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Celebrity: Nigeria’s pop culture revolution

By Ayeni Adekunle in Lagos
Posted on Monday, 23 November 2009 16:08

With jaw-dropping mansions, chartered planes and diamond jewellery,

Nigerian rap artists are finally making the big time after years of

languishing in poverty – and are inspiring a new generation to do the

same

“Keke and D-One splash N30m on Hummer jeeps,” the tabloid headline screamed.It was 2004 and the music industry’s leading impresarios, Kenny Ogungbe and Dayo Adeneye, had just taken ?delivery of a pair of orange ?Hummers. Everyone who had eyes and ears could not help but admire, even envy, the duo.

Adeneye and Ogungbe, co-owners of Kennis Music and Primetime Entertainment, have led the contemporary Nigerian music business by the hand to where it is today. It started in the late 1990s, when they sold Nigerians a new type of pop music coming from an unknown three-man band named the Remedies. With their first ?single, Shakomo, the Remedies (made up of Eedris Abdulkareem, Tony ?Tetuila and Eddy Montana) hijacked the nation, becoming instant stars and pathfinders for a whole ?generation of pop stars.?Today, the Remedies are no more. But the pop industry they helped redefine is still very much around.

Today, the hits are bigger, the stars are brighter, the scene is crazier and the pay unbelievable. Young wannabees of yesterday are now the kingpins, making hits by the day, rocking stages from Lagos to Talata Mafara at night.?

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Yes, they are sagging their ?trousers, piercing strange parts of their bodies and singing about fast life, fast cars, fast money and a fab life, but they are also on the best-dressed lists, ?stunning fashion editors with well-tailored Savile Row collections and some of the most expensive ?accessories money can buy. They sing about love, life and living, and like ?eLDee, Timaya and Africa China, many are using their art to remind the government and people about the state of the nation and why urgent ?improvements must be sought.

No one represents this rags-to-riches success better than entertainer D’Banj. The 29-year-old pop star confesses on his single Mogbona Feli Feli, “Before I been dey hustle to chop; now I get 10 million [naira] in a week.” He is not making it up. Only a few years ago D’Banj was a struggling Nigerian living in London, squatting with friends and working hard to pay his bills. Today, he is a multimillionaire with an impressive catalogue of hits, a string of endorsement deals, his own TV show, an upcoming ?bottled water brand and a range of mobile phones.

By the end of this year, sources say D’Banj should have raked in over N2bn ($13.2m) for his label Mo’ Hits Records – that is about ten times what 2face Idibia reportedly earned in 2006 when he was at his peak. P-Square, 9ice and Asa, are also among the top earners, amassing a fortune from regular concert appearances, allied business deals and endorsements.

The success of acts like D’Banj, and the influence of their lyrics on the lingo of everyday Nigerian youth, have caused parents and society to ?sit up and reconsider. In an environment where corruption is systemic, and dealers masquerade as leaders, many young people have begun to look to music and movie stars for hope and inspiration. The politicians may be drunk on power, but it is becoming increasingly clear with each passing day that the real influence rests in the microphones of today’s pop stars.

Nigeria may not like to admit it, but US pop culture has found its way into the country. Thankfully, when it got to the border, it took off its red, white and blue and replaced it with green, white and green apparel. Gone are the days when all young people talked about was violence in ?Brooklyn and tried to act ‘gangsta’ to fit into the hip hop community.

What is mainstream now, what young Nigerians are addicted to, are the sights and sounds of their nation – music coming from deep inside the souls of young, homemade talents. They listen to pan-Nigerian stories told over groovy beats and catchy hooks, and the ‘get-rich-or-die-trying’ lifestyle is turning most young men and women into hard-driven entrepreneurs, as opposed to the blue collar workers of the previous generation.

Nigeria, with many ethnicities and several languages, has no lingua franca. But hip hop is the language of the cities. If there were contemporary Nigerian dictionaries, words like “kokolette” (lady) would make bona fide entries. And as hip hop culture takes off, this will not be the last word from Nigeria’s new icons.

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