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The Coronation of BADOO: A Play in Three Acts

The Birth

On the 22nd of April 2010, one Oladapo Olaitan Olaonipekun aka DaGrin, died from complications resulting from an automobile crash eight days earlier. His death sent shockwaves round the country.

At the time, he was the preeminent exponent of Yoruba rap/hip hop in Nigeria. His verses, delivered predominantly in the lingua franca of the Nigerian South-West and over hardcore instrumentation crafted by Sossick, had held listeners (including non-Yoruba speakers) across the country spellbound.

In November of that same year, a young rapper signed to ID Cabasa’s Coded Tunes record label released the song ‘Eni Duro’. It was a well-crafted rap song with street leanings complimented by a well-executed video by DJ Tee. The song quickly gained acceptance on the streets. In 2011, he put out his debut album ‘Rapsodi’. At the time, most critics and fans were constantly comparing the Bariga rapper to the deceased Dagrin. However, the sound and constitution of Rapsodi, and Olamide’s music in general, were significantly divergent from the gritty and hardcore proclivities of Dagrin. Young Erikina’s sound was more pop-influenced, his rap more direct and less technically dense — he was given to incorporating traditional forms of music like Juju and Fuji (this may be because his primary producer-ID Cabasa- was a multi-instrumentalist).

This did not end the comparisons as it is human nature to look for points of reference when experiencing new phenomena. Rapsodi spun some more bangers like ‘Omo toh Shan’ ft Wizkid, ‘Jara On Top’ ft AB1 (Sugar boy) and ‘Boys Are Not Smiling’ ft Terry tha Rapman; the legend of Olamide was born.

The Rise

In the music business globally, there is a curse spoken of in hushed tones in the lobbies of record label offices and taverns and clubs where fans converge to discuss. It’s a curse widely spoken of on internet fan forums, social media, the pages of writer’s columns and a corner of Mars. It is the so-called sophomore curse, which simply refers to the fear and/or belief that a second or sophomore effort will most likely not live up to the relatively high standards of the first effort.

About a year after Rapsodi, Olamide was set to release his sophomore album. In the period after Rapsodi was released, he had left Coded Tunes but maintained a good relationship with his old label boss ID Cabasa (something new artistes can learn from), and had positioned himself firmly as the main draw for indigenous rap music which was getting mainstream acclaim with the rise of another indigenous rapper, Phyno and the resurgence of Reminisce. Yahoo Boy No Laptop (YBNL) was released in 2012 to critical acclaim and commercial acceptance, propelling Olamide from a voice of the streets to the epicentre of Nigerian popular culture.

Headies for Rap Album of the Year and Album of the Year represented the recognition of a brilliant body of work. While Rapsodi had addressed topics ranging from Street hustle, domestic violence, patient love to his Christian faith and even incorporated a Kegite tune in an attempt to cater to every demographic that can be associated with a new artiste desperate to make a mark. YBNL was a more rounded project and showed an artiste who was now comfortable in his role as the torchbearer for street hip hop.

Weaving his flow to great effect on different sounds crafted by Samklef, Pheelz, ID Cabasa, 2kriss and Tyrone, he had with him a star-studded supporting cast in tow. The Dagrin comparisons were still niggling, but this Olamide was taking it in his stride. Rapping On ‘The Game’ with Phenom he declared “R.I.P DaGrin, mo wish e la lu ki amo, to ba ti ri Fela, teba ti se collabo, ko ji a mo.” (RIP Dagrin I wish you eternal rest/when you come across Fela and you both do a collaboration, let’s know). Badoo was on the earth and he was king here.

What followed was the most sustained era of brilliance by any Nigerian musician of the modern age. In Nigerian Hip Hop/Rap, only MI Abaga’s run from 2008–2011 comes close in terms of quality and impact. If MI Abaga’s MI2; The Movie seamlessly melded quality rap with commercial appeal and elevated Hip Hop/Rap to Pop’s status in the Nigerian Music conversation, then on 2013’s Baddest Guy Ever Liveth, Olamide took a sprinkling of rap and mixed it with Pheelz’s pure and at times thumping rap beats(Rayban Abacha and Dope Money) to create his own sound.

Critics disparaged the scattergun approach to the song arrangement on the album and Hip Hop heads criticized the loss of lyrical depth but Badoo had transcended whatever moulds were allegedly made for him. He was quite literally Julius Caesar in a gunman pose.

Street OT followed the same format as Baddest Guy Ever Liveth and completed Olamide’s streak of three successive Album of the Year wins at the Headies. At this point, the Young Erikina was now a label executive himself nurturing upstarts Lil Kesh, Chinko Ekun, Viktoh and Adekunle Gold and the producer Young John while developing a compelling East meets West power duo with Phyno which culminated in a collabo project, 2 Kings.

The Beatification

Awards, endorsements, record sales, hits, and artistes nurtured are just manifestations of what makes Olamide the “greatest”. First, a ridiculous work ethic which saw the Baddest Guy Ever Liveth put out an album (or two! In the case of 2015) every year from 2011 to 2017. This is most commendable especially in an industry where careers are short-lived and artistes are given to rest on their oars once success is attained. This consistency is also evident in the curation of the annual Olamide in Concert (OLIC) which has become a staple of Nigeria’s entertainment event circuits for half a decade.

Secondly, more than any artiste in the last decade, Olamide has shown deftness in navigating the music business in Nigeria that eludes most contemporaries by understanding and harnessing the power of collaboration over the needless pissing contests hip hop artistes are given to. A prime example was when the insinuations and nudging by fans to instigate beef with MI Abaga was reaching fever pitch, (as to most irreverent infidels, two greats can’t coexist) he jumped on a track with Abaga instead, leaving the warmongers in the middle.

Furthermore, he has managed the artistes on his label cleverly, giving them short contracts which set them up for success, recoups initial investments and gives them the freedom to practice their craft to their strengths. Lil Kesh and Adekunle Gold developed into genuine superstars under the management of YBNL. This is important in an industry notorious for a disregard of contracts, artiste-label rifts and poor structures. An argument can be made that he did not harness his potential for international acclaim and reach like other acts who came to prominence in the 2011/2012 period (Davido and Wizkid or even Ice Prince) but this negates the context that Olamide predominantly delivers in Yoruba and is a Hip Hop/Rap artiste while Davido and Wizkid are part of the global push for Afrobeats which has gathered steam within the last 3 years.

Total streaming numbers on Boomplay as at 15th April 2020

Streams Jùlo̥ any rapper ninu Nigeria!

In conclusion, no one has been as consistently productive as Olamide was between 2011 to 2018. The quality of this output in terms of Hip Hop/Rap content may be contested but the impact on pop culture and success is irrefutable. Olamide is simply the most impactful Nigerian artiste of the last decade.

By Ernest for Urban Central. Tweets @Ernyy_B

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