Hausa rap, a legitimate sub genre of Nigerian hip hop, is missing one last piece to make it a perfect musical invention. Hausa rappers are pushing, the idea is to take Arewa to the world.
We all know that Olamide, Reminisce, Dagrin and CDQ are descendants of Lord of Ajasa, and Phyno, Slow Dogg and MC Loph are descendants of N.I.G.G.A Raw, then who among the current crop of Hausa rappers is Zaaki Azzay’s modern day successor?
Its a shame that some critics don’t like to give Zaaki his just respect, acting like somehow history can be rewritten and his immense contribution van be left out of it.
But there’s no doubt in my mind that Zaaki’s iconic torch shone the light for other Arewa rappers to see the way in which hip hop can be blended with folk music to form a hybrid that isn’t in constant conflict with local customs.
Eedris Abdulkareem and Ice Prince deserve notable mentions here too, they infuse Hausa language and traditions into their music and fly the home team’s flag as high as they possibly can.
But interestingly, at home those guys are seen to belong more to pop culture than to Arewa culture. Eedris, in the first place, is Dan Kano by birth not by blood, so that complicates his existence, while Ice Prince divides opinions.
His music is too mainstream, his image too Western and the message too pan Nigerian for a lot of core northerners to truly embrace him as “theirs”. Then there’s the lack of consistency, choosing to identify with Arewa as he sees fit.
On a much smaller scale, Morell has been representing the Arewa consistently through the years too but technically, he isn’t a “rapper”. So on an even smaller scale, that leaves Bauchi’s own ClassiQ as the only niche specific modern day Hausa rapper. ClassiQ is flanked by lesser known and equally talented Hausa rappers like Kheengz, Hafeez, DJ Abba and BOC.
But other than that, the Hausa rap talent pool is as shallow as Donald Trump’s policies on immigration and just about everything else. The problem is with the moral acceptance of Hausa hip hop.
Nigerian society is largely conservative, so the more liberally disruptive elements of hip hop culture will collide head-on with the local Arewa culture. But not just only in the more religious north but all over the country.
However, hip hop culture is the tradition of the youth and the music speaks their language more fluently. That’s where ClassiQ comes in.
He and his colleagues have an interesting task and that’s to make Hausa rap commercially viable in Lagos and Abuja. But this also has to be done in a way that their core audience who wear Kaftans and embroidered Zanna Bukar, can bop their heads to back home, and that’s not even the tricky part.
They also have to be sensitive enough to the cultural and religious nuances of the societies they grew up in. They have to make sure that their music and imagery maintains minimum acceptability to their parents and elder siblings.
Or they can choose to become rebels and outlaws. Such chaotic character is the reason why hip hop is so widely followed.
It’s an extremely delicate balancing act and that that’s the main reason why no one has truly been able to find Arewa hip hop as lucrative, not even it’s pioneer Zaaki.
It is ironic that, for a region that has given so much to Nigerian hip hop by birthing rap meccas like Jos and Kaduna and being the launch pad for so many rap careers; Hausa rap has found it difficult to thrive on its own.
And with Rahama Sa’adau getting banned from Kannywood, we were given a reminder as to one of the reasons why.