Naija Music In Western Mainstream Media… The Losing Battle


Over the past week the main buzz in the Nigerian music industry has been about the BET Cypher. For those that aren’t familiar with Cypher it’s a “freestyle” video clip with various artists dropping rap lines in a hip-hop themed video. The true hip-hop heads appreciate it and so do lovers of good music.

This year Nigeria was selected to feature its rappers on the BET Cypher, and the video was shot and scheduled to air when the BET Hip-Hop awards airs.

About a week ago, the BET Hip-Hop awards aired in the US and to the surprise of many, there was no “Naija Cypher.” As expected there were a lot of pissed off Nigerians, and it was all BET did this, and BET did that. Eventually the Naija Cypher aired on BET International (UK and Africa only) and everyone was happy. Right?

2 burning issues bothered me over this whole Naija Cypher fiasco.

1. Hip-Hop is a borrowed music genre and so we (Africans) are fighting a losing battle trying to get recognized internationally.

Before anyone jumps on my neck, I appreciate African rappers. I love them. Anyone who knows me knows that. So I’m not getting at any rapper, but the fact is Hip-Hop is borrowed. It’s a borrowed genre and the true hip-hop lovers in Nigeria are in a minority.

The American public for the most part are not looking to recognize the fact that we have rappers that can compete with theirs (even though we do), and besides there are tons of upcoming acts in the North American continent alone fighting to break through.

Africa is not the only continent to have rappers with dope mic skills. Europe, The Carribeans, Asia all have their fair share hip-hop acts and not many have broken into American mainstream. The simple fact is that the American mainstream media is for Americans and they would always be first priority before what the other people in the world like.

A lot of us grew up listening to Hip-Hop in Nigeria, and so it’s understandable that we have a lot of rap acts now, but our Hip-Hop should be customized and repackaged for our mainstream and not the mainstream of Americans who probably don’t even know we have a hip-hop culture here.

It’s a borrowed culture that we grew to love, but we should never forget that it’s not originally african and will always be considered second grade hip-hop to the American mainstream media.

2. Why Do We Kill Ourselves For “Western” Approval or Recognition?

Eldee said on twitter a few days ago and I agree with his series of tweets “…why all the fuss about breaking naija music in America, is Nigeria not big enough to support our music?… whether they (western world) like our music or not, they will acknowledge it when we get our house in order and make sense of our numbers.

He echoes my thoughts exactly. It seems like we as a continent feel like we’ve only arrived once we’re recognized by the western world… and this goes beyond music but we’ll stick with music for this post. International recognition is always great but will always come once we do “our” thing and not try to impress some outside authority of what’s good music or not. In the past 5-6 years there’s a been a huge music revolution in Africa and we’ve gone from making 2nd grade version of american songs to making music that we as a people appreciate. I don’t need to tell you what has resulted from that. You can see the results for yourselves if you have 2 eyes.

Reggaeton crept into the American mainstream by being unique with its sounds. Nothing else sounds like reggaeton, and nothing else sounds like Dance-Hall. Dance-Hall is just dance-hall and it came from a group of people making music for themselves and with that came the international appreciation.

We make music for ourselves to enjoy and it’ll speak volumes to anyone looking from the outside in. We have our background and culture and with that we have music that’ll appeal to us, made by people that understand us.

The other day Zara tweeted something about Terry G, Timaya on “Akpako” Cypher and even though I thought it was funny I couldn’t help but think.. “Hey… But that’s original Naija music sha. Why don’t we showcase that instead?”

Fela is probably the most internationally recognized African Artist and he didn’t try to imitate anything else, instead he created his own genre of music based on our culture and the influences around him. Bob Marley did the same in Jamaica. Sunny Ade, Oliver de Coque and co were all original in their day.

There’s no doubt that we’ve been heavily influenced by western culture, but that doesn’t mean we can’t continue recreate the perfect blend of music based on us as a people.

If we continue to do that without caring too much about if XYZ in ABC place likes it, then it’ll be natural appreciation coming from the outside. Before you know what’s happening there’ll be a whole generation of people who can’t even point Nigeria on the map but will Dance alanta like they were there when it was invented… and if it doesn’t happen? So what? We made the music for ourselves anyways 🙂

But if we decide we have to get approval from the western media or do things that’ll appeal to the western masses then we’ll continue to fight a losing battle.




  1. I agree with Aribaba completely. The thing is that most Africans feel like Africa is not being recognized on the world main stage. Its one thing to like Nigerian music in Nigeria and its another thing to have Americans jam to our music. I think that people just want to see Africa even it it is through music to be seen in a good light despite the many negative views that the rest of the world has of Africa. Its sad but Africa is really lacking on the main stage.

  2. This is complete trash. Are you trying to say Nigerians aren't good enuf to make it on the American media? This is the inferiority complex that worries us.

    How can you call our hip-hop 2nd grade? Have you listened to the likes of Mode9, X.O, MI, Terry Tha Rapman?

    • i am mailing you a chair so that you can sit down and read this post carefully.if you didnt understand the post,why didnt you ask ur kid sista to explain it to you?

    • This PJay no sabi read? He said that our music has improved a lot and come a long way. For example, Eedris from back in the day and now we have the likes of Mode9, X.O, MI, Terry Tha Rapman just like you rightly listed.

  3. I completely agree with you, very spot on especially on the 2nd point.

    @pjay – I don’t mean to downgrade your intelligence but why so foolish? Did you read his statement at all or breeze through it to pick key words to babble about? He clearly clearly stated that Nigerian hip hop just like any other non western hip hop would always be considered second rated to the American mainstream hip hop. So what’s trash is not the article but your silly comment.

    Spot on write up, I completely agree.

  4. I completely agree with you, very spot on especially on the 2nd point.

    @pjay – I don’t mean to downgrade your intelligence but why so foolish? Did you read his statement at all or breeze through it to pick key words to babble about? He clearly clearly stated that Nigerian hip hop just like any other non western hip hop would always be considered second rated by the American mainstream hip hop. Truth is, it’s a fact… It has nothing what so ever to do with complex. Would you prefer a false article because you feel there’s no Nigerian pride in it? Please quit being so salty and sentimental and face the truth. Any trash here is your comment and not the article.

  5. Fantastic article! Couldn’t have said it better. Regarding the BET Naija Cypher (or whatever you want to call it) I think the artists did well! They stayed true to their styles, the same way Reggie Rockstone, Sarkodie, & the other Ghanaian rappers stuck to their guns during their cypher. If someone like Obesere or Sir Shina Peters (whose style we already know very well) was on there ‘blowing fonetics’, ehen! Then it would be odd. But that wasn’t the case, so I don’t know why people are so flustered…

  6. Best write up on jaguda in a long time. Aribaba, u just poured out what has been in my head for the longest. Inferiority complex is the problem a lot of nigerians have. So what if u don’t break out past the shores of nigeria with ur music? Who cares. If your people dont believe u, no one else will so nigerian artists need to concentrate on making music that are real amonst their out communities and with time, if their music is authentic, they will soar across the globe. And even if they don’t, atleast they will be remembered as being as real as it gets. Even folks like jay-z didn’t make music to break thru the whole of the US when he started. He made music that was believable to his hood. Marcy believed him, brooklyn believed. Next thing, he is world wide. But he didn’t start by saying he wanted to sound like folks from the west coast or whatever. I just dey yarn plenty now. Make I stop

  7. Nice 1… Perfect analysis Ari u too much jor… Don’t mind pjay he’s prolly still in prep school, as for waddaptho or wateva u r the largest Idiot on the planet! I doubt u’r Nigerian.. Lovely piece!


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