This piece is one of those that have been a long time coming, I mean one of those ones where the inspiration for them comes from bits and pieces of experience filed away over the years which then takes one single experience for them all to make sense. First of all I want to appreciate Lucia Edafioka for this beautiful post she wrote on “Adulting in Lagos which provided some inspiration for my own post. Then I also want to thank Olubunmi Familoni for some of his opinions on Sexism in Hip Hop and in indigenous music at The Conversation, Ibadan, sometimes during the year. And also Seun Oyajumo and Kayode Faniyi for this
Now that we are done with appreciations, let us get to business. The idea of this post, clicked in my head while I was writing the review of Kiss Daniel’s song Good Time. I found out the lyrics of the song talks about a young rich man who just wants to have a night of fun with a voluptuous lady he meets at the club and wants no commitments whatsoever, he has everything to give her, money, liquor, but not his heart. I took a break to watch some TV, where I fortuitously came across a ranking of top ten most viewed Nigerian music videos on YouTube on Nigezie. Unsurprisingly I found out that four out of the ten were YBNL act Olamide’s music videos with a combined YouTube veiwership of close to fifteen million. The combination above sent my mind back to a question,two actually and the excuse artistes who sing “alternative” music often give as to why they dont sell so many records. (1.) Why is it that the songs that sell most in Nigeria are the club tracks with their “nonsense” and lewd lyrics and fast beats? (2.) Why is it that Nigerians never listen to songs that can “make a difference in their lives” instead of “trash” about sex, drugs, and alcohol?
I felt the answers to these questions had to be more than the extremely lazy “People who listen to hip hop are sheep who have no taste in music and will listen to anything with beats that they can dance to” excuse. I found out that that it would not be doing sufficient justice to those questions. I actually discovered that people actually listen to those lyrics, and memorize them, the reason why songs like Olamide’s Story for the gods, Q, Dot’s Ibadan, pretty much everything in Reminisce’s discography, Terry G’s Free Madness among others, are so popular is precisely because of their lewd, female body objectifying and “nonsense” lyrics and I will explain why I think so.
At Akefestival in November, a German journalist acquaintance and I went to eat dinner in one of the restaurants near the Cultural Centre. While we sat eating, We could not but hear the loud conversation of the young men sitting at the table next to us, drinking beer and talking about Davido’s “Fans Mi” video in which he featured Maybach Empire Rapper Meek Mill which was playing on the TV. One was them was talking about the things Davido reportedly said when He granted an interview about how the Nigerian Drug Law Enforcement Agency was investigating him (Davido) for allegedly using narcotics in the video. The most important thing, i noted was not what the young man claimed Davido said, it was clear admiration in the young man’s tone for Davido, for putting the meddling NDLEA in their place. Then it occured to me that perhaps the reason that these acts are so popular is that they are regarded by their fans as badasses who can get anything they want and even control the law. It makes sense, OLAMIDE calls himself “Badoo” and Davido has taken to calling himself the baddest.
The thing that people who complain about the popularity of mainstream “street” music like that often fail to take into consideration is the vicarious function of music, music as escape from reality. But in this case it is not just about the beat of the song. This is why thoughts like Lucia’s and Kayode’s and Seun’s above become important. The three are examples of the demography, that Nigerian hip hop tends to appeal to, a demography who are coming into adulthood and the responsibility that comes with it and are struggling to cope. The fantasy We all had about adulthood when We were children, is that adulthood is a time where you can pretty much do what you want with no one to censure you, and you have all the money you need. It is when reality dawns on you as an adult, that you discover that you can’t do anything you want because society expects you to be responsible and you won’t have all the money you need if you don’t do hard, often boring, and not very rewarding (at least in your own estimation) work for it. Thus the sight of someone like Olamide or Davido or Whizkid, drinking all the expensive wines and driving all the exotic cars and getting it from the hottest girls, while doing nothing more than singing, engenders for the most part feelings of jealousy, but also admiration, after all if they are getting so much money with so little effort, They must have done / be doing something right. Thus the majority of those who listened to “Caro”, ” Free Madness” ” or “Story for The Gods” “Fans Mi” consider the people who sang those songs are heroes who have beaten the system (that explains the Davido vs NDLEA example I gave earlier). That is why if one checks anyone who refuses to acknowledge “Street Music” greatness and who condemn it as “nonsense, thuggery glorifying, female body objectifying music are those who have one or two degrees and a white collar well paying job. It is not that those critics are proud because of their education, it is only a natural reaction. The critics have also “beaten the system” to some extent, the way the musicians have, and they feel the musicians are cheapening the process and using the wrong formula, much like how Western medical doctors might view traditional doctors.
You might argue, ” I also have one or two degrees and an okay bank account, but I don’t think Street music is drivel, in fact, I find myself inexplicably hanging from the roof, when Shakiti Bobo comes on. When we sing along to “Duro Soke” or “In my bed” , it is like the time we duck into the bar for a drink, or we light up a cigarette, or we having mindblowing non marital sex, everything our parents and the society have told us keep reminding us that such behaviour is not expected of a responsible person, but for those few minutes, we give “responsibility and “adulting” the middle finger because the feeling is so good, but we only have a few moments to enjoy it before we have to go back to “adulting” again. That is where Terry G’s Free Madness comes in. Madness is a state, where you are not held responsible for whatever you do, much like being a minor. For example when my parents visit my house, the first thing they note is how disorganized the house is, and the inevitable frowns and “How can you call yourself an adult and be this disorganised?” Of course no one takes umbrage at a madman for being disorganized. Madness is thus a form of freedom from censure, freedom to refuse to obey rules of proper social behavior. That is why a song talking about free madness turned Terry G into a superstar, because, in our subconscious we all want the freedom from “adulting” (I will have to pay Lucia for this word) that madness brings but none of the social stigma.
So if you ever run into me, at a party hanging one leg in the air when “Shakiti Bobo” is playing or singing along to “Indomie” and you think I am harebrained, well that is your problem, but don’t ever point out that I only love a song because Young John is a wicked producer but out some wicked beats (actually he is and he does often, but that’s not the point), it is because for that moment I am just tired of “adulting”. Nuff said.