I wear a suit and tie to work, my work outfit goes with a nice shiny “cover shoe”. I am a civil servant and I work for the government. Its formal, the kind of place I never thought I’d arrive at barely 3 years after campus.
I’m the youngest person at the office, my colleagues are mostly middle aged married men and women and they discuss things like what a director is up to and what a certain permanent secretary did or didn’t do.
They could have kids my age, they are not my mates. Government work is very forgiving and the salary is good considering the fact that I’m a single guy in Abuja with not so many responsibilities.
But once upon a time I was all about hiphop, this was not a long time ago. As recent as 2014 I was practically bunking at Jerry wine’s studio at Minna, not because I didn’t have a place of my own (I had a nice room and parlour self contain) but because of my love for the hip hop sound in particular. The studio was a 5 minute walk from my place and this was my life.
I wore big shirts and by big a mean oversized, I had on a snapback everyday and every minute. I had that Dogg pound sway, I didn’t dance to Nigerian pop music and I didn’t appreciate any male rapper that could sing like drake.
My pose for photographs were just epic, I would just fold my arms and give that frown and I did it too well even Warren G would be impressed. I was the only person who had Overdose’s ancient “don’t hate” on repeat.
Am I now less hiphop because I do a lot of un-G things like reading books, wearing a tie and watching Nat Geo Wild, what does it even mean to be hiphop in Nigeria?
I remember coming straight from work in Abuja to YWAP Minna in 2016, I was in Minna to get a document. Some people didn’t recognize me, some of them don’t know how my face looks like without a snap back. I remember Krucifix asking “are you all right?”
There was no significant Change in my taste of music but I had developed a tolerance for other forms of art. I was more flexible and this little shift in character was visible to all to see. Perhaps I didn’t understand the culture well enough earlier, I just got sucked into it before I had the chance to really think.
One problem I had was thinking that to be hiphop is to be a tout or an outlaw as it is so often depicted in mainstream attitude. I’m talking about the “walk up in this b*tch, f**k sh*t up and leave” mindset, but that wasn’t what is was created to do. Recklessness shouldn’t become the standard especially in a country like Nigeria where we already have too many social issues to deal with.
I listen to underground, I am still a critic and there is still no R&B in my playlist. I am still scouring the internet for new underground Nigerian rappers like Boogey who could succeed Mode 9 and blow up big too. I still dress very west coast, now I even have more money to buy some vintage materials like the out-of-stock Adidas kicks that Run DMC used to wear. I still rock my baseball hat and still dislike skinnies.
But some things about me have changed, I’m grown now and I understand hiphop from a wider perspective. I had been so heavily soaked in the perception that there was only one way to do it right. The rules were stated to me by favorite rappers, so there was no way for me to create anything outside those boundaries.
I felt I owed hiphop and that I had failed if I wasn’t repping it the way NWA did. Now my choices are based on appreciation and not some form of pressure.
Its not about trying to be like anyone any more but its about understanding that the culture go this far because some smart people had imagination and the will to create a new style with every chance they had on the microphone or on the turntable.
So if you love to wear your big hoodie in the scorching Gwagwalada sun then by all means do, let it be an expression of your personality and not an imitation of someones style. If your art does not reflect you, you’re nothing but a wannabe wanksta.
Hiphop in nigeria is for you, you should know that its history in Nigeria is still being written and you’re an actor in it. Hiphop is art and it has to reveal your depth on a personal level so you have to learn to look within yourself and find that style that’s peculiar to you, there are too many wannabees already.
We know that there are basic elements of the culture that wont be replaced, but must evolve. Character is one thing we must develop even as underground players. Everybody cannot be a drug dealer or a thug.
One problem with the culture was the lack of positive role models who could teach morals values. To be a big rapper was to be g*ng affiliated back then.
So we have kids running around trying to act hard and be rebellious just like their rapper mentors, we got little girls who only dream of becoming runz girls and money-getting hos because that’s what the popular people do.
The 90’s are considered the golden era of the hiphop, it was in the decade that it blew up mainstream. I grew up listening to Gfunk from this era, soaking myself in the sound and I went deeper into the g^ng culture with every listen I took.
It was real for me even as a Nigeria kid, I can still list all the sets in Compton, Long beach and Crenshaw. I’m a west side guy. The idea of being a g^ngsta was glorious, Snoop’s 1992 Doggy style album among many other albums made it clear that you suck if you’re not packing heavy on a nina.
But this doesn’t make any sense, it just shows the power the hiphop culture has had over young people all over Nigeria and the world. It can actually make you want to be or do something.
I realized that the the grand masters are regarded for the influence they had on their immediate environment and I must strive to influence the Nigerian hiphop culture.
The pioneers started this beautiful thing with a mishmash of borrowed raw materials then improvised to create something their people could love. So ask yourself, why am I not aiming my hiphop at the typical Nigerian people? Some rappers will not fit a hiphop heads description but their improvised sound will always be refreshing.
Here is what you need to do
Get on a microphone and speak the truth, teach Nigerian-targeted knowledge in your verses and make it beautiful. Create your own sound and style, create your own way of mixing and mastering songs, get on a software and help evolve the grafitti into 3D with your own imagination.
Pick up a pen and write about the art, call people out and criticize mediocrity. This is what hiphop is to me, what does it mean to you?
So in case you still want to ask if I’m repping the culture, I started a website for underground hiphop in Nigeria. I’m more about it now than I’ve ever been.
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