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by DJ Daggash


Hip-Hop & Lagos

by DJ Daggash

Hip-Hop & Lagos

by DJ Daggash


Hip-hop began in New York City in the 1970s, driven largely by African Americans, Latino Americans, and Caribbean Americans in the streets of the Bronx. The formalization as a movement beyond music was set forth by Afrika Bambaataa, founder of the hip-hop collective Zulu Nation. He outlined four core principles of hip-hop: rapping, DJing, breakdancing, and graffiti. These core principles are the defining forces in the music and cultural street style of hip-hop. Currently, and arguably, the four core principles have been increased to six with the inclusion of fashion and art into the hip-hop culture.

According to Jean Petit Jean, in his 'Short History of Hip-Hop,' writers have often, conveniently, credited the origin of hip-hop to a holy trinity of founders: Afrika Bambaataa, Clive “DJ Kool Herc” Campbell, and Joseph “Grandmaster Flash” Sadler.

However, hip-hop has a strong West African influence and lineage. Its lineage may be traced to the Griots in Senegal, who have engaged in spoken-word storytelling for ages. Also, there is a strong influence from Fela's music, which Afrika Bambaataa discovered on a trip to Africa. Subsequently, he would play music he found in Africa, particularly Fela and King Sunny Ade, at his shows. It can be inferred that he discovered Fela’s music in Lagos, being the Afrobeat Legend’s base.

Others with a claim to the foundation of hip-hop include Brooklyn’s Grandmaster Flash, the disco group the Fatback Band, jazz poet Gil Scott-Heron, smooth-talking mid-century radio personalities like Frankie Crocker and Jocko Henderson, tap dancing James Brown, swaggering boxer & rhymester Muhammad Ali, and jazz legend Louis Armstrong.

Rap was not officially recorded till 1979. The genre grew behind the scenes through block parties in much of the 70s, where DJs played percussive breaks of popular songs using two turntables; and then EmCees would rap in a chanting vocal style, over the DJ beats. The first track to gain mainstream popularity was “Rapper’s Delight” by The Sugarhill Gang.

The 1980s were a real breakout point for hip-hop. Kurtis Blow dropped the single “The Breaks” in 1980, and the track became the first rap song certified gold. In the years following, many acts would release genre-defining hits, including 1982’s “The Message” by Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five and Afrika Bambaataa’s “Planet Rock.” Also notable is the socially conscious statement, “It’s Like That,” by Run-DMC.

Audiences and artists alike would embrace the core principles defined by Bambaataa, with minority groups fully embodying the culture in urban centers through the music, breakdancing, and graffiti in the streets. The fluid intersection between hip-hop and the streets meant that makeshift parties and music spontaneously erupted, and people began using their bodies to make beats, giving birth to beatboxing, where people use their lips, tongues, and voices and other parts of their bodies to make beats to rap and dance to.

Heavily mirroring the streets in which it emerged, hip-hop soon left the realm of purely party jams as artists began infusing stories from the violence in the streets in their rap, giving birth to gangsta rap. Featuring hardcore lyrics on drugs, violence, misogyny, and the harsh lives of ghetto youth, music by artists like Ice-T in the East Coast and NWA in the West Coast changed the tone of rap as their songs spread across the United States. With the rise of gangsta rap, early female pioneers, Queen Latifah, Monie, Salt-N-Pepa, began to lose appeal as labels favored their more aggressive male counterparts, whose music had more demand. The decline in female hip-hop artists has continued in hip-hop well into today as female MCs still struggle to start and build a career in the industry.

During the early 80s, although popular, hip-hop didn’t have commercial success, as it was largely ignored by the music establishment. But with the breakout success of gangsta rap, music industry executives took notice, creating a formula to amplify the glorification of the fast life: violence, sex, drugs, and of course, money, money, money. The 90s saw a new breed of rap artists emerge who embraced this formula to widespread appeal. Pioneers like Jay Z, Dr. Dre, Puff Daddy, and Andre Harrell capitalized on the new direction to build successful music empires around their craft and various associated acts.

Throughout the 90s, artists like Notorious B.I.G., Nas, Tupac, Snoop Dogg, were bringing in millions of dollars for themselves and their record labels in record sales, sold-out concerts, and endorsement deals, paving the way for the genre across the States and globally.

And the appeal of rap artists began to cross over from music into other areas of entertainment. 2Pac in 'Juice,' Will Smith in 'The Fresh Prince,' LL Cool J in 'In the House,' DMX in 'Cradle to the Grave' and 'Romeo Must Die,' Eminem in '8 Mile.' The list is endless, from cameos to starring roles, rappers have since the 90s crossed over from the rap game to the film business.

Since the early 2000s, hip-hop has become a multifaceted and diverse genre intersecting with various mainstream and underground cultures to create a larger-than-life lifestyle that lives beyond the music and shapes global culture. Some artists, however, still continue to fly the flag of “Retro hip-hop.” Some new, like Kendrick Lamar, J Cole, Logic, to name a few, create music with a heavy focus on lyricism, and old heads like Jay Z, Eminem, and Nas, have released new music in this decade. Nas recently released 6 albums in 2-3 years with 'King’s Disease I-III' and 'Magic 1-3.' Many purists do not consider the style of hip-hop music that dominates the airwaves today hip-hop, with some arguing that the new wave lacks the style and substance of hip-hop’s origins. Whatever side you’re on, no one can deny the influence that retro hip-hop has had on all of today’s rap culture and all culture globally.

Lagos & Hip-Hop

The hip-hop scene in Lagos began in the late 1970s and early 1980s when American rap music started to gain popularity among the youth. The song 'Rapper’s Delight' by the Sugar Hill Gang was a huge hit, and many people wanted to do what they did. However, rappers were not taken seriously in Lagos.

At the time, it was juju, highlife, and fuji music that reigned, and the general thought was that “hip-hop is not music” but a culture and that “it didn’t make sense for people to be talking all through a record.” A record was supposed to be sung. There was also the feeling that the early rappers were trying to copy the rappers in the United States, and yet they were not Americans.

One of the first Nigerian rappers to emerge was Ibrahim Salim Omari, a member of the American rap group the Sugar Hill Gang, who came to Nigeria in exile in 1980.

While in the country, Omari released the first rap single in Nigeria titled 'I Am an African.' He also collaborated with Lagos-based musicians like Fela and King Sunny Ade. Though his song did not take root, it laid seeds for what was to come.

Another pioneer of Nigerian rap was Ron Ekundayo, a presenter on Radio Nigeria 2 in Lagos who also entered the hip-hop scene with his effort 'Ronnie – The Way I Feel' in 1981. He also hosted rap shows and competitions on his radio program.

Dizzy K was better known as a pop star, and he had a hit with 'Baby Kilode,' but he also rapped on his song 'Saturday Night Raps' in 1982. He was one of the first Nigerian rappers to rap in English.

80s & 90s

The late 1980s and early 1990s saw the emergence of more Nigerian rappers who started to gain recognition and acceptance both locally and internationally. Some of them were based abroad, and some were based in Nigeria. They also experimented with different languages, styles, and influences.

One of the most successful Nigerian rappers of this era was Dr. Alban, who moved to Sweden to study dentistry. He became a DJ to finance his studies and later a rapper who had several worldwide hits in the 1990s. His first hit was 'Hello Afrika' in 1990, which was shot in Lagos and Sweden. The song reached number one in Austria, two in Germany, Greece, and Portugal, three in Switzerland, and seven in Spain and Sweden. It was a massive hit across Africa, Europe, and around the world.

He also had another hit with 'It’s My Life' in 1992, which reached number two on the UK charts, number one in several European countries, and number three on the Billboard Hot Dance Music chart in the US.

Another influential group was Sound On Sound, which comprised Nigerians Mr. Kool, Ebony Laoye, and Monica Omorodion, and Americans Jedi and Scratch. Scratch had previously worked with the Sugarhill Gang. Unlike previous Nigerian rap songs, their song 'I’m African' in 1988 had heavy airplay on Lagos stations NTA2 Channel 5 and Radio Nigeria 2. It was probably the first rap song by a Nigerian that was accepted by Nigerians.

Rap group Emphasis’ released a song in our pidgin titled 'Which One You Dey' in 1991. It was more relatable and appealing to Nigerians. It also had a funny storyline and a catchy chorus.

The first rap song by Nigerians in Nigeria to become a mainstream hit was Junior & Pretty’s 'Monika' in 1991. The song was also in Pidgin English and had a hilarious story about a cheating girlfriend. The song won an award at the Nigerian Music Awards (NMA), and from then, people started seeing that rap could become something.

Pretty, the surviving member of the duo, is the current president of the Performing Music Artists of Nigeria (PMAN).

Fuji & Hip-Hop

Fuji music originated from Isale Eko (downtown Lagos) in the 1950s by Ajiwere singers and named by Sikiru Ayinde Barrister, who is regarded as the founder. According to Bobo Omotayo, in his 'Letter to Fuji,' the genre was the first "battle" genre. Before "beefs" among American rappers became a worldwide spectacle, Fuji acts used wordplay and metaphors to proclaim their superiority over one another. The most widely reported battles were between two of the genre's beat artistes, Ayinde Barrister and Ayinla Kollington.

The history of the relationship between Fuji and hip-hop in Lagos started when Ayinde Barrister released hip-hop and disco-centric albums in the 1980s, including 'Fuji Disco' (1980), 'Fuji Vibration' (1984/85), and 'Talazo Disco' (1984/85). These were the first attempts to connect Fuji to youth culture and American rap. This process paralleled the early development of rap and hip-hop music in Lagos in the mid-1980s. However, fifth-generation Fuji musicians took this alignment to a new level through extreme borrowing, sampling, and code-switching.

In 1997, Pasuma became the first Fuji musician to have a series of collaborations and features in the emerging rap and hip-hop scenes. @fuji opera stated that Pasuma was one of the first Yoruba popular musicians to express crossover music and lay the groundwork for what is now known as Afrobeats.

The Remedies, a trio consisting of Eddy Remedy, Toni Tetuila, and Eedris Abdulkareem, emerged and championed the transformation of rap and hip-hop music in Nigeria. While their first album, 'Shako Mo,' was a success, it was their strategic sampling of Pasuma's 'Orobokibo' in 'Mo ni ke keep on rocking' that established them as the pioneers of the Ibile sub-genre of hip-hop.

Pasuma later appeared on The Remedies' 1999 album 'Jealousy.' Pasuma was already a mega-star, and the Remedies needed him to keep their place in the volatile Lagos pop scene. The feature was a success. It also established Fuji as a vital resource for the Nigerian reimagining of hip-hop music.

Hip-Hop & Afrobeats

Following the success of Remedies and Pasuma's relationship, Fuji assumed a central role in the experimentation process that has now evolved into Afrobeats. Throughout the 2000s, there was a wave of sampling and collaborations between Fuji musicians and Nigerian pop musicians.

Jazzman Olofin and Adewale Ayuba collaborated on the hit single 'Raise Da Roof,' Dammy Krane and Pasuma on 'Ligali,' Olamide and K1 De Ultimate on 'Anifowose,' and Pasuma and Tiwa Savage on 'Ife.'

Fuji is central to Afrobeats' Sound and Aesthetics. Fuji music is distinguished by distinct aesthetics and rhythmic nuances, particularly the singing voice. Singing techniques in Fuji are one of the key elements that establish Afrobeats as an "authentic Nigerian sound." This singing voice combines indigenous Yoruba vocal arts and tones (such as oriki, ijala, ewi, ivere, and others) with Islamic cantillation. Fuji's sound is defined by the combination of these two broad techniques.

This sound also repositioned and defined Afrobeats beginning in 2008 (examples include early works by Olu Maintain, Ice, Wiz-kids, and Davido) and was perfected by 2016 (examples include Teni, Tiwa Savage, and others).

In sum, Lagos has birthed Fuji music and Ibile Rap. Its fusion evolved into Afrobeats, which is currently enjoying a massive global following and global prominence.

At RapJointLagos, we believe the hiphop economy has changed the cultural and economic trajectory of the world and the same can be pushed further in Lagos, and Nigeria at large. We have big dreams and visions to amplify the potential of Hip-hop locally through niche and mass market offerings.

Lagosians must tell their own stories and not leave it to visiting journalists. We are special in this city and the world needs to know, from us.

Thank you.



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