In 2007, Nigerian rap was going through multi-ethnic influences. Rappers were not just blowing in Lagos. Instead, Lagos became even a bigger intersection to harness and nurture rap creativity.
This was also on the cusp of the golden age of Nigerian Hip-Hop - between 2009 and 2010. Nigeria had seen Hip-Hop come to Lagos by way of the South-East, but the South South wasn't really of mainstream affection. That is despite Benin City, Edo State and Port Harcourt, Rivers State having vibrant Hip-Hop scenes.
We have since seen rappers, Erigga, Yung Hans and Timi Kei flow straight from the South-South into our consciousness. But before then, we saw Timaya and Duncan Mighty become the first some of the first set of acts out of Port Harcourt. Now, Burna Boy and Mr. 2Kay are on that list as well.
However, no real rappers came through until M-Trill, Specimen A and the subject of this article, Sky B. Earlier today, October 8, 2019, news filtered in that he had reportedly passed away from a heart attack.
But who is Sky B?
He was a Port Harcourt boy who banged hits into the South-West. Unlike Erigga, he was something of a polarizing character or maybe the audience just didn't get him at the time.
In a mix of pidgin English, tainted ebonics and plain English, he delivered on tweaked up the trendy Hip-dance sound of the 2000s that allowed rappers get radio hit. This wave was arguably pioneered by Trybesmen. On that sound, Sky B crafted his biggest hit, 'I'm Calling (My Bebe)' featuring X.Blue.
On the same sound, he crafted other hits like 'You Promised Not To Go' 'Pray For Me' featuring and 'Here I Am.' All these songs were on the 2007 7-track album, Pray For Me which was released by Danco Music and marketed by Dansa.
Word on the street still claims the album sold around one million copies - asides pirated copies. While it might seem an outrageous claim, that album was everywhere at the time.
Pulse reached to M-Trill. On whether Pray For Me really sold one million copies, M-Trill says, "I believe (it sold) more. I was touring then and his music was everywhere; motor parks, barbing salons, everywhere. I was happy for him and it motivated me a lot then. It made me see Nigeria's target market different.
"Duncan Mighty and Timaya were the first acts out of PH to be marketed that hard. This is sad news... 'Ma Bebe' resonated. Like all local songs, radio shunned it first before it was a street hit. He quickly made a deal and the marketer was looking for profit. He got the content cheap and made a killing. That was Alaba's M.O then.
"Sometimes when the content makes good money, the marketer buys the artist a second hand luxury car. Video too was another great ploy - he had a DVD."
'I'm Calling (Ma Bebe),' was also on almost all Alaba mixtapes you bought at the time. His run was good and his reputation grew. All these was despite his supposed 'deficiencies' as an artist. People questioned his ability because he was different. Sections of Hip-Hop treated him like they currently treat trap music/artists - with condescension.
No track underlines this more than, 'Pray For Me,' the title-track. The jumped on his back because his flows were different. The song also borrows heavily from the classic song, 'Stan' by Eminem. Yet he blew. A song like 'U Promise Not To Go' was a vibe. So was 'Here I Am.'
'U Break My Heart' was a Hip-B track that sounds very 'early-2000s-Tuface-Idibia.' Around the same time, fellow Port Harcourt native and rapper, M-Trill had the attractive single, 'Where You Dey?'
When Pulse reached out for a comment, Trill says, "We popped off around the same time. We had a history together, and were at a lot of backstages and hangouts together. Even though he was a bigger star than I was then, he never gave me any vibe. He was always genuinely happy to see me."
However, Sky B's self-titled 15-track second album, Sky B flopped. The album lacked the domineering presence of X.Blue.
A few years ago, he was revealed as the owner of Soundcheque Studios in Port Harcourt. In 2018, he was in a car crash, but he survived.
M-Trill says, "The last time we saw each other was at 2Kay's concert. We performed right after each other. He tapped and greeted me. We chatted and laughed."
What made him unique was how he stuck with Hip-Hop and found other genres through it. Every brand of music he made had a beat with heavy reliance on Hip-Hop. If trap dumbed Hip-Hop's seriousness down and made it more accepted by the mainstream while making purists angry, that was Sky B's modus operandi and he made it work.
At one point, he blew and got massive. His legacy is one of how the everything never revolves around the purist definition of 'talent.' If you have what it takes, you just might crack that hit and make it. Sky B made it. His reign might have been ephemeral, but is music lives on.
In the words of M-Trill, "(Sky B) had a lot of Hip-Hop charisma or persona - no f*** given. That also resonated with the PH audience. He headlined a lot of gigs."
In a way, he was the last of this sonic wave that blended with everything for commercial songs and even R&B. After his wave, the sound changed and got more compartmentalized. Dance music had a sound, Hip-Hop did and so did R&B with the emergence of projects like Banky W's Mr. Capable in 2008.
On the album, M-Trill says, "Sky B's 'Pray For Me' album is a milestone for Nigerian rap. Before him, music acts in PH never thought they could have nationwide distribution from PH. I remember going to the Northern part of the country then and hearing his music play almost everywhere.
"Something about his music or persona resonated with everyday Nigerians. We would miss him. Would like to add that young men should take care of their health. Nobody grows younger."
Sky did his beat, but the show goes on.