By Osagie Alonge
It’s 2005 and there’s a huge debate in the Nigerian hip-hop community. Ruggedman has just released a new single titled ‘Ruggedy baba’ and it’s gaining massive buzz on radio, clubs and the streets.
The reason for the buzz was not just because the song was a damn good single which featured a bad ass hook from (former best buddy) 9ice, but because of the content – Ruggedman had stirred the hornet’s nest.
Just before that single dropped, there had been an argument about how Hip-Hop music (Rap) in Nigeria should sound. At the time, the two biggest Hip-Hop music acts were Modenine and Ruggedman. These two rappers were considered the authority on Hip-Hop; Modenine, a respected Hip-Hop icon, had led the SWAT ROOT ensemble to Lagos while Ruggedman was credited with crashing the KENNIS Music monopoly. Modey and Ruggedy now represented two types of Hip-Hop music in Nigeria.
Ruggedman came with the theory of infusing Nigerian dialect in Hip-Hop music. His reason was very simple: to sell, rappers needed to make their music more palatable to the average Nigerian listener. ‘Wetin go make them know where your music come from in the long run na the fusion of grammar, slang and your mother tongue,’ Ruggedman rapped on ‘Ruggedy baba’.
But the Hip-Hop heads were having none of it. This also included the likes of Modenine and a host of ‘us’. Yes, even I couldn’t (or maybe did not want to) comprehend what Michael Stevens was saying. How could he say we should dilute ‘our’ pure Hip-Hop music with Nigerian slangs or papa ti pa music? That was what we called ‘selling out’. We wouldn’t accept this, never!
It turned ugly; Ruggedman released his sophomore album (also titled ‘Ruggedy Baba’) and took major shots at Modenine and a bunch of faceless Hip-Hop heads like us. We felt insulted, even more insulted when the LP won ‘Best Rap Album’ at The Headies 2007 beating Modenine’s near classic ‘E Pluribus Unum’. Modenine, however, responded on his next album ‘Paradigm Shift’, nearly ending Ruggedy’s rap career.
But it’s nine years after and with this quick analysis of the biggest rap songs in the history of Nigerian Hip-Hop, Ruggedman seems to have been right all along.
In April 2013, NET published a special report on ‘The top 10 Nigerian rap songs from 1999’. They included: ‘Na Beans’ by Terry Tha Rapman; ‘Delicious’ by 2 Shotz and Big Lo; ‘Pon Pon Pon’ by Dagrin; ‘Ki Ni Big Deal’ by Naeto C; ‘Stylee’ by DJ Jimmy JATT feat. Modenine, 2face Idibia and Elajoe; ‘Ehen’ by Ruggedman; ‘Safe’ by M.I; ‘Oya’ by Da Trybe; ‘Elbow Room’ by Modenine and ‘Shake Bodi’ by Trybesmen. The list was then updated with Ice Prince’s ‘Oleku’ and Eedris Abdulkareem’s ‘Jaga jaga’.
Of these 12 songs, Modenine’s ‘Elbow room’ is the only song composed and performed in English. The others contain some form of Nigerian dialect.
Another way to look at it is the current list of hottest rappers in the country – Olamide, Ice Prince, Phyno and Reminisce. All these rappers are well known for infusing their dialects in their music.
So, Ruggedman was right after all; he envisioned what we were too stubborn to see at that moment.
Please accept our apology, or at least mine.
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