Hip-Hop has gone through an interesting evolution in Nigeria. From the days of mimicked ‘Americana’ lines to recent times when more Nigerian artists have chosen to embrace Afro elements in their lyrics and beats.
Now, with all that Hip-hop has been through, there is a heated debate going on concerning whether Hip-hop is facing a decline or is still thriving. We answer this question right here in this article. First, let’s take a minute to explain what Hip-hop is.
What exactly is Hip-hop?
Hip-hop is a distinct music genre that originated in the early 1970s. It is also called rap music. The style of music itself features lyrics with poetry and rhythm. Unlike some other genres, Hip-hop is not just about the music. It is more about the elements that it is characterized by. Some of them are rap, rhymes, DJs, and even sometimes artistic influences like graffiti. Apart from this, Hip-hop is also characterized by a unique style of dressing and culture called the Hip-hop culture. Hip-hop started in the United States of America and later spread to other regions including Africa where the style of music has been blended to create brand new subgenres.
How far has Hip-Hop come in Nigeria?
Nigeria used to be one of the top consumers of Hip-hop music. We loved every bit of what Hip-hop represented especially the culture and the swag. Some stats prove that Nigeria ranked among the top consumers of Hip-hop music in the world decades back. Early on in Nigeria’s music history, Hip-hop became more than just music. It was a cultural movement.
Out of all the states in Nigeria, Lagos was the obvious forerunner of the movement with both budding and established artists fanning the flame IN every way they could. Music acts like Ibrahim Omari (a member of the Sugar Hill Hip-hop group) were one of the very first to bring Hip-hop onto the shores of Nigeria in the early 80s with the song ‘Rapper’s Delight’.
Since then, countless Nigerian Hip-hop tracks and diss records have been spurned out of the mouths of our artists. Notable Nigerian Hip-hop albums released in the past few years are ‘Talk About It’ By M.I Abaga, ‘No Guts, No Glory’ by Phyno, ‘Everybody Loves Ice Prince’ by Ice prince, and ‘African American’ by Sinzu (Sauce Kid). These albums did relatively well in the market despite people’s belief that Hip-hop doesn’t sell. In fact, in the past few years, many of our Nigerian Hip-hop artists have done so well that they have been winning awards that are usually dominated by pop stars.
If Nigerian Hip-hop thrived years ago in Nigeria, well, what about Hip-hop in Nigeria now?
The current state of Hip-hop Nigeria
So what is the Hip-hop market like in Nigeria and is it truly dead? Today, Hip-hop in Nigeria has been fused with other genres, especially Afrobeats. Hence we now have a new generation of artists who are more content with mixing the two elements of music to create a new sound. Still, we have Hip-hop artists who have stuck to Hip-hop, creating wonderful melodies for the Hip-hop fans of this generation. Some of these Hip-hop loyalists are M.I Abaga, Ice Prince, and Reminisce. If in the mid-2000s, we had artists like Freestyle and Ruggedman, Today, In Nigeria, we have Falz, M.I Abaga, Vector, Olamide, and Lil Kesh.
With the numerous international awards being won by our contemporary Nigerian Hip-hop artists, we cannot say that Hip-hop is dead. We all saw Ice Prince win a BET for Best Global Artist. Some of the best, most catchy music have come out of the Nigerian Hip-hop scene, so can we boldly say that hip-hop is dead?
On the other hand, If I am being honest, I’ll have to admit that Hip-hop is going through troubled times right now in Nigeria. Let’s face the facts; Hip-hop might indeed be facing a decline in Nigeria at the moment for many reasons.
One of them could be because most of our Nigerian artists are more occupied with newer genres and subgenres like Afro-pop, Amapiano (You know it), Afro rap, Afro house, and Afropiano. I think that for the most part, Nigerians are starting to embrace a more authentic and original style of music that sounds more like them. It’s no news that in recent times, the typical Nigerian music fan will rather sing a few lines in an indigenous language than in a foreign one.
Another glaring reason is that many Nigerians don’t gravitate towards some rap music because they feel it is not relatable. That is why those rappers who have chosen to express themselves in indigenous languages are more successful than those who strictly rap in English. A lot of talented rappers are not very popular in the industry partly because Nigerians may have slightly evolved in their taste in music hence these Hip-songs are not as mainstream as the artists producing them would like.
At the same time, I have to say that “dead” is a strong word. Hip-hop is not yet dead in Nigeria. The Hip-Hop culture is still very much alive. The genre might be facing its setbacks, but honestly, Hip-hop is not some random underground subgenre that can just fade away like that. After passing through years of a steady rise in Nigeria, it would be pretty hard for the genre to die unceremoniously.
I’ll say it again, Nigerian Hip-hop is not dead, it is just hidden under the stacks of new genres thrown at us daily. Nigerian fans tend to focus on what kind of music is mainstream and popular at the time and right now that might just be Afropop.
This is my verdict: Hip-hop is not dead, just evolving. Yes, it has been facing a decline in recent times, yet, for a genre still selling well, topping charts, and winning awards, we can’t possibly jump to the conclusion that it is dead. So, feel free to get your earphones out, because in case you haven’t realized it yet, this is your sign to revive your playlist with some decent Nigerian Hip-hop songs.