Sometimes in 2016, I posted on my Facebook timeline that M.I Abaga is the Nigeria hip hop’s greatest of all time. I got over 20 something comments. Out of the 23 comments, 10 affirmed, 4 blatantly refused (one of them even ask “how old are you?”) and 9 proposed other rappers (3 for Dagrin, 3 for Olamide, 2 for Vector tha viper and just one for Modenine.)
The OG, permit me to use this; who mentioned Mode wrote a long comment (and I should call it an article) justifying his nomination of the “most intelligent rapper in Africa”. He didn’t just write a shabby undeveloped comment. “It’s Modenine” he took his time to explain!
I observed he was a hip hop head. That’s the only reason on this planet someone would nominate Modo as the greatest of all time in Nigeria. A regular fan would prefer Dagrin, or Olamide (better if in Lagos) or if he’s from Enugu, Phyno. But definitely not Mode9ine.
A short Background
Many people in the younger generation do not know him anymore. To fit the scope of this article, he’s Nigeria’s most celebrated lyricist (wanna add “on the roll?”). He is renowned for his mind-blowing lyricism that is perhaps unmatched in Africa. Born, Babatunde Olusegun Adewale, the 42-year-old rapper has remained one of the few rappers you mention when you talk lyricism in Hip hop, especially in the green-white-green country.
But, unfortunately, it’s virtually impossible for Modo to be the GOAT. We are talking “Greatest” not “Best”. I remember being the most intelligent student in my classes from JSS1 to SSS3, but I never became the class captain. There are many reasons why. I was dull back then (let’s say I had no “hype”). I was not sporty or lousy (say “diversification”) and not diplomatic aka ass-kissing (finally, scream “commercially viable!”). Those were the only issues Mode9ine had.
He couldn’t balance his music (and lyricism) with the business. And, as far as the “industreet” is concerned, gone are the days when talent was enough. Today, even consistency and quality ain’t enough. It takes a couple of strategies to blow up. Mode9ine had none other than talent. He held on to his lyricism, forgetting to evolve with the culture and its varieties.
At the start, when hip hop was more of an expression, than a business, Modo would have been the Hottest MC (he was). But, now it takes a lot of diversification to make a name. Although retired, Mode is definitely not going to make any hottest rappers list in 2017. It has shifted from the one who can spit better bars, to the one who can spit bars and sell the most. He understands this too, as he already said he was done putting out music in Nigeria.
Away from Modenine
There’s a man called Boogey. I don’t know him too well, but I’ve heard his music. And, I respect his lyricism.One day I told my guy;
“Boogey ft. M.I would make sense oh” He hissed, and said; “That one, even if he features Drake, he no fit blow” I got angry.
But, I thought of it, and it brought me to the conclusion that, the environment has developed a tough skin for anything that’s gonna make people crack their brains. “There is enough trouble already,” they say. And that’s why Boogey didn’t hit mainstream even after getting nominated for Lyricist On The Roll (same award that made Mode9ine asked if he’s the only one).
Or, what’s the logical reason, why a rapper like Boogey, who’s gearing up for his album, would release a single, and not break the internet? The case of Modo, and that of Boogey’s the same story of lyricism vs the environment. So who gonna face the environment?
But Falz is also a lyricist
I respect his use of poetic devices like wordplay, and his ability to make something that’ll be otherwise difficult, so simple to understand. And he also makes it fun. This type of lyricism is now popular, and whenever I hear “lyricism is not dead,” Falz comes to mind. A good example is his “Clap” with Reminisce off his “Stories That Touch” album. I’d still like to dissect the song in another article.
He makes use of symbolism and imagery, and he talks about x-rated stuff without making listeners suspicious. It takes a degree of intelligence to understand his symbolization;
“What is your Egusi like? How about your Efor Riro? Poundo and assorted?”
This may actually be referring to s*xual content. That metaphoric representation is the handiwork of a good lyricist. Or his line on Soft Work where he stated;
“We’re working hard, but we’re hardly working?”
It’s just lyricism, broken down to be able to face the commercial environment. This was what M.I meant when he said fans make rappers write weak bars!
This is how, Olamide, Phyno, Vector, Reminisce, even Yung6ix, and many others are able to face the environment. See Ycee too, Lil Kesh (regardless of what the street turned him into, he’s a rapper) Wale Turner, Ola Dips (a storyline lyricist) and Zoro Swagbag. They all have good lyrics. I also know a couple of upcomers who have not lost the art and craft of lyricism. Notable mentions, TPops, Smallz, Oga Micky, and WizBlaze, to mention but a few. They are all better lyricists.
This is not my fault nor your fault, or Modo’s or Boogey’s nor Falz’. This is just what our beloved hip-hop has evolved into. Even though he might be the best rap artiste ever in terms of skill, Mode9 won’t be the greatest rapper of all time in Nigeria. It is now left for us to argue whether it’s M.I Abaga, Olamide or Dagrin.
While we shouldn’t be expecting a new Mode9ine project, Falz has a new album titled “27,” and Boogey’s got a new single titled “Solo” featuring Kemi Smallz and Jazz. Be sure to check them all out.
About the author
Tylz Ceazar Yo is a young rap artiste and an outspoken music industry commentator. He writes in a very controversial manner and is known to “never let the sleeping dogs lie”. In October 2017, he was inducted into HipHopHead as a contributor.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the views of HipHopHead.