Nigerian Rap Needs More Than Beef

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It’s been a whirlwind of beef over the past month in the Nigerian hip-hop sphere. An indicator that hip-hop’s long culture of rap beefs – as well as the diss tracks and battles which have made them so legendary – is going nowhere. 

What’s beef? 

It’s interesting—and somewhat sad—that the only time hip-hop takes center stage in Nigeria music sphere is when there’s beef between artistes. Good old hip-hop heads would tell you we’ve really never had beef in the actual sense of it if we are having comparisons with beefs in American hip-hop. Before you throw tantrums, allow me enlighten you briefly about three top tier hip-hop beefs that changed the game and still dominates discussions. 

  • The Ice Cube vs. N.W.A beef: In what became the origin of gangster-rap music, Ice Cube massacred the entire N.W.A after their heated break-up with a diss track called No Vaseline. That beef changed the artiste/manager relationship in the music business for good. 
  • It is impossible to have slept on the Pac vs. Biggie beef which not only embodied the East Coast-West Coast battle for hip-hop superiority but is, also, the most culturally significant beef in rap history. It defined a generation of hip-hop. Articles and books with some more reliable than others have been written on the Pac vs. Biggie and the East Coast-West Coast rap beef that reached its climax with the murder of both rappers. 
  • The Jay-Z and Nas beef which is the gold standard of hip-hop beefs, saw both rappers penning and spitting vicious verbal attacks against one another. There was Take-Over from Jay-Z and there was Ether that reminded everyone that Nas was a superior rapper. Hov was so upset over the perceived loss that he crafted Super Ugly, a completely out of line diss track. They co-owned New York—and, by extension, hip-hop. They are also arguably the two strongest emcees to engage in a war of bars with each other. At the end of it, Jay-Z’s mum made him apologize to Nas for the Super Ugly track and Nas took a juicy deal with Def Jam under Jay’s watch.

‘Beef’ in Nigeria Hip Hop

In Nigeria, hip-hop beef never escalated to real trouble. It’s just studio slaughter and nothing more. It rarely changes any outlook, save a few times. Due props to Rugged-Man who cane-flogged the crop of frigidi-shigidi mumble artistes at the time with his ‘Ehen’ track that spared no one including music labels. This diss-track was the gate breaker for all of today’s audible rappers in Nigeria. It changed rap as we knew it then and changed the keys to the rap game. Our rap outlook switched, and rappers at the time started to fix up. Although Modenine gave Ruggedman a Death Blow when they were locked in a feud, it doesn’t make me appreciate Ruggedman any less for his huge contribution to hip-hop as we know it today in Nigeria. Before the Ruggedman diss track, beef had existed in the industry between Eedris Abdulkareem who released Wackawickee emcees , a response to erstwhile The Remedies group member, Tony Tetuila’s, Omode Metaafter their split. There’s also an endless list of the many meaningless beefs that made no credible contribution to hip-hop/rap asides entertaining the fans. We had the Remedies vs. Trybesmen beef, Terry Tha Rapman vs. Azadus, Sinzu vs. Godwon beef, M.I vs. Iceberg Slim and Kelly Hansome. The most notable recent beef being the on-going M.I Vs Vector battle. Often, rap beefs in Nigeria have no cultural impact or context and have changed nothing.

Nobody wins when the Family Feuds

It’s 2019, those who we used as hip-hop/rap yardsticks are squashing beefs and making money moves with meaningful progress that uplifts their society, but here we are stuck in the loop of hip-hop beef and saying no to progress. This is an indication of many things among which is the failed state of hip-hop in Nigeria and the toxic masculinity that continues to affect the rappers themselves. I understand that rap music is not as commercially viable in Nigeria as other genres but beef should not be the fuel for rap conversations. A lot of rap albums dropped without a single diss but drove conversations in a positive direction. Foreign rappers come to Nigeria for concerts and the audience sing their songs along with them word for word. American rapper, J.Cole, performed in Lagos after the release of his fifth studio album, K.O.D, and the energetic response from the audience left him shocked and surprised. There is the avenue for higher financial returns from collaborative projects by rappers who engage in beefs. Progress and newer grounds can be easily conquered when the family moves in unison. The controversial jabs here and there could interest the fans today but for how long would squabbles hold the attention of the audience? If it’s not time to move forward, then the rap genre might become extinct soon within our music sphere.

It’s not too late to squash these beefs, fix up, and quit being angry little kids as Nigerian rappers have shown that after the beef ends they have nothing left. They simply retreat to their enclave and wait for the next prey.

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