Over the past few years, Nigerian Hip-hop has owed major celebratory thanks to LVMH liquor brand, Hennessy for the yearly promotion of Nigerian Hip-hop through the annual cyphers and over the years, we got some great sessions.

Asides that, Hennessey Artistry, a yearly talent hunt has produced people BET Award winner, Panshak ‘Ice Prince’ Zamani. For that, we’ve been grateful. But recently, due to no fault of Hennessey’s, the cypher began a questionable moonwalk off the coast of Amalfi while being chased by a pack of cannibals – seemed like it, at least. 

Chocolate City
#LAMBAugust Cover (Chocolate City)

Earlier today, rival brand, Martell, via its very eminent Ambassador, M.I. Abaga, backed a cypher featuring M.I's fellow #LAMBAugust members, AQ, Loose Kaynon and Blaqbonez ripped Nigerian Hip-hop a new one in an acid-laced nail heavy downpour of bars, intricate flow, subliminal, pettiness and killer multisyllabic combos of quotables, backed up by a disturbingly production from BeatsByJay. 

Let’s take a minute for all the lives lost to that repetitive bass riff that sends us to melody heavens, brimming with smiles and a fistbump. 

Back on the matter, the idea for the song was set; M.I and his fellow fire-flame spitters were going to spit these bars and run their rivals all the way out of dodge, kicking and screaming, with a live instrumentation of the beat to #LAMBCypher and a rain of bars relating to Hennessy not paying their Cypher inductees and a looped version of that very poignant Loose Kaynon sub. 

For better, it has worked. Guess who took an L? Yes, you guessed that right – the liquor with French ownership. The idea of no payment for rappers is worrying and the advent of pro bono rap acts with lines written through clenched fists, gritted teeth, while the blood boils with the fire of impending competition in a Hip-hop cypher should be over 

Love him or hate him, agree with him or don’t – like this scribbler doesn’t always do – but you cannot deny that M.I has again killed a cypher, done Nigerian rappers a solid, while he rides his White Stallion into the war of brands against an army, depleted by the killer blow of #LAMBCypher. 

M.I killed three birds with one stone – Hennessy ti lazdent… for now… 

The idea of brand competition means that even though your brand is strong like Hennessy’s, you can still not afford to be dragged in the mud, on a staple so big as one that belongs to Nigeria’s biggest rapper, while a rival for market share benefits from the loss and you take body shots for some of your reported shortcomings – not paying rappers. 

MI Abaga hosts Martell #BeCurious Party at Bite Billonaire’s Lounge

At the root of branding are competition and the need to con the market with enough pheromone to cop a significant market share to your side, either by aggression or by the simple power of wits. Martell has always played catch-up to Hennessy and even this win will only take a pound of flesh off Hennessy – which the entire organism will survive, but it is a pound of flesh, nonetheless. 

This is such a big win for Martell because M.I has one of the strongest, most loyal and most brutal fan bases in Nigerian music, it’s almost like an angry mob of spectators in an arena, revolting at an oppressive Emperor for unnecessarily delaying a clash of titans or a pack of wolves after hapless adult, running on foot towards the edge of a cliff. 

Music is also a powerful ingredient in branding. There’s a reason why Pepsi always includes music in their ad campaigns, despite the presence of other marketable brands with a significant following. At times, music is enough to drive a campaign without the presence of a known face – the face just has to be alluring and marketable when the music is good. 

The combined implication of these factors is that, amongst some fans who have played this cypher and who decoded the body shots will start a fire conversation on the negative treatment of Nigerian artists at the hands of brands – a topic that gets Twitter NG on edge. 

Whatever Hennessy does now, it’s an L, except they get their Cypher to produce flames of Urdun – the demon that got Gandalf in Fellowship of the Ring. Reply with a statement, people know you got pressed and you got nervous. Wave it aside and people say you got an L in no ways dissimilar to Drake’s L after Pusha T’s classic, “Story of Adidon,” intellectuals will also demand a reply and so will liberals. 

Might not translate into physical sale slides, but it is a loss Hennessey won’t want 

In July last year, #BankWars ensued on a good Saturday morning and people got a rude awakening. To cut the long story short, despite the social media rain of subs by other banks in a war of subs started by Sterling Bank, Sterling won the battle as it drew attention towards itself. Two months later, its customer base soared as millennials gravitated towards their ballsy approach. 

In the same vein, #LAMBCypher has given Martell a victory that might or might not translate into an upward spike in sales - depending on how Martell utilizes it. For Sterling, their Twitter handle got more active and interactive – this might not be a bad tactic from Martell. 

While the war is still ongoing and cannot be won by simple subs, Martell took this round thanks to #LAMBCypher. 

P.S: I smell a Nigerian rap beef in 2018. Cheers to that *grabs an empty Martell bottle