Editors Pick

On Davido’s Laudable Pro-Songwriters Crusade

In a private listening session for his long-overdue sophomore album “Good Time,” Davido had a few choice words for his colleagues: “Give your songwriters credit“.  Barely ten days after, on Saturday, Septemeber 16, the singer appreciated  Adekunle Gold on Twitter who he revealed co-wrote one of his (Davido) favourite songs off the coming album. 

This wouldn’t be the first time Davido publicly admits to employing the use of songwriters or even going further to appreciate them. In fact, he is fast becoming one of the key voices in the advocacy for the proper treatment and remuneration of songwriters. In recent times, the singer who is one of Nigeria’s biggest acts and music exports is often praised in industry circles as exemplary for paying songwriters their due and openly giving them credit.  

And despite all the backlash he often receives for his continuous use of songwriters, the DMW boss has emerged bolder and even more resolute. When a fan responded to his Saturday tweet, suggesting that Davido needs to learn to write his songs, the singer simply replied, “Maybe more artist[s] should learn to tell the truth.”

Except you’re in denial, it’s now common knowledge that many of our biggest superstars are guilty as charged. Most of them purchase songs from songwriters but refuse to credit them openly – and in some cases even pay them. Davido is just the most vocal in a long list of creatives that employ the use of songwriters. 

However, the bulk of the Nigerian audience hasn’t come to terms with the fact that singers adopt the use of songwriters. For all our fervent demands for depth and poetically rich lyrics, it’s quite unfair that Nigerians remain highly critical of the patronage of songwriters.  Many see it as a sign of laziness, a dearth of ‘real’ talent or a symptom of the absence of originality or authenticity.

Nigerians’ resentment toward the embrace of songwriters is probably matched by the American hip-hop community’s hostility to using ‘ghostwriters’.  ‘Real’ rappers simply can’t have their verses written by anybody else. And although fans have – in more recent times -grown more accommodating to the use of ghostwriters, it remains one of hip-hop’s most deadly sins. Remember 2015 when Meek Mill claimed he would have taken Drake off ‘R.I.C.O’ if he knew his verse was written by someone else.

In the early years of his career, even Davido was much more discreet about his patronage of songwriters. In 2013, it was reported that Davido had bought his chart-topping smash ‘Gobe‘ from Password for ₦350,000. This was revealed after a mild controversy when an impostor accused Davido of jacking his single which had been released earlier. 

Three years after, Davido allegedly acquired the lead single for his “Son of Mercy” EP, ‘Gbagbe Oshi‘,  from General Pype to the tune of a million Naira. 

Most recently, Teni – a burgeoning act at the time – came under fire when she excitedly disclosed that she was the brain behind Davido’s 2017 closer, ‘Like Dat‘. Describing her stint with Davido as a bitter-sweet experience in an interview with Notjustok TV, Teni revealed that “In the first place, I wasn’t even doing it for praise. I was just excited that in my lifetime, I have been able to do something that has challenged me and that has made me grow which is writing for one of the greatest artists in Africa. It was a big deal for me and it was something I was very proud of myself for, so I tweeted it and some people took it badly and some people took it wrong but nevertheless.

Nigerian industry, we still have a long way to go in terms of writers and us being able to come out and say this is what we have done and I feel like we will get there someday. I feel like most artistes because of the mentality of the people, they think if you have a songwriter then that means you are not good but that’s not true because I have read books that have four authors. Two heads are better than one.”

In the Nigerian music industry that strictly operates on the mechanism of natural selection where anything goes, where copyright laws aren’t respected, songwriters are easily exploited and are often on the losing end. Stories of cheated songwriters pop up on blogs from time to time, but we simply move on to the juiciest stories. And when they complain or demand credit, Nigerians are quick to shut them up, tagging them as “ungrateful”. “You no even dey thank God say him even use your song” you’d hear. 

Many of these songwriters are recording artists themselves who are okay with taking the backseat so long as they are paid and credited for their work. Some have even grown so successful at it that over time, they abandon their quest for the spotlight to fully make a career out of helping other artists in crafting records for a fee. Others have used their songwriting stint as a launchpad to further their careers as recording and performing acts.

There’s nothing fundamentally wrong with using songwriters. It’s standard practise all over the world. The only time a problem arises is when they aren’t paid for their services or given due credit. One good thing, however, is that the awareness about the salient role songwriters play in the recording process and how well they should be compensated is growing. But there is still so much to be done. 

Davido is no doubt doing the Lord’s work, using his platform to shed light on the abuse of these songwriters that contribute a tangible quota to the industry. His message is simple – give them credit for their work. Over the years, he has benefitted enormously from their services and it’s fair and admirable that he is looking out for their interest. And since it’s not coming from songwriter, a critic or a fan but a musician – a very successful one at that- maybe they’d listen. Songwriters are grossly cheated, underpaid, and often bullied into silence. It’s high time we put an end to that.

Cameey: A Dream Chaser Denied By Death

“One of the most amazing people you’d ever come across. First of all, he has an infectious energy. He is the kind of person that would enter a place and everybody almost immediately likes him. Very playful. He plays a lot. Very energetic guy. We used to call him the energy god. During his performances, he jumps, flys off stages. The guy’s energy is next level. Extremely loyal, super guy.” – Nonso (Cameey’s Manager)

On Wednesday, August 21, Cameey‘s team desperately called out for help. They revealed that burgeoning rapper was battling liver cancer, and needed $100,000 (N35,000,000) for a transplant. In the flyer shared across social media, the usually vibrant and energetic singer is seen bare-chested with a bloated stomach, lying helplessly on a hospital bed. Many were so shocked and moved that the picture started to make rounds on the internet, echoing the call for support and donations. 

Barely 19 hours later, Cameey was pronounced dead. “Breaking News We Lost Cameey…R.I.P Please Stop All Donations Right Now!!!” read the latest post on his Instagram page, confirming rumblings and suspicions. Immediately, tributes and condolence messages started pouring in all over, particularly from industry insiders. 

Born Joel Essoumam, Cameey had always wanted to be an entertainer. Being a Cameroonian, he greatly admired the Lagos music scene from afar, which was mainly dominated at the time by the dual forces of 2face and D’banj, and all he wanted was to be a part of that space. 

In 2009, Cameey and two other friends packed their bags and left the warmth and comfort of their home country for Lagos, Nigeria; a place where they practically knew no one. They had no friends or relations in the country but that wasn’t enough to stop them. 

Upon arrival, Cameey started to perform on stage as a backup dancer for local celebrities; but he wanted to so much more. He wanted to be a superstar and he knew dance wasn’t going to get him the kind of success he craved. After much deliberation, he made the switch and decided to fully invest his time and effort in his music career.

He and his friends joined forces to form their SK Boys crew. But the road to stardom wasn’t as smooth as they thought. They found Lagos to be a very tough city; one very unkind to indigent migrants. The crew had to keep hopping from place to place and catch bits of sleep outside people’s homes.

After five years of incessant struggles and a continuously dimming hope of success, the exhausted group dissolved. One member had had enough and decided to return to Cameroon. But Cameey wasn’t one to give up that easily as he then focused on pursuing a solo career.

A highly energetic Cameey performing on stage

A highly energetic Cameey performing on stage (Instagram/Cameeygram)

In 2015, he finally caught a break at a Surulere gig where he came to the attention of Nonso Odigboh who later became his manager.  Right from that night, Nonso began to seek ways to help this young talent whose energy was so infectious. “So I saw Cameey perform, we exchanged numbers. I now said I’d see what I can do to help you. And we started helping him get gigs and shows to perform.

“Then he was staying with a producer Jaybeatz, somewhere in Aguda. So basically, I was just coming in the capacity of assistance like recording, paid for recordings, all that stuff. Lifestyle generally, feeding, helped with clothes when I could. Just in my small capacity, I was assisting.” Nonso tells me over the phone. 

Barely a year after, Nonso partnered with an investor to set up A1 Muzic, an imprint which was then used to push Cameey’s career. In a couple of months, he released his official debut single, ‘Better Days‘. This was a gloomy story-so-far record, beaming with the hope of imminent success whose accompanying visuals pulled quite impressive numbers across streaming platforms. This was followed-up ‘Supernatural’ which currently has almost 100k views on Youtube. Not so bad for an up-and-coming rapper,you’d admit. 

A1 Muzic finally secured an affiliation with Chocolate City to promote Cameey as an artist in 2018. On the PGM Radio Show with Douglas Jekan and City Monstar sometime last year, he confirmed that the label, one of Nigeria’s biggest, was only to help with distribution. It was under this deal he released the Otis-assisted ‘Juice’ alongside its video in June last year.  

Cameey kicked off 2019 with one goal in mind: recording and releasing his debut project. He had already started building a buzz around his 5-track EP originally scheduled for release this week.  It was while in preparation for this release, that he fell ill with what was thought to be a mere fever at the time. 

A couple of weeks ago,  he just started complaining of fever, thinking it was normal malaria or typhoid. So he just used normal drugs and the rest of that. Then he was better.” Nonso recounts.

Even Cameey himself felt that all this was behind him and wanted to immediately get on with the roll-out for the EP. On Tuesday, July 30, he shared the cover art and the title of the project “O.H.S (Only Hit Songs).” “Been a minute guys and I have been working on an EP of 5 songs, the title of the EP is “O.H.S” …… in the process I seriously fell sick but I thank God am back on my feet again 🙏🏼 … this EP will speak for its self and I do this for “YOU” ❤️ my Friends aka my Fans aka my Family ❣️❣️❣️ Art by @uchay_of

EP is coming soon …………” he wrote on Instagram. 

The cover art for Cameey's soon-to-be-released debut EP "O.H.S" (Instagram/Cameeygram)

The cover art for Cameey’s soon-to-be-released debut EP “O.H.S” (Instagram/Cameeygram)

But this lasted only a short while as Cameey fell ill again; this time worse than the last.  The label got him an apartment in Surulere. I barely ever go there anyway, so when he was sick I didn’t even know. One day, I was at the mall and someone bumped into me and went, ‘this guy was really down o’. So I went there, saw him, he was on a drip. I asked what was up and they were like ‘The thing don weigh am down again o’. 

With the drip, he was getting better. They now ran a lab test, that what they were suspecting because his eyes were a bit yellowish was Hepatitis B. Hepatitis generally. So the next day, the lab results came out and they found it was Hepatitis so they started immediately treating. They said the treatment was a load of IVC* to flush out the system and to the best of my knowledge, he was getting better real quick.“  

Again, everyone thought it was all behind them until Saturday, August 16,  when things took a turn for the worse and he had to be rushed to Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH). By then, he was already losing so much weight and was developing a protruding stomach. After a series of tests, the doctors found out that his liver had been damaged and needed immediate attention. Friends began to make frantic movements to arrange how he could get flown to India for a liver transplant. 

In Nonso’s words, “We tried to get in touch with some hospitals in India to send us feedback on the pricing and all. So we waited on Monday, Tuesday, it didn’t come. By Wednesday, we were already getting frustrated. We agreed that we can’t just keep waiting for these guys to send a mail and this guy is just depreciating. 

So, let’s just start a campaign immediately because they had told us verbally that it should be within the rate of 100 thousand dollars. We were waiting for an official invoice because you know Nigerians are quite sensitive with money. But considering that and the risk of losing someone, I didn’t even care. I was just like let’s start this campaign quickly, let’s start raising money so that hopefully, within a week or two, we should have gotten somewhere really good.

Immediately, his team kicked off a campaign on social media to raise the funds needed for a liver transplant. Nonso was quite shocked at people’s swift response because, by the next morning, they had already raised about 1.2 million Naira. 

But it was perhaps a little too late.

Cameey’s condition continued to worsen. He was in really terrible shape, wallowing in pain and growing hysterical. The fear of the inevitable started to creep in but everyone held on to hope.  Their unspoken fear was soon confirmed when the consultant taking care of Cameey called his friends to side and told them, “guys, let me be straight with you. This guy is not going to make itEven this transplant thing you’re talking about, this thing has gone way beyond it. The guy’s system had packed up.” She then advised calling on family and friends to surround him with love in the little time he has left. This was around noon on Thursday. 

But no one simply gives up on a loved one on a sickbed. Even when the doctors had moved on, convinced that his system had shut down, friends and family clung to hope and giving it everything they could. 

We were just trying to do anything, the pastors were there, they were giving him coconut water, they were giving him lemon. There was a drug we got, it was like a supplement, food and all that in powdered form, anything just to help him and keep him alive. All those things didn’t work o. We just kept trying, so it kind of just dawned on us that what the doctors were just saying was true.”

Slowly, Nonso began to accept the actual state of things. At that point, people were reaching out from Yankee that ‘create a GoFundMe account so we can put in something’. My guys were telling me to create something. But I didn’t know how to tell them that there’s no need. So I just kept stalling. They were so upset. I just said, there’s no point collecting people’s money. At the same time, part of your mind doesn’t want to lose hope. We just didn’t want to believe all the things the doctors were saying. So I was like let me just watch this guy, if I see that he is more stable, I’d ramp up campaign times ten, like go really really hard.”

Sadly, Cameey passed away sometime between 2 and 3 pm. And upon the official announcement, people started to pay their tributes.  A gem had been lost; a dream chaser denied.

 

His family has decided to bury him in his home country, Cameroon where he can rest in peace with family, not in a land where he had spent his youth chasing his dreams of being a superstar. In his quest, he had also created a family here. Not one bonded by blood though, but one of shared struggles, values and experiences.  The money raised was partly used to settle Cameey’s hospital bills and the rest expended to his family.

Nonso assures me that the EP is eventually going to be released although he isn’t exactly sure when. For now, family and friends are all focused on the burial rites. Maybe when that’s over, they’d be able to come to conclusions on the release of the project. Another thing to be decided is the proposed title of the project. Some feel that it should be reworked into something more befitting for Cameey’s legacy, while others maintain that the original title is left exactly the way Cameey wanted it.

But regardless of what is eventually decided, the posthumous EP will always be cherished for what it truly is; Cameey’s last gift to us.

One Year After: Revisiting M.I Abaga’s “Yxng Dxnzl”

In 2018, M.I was on a self-imposed rescue mission. Alongside his labelmates Loose Kaynon, A-Q and Blaqbonez, the famed rap messiah set on a noble quest to force a re-awakening for Nigerian hip-hop; a once-celebrated genre now relegated to the backgrounds.

Probably taking a cue from the Kanye-led 5-album Wyoming releases, these rappers united under the acronym L.A.M.B — coined out from the first letters from their names — to stage a series of back-to-back album releases in August 2018, all executive-produced by M.I. Tagged the LAMB August, albums “Crown“, “Yung Denzl” and “Bad Boy Blaq” were the tools with which these rappers sought to restore and ensure the survival of the waning culture. 

Exactly a year ago today, we got our hands on the long-teased fourth studio album by Mr Incredible, “A Study On Self Worth: Yxng Dxnzl,” the second offering in the string of the LAMB August rollout. But that was not his only release last year. 

Just a few months earlier, M.I had released a highly collaborative surprise ‘playlist’ titled “Rendezvous,” featuring an all-star cast of AKA, Cassper Nyovest, Wande Coal, Ghost (SDC). It also introduced us to talents like Chillz, Santi, Odunsi, Moelogo and others. This dual release in 2018 was perhaps in celebration of the tenth anniversary of his 2008 classic, “Talk About It,” his highly successful debut album which many claims to have ‘democratized’ Nigerian hip-hop.

A Study On Self Worth: Yxng Dxnzl” would be the first of a said three-album series that would include yet-to-be-released LPs, “A Study of Love” and “A Study of Society”. However, despite the anticipation for the project, the exhilaration surrounding it faded rather quickly for a project of such quality. This could have been as a result of the fact that unlike his last two albums, “Yung Denzl” did not rely on pop or radio-friendly formulas as he explored and experimented new sonic complexities on the album. Also, regardless of the laudable acclaim it got from critics, a huge number of listeners found it a bit too sombre, with some dismissing it as “TED Talk music“. 

The promotion for the album was also rather deficient – perhaps in an effort not to eclipse “Crown” and “Bad Boy Blaq” given his huge star power- such that even a year later, we still haven’t gotten any visuals off the project despite rumours of its existence. 

This, however, takes nothing from the brilliance of the project. A well-timed release, M.I used the tape to lend his voice to the growing awareness about mental health and self-awareness. Across ten songs, the rapper explored several layers of self-doubt, low self-esteem and even more extremely, depression that many youths are battling in silence. And even a year later, this album is still as relevant as ever, still sparking conversations in several corners. It might not seem like much, but the album is doing its bit.

He passed his messages not only through verses and hooks but also with fiery monologues and therapy sessions alongside the music to get his message across. Soundbites from his therapy sessions were prevalent throughout the album often coming at the end of a track, serving as a prelude to another. By putting his vulnerability out there, he shows fans and listeners that it’s okay to seek help when you need it.

For most of “Yung Denzl,” M.I works with a wealth of young talents, shedding the spotlight on these acts and in turn tapping into their talents, sound and raw energy. A number of them like Odunsi, Lady Donli and Tay Iwar have gone on to drop their debut albums over the past year.

“Do you know who you are?” a gruff voice asks, questioning our sense of identity to open the project. Sticking to a simple rhyme scheme, M.I further charges the black man to begin his journey to self-awareness and discovery.

On songs like ‘Last Night I Had A Dream’, ‘Stop Never Second Guess Yourself’ and ‘I Believe In You‘, M.I is concerned about our self-confidence, repeatedly nudging us to let go of our insecurities and self-doubt and find comfort in our skin.

Love Never Fails‘ reflects on missteps taken to check mental health in this part of the world largely as a result of culture and religion-induced ignorance.

Perhaps the most pop-leaning record on the album, ‘+/-‘ finds M.I alongside Odunsi and Lady Donli -new-gen frontliners- ridding themselves of all negativity vibes, focusing solely on the positives. 

In full elder statesman mode, M.I attempts to force a change with ‘You Rappers Should Fix Up’, fuming at the sorry state of the art. And say what you will about this record, it’s inarguable that it defibrillated a pulse back into the Nigerian hip-hop scene howbeit temporal.  

The penultimate track, ‘Self Evaluation Over Yxng Dxzl’ is the perhaps the standout cut off this project. Over a gloomy instrumental,  M.I drowns in darkness, picking up escapist vices to numb the pain. He does a good job taking a first-person narrative on the song putting himself in the shoes of a depressed creative, despite revealing that he actually hasn’t had a personal experience.

Picking up where he left off on ‘Everything’ off “Illegal Music 3“, M.I in ‘Do Not Be a Groupie‘ emphasises the importance of loyalty while decrying the deterioration of the virtue in today’s world, an issue he still touched on in his verse on SDC‘s ‘Respect, Loyalty and Honour‘.

It’s been one year since the “Yung Denzl” dropped and it’s still as relevant as ever. The LAMB August releases might not have saved Nigerian hip-hop but with this album, the legacy-focused veteran did something much more remarkable. In his mature and most refined self, he contributed to the growing awareness about our psychological well-being, a theme that rappers have come to be more open about this past year.  It is therefore needless to say that while Yung Denzl might not be his best or most popular album, it is by far the most important.

Payper Corleone Is One Rapper To Look Out For

Alongside Blaqbonez, one of the big winners in the ‘Best Rapper In Africa‘ conversation is Payper Corleone. His blunt and brutal response to Blaq’s audacious claims on ‘Everybody Dies‘ featuring Raezy Winston, and his knockout-punch, ‘Sacrificial Lamb‘, placed him on the radar of many as a rapper to look out for. And though many were just introduced to his talents these past few weeks, the wordsmith has been around for a minute and he has badges to show for it.

Since his debut mixtape, “BARS 1” released in 2014, Payper has been relentless with his releases, particularly since “Bars 2: Guilty as Charged” released in 2017. In the last three years, the rapper has dropped five stellar projects, the latest of which is his highly collaborative EP titled “Fly Gangsta From The 90s” released in May this year. This project houses ‘Sacrifices’, a standout cut which just had its gloomy video released just two days ago.

The quality of the project earned him a spot in Pulse NG‘s top 10 hottest rappers of 2019 (so far) list, describing the rapper as “one of the fast-rising under lords of street rap in Nigeria.” Ten tracks long, the EP features appearances from some of the most gisted rappers rising through the ranks including Alpha Ojini, Erigga, Paybac, Boogey, Abstraktt, Phlowetry and Eniggy.

Check out the stellar project above and let us know what you think.

Falana Kicked Off Her Chapter One (EP) Tour With A Night Of Indelible Artistic Experience

On Friday, August 16, Falana kicked off her Chapter One Tour. The Neo-Soul and R&B singer had fans, family and friends gathered at the Terra Kulture, Lagos, for the first stop of her tour which is set to hit other African cities like Accra, Kigali, and Abuja.

Falana

The star of the night, Falana, performing live (Falana)

Anchored by Douglas Jekan, the event hosted a long list of celebrated guests and influencers like Denola Grey, Pamilerin, Godwin Tom as well as colleagues: BOJ, Teezee, Wavy The Creator, Odunsi (The Engine) and many others.

AYLØ serenading on stage

AYLØ serenading on stage

After thrilling performances by opening acts, Deena Ade, Celeste and Aylø -who just put out an impressive project “Dnt Dlt“- the star of the night, Falana was ushered on stage to a rockstar’s welcome, as she quickly takes us to church with “O God, here I am...”

Backed by her beaming six-piece band, the Nigerian-Canadian singer took us through her recently-released “Chapter One” EP, delivering acoustic renditions of some of the standouts of the well-received project, thereby giving them a flavor different to the way they were consumed on the tape.

Radiant and commanding on stage, Falana ran us through a run of old picks such as ‘To Zion‘, ‘Feel Your Energy‘, ‘Start Again‘ and ‘Dynamite‘. One of the highlights of the night was her performance of ‘Woman’, her somber record centered around women empowerment, highlighting the outstanding contributions of women in our society. Mid-performance, she broke into a monologue that accentuates the grim realities of single women in a patriarchal society such as ours.

Falana saved the best for the last as she closed her 1 hour 30 minutes set with her popular single ‘Ride or Die‘. The live rendition of this song filled the room with a gripping air of nostalgia, inciting the already captive audience to sing along to the standout record.

That wasn’t the end of the fun though, as everyone headed to Club 57 for the Culture Custodian-hosted after party.

Douglas Jekan

The host, Douglas Jekan (Falana)

The Lagos show was indeed a night to remember loaded with a pure and indelible artistic experience that left the audience roaring in appreciation. Her next stop is Accra where she would be treating unsuspecting Ghanaians to her thrilling performances. What a way to kick-off a tour!

 

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.

Deena Ade Came Through With The Spice At Her “May Love Find You” EP Listening

As the world gathered to watch Arsenal and Chelsea battle it out for the Europa League title, friends, family, fans, supporters and lovers of good music showed up at Bar Bar, Lekki to celebrate Deena Ade and support her new project. Just a few days earlier, Deena Ade had released her  EP “May Love Find You” and on Wednesday, May 29, she was hosting an open listening session for the nascent project. This was to be the first time any of the songs would be performed live.

Creatives and industry colleagues like BarelyAnyHook, Aye, Tey, A-Q, Bigfoot and Tosan Mac came through to cheer Madam Suya for her impressive material.

Opening the night, rising act Oyve delivered a captivating performance that left an impression on many. Just right after his set, the star of the night, Deena Ade was introduced to thrilling entrance music from the band and deafening cheers from the excited audience.

After soaking up the moment for a while, she finally airs to the mic “Good evening everyone“, thanking us for showing up, and also promising a night of amazing music. Backed by the five-piece Gingerbread band, Deena Ade opens her set with the emotive ‘Shere’ — a standout off her 2018 EP “The Cries Of My Subconscious”, which she describes as a post-breakup analysis.

The night climaxed with a run of the 5-track EP, as she walked the audience through the creative process of each track right before performing them. Sadly, Dami Oniru wasn’t around to join her on ‘Ma Ti Lo’, a song Deena describes as a desperate call for attention from a potential lost-love.

Deena Ade is no stranger to live performances and it showed. All through the night, the singer was radiant, confident, fascinating to watch on stage.

With her amiable vocals, her warmth shines through as she breathes new life into the records. “May You Find Love” would never sound the same after this live and intimate experience. Throughout the night, Deena is dazzling, composed and overly thankful for the love and support she receives.

The day I wrote this, I wanted to emphasise on travelling far to see someone…and I have a lover in Magodo, so I would leave my house several times at night when my mother would probably kill me. So that’s what this song is about,” she says of ‘Midnight Drive’, the third track on the tape.

She closes her set with a sultry live rendition of the Bella-assisted ‘Savage’, one of her most successful records and also her personal favourite.

Right after running us through the EP, Deena engages in a Q&A session about the project, her artistic journey and her influences. When asked what she would be doing if she wasn’t a singer, she replied, “I’d be a revolutionary”.Right there, Deena Ade reaffirmed her unflinching stand against violence against women and abuse of power.

The “May Love Find You” live listening session was indeed a night of good live music, food and drinks. It was also a reminder of Deena’s gifts not only as a singer and songwriter but also as a captivating performer.

Listen to the EP here.

Photo Credit: The Late Night Soirée

The Nigerian Music Landscape: Survival or Immortality?

“Only real music is gonna last, all the other bullshit is here today and gone tomorrow” – Jimmy Smith (Drake’s ‘Pound Cake’ Intro)

 

Today, we have a defiant breed of young creatives in Nigeria and across Africa challenging the status quo. Despite industry pressures, these acts seem focused on crafting their stories, ideas, feelings and experiences into melodies that a lot of their peers can relate with.  Not the extravagant wealth splashes and materialist bluster that characterises the majority of our pop records today, but baring their soul, fears, aspirations, concerns, insecurities on records. Even when they make ‘feel-good’ or dance music, it is creatively packaged and executed that it sounds so lively and fresh. When they sing about love, they view the banal theme from varying lenses, expressing it in such a way that it doesn’t feel bland and bloated.

It’s quite amazing that most of these guys are unsigned and independent yet they still put out so much music. Labels understandably care more about the financial returns than the purity of the art because these labels are businesses, with aims to make profits. And many have not found viable ways to market and monetize these sounds so they simply focus on the pop cash-cows.

In comparison to their colleagues and counterparts in the pop world, many view this breed of artistes as fools. Why make good or healthy music when you can just give the people what they want. People want to escape their present realities and just have a good time.

Some might even say, “Why spend so much time and energy creating songs that might not even sell in this market, when you can easily hop on the latest dance trend, get a banging beat and just spill out whatever comes to your mind. It’s not like these people listen anyway. They just want to dance and have a good time, that’s all.”

A sad truth about this set of artists is that they might not record mainstream commercial success throughout their careers. They might remain opening acts for the bigger pop stars and scramble for the feeds that fall off the table of these stars.

The quest for survival has made some dabble into pop music for relevance; seeking ways to create pop records that people can easily dance to all while still staying through to their art. Another survival tactic for some is to collaborate with the pop stars and meet them halfway sonically so they can tap into each other’s audiences. However, some want to make pop records but they just can’t. They are simply not just wired that way.

A number have also managed to successfully shuffle between day jobs and their music careers, thereby making enough to survive and fund their passion while doing what they love on the side.

But one thing is certain: good music never truly dies. They are often re-lived even generations after through samples, interpolations, and mixes. Sometimes, young artists turn to the sounds of the past for inspiration. For instance, Odunsi‘s beautiful “rare.” was hugely inspired by 80’s music. Falz‘s critically acclaimed “Moral Instruction” was also heavily influenced by Fela‘s music. Many other Nigerians from Wizkid to Burna Boy have constantly talked about how much Fela helped to shape their music.

Even the African pop sound is named after Fela’s Afrobeat. News and videos have also surfaced of American artists such as Diddy, Beyoncé, Jay Z, Common, Joe Budden vibing to Fela’s music. His music has also been sampled by  Kendrick Lamar and J Cole, two of the biggest rappers in the game at the moment.

But Fela wasn’t always seen as the hero he is today. While he was alive, many brushed his music asides as grating and unmelodious with his lyrics poor in poetry. Others felt he was too preachy and saw him as a noisemaker with utopian ideals. Some were also displeased with the length of his songs and their extended solos. Many just couldn’t comprehend what Fela was building.

This was a new sound with radical energy powering it and maybe the people just weren’t ready for such. Regardless, Fela stayed true to his art, continued to experiment and explore new musical complexities. With his music, he fearlessly stood as the voice of the people against the military governments at the time. He also used his art to teach the people of his Afrocentric ideals.

No, Fela was not perfect in any way but his energy, as well as his music, was raw and genuine. And lifetimes after, we are still feeding on Fela’s music. Occasionally going back to it for inspiration and references.

These young guys today are trying to create something different. They are steady pushing the limits and experimenting with new sounds. In fact, and are now redefining what we refer to as Nigerian or African music. These guys have been persecuted and mocked because they are aesthetically different. But we can’t deny their genuine energy and efforts.

These artists need support. And the least we can do as listeners and consumers of the art is to consume their music through appropriate channels, purchase their projects, attend their shows, engage with them, provide positive feedback, and let them do what artists do best – create.

 

Blaqbonez Takes It A Step Further On “Bad Boy Blaq – Re-Up”

Blaqbonez struck gold in 2018. The burgeoning rap sensation has been tirelessly putting in work ever since the release of his mixtape “HipHop In Blaq” in 2013, such that hardly has a year gone by without him releasing a body of work. However, despite the quality of these releases, they were not enough to shed him off the “underground rapper” tag; not until last year when things started to turn around.

 Backed by 100 Crowns and Chocolate City, his debut album, “Bad Boy Blaq”, propelled him into mainstream consciousness. The final project of the game-changing 2018 LAMB August rollout is an experimental and deeply fascinating “Bad Boy Blaq,” which gave Blaqbonez the mainstream acceptance and recognition that had eluded him for years. With the album, he established a foothold in the industry as one of the most talented rap artist rising through the ranks.

Now, barely five months after the release of the breakout album, Blaqbonez is treating us to a follow-up project titled the “Bad Boy Blaq Re-UP.” And as the title implies, this project is built on the successes of its immediate predecessor.

It is not a Part II. It was just due to the fact that we did a lot with the original project, it almost got there but there was like a little bit extra we could do to get it over the line, which is why I worked on the re-up.” He explains in an interview with Pulse.

Ever since the release of the last album, Blaqbonez has continued to maintain a high level of fan-engagement on social media with tweets, hilarious video clips and hot takes on trending issues. As a result, Blaqbonez can boast of one of the most organic, dedicated, and ever-growing cult-following among the young acts today and perhaps the best for hip-hop at the moment.

Blaqbonez may not be popping as much on the streets but mans is pulling quite impressive numbers on the streaming platforms. And now, the release of the Re-Up seems to be Blaq’s latest strategy at maintaining and optimizing his audience retention especially given the short attention span albums are given these days.

The Re-up contains a hazy mix of fresh cuts and remixes of some of the Bad Boy Blaq‘s standout records. Blaqbonez enlists the efforts of an all-star cast of young gifted acts who help to provide several moments of brilliance on the project and also helping the remixed cuts to have a refreshing feel.

The project is arranged in such a way that the remixes off  “Bad Boy Blaq”, come right in between the new songs. This provides a sense of familiarity while listening to the project such that it’s new but doesn’t feel so new. Also, the remixes maintained the exact order by which they appear on the album.

All but two tracks feature guest verses. On the opener and the final track of the project which also happen to be the most personal cuts on the project, Blaq is a lone ranger bringing it all to bear on the records. Both songs are polar opposites, reflecting two different sides of the pink-haired rapper. On ‘No Longer Stupid‘, Blaq is introspective, apologetic and appreciative all in the same breath. Through a reminiscent style of detailing, he recognises how far he has come in the industry and acknowledges the naive mistakes he made on the come up. Acknowledging his growth in several factors, Blaqbonez also appreciates some of those who helped set him straight and those who still showed him loved despite him doing them wrong.

On the flip side, ‘Bxtch’ finds a stone-faced Blaq coming all out at his prior detractors and doubters. On the second verse, he had some not-so-subtle jabs for who many have perceived to be Yung6ix. Although he does not name-drop the rapper, with lines like Somebody stole your lines, okay/Somebody stole your shine, I did it/ Guess Somebody stole your balls/Cos you ain had the guts to try be specific he might as well have as all fingers point to Yung6ix following his reaction to the LAMB Martell Cypher.

Another side of Blaqbonez, the comical and playful one that is hard to miss on his social media pages these days comes to bear on the track ‘Good Boy’. On the tongue-in-cheek anthem for the “nice” guys, Blaq makes up for his limited signing talents by recruiting the efforts of BOJ and CKay who didn’t fail to deliver intoxicating performances. Despite his voice sounding raspy, Blaq also delivers an infectious sing-along chorus that makes record one of the standouts of the project. The playful Blaqbonez also shows up in brief moments in tracks like Denied and Play Remix.

Blaqbonez has come a long way. It’s undeniable that Blaqbonez raw talents are fast being forged into shining diamonds.  He has proven himself time and again as one of the most talented and promising rap artists rising the ranks with a solid and enviable fanbase and this tape is a solid addition to his catalogue. In fact, he is just a hit single short of being a household name.

The “Re-up” might have been birthed from “Bad boy Blaq“, but it breathes a life of its own. The short and sweet project is a showcase of his level of talent and versatility and also a promise of better things to come.

Abstraktt Bares His Mind On ‘Allow Me To Rap’  (Review)

Abstraktt Utterly Bares His Mind On ‘Allow Me To Rap’.

Given the current political climate of Nigeria, many musicians have taken it upon themselves to remind the people of our realities as we take to the polls to determine our leaders for the next four years. Just a few hours into the year, legendary hip-hop duo, Show Dem Camp released the well-received “These Buhari Times”, the fourth installment in their Clone Wars series and a couple of weeks after, Falz also released his critically acclaimed album “Moral Instruction” which got everyone talking.

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