Erigga: The Lost Boy [Pulse Interview]

"My music has always been everywhere, you guys simply didn't realize it."

Erigga

Warri, Delta State Nigeria is the home of pidgin-speaking rappers whose music mirrors the daily lives of the ordinary man in the South-South. Sitting at the Head of the table and acting as the main exporter of this rap style is Erigga whose name echoes across Nigerian Hip-Hop.

For over a decade, Erigga's music has provided identity, inspiration, and entertainment for listeners across the country and primarily in the South where he holds sway.

After years of being a regional champion with nationwide admiration, Erigga decided that admiration is not enough. He wishes to command the respect that comes with fame and success that spreads beyond regional limitations. He decided to put together a body for work that will achieve this purpose and he calls it 'The Lost Boy'. This writer calls it an attempt to permanently silence his critics in a display of vanity and reality.

At any rate, the album achieved its purpose. Erigga is currently operating at the level befitting of his talent and his status. He is in conversations for the best Rap project of 2022 and this time, it's not because it's charitable to acknowledge the works of a guy from the South whose music is outside the mainstream. He is in conversations because he released one hell of a project every listener can enjoy.

On this Pulse One-on-One, I sat down with Erigga who tells me about being a lost boy and the long road to self-discovery.

My first interaction with Erigga's music was a decade ago when as a teenager in Zaria. I had a friend who was always rapping some lines which I later found were bars from an Erigga song. "I no be bricklayer but I dey mold" the lines keeps ringing in my head ten years later and it was with these lines I opened the interview.

"That's 'Real Matters' " Erigga said laughing. The lines took him down memory lane where he tells me about his show in Zaria in 2016 and recounted how he brought back a dispersing crowd who were leaving because of his delay in showing up.

Just like I couldn't quite relate to and enjoy Erigga's music albeit that I found it to be curiously unique, this can be said to be similar for most listeners outside the South-South. His pidgin style that employed everyday parlance in the streets of the South-South was very much indigenous just like Phyno's Igbo rap or Olamide's Yoruba lines, however, it was not mainstream.

I ask Erigga how this made him feel that a lot of people can't relate to his music. He tells me that his music has been everywhere but he just wasn't there to give it the necessary push.

Erigga's answers are lengthy and philosophical. He answers the question in a narrative style switching between English and Pidgin while giving me insights into his journey.

"I know there was no label out there that will be patient for ten years before you start making money. So, I had to do it my way. A way that I can tell my people's story while also giving them good music," he says.

Erigga Agariubie Erhiga AKA Erigga is often described as the Rap King of the South and I asked him if he was comfortable with just making music for his primary consumers instead of appealing to a wider audience.

"My music has always been everywhere but you guys just didn't know this because I was not around to put a face to the name. If you go to the streets of Lagos and ask of Erigga, the people know me but the issue was I wasn't here to do the mainstream thing."

He tells me he wasn't comfortable just being famous in the South because he knows Lagos determines what listeners across the country will hear. He tells me that earlier in his career, he felt entitled especially with his expectations of the mainstream media until he realized that he had to take the music to the mainstream.

"No media company will hop on a plane with cameras and crew to cover the music scene in the South. So I was kind of entitled that they are not telling our stories and they don't understand what's going on. Then I realized that if I need them to know the story, I have to take it to them."

Erigga's 'The Lost Boy' album took a big step in bringing him mainstream fame. I asked him what was the inspiration behind the title and he tells me he felt lost during the creative process.

"When I was trying to make the album, different things were going through my head. I have done a lot already and I wanted to do something that will take Pidgin rap to the next level. Then I had writer's block which I have never had in my career. Then there was a lot of pressure from fans who think I should be featuring Davido, Wizkid, and Burna Boy. The process of figuring all these outs is what made me lost."

For Erigga, he wanted to make an album everyone could enjoy, and to achieve this, he went back to the basics which is Hip Hop. He also didn't just want to make Hip Hop, he wanted to make one that is fresh and appealing.

"I traveled to the places I needed to be to connect with the sound. I went to the UK to tap into the Drill sound because if I want to make music for these people, I needed to understand the sound."

On the album, Erigga said a lot, especially about his success and he was not reluctant to flaunt his lifestyle as proof of his status. I asked him if his showmanship was an attempt to get things off his chest and silence his critics. He tells me those are the things he wanted to say for a while but he wasn't sure the audience was ready. He was a man who made music for people on the streets and he was unsure if rapping about designers and a jet life wouldn't mean alienating these listeners.

"I have been wanting to say these things for 5 years but I wasn't sure the audience was ready. Then I realize that my story can inspire my people. If I can do it, they can do it too."

Erigga is quite famous on Twitter for his playful and entertaining personality. Growing up in Warri which is the finishing school for comedians in Nigeria, Erigga had his funny side as well as a thick skin to stomach internet trolls.

He tells me he built his online soldiers as he calls them because he had no choice. He needed an audience and since the mainstream media wouldn't give him one, he was going to build one for himself.

"I couldn't get the TV to play my videos and nobody was calling me for interviews so I had to find a way. I looked at my Twitter account and thought why don't I use this to build my community".

Erigga did build a community that comprises 2.2 million followers and he tells me he achieved this through consistency.

"I was tweeting when no one was retweeting. I was able to achieve this not by luck but by work."

I asked Erigga what is the end goal for him and again, his answer is a monologue that opens the doors to his philosophical musing. But from all he said, one thing was clear, it's all about legacy.

"I want to take Pidgin rap to the global stage. I want to be able to make listeners in the US and the UK hear Pidgin rap and be impressed."

He goes on to tell me how he wishes to forge a legacy beyond music similar to Jay Z and Kanye West. "I want to show them that there's no limit to what can be achieved with Pidgin rap," he says.

After the interview, Erigga was heading to the airport where he have a flight headed for Milan, Italy. After performing in Milan, he's heading to France, Germany, and a host of other European Countries.

Erigga smiles triumphantly as he sees my eyes light up in admiration while he lists the countries he is set to perform in the coming days. "Na the Pidgin rap wey dem been dey yab, na him be this (This is the outcome of the Pidgin rap they criticized)".

So what is the end goal? "My Goal no be the one wey keeper dey," he says.

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