He was a staple of Nigerian Hip-Hop; he is Dagrin.
While it was not a case of senseless cycle of violence like what took Tupac and Biggie, it was still as big a sadness that impacted pop culture. It was Nipsey Hussle before Nipsey Hussle. The streets of Lagos were filled with equal doses of anger, anguish and crippling sadness.
If you listened to Kendrick Lamar’s ‘Black Boy Fly,’ off his incredible debut album, Good Kid Maad City, you would understand what life and dreams of the future seemed like for offpsrings of inner-city culture where every day is another privilege, not a gift.
They could not dare to dream, every success for them was like a constant reminder that they were headed nowhere. While Lamar’s hope was made ignited by the tall and wife-beater wearing figure of Jayceon ‘The Game’ Taylor, Dagrin, born Oladapo Olaitan Olaonipekun was that figure for the average inner-city Lagos-born teenager.
They could relate to him and he made music that spoke to their realities. While Ruggedman might have documented how the power of relatable language aids contemporary rap music, Dagrin sealed the fabled power of relatable messaging in his music - he even rapped about things as powerful as eating bread and a bottle of coke while on break off work as a bricklayer; a common hustle for young Lagos men.
He showed that dreams could be achieved. Before Olamide and Reminisce, Dagrin was the king that made earnest and raw quantum of inner-city happenings appealing in the mainstream and his art transcended Lagos.
It was not just for his relatable messaging either, he was an incredible rapper that succeeded where a Lord of Ajasa couldn't reach, due to the natural course of evolution – he was more polished, his flows were crisper and his gimmicks, a blend of Hip-Hop and Nigerian streets.
By the time he appeared on Jimmy Jatt’s classic freestyle show, Jimmy’s Jump Off, he already had one album on his discography that only vigilant ‘Hip-Hop ITKs’ knew about. He killed that freestyle and the rest was history.
Sadly, at a time that seemed like his height – which he was definitely set-up to eclipse – he was cut down on April 22, 2019 at the age of 22. Cause of death; of all things, a car accident in a Nissan Altima.
While arguments will rage on about how death amplified sentiments in judging Dagrin, one thing is sure, Dagrin was a king while he lived. Random Nigerians and conductors were jamming Hip-Hop and rapping because of Dagrin. That moment was arguably Nigeria’s version of New York and the West Coast in the early 90’s.
It’s been nine years and today, Pulse writes a commemorative listicle on his 9 best verses, ranked in order. Here are the verses;
10.) Dagrin featuring T-Frizzle – Hola Hola
Verse: Dagrin’s Second Verse
This verse made this list simply because Dagrin could have faltered on it. Its percussion had a complexity for arrangement which carried everything else on its back. At this time, Dagrin was hungry, so he took it on anyways. He was not fazed and he delivered.
It showcased his versatility even though you would find better verses on ‘If I Die,’ or any other song.
9.) Dagrin featuring Isolate – Gboro
Verse: First Verse
My favourite Dagrin song. The delivery on the two bars before, ‘I’m the prodigy, I’m the best (after) Biggie…’ just blew my mind. If you know how beats and mixing work, anything slower than that, Dagrin is E-40 and anything faster, he sounds like a Blueface-sized fraud.
8.) Dagrin – Pon Pon
Verse: Third Verse
By far the biggest Nigerian rap song and the most remix Nigerian song of the past decade – and it’s not even close. In fact, every rapper you know had a ‘Pon Pon’ remix somewhere.
I would like to write about this, but you know too much about it. This I would, however, say; while the song had no central theme, I’m not sure anybody every really sat down and analyzed the bar-fest that was this song.
While the first verse is the best for the power of bars, the third verse had verse, but it had a topical alignment about it. So, the third verse it is.
7.) Oritse Femi featuring Dagrin and Rhymzo – Mercies Of The Lord Remix
Verse: Dagrins Verse
This verse deserves the top spot. It’s as good as any verse Dagrin ever dropped. It had everything and like Dagrin was skilled at, he never strayed from the central theme and topic of the song.
We shall admit something though, ‘Mercies of the Lord Remix,’ was bigger than the original because of Dagrin.
6.) Dagrin featuring Sossick – Ghetto Dream
Verse: First Verse
The impressive beat, the incredible hook from ‘Mr. 70 beats in a week’ himself and Dagrin’s very commendable introspective penmanship that perfectly captures the life of a struggling up-and-comer.
Who finds positives in curses and bars with the viral tendencies of staphylococcus? You got that right, Dagrin. If there was one thing right about the C.E.O album, it was placement of songs like this.
5.) Dagrin – Kondo
Verse: Third Verse
A song deep-rooted in sex and buccaneering vulgarity, Dagrin tells a girl to come to his house and get down to ‘the act’ with him because his family isn’t around. Of course, we are glad he spares us the gory details of whether or not the girl came, but we will focus on the powerful deliveries on the song's third verse.
Though, the verse was not about deft penmanship, it was like what Future did with his verses on the Calvin Harris song, 'Rollin,' he delivered the appropriate and the most impressive flows to match a beat that was always going to naturally resonate.
4.) Dagrin featuring Cartier - Swag
Verse: First Verse
Ladies and gentlemen, this is a Dagrin verse that could easily have topped this list, if the polish and metaphorical references on ‘Owo Ati Swagger Remix’ were not stronger.
Dagrin destroyed that verse from back to front and he didn’t even leave first gear. Incredible stuff.
3.) Naeto C featuring Dagrin - Ako Mi Ti Poju (Remix)
Verse: Dagrin's verse
Whenever people discuss Dagrin's best verse, this verse is always lost in the conversation for some reason. But when it comes down to it, it displays Dagrin's ability to discuss the vanity with his trademark roots in archetypal Hip-Hop.
The part of, "Mo lo sa ATM, mo gba gbem, Mo mu Sagem, so I call all of them..." will always be impressive.
2.) DJ Neptune featuring MI Abaga, Naeto C and Dagrin
Verse; Dagrin's verse
This was one of the best tracks that Dagrin ever featured on. It needs no introduction... Nuff said.
1.) Cartier featuring Terry Tha Rapman, Dagrin, Eva and Gino – ‘Owo Ati Swagga’
Verse: Dagrin’s Verse
In 2009, Nigerian rapper, Cartier dropped what is now clear was a trap song. It was the smash hit single, ‘Owo Ati Swagger,’ that glorified all things prim, proper and bougie. In an era of strong obsession with dance songs, there was a small window where rap heavily thrived between 2008 and 2010, after the seeds planted by rappers like Gino in 2006.
Cartier profited off it. The song was huge.
The song’s remix was unsurprisingly not as big as its original. But instead of Cartier using his little success to invest in another smash hit, he chose to prolong a trend and it didn’t work. Nonetheless, in all the madness, two things stood out; Eva Alordiah and Dagrin’s verse.
While the song dropped in December 2009, it did not really take off till after Dagrin passed. In fact, when he was alive this writer was not a fan, till he played this verse in May 2010.
He carried the beat and turned it on its head with a one of a kind delivery that merged the central theme of braggadocio and vanity with impressive bars that somehow found a place amidst the metaphors of the crotch, Gucci, Prada, Barbers and Clippers and how he was not, ‘a rapper, but a lyrical tyrant.’
Special shouts to Dagrin's verse on Naeto C's 'Ako Mi Ti Poju' (Remix).
Now, let this song resonate with you;