"WHAT IT FEELS LIKE TO BE A HIP HOP ARTISTE IN NIGERIA" - _LAWAL ADAM SPEAKS!
~ _LAWAL ADAM OLASUNKANMI._
Aka ~~Afrika~~ is one of Nigeria's most talented and one who has successfully carved out his own space in the rap music scene. I have had cause to interract with him on different levels and he's always struck me as someone with his own ideas and his own view of the Nigerian music industry. Boogey has a lot to say and in this exclusive interview, he bares his mind on Hip Hop in Nigeria and other matters.
You can connect with Boogey on twitter @BoogeyThat and download his new mixtape HERE
1. Is Hip Hop still relevant in the Nigerian Music Scene?
Yes it is, especially socially. There might be some questions about its acceptability, its publicity and its revenue around these parts, but I doubt there are any about its relevance, in general. Sometimes it seems less so because we often like to compare it to other genres, while making them appear as one collective.
Because of its competitive tendency, we often single Hip Hop out and it creates a "Hip Hop vs the rest" idea, which I think is very unfair to the genre in this part of the world. The Hip Hop culture in our country is relatively so young and so immature that we look for unnecessarily precise definitions for it, to make it seem less compound and easier to digest. I think that does some injustice to the evaluation of its relevance.
Hip Hop is like that one character in the comics that possesses the ability to manifest all the heroes' powers. You can often hear elements of different genres in rap music, and even see traces of diversity in the fashion as the culture evolves.
It might not always be good music that makes it to the top and it might not always be the most talented hip hop artistes that get the attention of the public, but the movement is larger than individuals and it will never be irrelevant. Not if we can help it.
2. What do you hate most about the industry?
Hate is a strong word but I can't say it isn't appropriate. I hate the lies. It is usually one big show of illusions.
I will explain with three points: The artistes, The fans and The media; showing the connection between them. The following are just examples of SOME cases I have observed and not a generalization.
A young, unknown artiste makes his first or second song and already sells you the idea of the good life he lives and how he is a "Boss". He goes through hell to get studio time, he borrows money for transportation to the studio just the day after his girlfriend dumped him, and he just lost a friend or family member. He walks into the studio, sits down to write, and the first thing that pops in his head is "I pulled up at the club in my lambo". Pause. Rewind.. now play it again. See what I mean?
If it comes with a new dance (I have nothing against dancing. I love to dance), it probably becomes his hit song because many of the fans have been programmed to buy into that happy celebrity lifestyle, regardless of personal identity and experience.
The next guy shows up with that formula, his song more catchy and his dance more exciting. Everybody moves on to him, and so it continues.
On the flip side, an artiste who has been living the good life from birth shows up with stories about his humble beginnings, sometimes in the music and sometimes in interviews. The only thing people love more than a fairy tale is the tale of suffering that it begins with.
Everyone loves a Cinderella story. Artiste 1 and Artiste 2 are reflections of each other. Sometimes they succeed and sometimes they don't. It is what it is.
The fans buy too easily into the illusion and it often feels like they forget that the artistes are human beings too. Many fans have this "bed of roses" image of the industry and many opinions or demands stem from it, although it is hard to blame them if 5 of 6 new videos on TV preach that exact sermon.
I recently tweeted at American rapper, Jay Electronica, pleading that if he did rap collabos during his stay in Nigeria, they be with rappers that can actually rap. I said that as a fan of course. I received a comment from a tweeter accusing me of hating and advising me to go ahead and make a song with Jay Electronica if I wanted to.
He pointed out that I'm signed to a label and so it shouldn't be a problem. That sort of ignorance affects everything. Music fans sometimes go as far as taunting or disrespecting a hardworking artiste over his inability to "blow". "Your mates that are winning awards, do they have two heads?". It breaks my heart when I hear or read comments like that because there is so much that goes on behind the curtains that the fans are oblivious of. If artistes were a bit less misleading with their music and lifestyle, maybe awareness would be better. Again, that's just my view.
The media is the bridge between artiste and fan and sometimes it is a very unstable one but it isn't completely the fault of the media. All parties play a part. There are people in media who genuinely support the art and have devoted time to promoting good quality and improving credibility, but there are also people who are in it for personal gain and just go where the money wind blows.
Every Nigerian artiste knows what happens.There is also the case of negligence.I was at an awards show, nominated for one of the more popular awards and even after I said my name and mentioned the title of my song, two of my interviewers had no idea what I was talking about.
They went to the ceremony without doing their homework. Most of those interviews probably stay on the shelf anyway, If you're no superstar (until there is a tragedy or scandal involving you that goes viral, and suddenly they come out).
The media is the conduit between artiste and fan and because of the business side of things, it is often obliged to deliver whatever message sells. It is hard for upcomers to compete when certain people in the media also believe the lie that all is good and decide that they want a piece of the loot.
There are however a few who promote what they truly believe in and show genuine support for true talent and hard work.
I know many people will have the "Na Naija we dey" view and the "It's Show business and that's how it works" opinion but again, this is all personal and constitutes what I dislike the most about the industry.
3. What does it feel like to be a hip hop artiste in Nigeria at the moment?
At the moment, for me, it is mixed. There are days when I am proud to be one. Days when I see flashes of hope and feel like the genre might be getting more recognition and respect. Days when many fans are excited about a new hip hop project or about a really good verse a rapper just dropped on a song, whether it's me or not.
There are also times when it is absolutely frustrating. Times when I sit down and realise that we really do not have any major hip hop concerts and that we have no award shows strictly meant to honour Hip Hop, yet tend to separate it from the group the way I explained in my response to question 1.
It is also disheartening that people make comments like "there are no rappers in Nigeria" when they don't even search for new music if they haven't seen the artiste shine on TV . People are lazy with research but eager to share opinions. It sometimes plants the thought that one would be better off in another country.
Some Nigerian rappers also get a lot of disrespect for using certain styles in their craft. People often expect the next guy to sound like their favourite rapper or sound like the guy that's hot at the moment. Some people also want every Nigerian rapper to have a typical Nigerian sound and some others underrate rappers that have a typical Nigerian sound.
It can be discouraging sometimes but we do what we do, each his own way and hope that soon enough the fans will learn to appreciate the diversity in Hip hop. It is this diversity that makes the culture so beautiful after all. The suggestion that rap music doesn't sell has also forced many rappers to deviate from rapping or even totally from Hip Hop.
This puts negative pressure on the others, especially in cases where the deviation results in financial success. The flashes of hope on the bright side of the situation keep us working, nevertheless.
4. What advice would you give other hip-hop artistes?
I'm no expert in the game and I'm not accomplished yet so I can't exactly dish out advice to everyone. I would however like to address the newbies.
• Don't sign agreements without doing proper research about the business and legal components of the industry.
• Don't get carried away by men in suits, offering you the whole world and promising you the platform you need. Sometimes when it shines too bright, it blinds you.
• Stay humble but don't let anybody understate your value.
• Whether you're a genius or a complete buffoon, there are those that will love your work and those that will hate it. Reasons will vary and sometimes even be absent. Regardless of opinions, focus on your hustle. God got you.