THE HENNESSY CYPHER;EXPOSING NIGERIAN RAPPERS AND THEIR PREFERENCE FOR FLOW OVER LYRICISM
Less flow more words.
As a child, my father made me read everything from Newspapers to Manuals for electrical appliances, that should perhaps be the reason why I developed a terrible attachment to words. Over the years I’ve developed a penchant to value words extremely, this has in most cases helped me and in others a disadvantage because I just wouldn’t speak if I couldn’t find the right words.
My love for words undoubtedly lead me to fall in love with Hip-hop and it’s sub culture of Rap Music, and over the years I’ve always been drawn to rappers and songs that lay a heavy emphasis on the use of words, skilled folks who wield words like Liquid Swords and are worthy of the tag “Wordsmith”.
There’s more to making a good rapper than use of words, there’s the voice, his flow or delivery and his style. Over the years I’ve found myself preferring rappers who are good with words over the whole lot. There’s a reason I can listen to Danny Brown who sounds like a cat drowning in water and still pick out his wise cracks, this reason is because lyrics I believe are more integral to making a complete rapper than any other component.
Case in Point: Logic who has incredible dexterity with flow, posses lyricism that often leaves a lot to be desired.
This brings me to a trend I’ve noticed, the Nigerian hip-hop scene is characterized of acts who favour flow over lyricism and this gnawing feeling was further amplified after I watched the three videos showcasing the 2017 Hennessy Cypher.
I’m not a perfectionist and I know how to cut slack, you can go further to blame my opinion on my stint in key-styling or text battle forums but one thing is for certain, the raps that have been delivered on the 2017 Hennessy cypher were 50% recyled material and 30% generic raps. The mere 20% of quality is shared equally between Phlow, Holyfield, PayPayperCorleone and Muna who were the bright lights in an otherwise dim and mediocre showcase.
The bright spots weren’t only better because they rap better but because they sought to use words to paint pictures instead of reciting and flaunting played and forced metaphors.
I’m not singling out Yung 6ix but he’s the best description of what I’m trying to explain. Despite branding himself “King of the South”, he hasn’t done anything to be worthy of the crown and maybe, he never will. If I wanted I could write an article on his most cringe worthy lines.
A couple weeks ago, Urban Central scribe Weird_Liberal argued that rappers were Regurgitating the same themes, personally it’s a dicey position to hold but I now see a related problem with Nigerian Rappers copying and pasting wordplays to suit their flows.
We have previously maintained that rap music is watered down in Nigeria, there’s the fusion but there’s also the adulterated version floating around, I make bold to say that the major contaminant responsible is the desire to make catchy records which is no doubt fueled by the “powers that be” , how else do you explain a snare infested trap beat being used for a Cypher? It’s no coincidence that the Chopstix produced monotonous monstrosity was the vehicle upon which the femme fatale cypher ran the other teams out of Dodge.
The preference of flow over lyricism isn’t particular to Nigeria, there have been cases when even Kendrick Lamar spits the most basic of rhymes only to disguise it with his alien inflections. Kendrick isn't the only example surely we can all remember the “Versace flow” that spread faster than the bubonic plague.
There are two more cypher teams who will showcase before we call it a day on this year’s edition of the Hennessy cypher ,let’s hope we get something worthwhile. I won’t cross my fingers through, Nigerian Rappers aren’t dropping their preference for flow over lyricism anytime soon and I’m willing to wager that we will surely be treated to the worst Lil Wayne-esque puns. But then, even those flows seem forced and those Lil Wayne-esque moments are corny. We need better.
By Nico for for Urban Central. You can follow him on Twitter @WordsbyAG
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