(WHERE IS ?)RUGGEDY BABA:A TIME OF BRILLIANCE
Where is…? An Urban Central series where we examine certain folks in Nigerian Hip-hop who were “would be” saviours, touted to redefine the game and ring a new epoch, only to fade away?. We examine their influence, legacy and where they are now. If you are just joining us please click here, here and here to catch up. This is the Ruggedman edition.
- This is 10 years late.
- I’m going to be raving while making some bold claims.
- I need you to read.
I could have written this even in 2009, but I was grappling with a fondness for Don Simon — don’t even say it, I know — and defining my own sound as I thought myself a music producer, you’d have to forgive me. If you can’t, there’s one million in that transformer — yes, that one that conduct’s your street’s electricity.
Sometimes in first quarter 2007: A burgeoning music nerd borrowed a friend’s disc man and his CD stack to pree the brilliance that was Grass to Grace, the 2Baba classic. He’d only gotten to track 4 when his twitchy fingers — ably and aptly put by his house master — stumbled upon Ruggeddy Baba, Rugged Man’s sophomore effort. He admired the art.
At first, his cynicism made a target of the Baraje crooner, not aided by the legendary, indifferent nonchalance he felt toward Nigerian rappers at the time — yes, Mode included, sue me. He fancied them bereft of necessary technical skills, unique delivery styles and lyrical dexterity to truly mark them out as worthy graduates of The Hiphop university — iznor ya Uni plix, dun argue ; he particularly thought Rugged a bit too raw and malformed. Of course, he was wrong; little did he know his once famed theory was about to be kicked in the ball sack before being lost in Narnia forever; no Prince Caspian, no talking lions, just darkness smh. Sadly, that boy was me; that album was going to form a core part of my Hiphop affinity and I bought it further 4 times. Yes, 4 times — the last being 2013.
2007: It was a time when Pro Evolution Soccer 6, a certain thick bosomed, dark-skinned beauty — now engaged and kicking soccer ran my universe. In between these activities, I’d find intermittent episodes of tranquil to digest whatever music had to offer me in my past time while on occasion, I’d write. Even though I was a little ahead of myself in self-esteem, I had credits in reserve for worthy art. The few moments left, I’d study and resume my Greek battle with math — I eventually won though, even though I can’t believe it — eat that Mr. Olaniyan.
“Give it a go” said the voice. I initially thought it one of those misleading sub-voices which usually push you toward yawa, but has that ever stopped a teenage boy from manifesting his stupidity? No. Only this ONE time, the voice led me to the light. I’m proud of you, mind. Don’t think I’ve forgotten… sigh, nvm.
I duly obliged the voice; first track up absolutely took me star gazing — I felt I was on a shuttle, distant future bound. The track — if this makes sense — absolutely defied quantum musical mechanics and then contemporary instrumentation. The track was Move Something For Me ft Morrell. I’m certain if Rugged realized the number of replays that song had as inspiration toward achieving a certain vice that you dear reader — *picks teeth* — will never discover, he’d have sued me. I vividly remember that hard hitting, repetitive, yet intermittently continuous kick dropping, amidst melodious, precise piano riffs dropping, complete with organ strings. Of course, my amazement wasn’t helped by Rugged’s savage massacre of the track — crime still remains unsolved. To say I fell in love would be understating classic, prime brilliance; I have no words for it. Morrell of course delivered a tornado-like, yet subtly spoken hook that filled all the nooks and crannies of that instrumental, in a way T-Pain would have been proud of.
So my sojourn began: that was when it all changed for me. By the time I got into the banger Club Rock, To Whom It May Concern, Waka — one of the most vindictive Nigerian rap songs ever, and of course the classic Ruggedy Baba ft 9ice — one of the foremost Rap-Sung and introspectively conscious Afro-centric tracks ever made, that thrilled radio and Hiphop heads alike with its dynamism and fluid appeal, complete with African essence, as it oozed the timeless vocal deliveries of 9ice before catapulting him into the limelight. Rugged Man will never be the same for this track’s brilliance — and the other brilliant songs on that album, history had been written and I can tell you, that album is a classic *bangs gavel*. Sadly however, folks were riding Mode’s dick at the time, and saw Rugged as the villian; classic Good vs Evil style, while Rugged, it seemed was on his greatest streak. The brilliance of that album left a feeling Rugged might never recreate such brilliance. He didn’t or hasn’t.
Sometimes in 2013, as I sat in our living room, feeling like a fake OG, sipping cheap beer — yes, I could drink now… legally — blasting Ruggedy Baba again, much to the dismay of our neighbors who always want my head whenever I played music, tears rolled down my face as I smiled full beam, before shivers went down my body and tingles traveled by vertebrae column — yes, art moves me like that — I got nostalgic albeit angry; I felt alone in my appreciation. Even my homie who gave me the album had probably forgotten it. We failed to collectively acknowledge musical brilliance, impact, lyrical dexterity, and technical astuteness of vision, construction and implementation, AND an almost perfect successful mashing of Hiphop and Afro-pop, while keeping the art clean and output worthily classic. We made its stance fake or at best ephemeral; we didn’t create a space for it in the Hall of Fame. It deserves better from us.
Arguably, that album became the template for the flurry of mainstream, successful and dynamically relevant Nigerian rappers that was about to follow, unlike never before; Naeto C, M.I, Ikechukwu, Jagz, Ice Prince, Vector and a few others. The likes of Falz still benefit from Ruggedy Baba’s impact. It gave them a platform that rap shouldn’t be so alienated as a foreign, vanguard culture. It made us understand the flexibility of Hiphop as a pliable concept, not rigid, while it introduced a salient element of nextgen instrumentation and constructive lyrical deliveries, rich on African influences, opposed to the limited acceptability of Mode’s sound. Other rappers tried, but Rugged delivered the most compelling case. His template birthed the widespread fascination with Nigerian rappers. In fact, the success of Ruggedy Baba — the song — in chief, in some ways Mode’s Cry and in part Sasha’s Adara aided the acclaim of Naeto C’s Kini Big Deal and M.I’s Safe — African-esque Rap-Sung was THE interesting stuff; M.I just cemented the appeal forever. But none was better received as Ruggedy Baba; Cry was mostly restricted to Hiphop heads and Sasha was still struggling with acceptability and masculine dominance as a female rapper. They both got preed by music lovers though, with a measure of appreciation.
The mass appeal of Nigerian Rap rose just after Ruggedy Baba. A lot of people don’t just realize that but rap has never remained/will never remain the same.
Fun fact: As I researched for the album, I realized Niyola was on it. Mama nor be your mate Bros. Lol.
Rugged, you might not have given us another one, but we’ll always be grateful for Ruggedy Baba; at least I will. Thanks for giving me an opportunity to vent this catharsis, albeit 10 years down the line. The boy in me still beams nostalgically at the thought of his enjoyment of that beauty. Thanks for helping down my elitist mentality. You’re a legend, trendsetter and trailblazer of in Nigerian, nigh African Hiphop — Believe that.
PennedMusingsNG for Urban Central follow him on Twitter @Weird_Liberal
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