In July last year, I went to the first Boiler Room in Lagos specifically to catch Mr. Eazi and catch a glimpse of acts like Giggs among others. I couldn’t find anyone to go with me, but I went alone knowing I’d run into people there.
Unfortunately, I got there on time – mainly because they mentioned a N10,000 gate fee for anyone who didn’t. I regretted it as soon as I got there, but I used my going-to-a-concert-alone survival skills from my time in New York to dilly-dally and take in everything until I saw familiar faces.
While dilly-dallying, I noticed a bunch of guys dressed like they walked straight out of a Kanye West meets Travi$ Scott meets Odd Future event. They were dressed in every type of attire you could imagine: bulletproof vest as outerwear, overly ripped jeans, ripped or ironic t-shirts, rings on every finger (especially the big a** pinky one). One of them in particular had the single braids Travi$ is known for complete with the gold beads. I was curious.
I hadn’t seen them around before so I knew they didn’t live here. I wondered where they came from, who they rolled with, whether it was just fashion and they weren’t really about that life. I had so many questions.
My curiosity peaked when DJ Maestro started playing Travi$ Scott’s Antidote and the same guys formed a mosh pit right in the middle and started moshing it out. I was intrigued and mind-blown. I had never seen a mosh pit in Lagos before. Ever. These people didn’t care. They were in their own zone with their peoples and they were just vibing the way they knew how.
To put it in perspective, this was happening in Lagos. A city where if you dance ‘too much’, people judge you. Also, everyone else around them – as expected, was just bopping their heads or moving their hands around in a milly rock at the most. I was standing and staring because I was in shock. In New York, mosh pits are expected wherever trap is played. Basically, if there is trap or Kanye, there will be a mosh pit. So if you don’t intend on losing your Palace hat or getting punched in the face, don’t go to the front of the stage because it is inevitable.
They kept vibing with each other in this mosh pit until the DJ switched to less aggressive hip hop. At this point, I had uploaded a Snapchat story expressing my joy, and I had run into people I knew. End of story.
A few days later, I saw the same group of people mosh pitting in Vapors. It was unusually packed because summer, and I was looking for my friends all the way at the back. I had to wait for the mosh pit to simmer down before I could get through because of course, I didn’t want to get punched in the face. But I was still amazed and even more curious than the first time.
I decided to find them and learn more about them because I thought to myself: could this be symbolic of the new wave of hip hop slowly penetrating our culture? They dress and act the part. There was no doubt in my mind this time that they were either musicians or fashion enthusiasts. I had experienced this before – when Kanye made it cool to wear polos and skinny jeans which replaced nightgown like t-shirts and baggy jeans. When Wayfarers replaced aviators and when fresh trims replaced afros.
I spoke to some people, and was eventually put in touch to New World Ray and Ka$h of No Politics Mob and Traplanta respectively.
Ray was the guy at Boiler Room with the single braids and beads. He wasn’t hard to find because he stands out anywhere with his hair and style.
When we met up for a now lost interview at Sao Cafe, he looked the same and was surprisingly calm. As an artist myself, I struggle with looking like my artist self in my downtime (it’s a lot of maintenance), but every time I ran into Ray, he was dressed the part. Like he stepped out of a streetwear lookbook.
New World Ray was born and raised in Lagos before moving to England to continue his studies. At 20, he has a clear idea of where he sees himself and how he intends to get there. He’s already got the branding front down pat and speaks decisively about his image. As one of the key people in the No Politics Mob, he describes it as a “rebellious creative collective inclusive of individuals who specialise in hip hop/rap music, fashion/graphic design, videography/photography etc”. I got a chance to meet some of them during my sit down with him, and they are very much the creative collective doing everything from the vocals to the production, march, graphic design and marketing. The DIY mentality is essential in the new era of hip hop, and Ray and the No Politics Mob have a full understanding of that, holding events for new singles and pop up shops for new merch. They’ve created their image and following organically.
“I see myself as an artist that’s tryna express myself in all fields I am capable of while trying to take it to the furthest possible milestones I can,” says Ray.
Ka$h is on a similar wave. 20 as well and based in Atlanta – the birthplace of trap, Ka$h is no stranger to the culture and the sound.
“I definitely feel being raised in Atlanta was bound to have an impact on my music. I couldn’t be solely an Afrobeat or Afro fusion artist because that’s just not me. I’m Atlanta,” he says. “And that’s not saying you’ll never hear KA$H on those genres because you definitely will.”
New hip hop on the world stage has its criticisms. Artists like Lil Yachty and Lil Uzi Vert have made the term ‘mumble rap’ an actual dominant genre in hip hop. Traditional hip hop heads (looking at you Joe Budden) don’t view it charitably. However, Ka$h and the rest of Traplanta are beyond that. “We aren’t just “trap” artists,” he says. “We give you those vibes when we want to but we all make an effort to leave a message whenever we can.”
He cites one of his tracks called Ice Cream Kash which starts off all giddy with kind of a Broccoli vibe, but about two minutes in, it gets real and paints a picture of how police brutality could creep up on a couple of black kids simply just trying to have fun on a summer day. It kind of had me shook. (If you’re interested, he also cites ‘Blue Jeans’ by labelmate, The Section, and OBA’s ‘Lost In Social Media’ as similar examples).
Traplanta and the No Politics Mob frequently collaborate on their various creative outlets. I personally feel both collectives are the leaders of a new era of hip hop the mainstream hasn’t even begun to take notice of yet. Ka$h credits new wave artists like Odunsi, Mafeni, and Zirra as key people in the new hip hop movement at the moment and considers the DRB, Santi and LOS the pioneers. “We all going to be on top in the next few years though. That’s a fact.” he adds.