The era of the Nigerian rapper is over. But in that death, we have a more rounded artist, with a wider level of artistry, who makes far diverse music.
The Nigerian music industry is known for creating genres out of everything.
We love to classify the music that we listen into different genres. We did this because it was convenient, and the music was created differently in the past. There were templates, structures, and beat patterns that defined the music and gave us where to dump it in.
‘Local rappers’ wasn’t a thing that came to dominate the conversations about the music. Neither did we have the current problems with our classification of Afrobeat and Afrobeats (the ‘s’ is not silent). Everything was cool.
Our Hip hop was defined by bars, lyrics and wordplay, over what’s hot or the vibes that we are currently enjoying. It wasn’t about radio, streams and digital sales. It was about the art. It was about the passion for game.
But somewhere along the line, something happened. We experienced a shift in the way music is recorded and Hip hop is defined. Many artists are moving towards dropping the term ‘rapper’ from their profiles.
From treating the rise of indigenous languages in rap with disgust, we have quickly moved to enjoying their sounds, and fusing it with pop to create a fine blend of everything. This genre is led by Olamide, Reminisce and Phyno, who have evolved with the times to become musicians, rather than ‘rappers’.
“Stop calling us indigenous rappers there is nothing like that.” Reminisce told Hiphop World Magazine in 2015. “A rapper is a rapper, calling myself, Phyno, Olamide, Seriki, BaseOne, Lil Kesh and couple of others coming up local rapper is a way of suppressing or make us feel inferior, because Sarkodie is a rapper no one refers to him as indigenous rapper. If you cannot call him a local rapper then don’t call any of us local or indigenous rapper.”
“Over the years, we’ve been able to overturn the rap game, we’ve been able to change perception as regards if you cannot rap in English you cannot be a rap god or king and it’s been a collective effort. Things has really change people can now know who the real Hip hop guys are unlike before when if you can rap in English you won’t get endorsement. And we feel very proud to be the rave of the moment.”
Reminisce was speaking at a time when the conversations around music still centered on the prominence of local languages in Hip hop. Today, we have moved past that. The music that is emanating from our rap artists are more pop than rap. Lil Kesh, Ycee, also come to mind as artists who have done their best to distance themselves from creating just rap music. They are pop artists now.
Core Hip-hop heads are constantly in their feelings, mocking and judging artists who embrace music in all its forms, and create jams for the market. Even M.I Abaga, who is regarded as a god in the game, is switching up constantly, looking for his next hit.
These people aren’t killing Hip hop, neither do they possess malice in their hearts to ruin the genre. The truth is simpler and very essential. Rappers are limited in the Nigerian music industry now. The way we enjoy and consume music is changing. The taste of the masses is switching, and these artists, to stay ahead of the game, they have to move with the times.
Being just a ‘rapper’ is a limitation today.
Hip hop in Nigeria today was imported from the West. And their Hip hop came from a fusion of funk, blues, and jazz. It is never static. It has always found new ways to fuse itself. Some of the best music in Nigeria in the past decade has come from people reaching outside the various classification of genres, and creating a fusion of ideas, sounds and deliveries.
That has succeeded in creating rappers who sing, make dance music, and create pop videos. It’s a good thing for the art. The lines between genres are constantly being blurred and experimental music is the product.
It’s a good thing. It moves the culture forward, and drives creativity in more ways than can be imagined. Our musicians and rappers are learning new skills and devising new ways to meet changing tastes. If ditching the ‘rapping’ thing is the result, then I’m up for it. I love it.
And you should too. The Nigerian rapper is dead. But in that death, we have a more rounded artist, with a wider level of artistry, who makes far diverse music.
What’s not to love about that?