Street Hop gimmick?

Afrobeats to Afro-Adura: Much ado about a sub-genre?

By Dami Ajayi

Posted on May 5, 2023 07:51

 © Street-hop musician Seyi Vibez is credited with the appearance of the Afro-Adura term. (photo: twitter)
Street-hop musician Seyi Vibez is credited with the appearance of the Afro-Adura term. (photo: twitter)

Afro-Adura is posited as a new subgenre of Afrobeats for which Seyi Vibez may be the lead, but this Adamic expedition might be a branding exercise. We delve into this debate.

The genre Afrobeats has come a long way. From its dodgy etymology (origin word: Afrobeat) to its location of christening (London), this catch-all phrase for the current wave of Contemporary West African dance music arising from the geographical hubs — of Lagos, Accra and London —continues to divide the room on what it wants to be called.

This is particularly telling when you listen to industry hands, from record executives to music journalists to the musiciansthemselves.

Almost every Afrobeats musician has taken to calling their brand of music by a different name. Burna Boy calls his brand Afrofusion. Rema, whose hit single ‘Calm Down’ has broken new records for the genre on the Billboard Hot 100, calls his music, Afro-Rave. Love Nwantiti crooner C-Kay calls his Emo-Afrobeats.

There is no end to the Adamic expedition, which I consider a branding exercise. Afrobeats is digital music, and finding a musician who also produces is rare.

C-Kay is one, and his sound is distinctly R&B-led; his argument for prefixing Emotions in his Emo-Afrobeats is valid.

Fela’s Afrobeat, which developed distinctly from the 60s as a unique sound from Highlife, is Burna Boy’s lodestone.

If Afrobeats fuses 60s Highlife, 70s Afrobeats, 80s Roots Reggae and Fuji, American 90s Hip-Hop/R&B and Noughties Caribbean dancehall, what does Afrofusion mean? Alternatively, what is the fusion of a fusion of a fusion?

Subtle name alterations gesturing towards marketing and branding are not new. Accomplished musicians who worked in Highlife, juju and apala genres also tweaked nomenclature to register their idiosyncrasies and flair.

They also relied on their participating fans to advocate for their contributions, which hardly altered the genre’s form. A striking example is the juju maestro Sir Shina Peters’s brand Afro-Juju, which sped up the genre’s tempo in the 80s. This gave the dying genre some short-lived oomph in the early 90s, but it set it on an entirely different percussive part by the turn of the millennium.

Patrons of Afro-Adura

In December 2022, Afro-Adura, a new name, appeared on the Afrobeats scene. Wisdom Mudasiru, in his explainer piece for Culture Custodian, said: “Afro-Adura is a sub-genre of Afrobeats that is characterised by aspirational lyrics, preferably in Yoruba, sometimes layered on melancholic beats that could very well be referred to as ‘chants’.”

The appearance of the Afro-Adura term is bracketed by two consecutive album releases by a street-hop musician popularly known as Seyi Vibez. His 11-track LP Billion Dollar Baby (there is a deluxe version, Billion Dollar Baby 2.0, with 16 tracks) was released in November 2022, and Memory Card, a 4-track EP, was released in January 2023. Quickly, there has been a rash of think pieces on this new subgenre alongside curated playlists on streaming platforms.

Music journalist Ayomide Omotayo vividly described the patrons of Afro-Adura in his newsletter as “egbon adugbos, the scammers trapping in the trenches, the hood babes and the next generation of hustlers love Seyi Vibez’s album. It is as ubiquitous in the hood as Van Cleef bracelets and vapes in any Lagos social setting”.

This picturesque, if not precarious, depiction is reserved for the cluster of Lagos suburbs (our equivalent of inner city boroughs) referred to as ‘the mainland’.

Historically, the Lagos mainland has served settlers, migrant workers, and dreamers without either prestige or inheritance as collateral. In recent times, their reality has stayed the same. The mainland is a working-class neighbourhood, low on societal infrastructure but high on human resources and crime.

Inspired by the streets

It is from this dire landscape that Afrobeats mostly derives its creative impulse. If Mushin served the older guards of Highlife, apala and juju genre, Agege, that suburb close to the capital, has inducted famous street hop legends like Klever Jay and Small Doctor. Little wonder, a synonym of Afro-Adura is Afro-Trenches.

However, Street Hop predates Afro-Adura. Q-dot, with his mastery of the Yoruba language and street smarts, has depicted the small lives of the typical working-class Lagos neighbourhood for at least a decade.

Ditto for Olamide, who evokes the redemptive nostalgia of Ladilak, Bariga with lyrical precision. These older hands have invited the likes of T-Blaze to the fray. T-Blaze’s palpable dysphoria about the moral dilemma of the alluring life of crime and drugs is visceral and telling. Naira Marley and his cohort (including the recently ousted Mohbad) also give the canon a joyous and risqué flourish.

Street Hop has been venerated with a Headies Award category. According to the Headies website, The Best Street Hop Category is “a voting category for the artist whose songs are inspired by the streets. Such song should [sic] captain lingua, which may also be originated by the artiste and popular on the street”.

The last Headies was awarded to the unlikely hit, ‘Ameno Amapiano’ by Goya Amenor and Nektunez, a cautionary tune with perhaps the most organic ascent in Afrobeats history, one with a meteoric rise that Goya Amenor may struggle to replicate.

How, then, does Afro-Adura differentiate itself from Street Hop? At worst, this may be a rhetorical answer. At best, it may become what we remember Seyi Vibez by.

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