Erigga is a true son of the soil. And like its predecessors, his new album “The Erigma II” is a fitting testament to that fact. Released right in the heat of the Nigerian hip-hop civil war which seems to have briefly restored the relegated scene to mainstream consciousness, this long-overdue sequel to his 2012 stunner “The Erigma” is an 18-track celebration of a city he has come to own: an ode to Warri.
Erigga seamlessly has what many other rappers in these parts don’t; an identity. You don’t need a Google search to know where he’s from. Just hit play on any of his tracks and you’d most likely find out in the first four bars. Erigga has over the years proved himself a personal embodiment of Warri; a South-South oil-rich city, famed and celebrated for its pidgin, candour and fabled machismo. And if you know Erigga or his music well, you know this is what he represents.
One of the markers of the Nigerian hip-hop eclipse in recent years has been the absence of a supportive local culture. In their futile quest for ‘purity’, Nigerian rappers, particularly English ones isolated themselves from their audience. A lot of them were not and still aren’t relatable and accessible. That is one thing Erigga and some of the indigenous rappers have tweaked earning them an expansive and loyal fanbase.
Technically, Erigga might not be the most skilled or most gifted. But he is what hip-hop should represent. He has an unmediated connection to his community and through him, they are duly represented. The street at every point wants its story told and Erigga has proved himself a willing and worthy griot. That’s probably why his bars hit home and resonates 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 adept with 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 the downside to his regional dominance is the simple fact that Warri just isn’t Lagos. The financial capital of the country also sits as the heartbeat of the Nigerian 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 a regional success, and for the most part, a local hero catering to a niche audience that has been loyal from the jump.
On the new album, he delivers a heartfelt tribute to his cult-following on the ‘Next Track’. Here, he acknowledges that although the bulk of his fan base might not be as active on the internet, they are ever-present 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 telling his story delivered in its crudest and authentic 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 come at him for the vulgarity of his lyrics. “Wetin I wan talk wey snoop never talk before?” he asks
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 before you learn how to properly tie your shoelace. A world some of us only see in black hood movies. A world where your survival is dependent 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 some of us only witnessed in black movies like ‘Juice’. 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 on their way.
In ‘Oyo’, assisted by Graham D and Vector, Erigga soundtracked 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. Many of us have had to step up and take responsibility for the family as soon as you can. This is what is commonly called the ‘black man’s tax’.
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, 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 record is their victory lap as Erigga recounts some aches he experienced as an artist on the rise and appreciating how far he has come since his ‘Mo Street Gan’ days. A city which has remained home for him throughout his journey.
On the final track,’Goodbye From Warri‘, we catch a glimpse of the old Erigga, as he reads off the rap sheet of his notorious “senior bros”: a threat the entire hood but who upon 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 now is the time to move on. It was fun while it lasted but the show is over.
Erigga has, over the years, 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 can be.