9ja Afro-Hip Hop: The Journey So Far

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Boom!!! Like an explosion, it hit everyone all of a sudden and it is now everywhere around us. Go to the night clubs, watch your TV screens and listen on your radio. Nigerian music has taken over. It is now possible for club deejays to spin 100% Nigerian music all through the night without the dancing crowd getting bored.

How did this sudden craze for Nigerian music begin though?     Back in the late 80’s and early 90’s, the mainstream Nigerian music industry was ruled by such sounds as Fuji, Juju, Afrobeats and Highlife, relegating pop sounds to the background. This was so probably because the Nigerian youths of those days were enthralled by the foreign sounds coming from the likes of Run DMC, Public Enemy, Tupac Shakur, Notorious BIG, Dr Dre and the rest, that it was nearly impossible for a Nigerian hip hop artiste to break through. Even at that, there were still a few pop artistes like Chris Okotie (yeah, the famous pastor) and Alex O. Hip Hop was also done by Sound on Sound but he found it very difficult to break through.

Later in the early 90’s, the duo of Junior and Pretty created a unique fusion of rap and the Nigerian indigenous languages to create a brand new sound. Their effort produced such efforts as “Bolanle” and “Monica”. This new sound went places as “Bolanle” especially went to an unprecedented level never before reached by an hip hop artiste level in Nigeria.

The relative success of Junior and Pretty had a spin-off effect on the music scene in Nigeria as it encouraged so many young aspiring artistes to come into the game and further expand the frontiers of the emerging new sound. Such artistes like the Remedies, Trybesmen,  Weird MC, Zaaki Adzee and the Plantashun Boiz all staged an entry into the music industry in the middle 90’s and were the driving force of hip hop throughout the middle and late 90’s. Weird MC was popular with her “Allen Avenue” track while the Remedies had their “Shakomo” to thank for their rise to stardom. Zaaki on his own part had a unique blend of the Hausa language and Rap. It was simply mind blowing.

Though the hip hop scene was gradually getting attention, it still had not gained full penetration of the local airwaves, both TV and Radio. It was at this point that the duo of Kenny “keke” Ogungbe and Dayo “D1” Adeneye stepped up to fill that void by playing the videos of the local hip hop artistes on their weekly program called “AIT JAMZ” which was showing every Friday night. This encouraged a lot of the artistes as a platform for them to showcase their skills had been created. Another person that praise must actually go to is DJ Jimmy Jatt. He had a kind of talent hunt show way back then around the Obalende suburbs where a lot of aspiring hip hop artistes were discovered and given a chance to get instrumentals for their acapella.

The early pace setters of hip hop from the late 90’s continued to dominate the early part of this decade though most of the groups had split by then. Eedris Abdulkareem and Tony Tetuila, two former members of the Remedies group were the front runners. Eedris was regarded as the best rapper in the land then, while Tetuila was reigning with his “my car” song. The local hip hop was now really beginning to take shape.    Not satisfied with the way hip hop was being done then, Ruggedman burst into the scene causing what looked like a revolution by releasing a diss track titled “Ehen” back in 2003. In the track, he launched an attack on the hip hop heads of back then, most notably Eedris AbdulKareem. He rubbished the way they were rapping and told them to do things in the proper way. This caused quite a stir and it was a breath of fresh air as hip hop in Nigeria took a whole new dimension and also led to the emergence of fresh hip hop heads like the Thoroughbreds, SWAT Root, and many others.

In as much as the quality of the songs produced were undoubtedly improving, the standard of their videos still left much to be desired. The advent of such musical stations like Soundcity, Music Africa and MTV Base ensured the artistes stepped up the quality of their videos as the music channels insisted on not giving airtime to low quality videos. The hip hop acts were thus forced to improve on their videos. With the improvement in the quality of their videos, Nigerian videos were thus being considered worthy of being nominated and even winning major international awards like the MOBO awards, MTV EMA’s, MAMA’s, and the BET awards. It is only a matter of time before a naija hip hop artiste wins the Grammy awards .

The current driving forces of hip hop, such as Tuface Idibia, Dbanj, P Square, M I, Wizkid, Olamide, Ice Prince, Don Jazzy and others, will make sure the dream becomes a reality In the not too distant future.    As it stands now, the sky is no longer the limit but just a stepping stone for the Nigeria hip hop scene. The future of world music is right here in Nigeria and you will only have yourself to blame if you do not hop on the ride. All Aboard!!!

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