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Saturday, June 13, 2009

The Nigerian Music Industry

*Sigh. Nigeria, Nigeria. And Nigerian music. Love/hate relationship again. I love the old school stuff, and some new stuff, but everything else just frustrates me.. Wande Coal's new song goes like this "You bad, you want it, you bad, you want it, you bad, you want it, you know you want it cos you bad." 0_0 And people are jamming this song like it's the "A Milli" of 2009. Really, y'all? Here's what I have to say in this whole issue..

1) One things Nigerians do that annoys the hell out of me is they give props to anything that's Nigerian regardless of quality or content. They act like they're all patriotic and shit, refusing to listen to any criticism aimed at their heroes - the people who are ruling the Nigerian music industry today. But people, know this: saying that these people are awesome when they're not doesn't help anybody. All it does is allows for more people with names like Fragrance to make bad songs with bad videos and even worse lyrics like "Shake, shake, like an earthquake" to poison our airwaves and hurt my eardrums. Please. Stop. Now. Give praise where praise is due, and don't just throw it at the feet of people who don't deserve it.

2) What the hell happened to artistry? Another consequence of (1) is that musicians don't challenge themselves anymore. They make crap songs with crap lyrics and don't bother to make them any better because they know that they'll still sell. Throw 3 of those so-called rappers into a cipher with any random US rapper and he'll murder them all easily. D'Banj is claiming to be the African Michael Jackson, and you guys don't even call him out on that. He might be Nigeria's King of Pop, but he CAN'T be Africa's Michael Jackson, and I'll give you one reason why: P-Square's Do Me was 50 times more successful than D'Banj in Africa as a whole. I have Indian people from Tanzania, and American college kids who spent last summer in Ghana or Kenya jamming to that song, and if you ask, most of them have never even heard of D'Banj. You guys should feel bad - these people are exploiting your unwavering fandom to make themselves rich. Y'all shouldn't stand for that, especially not in this economy. Demand quality for your naira!!!

3) There's no more social commentary. We could all jam to Fela's beats, but his songs always came with a message. It's not like we've gotten any better. There's still corruption, poverty, crime, intolerance, etc. But instead of using music as a tool to inspire change, we use it as a means of escape, singing about flossing and cars and ice. Not only is this simply imitating American music, because God knows like 90% of us can't afford to floss like that, it can potentially be destructive. It glorifies crime (Olu Maintan, Mr. "Yahoozee", I'm looking at you). A kid wakes up and says, I want to make money, instead of, I want to improve my country. So he'll do anything to get money, including stealing, bribing, and using juju on his enemies. Vicious cycle. And y'all are simply feeding into it, instead of trying to break it. The only social commentary I've heard has come from African musicians in Diaspora - Keziah Jones, Nneka, etc. Do non-expatriate Nigerians just not care?

4) I understand the need for balance in music: we need songs for pure entertainment as well as songs to make us think. But frankly, I'd rather save my brain cells than let them die while listening to Gbedu Hour on TruSpot Radio. And I'd rather listen to funky instrumentals with minimal lyrics than songs chock full of lyrics that don't mean anything.

5) The one think I like about Nigerian music is that it's still Nigerian. It's HEAVILY influenced by Western music, (signs of the trend that Nigerians like being Nigerian but don't like things that are "too" Nigerian - another post) but it still has that Nigerian flavour that makes it unique to us. Unfortunately, it makes it hard to play Nigerian music at parties over here (one such occasion when they tried to do it resulted in the party stopping for like 5 whole minutes as I, one other Nigerian and a Ghanaian danced and sang along. Fail.) but that's okay.

6) I had a conversation with an American dude a couple of years ago - can you believe that this dude knew more about Fela and African music than I did? I was SO ashamed, I vowed to go and listen to all the African music I could find. There's so much good African music out there that we Nigerians miss because we're too busy kissing the asses of our own bad artists. Go and listen to some good music, you people. For your own sake. You MUST listen to Angelique Kidjo, Youssou N'Dour, and Miriam Makeba. Then Brenda Fassie, Amadou and Miriam, and Cesaria Evora. Then Cheb Khaled and Oumou Sangare. Your life will be forever changed.

Lastly, here are my top Nigerian artists in no particular order:
1) Asa - the only prominent female artist out there. And she doesn't try to fit into the basic, dull formula of most of today's artists. Love her.
2) Sasha - female MCs represent!!! (Weird MC is cool too, but she hasn't come out with a good song in years. Where is she?)
3) 9ice - can do uptempo tracks and slower stuff and sounds good on both. Unique sound. Props.
4) Naeto C - "Ringtone" is my song :) Plus he can actually rap some.
5) 2Face - though his last album was crap, his first album is dear to my heart. Plus Plantashum Boiz were the ish back in the day.
6) Styl-Plus - they can SING! and their harmonies are ridiculous. 3rd album sucked tho.
7) Fela Kuti - Nigerians, if you do not own any music by this man, you should be ashamed to call yourself a Nigerian. Go buy some. NOW. (Femi is included here by extension).
8)M.I.'s production team - M.I. has some decent flows, BUT I think I like his music more for the backing track than the lyrics. He has potential though.
9) Kush - sad these people aren't around anymore. "Let's Live Together" is still my jam.
10) Amplifyd Crew - heard these people broke up. Too bad. They made good music.
11) ElDee - and by extension, Trybesmen as a whole. Good stuff. Now THEY can rap.
12) Modenine - decent rapper. good music. I really like "Cry" with that chick, Nnena.
13-ish) P-Square - I add them only because of their entertainment factor. They are true performers and know how to make a good party song.
14) Falz Falana - adding him here because I know Nosa will want to mention him. Good rapper. Hilarious songs too.
15) ASHTHOMAS - Google them. Their album "The Ascension" is some of the best modern Nigerian music existing today. Simi See Trouble is revolutionary. They're the shit. Period.


  1. First!
    "Shake, shake, like an earthquake"
    Are you serious that's a song!
    I love Asa!!
    Her Comfort song with Jeremiah Gyang is just IT!!I have her album and I love listening to Jailer!
    In defense of Mr Dbanj he's no MJ, he's more like Soulja boy. He makes pointless songs but they sound nice and people buy the albums!
    Just my opinion tho!

  2. u cant live abroad and judge naija songs... how many do u think u know..
    the fact dat u say MI isnt good for his lyrics tells me all...
    sasha isnt all that and neither is kush(how did they even get to this list) and styl plus oh my God... u really need to listen to naiaj music nowadays ...what happend to ikechukwu.. or timaya..or wande coal...or jesse jagz.. we all love dbanj cos he is an entertainer and if uve listened to his album the track entertainer explained that he knows he sings crap but we still indulge...
    i dont agree with u at all and i believe naija music has come a long way..
    its obvious u know nothing about it from ur list of best musicians....
    the fact dat darey didnt even make the list is proof enuff dat u arent current.. leave the judging to those of us in naija... and for ur info i know a lot of foreigners who know dbanj u cant judge on just ur surrounding...
    i am not beefing just speaking my offence abeg.

  3. @BBB

    Right... so the list was a list of my TOP Nigerian artists. Meaning that I particularly think the others are all that... I know the all of the people you've mentioned. I just don't consider them my top artists.

    Jesse Jagz is decent, but on the same level as M.I. in my opinion. and in my opinion there are better rappers.

    I didn't mention Dare because I don't find his music interesting. I've been listening to this dude since he came off of Fame Academy, so don't tell me I don't know Dare.

    All of Timaya's songs sound the same. No way is he on my top list.

    Ikechukwu fails to impress me. Don't get me wrong, Wind Am Well is my jam, BUT he's not great. *shrug

    And how is it that because I like artists that aren't "hot" right now, I'm not "current"? Or rather, do I really give a rat's ass about being "current"? About being hip, in YOUR opinion? Please.

    I can live abroad and judge Nigerian music because I go back home every year, and I make an effort to listen to Nigerian music while I'm here. I can judge because my surroundings feature many Nigerians, and people of other African nations, and of different nations in general, so I have a pretty good idea of how the world views Nigerian musicians, as opposed to you who is still at home in Nigeria. I never said D'Banj wasn't talented. I only said he was no MJ. That's a valid statement. Until he gains international fame, conducts a world tour that sells out and fills arenas, he will NEVER be on MJ's level. As Lady X said, he's more like Soulja Boi - he knows how to entertain. I'm not knocking that hustle. But people should not allow him to compare himself to MJ - there will ONLY be one MJ.

    Nice try, adding "no offense" at the end of your comment. Don't you dare try to judge what I know by what artists I like. That's a myopic and prejudiced view, and I don't appreciate it. You're basing your "opinion" on assumptions you make as you read this post, and your "opinion" is a criticism of my music knowledge as opposed to a valid criticism of the points I make in this post. False assumptions = bad argument = no point.

  4. loooooool...this is interesting.

    Ok my two cents. I really don't listen to Nigerian music that much even though I live in Nigeria. I'm careful what I waste my brain-cycles on. But of course I still know a lot about it and I really agree with the line about Nigerians supporting Nigerian crap because its Nigerian.

    And yah, MI isn't an excellent rapper. For one thing I stopped listening to him because he's bitten a couple of lines from old LL Cool J tracks without giving any props.

    Styl-plus can sing, their lyrics are shallow and uncreative. Timaya is crap...unless you just want to have fun.

    Ikechukwu is highly overrated. And I HATE Kelly Handsome (Maga don pay), Olu Maintian (Yahoozee), and El dee (some yahoo boy song he did...cant remember the title) for glorifying those idiotic little fraudsters. I'm most disappointed in Eldee, 'cos I thought he'd know better.

    Its all good and well to talk about music for social change, but the hard fact is music isnt defined by that. Plus socially sensitive music usually has to come from passion. Fela sang about Nigeria because he cared. These fellows don't.

    Dont get me wrong though. Nigerian music HAS come a long way. And I DO sing a looooot of Nigerian songs. I love "Ifunaya" hehehehehe. And recently "99 Problems".

    Ok...enough blabbing. Love your commentary. Love your response to BBB. You should post more often.

  5. Love your list and all, but where is WANDE COAL on that list...he is the one with the best voice in the buzness oh!
    Besides, not just in the 9ja music industry, see "pop champagne", "BEEP BEEP BEEP", " do the skanky leg" pluzzz, songs like that get to me....

  6. lol so agreed.
    Do me, do me, do me, you go wound o, you go wound o.

  7. Before I start, e-battling with Mellowyel is a bad idea. She actually tries to make valid points.

    For my two $0.02, I really don't want to listen to social commentary in a club. I'm just saying.

    Elitist much? I like to believe that the mentioned songs were created with a particular audience in mind. It's like hating country music because all they sing about is redneck bullcrap. Maybe that's because it's geared towards rednecks. Long story short: "Stanky Legg" is for people who want to do the fucking stanky leg. It's not like this is some new phenomenon, see "electric slide", "macarena".

  8. Agree with your list except for:
    1) Sasha - No! The same thing you accuse other artistes of is what she's guilty of - E.V.E biter and wannabe flosser. Her only track that had "social commentary" was Adara.
    2) Naeto C - Err...dude is a lazy rapper, please do listen to his WHOLE album, not just Ringtone. And he deserves beating for everyone shouting "what's your P"
    3) Amplifyd Crew - Eh? Good music? They were the ultimate biters, and the chick in the group was useless...if you're going to accuse M.I for biting, let's keep it hundred.

  9. ...and I totally agree about Dare's songs being meh. He needs to stop making dope videos and concentrate on making dope SONGS. That is all. :-)

  10. @ AJ and Doug

    I had no idea all these people were biters. My hip-hop knowledge is lacking, clearly. Then again, everyone bites. Fat Joe bites from Lil Wayne who bites from Jay-Z who bites from Biggie who was a big dude like Fat Joe...

    Amplifyd, yeah the girl was just there for eye-candy. Kinda like Fergie in BEP - she can only kinda sing, and she can't rap, so why is she there anyway?

    I think I prefer Sasha over Weird MC because she (a) doesn't rap in Yoruba, so I understand what she's saying, and (b) Her tracks lean towards soul/R&B, which, though I may not always admit it, is my favorite musical genre. That being said though, I only listen to like 4 or 5 tracks off her album. Plus she had some great rhymes while she was with Trybesmen.

    The truth is that most of these artists are not all that spectacular. However, it's a growing industry, and there's room for change. These artists, in my opinion, are the ones with the most potential.

  11. oh, and I forgot to mention, in defense of Kush - Ty Bello put out an album last year - it's like the Nigerian equivalent of Christian Contemporary. I actually liked it. She doesn't have much vocal range, but the songwriting was good.

    And speaking of Christian music, has anyone heard of Yoruba Gospel Choir? I have one of their songs, "Oluwa", and it's mindblowingly awesome. If anyone can direct me in the direction of their album, just comment.

    And I just remembered Nikki Laoye! Never Felt This Way Before. I remember the song didn't impress me all that much, but she had a nice voice. Give that girl voice lessons and a well-written song, and she'll be famous. I'm mad at Cobhams though - the song needed the drums and guitars to be loud and crazy, but he toned them down too much, so the song was boring.

  12. i heart truspot radio