Mar 1, 2007

Nigerian Music - The Relay

I've always wanted to write about the Nigerian Music Industry & the musicians that make up the industry with a focus on a genre I call the "Nigerianized" Hip-Hop. If you are an observer like I am, you'll notice that there's some kind of ongoing relay race in the music industry, complete with baton and laps. You successfully receive the baton, your lap begins and you become the next star. You feature in shows all over the country sponsored by such giants as Nigerian Breweries, This Day, BAT, etc. Your songs are on top of the charts and they get played in every nook and cranny of Nigeria (including but not limited to Obalende, Ikeja "Under Bridge", Mile II, Ojota, etc). Unfortunately just like a real relay race, you must finish your lap and hand over the baton, at which point you fade away and the next star shines. It's as simple as that.

The prelimnaries of the race started around 1998. A group called "The Remedies" had started a musical revolution with the popular "Mi o shako mo" single and other artists like Plantashun Boys, Paul IK Dairo (Now Paul "Play"), Trybezmen, had followed suit with their albums & singles. There was a new feel to Nigerian music. Hip-hop beats, Rap and R&B were being blended with Nigerian languages and styles and Nigerians loved it. I shall not cover those early days. I shall break into the scene sometime in 2002, when the real relay race started.

At that time, the Nigerian music industry had already revolutionized and was looking promising. Co-incidentally, as was usual then, there was a nationwide ASUU strike and students were sitting at home. Invariably, there was many an unfavorable thought towards ASUU and lecturers. All these events set the stage. The timing couldn't have been better for the first lap & the first athlete/musician. Eedris Abdulkareem was on the tracks and the baton was the hit single "Mr Lecturer".

This song was an immediate success. Everywhere there were shouts of EEDRIS. All shows had the name "Eedris" as a star attraction and the song received massive airplay. It's appeal to students was further fueled by the ongoing ASUU strike. The video (viewable here) was released and it was just as good. Critics however had other things to say. His songs lacked melody, had no structure and his raps had all the "effizzy" but no skill. I agree with them, to an extent. Eedris was an "anything goes" kind of artist (which was probably his style). Now he could be rapping, next singing, next talking. Well, the finish line was in sight, and he had to hand over the baton - to RuggedMan

This guy came in with yabs and jabs. His primary targets were Eedris and Maintain. I don't blame him ... he felt they lacked talent and a reform was necessary. He was bold and didn't care about whose ox was gored. He even dissed the CEOs of Kennis Music (The autocratic Godfathers of the music industry at that time). Much of what he said was true, and the best part of it was he was a good rapper. I believe he's one of the best rappers produced by Nigeria. He suddenly became a hero and Nigerians loved him, but he had more enemies than friends, and so unfortunately, he did not have too long a hold on the baton ... and he didn't pass it to anyone in particular. The baton was left hanging for some time. Suddenly, in late 2003, the baton was claimed again ... By... Styl-Plus who debuted with their single "Olufunmi" (viewable here).

Now I've got to give it to these guys. They were good. Their blend of harmony and lyrics was a masterpiece. Stations jammed endlessly, request shows were filled with requests for "Olufunmi". Ladies named "Olufunmi" suddenly became popular. This was a much needed break in the industry. Just like "Mi o shako mo" set the old standard, "Olufunmi" set a new standard. I think Styl-Plus held onto the baton longer than anyone else in the industry. It was well deserved. They had set a standard so high it would be hard for other people to strike up a counter-attack. Not long after, they released a 4-track album and set about working on their next single "Call my name" to be released in Mid 2004. Around this time however, another artist had summoned courage to claim the baton. His name - 2Face Idibia.

2Face is probably one of the most natural & real musicians I've seen come out of Nigeria. No unnecessary "Phoneh", he spoke pidgin without "sending" anyone. No extravagant dressing or over mocked up scenarios for his videos. He was the kind of guy who would do his videos in the streets without any finesse. He was real. His trademark "Nothing dey happen" caught on everyone like Hay Fever, everywhere you went you heard "NOTHING DEY HAPPEN". He debutted with a full album "Face 2 Face", which was a plus for him. The hit track "African Queen" (viewable here) became immediately popular and received massive airplay. The height of his stardom was the MTV Music Video award which he received for "African Queen". A friend of mine who travelled to Uganda was thrilled when he heard the song playing and being sang by dozens of Ugandans. 2face was the star. The baton was his, and run with it he did. But he was not alone in his desire to run with the baton, and sometime in 2004, he had to pass it on. His lap was over, and P-Square came into the scene.

P-Square debuted with the single "Bizzy Bodi" (viewable here) which was released to radio stations. The song became an instant hit. Not only did it have all the musical excellence displayed by Styl-Plus, it had an up-beat party groove making it a natural for club and party DJs. It was jammed nationwide. Another hit song was "Get Squared". In addition, the guys could dance (something which Styl Plus didn't do much). Another plus was the fact that unlike Styl-Plus their release was a full album and the songs were all tight. The playlist was well arranged and their videos were good. P-square became the household name and they were heard far and near.

At this point Stylplus was in the close background wondering how the baton slipped out of their hands in the first place. Critics had said their songs were love songs with no real party groove. In addition they had not yet released a full album. Their first album was just a collection of 4 singles & 4 instrumentals and couldn't really be referred to as an album. I guess they got the message, and with these points in mind, they hit the studio again ... and out came their album "Expressions". Expressions was packed full. The hit song was "Imagine that". The album was well rounded, had enough groovy songs and was backed up with their great musical ability... For a while, the baton co-inhabited with two groups. Wherever you went, it was either P-square or Styl-plus. Radio shows even carried out polls to find out who was more popular. Websites ran with such titles like "Who would you prefer, Styl-Plus or P-square?" They deserved it. They had the tightest beats and songs. But all good things are bound to fade away. Gradually, they did and along came D Banj.

Now, frantically, I don't know what happened when this guy came in. He entered the scene with "Tongolo" (viewable here) and immediately became popular with his charade of slangs which ranged from "No long thing, kokolet, koko, run down, etc". In reality, his songs really couldn't stand up to his predecessors (PSquare and Styl Plus) in terms of musical ability and voice talents. He lacked the harmony of StylPlus and the precision of P-square. But what he lacked, he gained from other things. He prided himself in his ability to attact women and he didn't waste words in letting people know. "I don get degree for womanology" was the second line in his first song. He was also an excellent stage performer, and his friend and producer Don Jazzy's playboy style added more effizzy into his performances. He released a first album and then a second containg a remix of the first hit single "Tongolo" and his new single "Why me". Right now, "D Banj" is the name everyone is saying. Like a friend of mine once said, "D banj has banjed everybody". I agreed with her. Anyway, the baton is still with him.

Right now, the baton is getting warm, and it needs to change hands. The next star could be you. Hurry up. Nigeria is waiting for you!

18 comments:

Anonymous said...

Well what can we say? All this is very true and aptly describes what 9ja has been subjected to in the past few years. Great job Tayo…
My question or observation is this, must it be a relay race? What happened to longevity? Looking at the western industry, there are artist who have been there for years, are still there till date and we refer to them as legends.
Let’s come home, the tradition music or Juju, Fuji, Apala and Afro beat have had legends who are still commanding respect today. If you object, all you need to do is watch KSA play anywhere. Both old and young get up to move to the timeless rhythm of “Iwaju lo loko yi wa mi lo…” and this is true for the music of greats like IK Dairo, Fela, Obey Commander and even lately, lagbaja.
What we see is a lost identity. We are so much embracing the western culture and totally abandoning ours. This is one of the reasons I think, the “west African idols” program is not being true to Africa. All we produce from that outlook is “wana be” pop/hip hop second fiddles.
But all good, we should learn from this and bring out original African rhythms that the western world will hear, appreciate, then come and learn.
Great stuff TDuke, when is your album hitting the streets of Lagos?
Mnkd – March 4, 2007.

tolted said...

Tayo, wat ever happened to that song you and ur guys wrote sometime back. Have u finally finished it...pls do and release song o..maybe the baton will be passed on to u guys ;)

Anonymous said...

Hmmmm....well said. However, most of our musicians lack true substance and do not invest time developing themselves. In addition, they want to be the next Akon, 50 cent...imitating Western artists and since they can only be best copy...thy never achieve the legendary status of people like KSA or Fela. I wonder how many Americans want to sing like us?
I think they need to invest more time in what they do and really be good at it. This is not to say that we dont enjoy Westernised naija songs..Styl-plus, P-square etc..ve really tried. In addition..its nice to release once in 2-3yrs than release crap quaterly.....You dont have to release every year.
Furthermore, there is this frenzy of multitasking which makes them jack of all trade master of none..Musicians act and vice versa...C'mon when someone like Genevieve keeps tormenting us daily with her song(favourite of some Lagos channels)...I guess that means she spends less time with her acting lessons, aint it?
Oh well.. guess ve said enough..Sola

Vera Ezimora said...

Hey!!

Thanks for stopping by my page. But me, I'm ride or die (well, maybe not "die") fan of 2Face. He's still the best 2 me, and I would buy his album any day & any time without even 'sampling' it - that's how much I like him. He's sooo natural. It's like there is no effort 4 him; he's just that good.

P-Square?? They're voices are great BUT they need 2 be more original. Every song of theirs reminds me of someone else's song. Kinda sucks, if u ask me.

DBanj... great looking guy... but not as good looking without his glasses. Needless 2 say, I still like him very much. He's lively and a great entertainer.

Styl-Plus...I'll give them a six point 8 (6.8) out of ten. They're good, but I wouldn't go out of my way 2 watch them perform.

It's 2Face all the way 4 me!!

Dang, this comment is too long, isn't it? Sorry!

Tayo said...

Vera, thanks for your stopping by. I agree with you, DBanj is a great performer. Styl Plus can't perform half as much as they can sing. As per P-Square's originality, that's one thing I forgot to include. Those guys just keep turning around existing songs. Reminds me of Maintain!

Black Press Africa.com said...

Hello. My name is DC Livers and I am the managing editor for Black Press Magazine and Black Press Africa.com.

I am an American journalist who has recently discvered Afro Hip Hop. I am doing a series to try to get more African Americans to listen to the music.

I've interviewed 2Face "Tuface", Zdon Paporella, Kenny Ogungbe, Stevano U-G-O and recently Paul I.K. Dairo/Paul Play for BlackPressAfrica.com. You can hear the interview at http://www.blackpodcasts.com. You can read the articles at http://www.blackpressafrica.com.

I'd like your help knowing some females Nigerians or African artists to interview and who is really hot right now.

You may email me at blackpressafrica@yahoo.com

Thank you. Be blessed,

DC Livers

Tayo said...

@DC Livers, Thanks a lot for your comment. I'll do a compilation and send you a mail within the next couple of hours. Good to know you want to promote female artists.

truth said...

Hey Tayo.'Totally love this post BUT i don't necessarily feel the baton has left some of those artists.For most of them, their songs indeed live on.That's why you wrote this post in the first place.
On the other hand, I do agree to some of the specific artist attributes you described.'First time I heard D'bang I didn't get the gist of the song,but as expected I repeatedly used the 'koko' word,bearing no curiousity as to what it means.lol.

I think i'll add your blog as a favorite!

BOBBY said...

Love you blog because you keep it real and tell it like it is.

I am a huge fan of Dbanj...i agree with you that he isnt on the same scale with some of his fellow artists but he has one thing that sets him apart...HE IS UNIQUE...the guy is unique...
IF you can come up with a word like KOKOLET and make the whole world wanna say KOKOLET, then you got something special going for you.

The guy is just insane, his personality just oozes through his music!

Tayo said...

Thanks for the comments.
@Truth, I agree to an extent about the songs living on but a good number of the songs die so fast you wonder what happened. Hopefully this is getting better as we are getting more classic quality.
@Bobby, thanks for the comment. I feel the same way about DBanj. He's unique and has great stage performance.
@DC Livers, I've sent you a mail. Please check and give me feedback.

wienna said...

I still don't get what d hype about Dbanj sha but i guess, it's different strokes for different folks. I totally agree with d two anons. What these artists need is their true originality and longevity in d business. And some they need to start performing life too, no miming on stage, dis really puts a lot of people off. And they need to stop going into different trades, d latest i'm hearing now is dat most of these artists now want to come out with their clothing line eg. Sasha, ruggedman. I mean how's dis going to work when we're still battling with piracy in nollywood?

Tayo, i really like your writing styles o. I'm already a fan. ;)

racquelle-cutie said...

i think STYL-PLUS and 2FACE are very talented singers,P-SQUARE are cute and good dancers but i hate their voices though their songs has nice beats but alltogether they are great entertainers,D-BANJ is nice to look at but i'm not really felling his music,RUGGEDMAN is a shit rapper and his "ehn" song is a disgrace (da man no fit yab ppl)and EEDRIS should just go and rest

Tayo i'm luvin your blog and if thats you on that picture i think U ARE ONE FINE NIGGER

wienna said...

@racquelle-cutie, so exactly who among d singers do u like cos it seems to me dat you've yabbed all d singers u mentioned there?

racquelle-cutie said...

@ wienna,no be everyone i yab i just think that nigeria has better talents than people like d'banj,ruggedman and eedris.i for one i'm a big faze and styl-plus fan

Tayo said...

@racquelle-cutie, it's true ... we have much better talents. Just go watch the Idols performances (not the auditions though!) I wish many of them will come out.
@Wienna, I'm just seeing these comments, can you imagine! Didn't receive the email notification. Anyway thanks for always visiting and always leaving comments. I appreciate.
@racquelle, it's me in the picture o! and I'm real flattered!!! Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Great job Tayo.
I like this site.i like Nigerian music.congratulations to you guys on the birth of Mega Points International.I visit the site few minutes ago can you guys kindly get to write about them i wish to know about them cos it a good thing that African music in being represented internationally now.

I read about them in music Magazine here in Uganda.check them out and try hook up with them.I thing they base in Nigeria but i don't where.their site link is:www.megapointsinternational.com

Nancy Baker
nancy4music@yahoo.com
Uganda,Africa.

pamelastitch said...

Tayooooooooooooooo
ehhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhheeeeen I don kach you...so you sing..ehen and you did not tell me....

Extra pepper in your soup.....

You and boys berra dedicate that song to pammy and i berra not be yahoozee...


:P



Pammy

Anonymous said...

Hi all. I am Nigerian/British and i have'nt been to Nigeria in about 18 years. I think its great that the Nigerian music and film industry is booming. One good thing about it is the renewed sense of pride that is being instilled in us all. Wasn't too long ago that it wasn't fashionable to admit to having any Nigerian connections but hearing African Queen being played on the streets of New York made my heart swell with pride. Seeing non Nigerians with yahoozee as their ringtones makes me proud. Something that's always held us back as a people is that we want to measure what we do by European or American standards. The reason why these new artistes are successful is that they are doing their own thing by blending the languages, the afro beats etc.
Don't get me wrong there are some of them that are as annoying as heck and it seems that everyone in Nigeria now wants to sing, act or model, but the really talented ones are helping to restore the positive reputation that has eluded Nigeria for so long. I think that its fantastic when i go to a party and its Nigerian music that's got everyone going young or old. Let's not knock it, enjoy it. No one can be on top forever and the baton's got to be passed on but if you do good music theres no way you are going to loose your fan base. some people that i cant stand though, those Kennis music guys. They really get my goat.