently with ‘Motivation’ which introduced many to the talents of Victor AD — Erigga has been long stuck on the brink of mainstream success. He has remained, for the most part, a local hero catering to a niche audience whose loyalty has never been questioned.
That’s why on this new album he delivers a heartfelt tribute to this cult-following on ‘Next Track’. Here, he acknowledges that although the bulk of his fan base might not be as active on social media, they are ever-present right when he needs them. “Assuming say my fans get Instagram page, Followers go dey cry/ You don see me for stage?” he mutters before going on to list some of the events he recently shut down – reminiscent of Olamide’s legendary brag on ‘Eyan Mayweather’.
A Warri boy to the core, his verses, delivery, vocal tonality is usually in its rawest form. His stories are sculpted in unrefined rap verses and a delivery that might need some polishing — some might even say he has a monotonous flow. Erigga’s biggest strength is in painting a vivid picture delivered in its crudest form. Listening to Erigga is like gulping shots of vodka- it’s harsh at first gulp but intoxicating right after. On the same ‘Next Track’, the unapologetic rapper dishing out some words for detractors who condemn him for the vulgarity of his lyrics. “Wetin I wan talk wey snoop never talk before?” he asks.
The “Erigma II” is at its best when Erigga is in his element; playing the elder statesman, recounting area tales and doling out priceless survival tips.
With clear-eyed reflection, he paints a rough portrait of the gritty world he grew up in on the album opener, ‘Welcome To Warri’. A world where you are exposed to gruesome violence even before you learn how to lace your shoes. A world some of us only see in Spike Lee-type hood movies. A world where your survival depends on how vicious you are or how fast your legs can carry you at the drop of a hat. He continues this story in ‘Victims’ where he describes a life where many of us were shielded from. A life where you do your best to stay out of the way of hood fiends and the police. A world where you look around and find that most of your friends are either dead, in jail, or halfway way there.
Assisted by Graham D and Vector, ‘Oyo‘ soundtracks some of the hardships we face in the poverty capital in the world whilst also doling out street knowledge. His verses on this track are perhaps the most heartfelt throughout this tape. “Hunger dey slap man face for where him wife dey/ him las hope na Merrybet na where him life dey”. When he raps “My mama wey retire, government never pay her shishi/ You for see the responsibility them pack give me” “My text message na family account full am….” many of us can relate down to the last letter. In what is often called the ‘black man’s tax’, many of us have had to step up and take responsibility for the family as soon as you can you find yourself on your feet.
When he raps “Who them shoot na him luck/ Wetin police hate pass: tattoo and dreadlock” it rings bells of several youths being harassed daily by the police simply because of their fashion choices. Although Erigga largely doesn’t concern himself with the vanity project of proving superlatives across this tape, on ‘Street Motivation‘ he is self-assured and aware of the threat he poses to his colleagues.
Erigga and Victor AD, two of the city’s most successful acts at the moment have their I-made-it moment on ‘Area To The World’. This is a bare victory lap where Erigga recounts some aches he experienced as an artist on the rise, appreciating how far he has come since his ‘Mo Street Gan’ days.
On the final track,’Goodbye From Warri‘, we catch a glimpse of the old Erigga, as he reads off the rap sheet of his fabled “senior bros”: a threat to the entire hood but who upon realizing his imminent death advises a young Erigga to choose a different path. Sadly, this closer not only marks the end of this album, but also the end to Erigga’s efforts at recreating the past for our entertainment. In the final seconds of the record, he reveals frankly that, “this na the last time I go rap about my past mhen, make we face front.”
All good things come to an end; sometimes to give way to something even better. Artists evolve. And as fans and listeners, we must learn to morph with them. Up until “The Erigma II,” Erigga has relieved his past for our entertainment but one cannot dwell in that forever. It was fun while it lasted but it’s now time to move on.
Over the years, Erigga has quietly established himself as one of the key voices of his generation, raking up enough credentials to earn his place in the Naija hip-hop pantheon. And right now, we are even more excited to find out what the South-South rapper is shaping himself up to be.