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The 5 Best Nigerian Diss-Tracks of 2019 So Far

Over the past few months, Nigerian hip-hop has been at war with itself. What started as a playful but audacious ‘Best Rapper In Africa’ brag spiralled the entire scene into a Royal Rumble-type frenzy that found rappers aiming for each other’s heads. From Blaqbonez to Payper Corleone to Davolee, everyone was churning out tracks laced with not-so-subliminal shots and outright name-drops. Even the OGs were not spared: a video surfaced online of A-Q and Ghost (of SDC) engaging in a presumably heated debate about who the superior wordsmith was.

All these eventually snowballed into an M.I Abaga vs Vector The Viper showdown. This beef which had been brewing for quite some time finally found the perfect climate for a face-off. In what will go down in history as one of the spiciest Nigerian hip-hop beefs, their back-and-forth resulted in a total of four diss tracks in just three weeks. Climaxing with M.I’s ‘The Viper‘ and Vector’s ‘Judas The Rat‘ and its bordering antics, hip-hop which had been playing second fiddle to Afrobeats in recent years was – howbeit briefly – restored to mainstream consciousness.

But now that the dust seems to have settled, Let’s look back to highlight some of the hottest diss tracks off this 2019 Nigerian rap civil-war.

5. Davolee – Give Away

This might not be as polished or popular as some of the other songs on this list, but it’s one of the hottest on the streets. Disgusted by Blaqbonez’s audacity to crown himself the best rapper in Africa without the credentials to back such claim, indigenous rapper Davolee attempted to devour the 100 Crowns rapper. The abrasive rapper aims with a submachine gun flow, with enough rounds for whoever is lurking as he also had choice words for M.I Abaga, Loose Kaynon, A-Q, Dremo, Falz, and Ycee. In fact, ‘Give Away‘ also led to a quick back-and-forth with the DMW rapper, Dremo.

4. Blaqbonez – Best Rapper In Africa

After declaring himself the Best Rapper In Africa in a scorching freestyle, many came out to counter his claim as to many he just wasn’t worthy to crown himself with such title. Several rappers released diss tracks to that effect, including Tentik and Payper Corleone. In his combined reply, ‘Best Rapper in Africa‘, Blaq reaffirms his claim as he tears apart his adversaries. He also came through with his ‘Control‘-moment, teasing and calling out his peers for a face-off.

3. Vector – Judas The Rat

When M.I Abaga dropped ‘The Viper‘, everyone thought it was over. The question on everyone’s lips was “how is Vector going to come back from this?” But Vector did the impossible and pulled a comeback reminiscent of 2005’s magic of Istanbul. With ‘Judas The Rat‘, Vector digs up more personal dirt on M.I, particularly pointing at his strained relationship with his brother, Jesse Jagz. He also highlighted some of M.I’s antics, painting him as a rat who favours only himself. The ripple effect from this diss was so strong that it provoked M.I’s fall from grace, reopening sores inspiring many to share some of their bummers with the former Chocolate City boss.

2.  M.I Abaga – The Viper

After quick successive jabs from Vector with ‘The Purge‘ and ‘Tetracycline‘, M.I just had to respond. And when he finally did, the self-acclaimed rap messiah did not disappoint as he delivered perhaps the best song off the entire pack. Over a gloomy and ominous self-produced beat, an assertive and gruff-voiced M.I comes through with witty rebuttals for Vector’s previous jabs. He further paints the Lafiaji rapper as a snake who has been envious of his success from the jump.

M.I turned things up a notch just a few days later at the 2019 Big Brother Naija finale.  Sporting a black shirt with a bold “No Snakes” imprint, M.I performed his brief set metaphorically stomping over a viper image projected on the stage.

1. A-Q – Distractions 2

A-Q has been having quite a good year. After years of churning out critically acclaimed personal projects including “Rose” and ”Blessed Forever”, A-Q came to many’s radars this year off the strength of his stellar verses on the Martell Cyphers. Also this year, he finally picked up the coveted Lyricist on the roll award at the 13th Headies which eluded him for years despite picking up nominations. 

Of all the diss tracks released this year, A-Q’s heinous Vector-aimed ‘Distractions 2‘ takes the cake. The belligerent rapper who had built a name for himself as a war-ready gladiator fit himself right into the Vector-M.I beef and came through with the most brutish diss track in the pack. On ‘Distractions 2’ the 100 Crowns boss brought a grenade to a knife fight, coming for Vector for with a swift jab-cross-left uppercut-cross combo that gave him the knockout in less than five minutes.  It’s a joy to know that his recent status as a label president hasn’t robbed him of his viciousness on the mic.

Vader The Wildcard, Vector and Payper Corleone Come For Blood On ‘The Purge’

Vector tha Viper, Vader the Wildcard and Payper Corleone have come together for what they tag a ‘Masterclass Cypher’ to deliver a sizzling response to the week-old Martell Cypher 2 titled ‘The Purge‘.

With the opening verse, Vader the Wildcard recounts what down at the PGM Radio Show when Blaqbonez was challenged to defend his ‘BRIA‘ claim and he bailed, led by his label boss, A-Q. The rapper also addressed some of Blaq’s shots and also had enough rounds for his label execs.

A war-ready Payper Corleone, on the other hand, makes a good statement as to why his one of the most lyrical rappers in the game at the moment. Relaxed and assertive, he had enough shots for all the rappers with targets on their backs.

Coming through with a brutal closer, Vector tha Viper minces no words as he is in full battle mode, launching missiles at the former Chocolate City boss. Vector raps “But how do you go from Lebron to becoming a chairman this is insane” as he comes for M.I’s legacy with pristine bars for over two minutes.  This cypher, no doubt, delievers on an unsaid promise: it provides the rock-hard reply for the Martell Cyphers we have all been waiting for, giving the LAMB rappers a run for their money and could even be leaving them in body bags. LAMB-Martell, your move.

Listen yourself and let us know which cypher you think is better.

M.I, A-Q, Loose Kaynon & Blaqbonez Rain Hailstones In New Martell Cypher

Even though A-Q stole the show at the first instalment of the LAMB Martell Cypher, M.I‘s words were more profound. In his closing verse, the veteran suggested a team-up again with Loose Kaynon, A-Q and other lyrical titans “who deliver product” and make the cypher episodic. Well, exactly nine months after what will go down as one of the 2019 highlights of Nigerian hip-hop, Martell Cypher 2, ‘The Purification‘ is finally here. And although we expected this second instalment to feature new faces in the lineup, we still can’t complain.

This comes just about a month after the Hennesy Cyphers which was released to middling success. M.I had previously taken jabs at them in the first Martell Cypher that has recorded about half-a-million views on Youtube,  and he is back to show them how things are done. It also comes in the wake of the combative air in the hip-hop community following Blaqbonez’s controversial “best rapper in Africa (BRIA)” declaration.

This new cypher finds the LAMB rappers, Blaqbonez, A-Q, Loose Kaynon and M.I all suited up at the bar flexing lyrical muscles over the laid-back beat. Blunt and brutal, all four rappers come through with their braggadocio rap, whilst launching projector missiles at random targets. In his verse, M.I also paid respect to the late hip-hop legend, B-Elect

Enjoy the cypher above.

Best Rapper In Africa Or Nah: What’s Next For Nigerian Hip-hop?

Immediately Blaqbonez crowned himself the best rapper in Africa, all hell broke loose on Nigerian hip-hop. The  100 Crowns rapper first made this audacious claim in the maiden edition of the AKtivated Sessions titled ‘Best Rapper In Africa and the reaction was volcanic.  The hip-hop community quickly spiralled into long polarising debates over the validity of Blaq’s claims. While some admired his confidence and assertiveness, others dismissed him as a nuisance and an attention seeker who had nothing to back such daring claim. 

If attention was the goal, Blaqbonez definitely got it.

The debates further diffused into claims and counterclaims, diss tracks flying around with not-so-subliminal shots, directed at the rapper and his associates. After a couple of weeks, the pink-haired rapper reaffirmed his claim in his latest release ‘Best Rapper In Africa’ where he took aim at rappers like TenTik, Holyfield and also called out some of his colleagues for being craven. This, in turn, generated swift responses from Payper Corleone, VaderDavid Meli and many others. Even the OGs aren’t left out of the frenzy as a video surfaced of AQ, Loose Kaynon and SDC’s Ghost in a heated debate on who was a better rapper. 

And all this just mean one thing to the fans, excitement. 

The last time Nigerian hip-hop got its fans this elated was in February when the scorching LAMB-Martell Cypher dropped. The culture has always thrived on competition and with projector missiles flying all around,  fans are ravishing in euphoria right now. It’s a common saying that when two elephants fight it is the grass that suffers. But in hip hop, when rappers square against each other, the only true winners are the fans.  But sadly, the euphoria is going to wear off soon. People are bound to move on. And when they do, what is left?

Nigerian hip-hop has been in a sorry state for years now and despite the several efforts being made for its rejuvenation, the future isn’t looking too bright yet. And this is not for a lack of talent – after all, we can boast of some of the best rappers on the continent – or creativity. Regardless,  it seems Nigerians have just moved on to drown their pain and realities in afrobeats. Enough has been said on what hip-hop needs to get itself on its feet again. Multiple articles have been written, plans drafted, discussions had and more. 

If not optimized, this excitement and attention Nigerian rap and rappers are getting at the moment will fizzle out back to where we started. But some things can be done to sustain some of the eyes and ears that have been captured in this whole episode for the good of the culture. 

To start with, Nigerian rappers simply need to put out good music. That’s where it all starts from, the music. The problem is that many are still stuck in the ‘golden days’ and as such have refused to evolve with the times. Each age has its demands. Some are stuck on 90s-type boom-bap beats all in the name of keeping it real, and then turn around to guilt-trip the fans and media for lack of support when the record simply doesn’t pop. This was what Blaq had in mind when he rapped “If the music ain’t good it ain’t moving/ Your aesthetics will not replace the music.

Snap out of your obsession with the past. Listen, research and understand the sonic demands of the times and let that influence how you make music. The music world today is big on bending and fusing/melding genres. The lines between genres are so blurry today that they might as well be nonexistent. Experiment with other sounds that appeals to new audiences. Approach other genres from a rap perspective. 

Show Dem Camp did this with Palm Wine Music to positive results. The move has been commercially rewarding as they have registered new fans who might have not even heard of their Clone Wars series. They’ve also held two Palmwine music festivals -which recorded impressive numbers – and are even about to take the festival to the UK.  Other rappers like Blaqbonez, Ladipoe, as well as the Lost And Found on their last tape have been fusing rap with other genres and it has been rewarding. Falz’s seminal album, “Moral Instruction” was heavily inspired sonically and thematically by Fela Anikulapo Kuti.

This is also one of the major reasons why the so-called indigenous or local rappers are more commercially successful. These guys can make music in a way that resonates with a wide scope of audience. They rap in their local dialects laced with street lingo thereby making their lyrics more relatable and easy to understand, as well as meddling rap with dance music and even introducing dance steps to go along with it. Zlatan is the poster boy for the wide-ranging Zanku dance and its accompanying sound and he is undeniably Naija’s hottest rapper at the moment. 

Rappers also have to learn to step out of their shell and work with others. While friendly competition is healthy, there is so much more that can be gained from working together. 

Nigerian rappers should be always ready to join forces with one another and synergize over records, projects and even concerts. Collaborations shouldn’t also be limited within the hip-hop circle. Rappers can reach out to acts from other genres like the alte community, soul singers and afrobeat and even Afropop. Step into their space and see their world. This would help to create much more dynamic sounds and also help to share the fanbase with their collaborators. 

Over the years, there has been a downturn of collaborations between Nigerian rappers and their pop counterparts. In fact, these pop stars tend to feature foreign rappers on their tapes much more often these days. There should also be much more joint efforts between the English rappers and the indigenous ones. 

Visuals also have to be taken seriously too. Yes, hip-hop is a word-oriented genre but videos are very much especially in the visually-driven world we live in today. And maybe as a result of a shortage in funding or whatever reason, hip-hop acts don’t seem to place much emphasis on their releasing music videos. You don’t believe me?  Take some of the best hip-hop projects in the past year as examples. “Crown”, “Yung Denzl”, “Bad Boy Blaq”, “These Buhari Times” and the Lost and Found’s “Alternate Ending” have only about two videos released at the moment. Projects with over 50 songs and only three videos out.

Even if proper music videos can’t be done due to financial constraints, rappers and their teams can take advantage of lyric videos and visualizers which can be promoted on social media. 

Now the spotlight is on Nigerian hip-hop and no one knows how long the excitement is going to last. Mere buzz or an abundance of talent isn’t enough to sustain the genre.  The best that can be done is to ensure that this rare opportunity should be optimized as much as it can. The community has to come together to create and promote premium quality content that can restore hip-hop and rap to the mainstream.

For all the dust rappers have raised in the past few weeks, it would be beautiful to see it all transcend to something bigger and not just fade out to another false start.

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