In Nigeria, hip-hop is fighting for its dear life. Once an enormous a part of the local music industry, Nigerian rappers dominated the continent, with rap produced everywhere the country’s creative capital, Lagos, and beyond. Today, it’s a relegated culture, currently playing second fiddle within the mainstream market as a less desirable cousin of Afrobeats and native danceroom music. These genres continue to squeeze the life out of it as they ascend.
Here are the best Nigerian rappers you should know.
M.I Abaga is the most important rapper the country has ever produced. In the mid-2000s, M.I found the perfect intersection between local language and American delivery to produce a democratized hybrid of rap that powered him to success. Away from the front-end, M.I’s work extends to the backend of the business. M.I plays a pivotal part during this arrangement; he’s both artist and artist enabler.
Whether he’s rapping his heart out and giving inventive freestyles on social media or sprinting over a pacy dance beat, Vector holds respect as one of Nigeria’s most visible and skilled rappers. Within three studio albums and two mixtapes, Vector has traversed almost all the iterations of Nigerian rap. You can experience this sentiment on his 2016 album, Lafiaji, an ode to home, spinning an upscale tale of lifestyle.
Local purist hip-hop heads will turn their nose up at the thought of Zlatan Ibile being a luminary of the culture. He comes from the “street” – a term used to describe the low-income neighbourhoods – where the music possesses a rawness to the sound. The past three years have seen street music influencing an enormous a part of Nigerian popular culture, and Zlatan Ibile is within the frontline that push.
Falz the Bahd Guy is many things to many people; rapper, comedian, actor (he has won two AMVCA trophies, the highest screen honour in Africa). Born to a Human Rights activist father, Femi Falana, the singer with a law degree from Reading operates out of Lagos with a potent blend of humour, conscious lyricism, and an ear for great beats. Much of that polarizing art is contained in Moral Instruction album.
With Blaqbonez, you never know what to expect. You can be ushered into a bars-heavy rap session featuring unending braggadocio or a story-telling experience laced with dry humour. You can easily stray within the wit of the pink-haired rapper whose juvenile disposition may be a breath of fresh air.
Showdem Camp is kept alive by the enduring balance of Ghost and Tec, who are the founding members of the group. In 2009, the duo hit bottom running, and have consistently elevated the rap space with a consistency of projects.
YCee is a pleasant conundrum to Nigerians. He broke through as a troublesome rapper with “Jagaban” before incorporating more melody into his delivery. Right now, he’s leaned heavily on dance music for consolidation of his place in the culture. He has been described as a drive-by artist; that is, he makes music that is best enjoyed cruising in your car with your windows wound down and the wind caressing your cheeks.
Wherever Ladipoe has offered a verse, it comes with the very best quality. His obsession with lyrical perfection is so comprehensive that he’s discussed with reverence in every mainstream hip-hop conversation in Lagos.
Rap music has a rich history in Nigeria. The country has produced generations of great M.C.s who were once revered and supported by both the industry and the market.