Rappers Becoming Singers: Are They Selling Out?


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.

And so………

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.

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  1. You have said it all. In addition hiphop music is fast loosing its grip on majority of naija youths, because most naija youths are club goers and the Djs are not helping matters either.

    • So Busta we should all sit down and start crying abi because our country is in shambles! abeg go and chop wet tampon abeg and stop making comments that have no bearing towards the post.

  2. Nyc article.U̶̲̥̅̊ have spoken d truth but I still believe STR0NGLY dat s00n nigerians wuld appreciate Hip-H0p GREATLY.

  3. I think a lot of the blame lies with those responsible for the dissemination of music in Nigeria. I’m talking about the DJs, radio OAPs, music writers, bloggers, etc.

    Right now the industry consensus is that an artiste has to have at least one club/radio-ready song, in order to get a foot in the door. This belief is being propagated by those responsible for playing/sharing the music. The sad thing here is that even these guys now believe the false propaganda, to the point that they more or less reject all songs that don’t have a fast beat.

    Fans of Nigerian music will listen to everything (be it rap or fuji, azonto or electro-pop) from ANY genre, as long as they can connect to the song. It does not have to be dance music.

    We’ve had acts like MI, Naeto C, and Dagrin with commercially successful hiphop songs. But until Nigerian music journos start to appreciate and help to PROMOTE music based on their individual tastes, this rubbish phase the industry is currently experiencing will continue.

  4. I’m an up and coming artiste and a very strong hiphop purist, but I’ve recently discovered dat, laying emphasis on beign lyrical doesn’t help project a music career far, so I thought up a formula which is; blending hip hop and commercial music together, and I hope it works. @diggydoctor187(my twitter handle)

  5. When I saw the title of this article I got the impression it was aimed at discussing Nigerian rap artists who sing, rather than the kind of music Nigerian rap artists put out these days. I’ve been a part of this argument before and the main issue usually is whether or not that rap artist should be singing that verse and hook trying to hit those notes and come up with harmonies as opposed to featuring a singer whose style is more aligned with that. Cos other than that anyone is allowed to come up with commercial tracks, there’s no crime in that.

  6. Music has to relate with the listeners, if it doesn’t, u need not blame what they choose to buy or listen to. As a Rapper, am not saying you should sell out, but atleast you need to relate with the society positively and not voilent music as those who claim classic Hiphop do proclaim in their lyrics..


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