The issue of rappers becoming singers has been one I’ve been meaning to write about for a while because of the often passionate discussions & arguments which I often witness it give rise to. However, because I personally have not been able to reach any suitable conclusion myself, I have withheld my fingers from my keyboard. I feel I am suitably in a convenient position to write & speak about it now because I now have a stand based on a sound line of thought which may not appeal to everybody but which can pose a tenable argument at any place & at any time.
Issue @ Hand
Selling out in this context, for the sake of clarification refers to rappers abandoning classic hip hop for more “commercial” music or as we have even seen in some cases, become singers after having started out and probably even making a name for name for themselves as rappers.
Rappers choosing to sing occasionally are not particularly of concern now as that could be seen as talent diversification, but rappers diversifying completely because they want to achieve higher levels of commercial success and broader acceptance are those been referred to in this article.
Classic Hip Hop VS Commercial Music in Nigeria
Hip hop (I’m talking of the legendary Mode 9’s type of stuff) is a relatively new genre of music in Nigeria & even in the world at large compared to other genres of music. Its acceptance especially among people who were youths in the 70’s and 80’s is therefore much lower than that of 90’s youths onwards.
What we call “commercial music” in Nigeria is the kind of music that appeals to a very broad class of people spanning across different age grades. These kinds of songs are characterized by what I may call “feel good” lyrics (which may be rapped or sung) which are sometimes deep but mostly shallow and “dance-able” melodies. Fast paced instrumentals, although not always ingredient is almost always present too.
What are the differences between these brands of music? Hip Hop is not “dance-able” technically, commercial music is; Hip-Hop requires listening and at times deep introspection, commercial music does not necessarily warrant listening talk-less of introspection and other differences which I know my reader can brainlessly point out.
Anyways, while Hip-Hop, especially the imported American brand is popular among music lovers, the “feel good” vibe of “commercial music” is what is doing it for most Nigerians at this present time. This brand of music which evolves in new ways regularly has found a place among the large part of middle aged Nigerians.
Mainstream Success By Hook or By Crook
A musician without a reasonably huge fan base cannot make any significant financial success from his music either through album sales, shows, branding or any other means connected with music. That is pretty much obvious.
Therefore, except in the unlikely but not impossible scenario that an artiste is just interested in making music for music’s sake only and is not interested in financial remuneration, there is no way he/she can be satisfied with mediocre or even as some artistes have witnessed in horror, almost non-existent album sales.
If that is the case, how then can we conscientiously blame a recording artiste for trying to come out or coming out successfully with the brand of product (I mean the genre of music) which is in high demand from the people who consume the product (the fans)?
Fans, fans, fans
The fans listen to the music, the fans buy the music. In short, no fans, no artiste and therefore no music.
In this day and age where even most of the successful rap songs are those with a catchy sung hook, what real drive or motivation exists for an artiste who is genuinely interested in doing “real hip hop” but who knows, that his songs will not have a broad audience? An audience, yes? But an audience broad enough to contest with that of “commercial music” acts. I think not.
Where am I going exactly? The problem is with you and I, we the music lovers, the fans. If artistes know that we want hip hop, they will give us hip hop.
I think it is more likely that society dictates what it wants to listen to, to recording artistes and not vice versa.
Every society through means and processes which are not obvious to us in the everyday living of our lives but which can be backtracked and studied by sociologists, develops in a certain manner towards certain trends and tastes in the way we do things. This encompasses the kind of clothes we wear, food we eat, our daily routines, the way we talk and even the kind of music we listen to.
As is my personal belief, good music is subjective as what appeals to one person may not appeal to another person based on environment, intellect and even religion.
Therefore, if the type of music which appeals to most people in our society now is that which we now call “commercial music”, recording artistes have the duty to satisfy their would-be listeners.
What then happens to “real hip hop”?
I know this will be the question on the lips of any hip hop head or hip hop lover (I’m one too) who has read this piece up to this point. Hip hop will not pass into obscurity in Nigeria, there has been, there are and there will always be people who are willing to sacrifice huge financial benefits just to do hip hop and popularize the liking for it. Rappers (I’m even talking of those doing classic hip hop now) in Nigeria are not hungry, even if their coffers are not as full as that of those who make more commercial songs.
If hip hop is here to stay, it will transcend every barrier and rival “commercial music” in popularity. If it is not here to stay (after all, it’s a borrowed genre), it will be because it is not suited to our society at large and not because our rappers are selling out.
Your comments will be highly appreciated.
Keep supporting Nigerian music.