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Looking For Love, Finding Rap: A Night At The Coronation.

Let it be known that I left my comfy apartment in Egbeda and blew O-Pay bike to Oshodi and then to Ikoyi and then to the CCX lounge at Victoria Island not because say I too like Hip-Hop like dat or something, but because in my head I had actually pictured the perfect romantic meeting of me and my future wife. It was going to be me sighting her from afar, gorgeous looking, bobbing her head to the rhymes AQ was spitting as she smiled — her smile rivaling the shine of the stage lights — as she tried to follow AQs rap but not quite getting it but not letting anything stop her from vibing and enjoying her life — word to Lady Donli. Then from the corner of her eyes she would notice me noticing her and she would turn and smile genially at me and then me, not knowing I had that resolve in me, would walk up to her and say, “Hey beautiful…excuse me dance?”

Unfortunately, for me, this scenario never played out as I would have wished (didn’t play out at all! My village people stay winning). For the most part, I got to the CCX Lounge late with the show’s open mic already kicked off with dudes dressed in tight jeans and jerry curls rapping behind minimal Hip-Hop instrumental and showcasing their flows, wordplay cadence and some very ubiquitous rapping cockiness. Arriving late meant most of the quotables I could’ve caught flew past me as I and my compadre, Dennis, tried finding seats to the already filled venue. For the other part, A-Q never rapped at the event and the time I could have spent scanning the venue for that gorgeous looking creation of God vibing to some bars, I was too engrossed in screaming my lungs out in excitement as the battle rap section of the event kicked into full gear.

The CCX Lounge was this year’s venue for the famous second edition of The Coronation Hip-Hop event; an idea birthed by rappers and now 100 Crowns label bosses, A-Q and Loose Kaynon. I’d like to think the show was born out of a desire to give true Naija Hip-Hop lovers a dope rap event to look forward to so as not to feel left out of the whirlpool of afro-pop concerts that almost always floods choice venues at this time of the year. Host Loose Kaynon, during one of his monologue-esque sermon — as he kept the audience busy while the engineers got the cypher videos ready to be shown at the event on the projected screen behind him — made it a point to note that naija rappers needed to do more.

“100 Crowns has been doing a lot for the culture,” he went on to say, subtly lauding his label’s strides over the year, which to the untrained eyes may not seem like much but has been as impactful on the naija Hip-Hop culture as much as the infamous beef between MI and Vector.

“…but we still have not done enough” he added. A truism that was met with perfunctory “hmms” from the audience.

“We rappers are our own problem” he goes on to say. “We need to come together and move the culture forward and not stay tweeting and trying to show off for the gram” (paraphrasing here)

Loose’s truths where met with nods as everyone seemed to share his sentiments. He went on to say how much rappers in the industry are laughed at and made a statement about how it would not make any sense to claim to be a rapper pulling weight and still be at your mamas’ crib. At this point, the whole audience screams in excitement as it is perceived as a shade at a certain someone.

Gladly, that was the only time it appeared that sublime shots were taken to the other rap camp and I believe this was welcomed by everyone in the audience as any more sly digs may have ruined what ended up being a well-rounded Hip-Hop show. And speaking of well rounded, I still had no time to peep around to see if I could sight the LOML in the audience as the first part of the show proper kicked in: the cyphers. Already most had seen the cypher at this point, so they just nodded their heads and winced in excitement at catching one or two bars or word-plays from the rappers. The second cypher had Holyfield the battle rapper climbing on stage and being cheered on by fans and supporters as he rapped along to his own verse on the cypher, the video acting as a picturesque backdrop to his hyped-up figure.

The next schedule on the list was the first battle rap and with respect to the two rappers who stepped up to the plate, it was a dud. Both rappers choked on their verses and the delivery was — for wont of a better punchline — “still-birthy!” I believe this was due to some lack of preparedness, coupled with some stage fright, because, trust me, the crowd was pumped up. However, their rapping mishap was soon lost to the night as everyone soon enough began vibing to the artist who performed next — BarelyAnyHook. Props to the bearded, geek/basketball looking fellow, BarelyAnyHook had a killer set that had him spazzing out and doing it all so effortlessly. Two more rap battles got the audience on their feet and cheering and then a super performance from Port-Harcourt’s own was all the sign you needed to know that rap in Naija is in safe hands even if the greats like A-Q and Loose decides to call it quits.

Other performances that were notably dope were from Shakez Baba, Alpha Ojini, Meji the Rapper, Tentik and Hotyce. Each rapper bringing their own bounce and flair to the mic, unhinged with their bars fully aware that the audience they were performing for had their ears piqued to catch the beauty that is real rap.

With every performance came a more relaxed atmosphere that transcended the inebriation of the flowing alcohol and cocktails. Earlier as the show begun, A-Q could be seen pacing back and forth from the DJ’s stand to the camera crew to the Lounge hosts trying to have everything working as it should be. In his face, you could catch a glimpse of concern, as was expected as it has become a common trend that a lot of purely Hip-Hop shows are often toppled by poor organization and preparations. But A-Q’s face was filled with laughter and his countenance more relaxed as he joined in on the hype as the battle rappers went at each other’s throat.

Dat one enter” he said at one point as we both slapped hands together, crouching in laughter to the bar one of the battle rapper had just dropped.

The brightness in his eyes as he watched from a distance, half scanning the excitement on the faces of everyone else and also paying attention to the action on the stage was a picture of a proud father who has just seen his child take its first baby steps after months of crawling. It was as much a win for the hip-hop culture as it was for him and although I never got to speak to him about anything more than referencing the potency of one or two bars dropped by the battle rappers on stage, I could tell that A-Q was a proud father who having seen his child take steps to walk would be sure to get him shoes so he can run. So, it goes without saying that undoubtedly, the next “The Coronation” event, going by this one, would be a stuff of legends.

I guess it also goes without saying that maybe that picture-perfect romantic meeting would very likely still happen. Maybe, she missed this one so she can be present for the next. But whatever it is, I can be certain that leaving the comfort of my apartment in Egbeda just to go to the Island to attend the coronation event when next it comes up, would be worth all the trouble.

(hehehe…I laugh in Lagos Traffic).

By Mifa [Tweets @Mifaunuagbo] for Urban Central.

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