Here is top 5 most Influential Nigerian Hip Hop Album

By Umar Sa’ad Hassan
The genesis of Nigerian rap is a topic that hasn’t really been addressed wholesale but i’m sure a lot of people would agree that the very first rapper in Nigeria was Junior of Junior and Pretty fame.Most only remember the hilarity of the songs he and singing partner,Pretty made and would name Eedris Abdulkareem as the first real rapper to hit the mainstream.
Thats just a pointer to how complex the topic of evolution could get.The biggest artistes at a given time may not necessarily be the ones that made the most impact on the hip hop culture.
Afro-hip hop has over time crawled,walked and ran to its rightful place as a top-tier genre in Nigerian music and these 5 albums represent its key defining moments.
As far as hip hop went in the closing years of the 90’s,Eedris was on a roll as the rapping member of contemporary pop group, the Remedies.And yes,the accent was phoney and the lyrics for the most part, an assemblage of rhyming babble but he wasn’t short on admirers largely due to the balance he brought the group.
When eLdee tha don,Freestyle and Kaboom burst onto the scene with the L.A.G STYLE Vol.1 album,it marked the official commencement of contemporary hip hop in Nigeria.Shake Bodi was the first true Nigerian hip hop hit.
They were spitting tight and decipherable lines (No disrespect to Eedris) with just the right touch of groove for mass appeal.If anyone in the 90’s ever dreamt of a time when Nigerian hip hop artistes would phase out their foreign peers from radio,it must have been when they heard Trybesmen.
The Trybesmen dropped a sophomore album titled Plenty Nonsense and broke up afterwards.The Remedies had broken up too and a solo Eedris Abdulkareem still somehow remained the most prominent Nigerian rapper thanks to an array of pop-culture driven hits.As long as he had a grabby and relatable chorus,it didn’t matter if even he didn’t understand a word of what he was saying.From a hip hop stand point,Eedris was the master of pleasant noise.
Then Micheal Ugochukwu Stephen aka Ruggedman came along with Ehen!.He aired out Eedris over his rapping skills and kick-started a wave of consciousness to purer content.For the very first time,fans were paying more attention to lyrics; the hallmark of hip hop itself.Our music industry was fast taking shape with more serious-minded record labels springing up by the day and Ruggedy Baba proved quite instrumentally with Thy Album Come that rap could could be big in Nigeria without the artiste having to worry too much about dance or groove.The album also spawned another hit titled Big Bros which saw Ruggedman taking shots at Kenny ‘Keke’ Ogungbe and Dayo ‘D1’ Adeneye,the most influential duo in the industry then and owners of Kennis Music (the label Eedris was signed to) for trying to stop presenters from playing his songs on radio.Ruggedman unarguably embedded the beef element into the Nigerian hip hop culture.
The hip hop game had stepped up a notch to core lyricism after Ruggedman with a lot of rappers causing ripples mainly outside Lagos.The SWAT ROOT crew in Abuja comprising Mode 9,Overdose,Terry tha Rapman,6 foot Plus and a few others were quite notable.These rappers left everyone in awe of their rhyming skills but the mainstream didn’t seem ready for pure content rap.It didn’t help their cause that they were far away from Lagos where the real action was and as such,couldn’t promote their songs where it mattered most.
Mode 9 was the most prominent of the artistes and was widely regarded as the mixtape King with his last as an Abuja MC, Mode IX earning him quite a reputation in a number of places as a wordsmith of immense class.Then he met Kelvin Luciano of Question Mark records and the rest as they say is history.He dropped the critically acclaimed Pentium IX mixtape as a precursor to his debut album and when E Pluribus Unum finally came,Cry featuring Nnenna became an instant hit.It won 3 awards at the 2006 Channel O awards and that was the very first time a Nigerian hip hop artiste would cop an international accolade.
It seemed practically impossible for an out and out hip hop artiste with no conformity to the commercial demands of the Nigerian music market to hit it big before Mode 9.There going to ‘keep it real’ while lurking in the shadows and pretending they didn’t want the money and the fame.
But Modo the Punchline King hit astronomical heights sticking to the art in its purest form.
On E Pluribus Unum,he flipped brilliant metaphors and punchlines,exquisite word play and excellent delivery into some really great songs.The album had much depth and was quite a departure from the monotonic theme of chest-thumping by core lyricists.We didn’t just have true school rappers,they were famous and getting paid.Mode 9 laid that path.
Dagrin wasn’t the first indigenous rapper in the land.We had seen Lord of Ajasa and Nigga Raw become house hold names while rapping in their dialects but in somewhat similar circumstances to the evolution of ‘conventional’ hip hop,he changed the face of the indigenous genre with a genuine rapping ability totally devoid of pop influences.The saying rap is an art best illustrates Dagrin’s style.
He single-handedly repackaged indigenous rap to suit modern hip hop trends-braggadocio,a mean swag,an endearing composition and a very authentic street vibe.Something like no one had ever seen.He had already made a name for himself before the CEO album dropped thanks to a number of stand-out features and the monster hit single, Pon Pon Pon but the CEO album offered a more elaborate view into his skill set and its sheer quality and wide acceptance meant a new dawn for indigenous rap.
The Impact he made was so massive even those who didn’t understand a word of yoruba listened to his songs for the verses.
For contemporary Nigerian hip hop to hit heights it once did would take something drastic.The Nigerian obsession with dance and sing alongs had eventually pushed hip hop to the back ground.
Mode 9 was the last true rap success story but even at that,he wasn’t really in tune with the prevalent trend in global hip hop.He was a golden era MC focused on wowing us with his lyrical abilities while the world had accepted that hip hop had become funkier.We were lagging behind and as just little time passed, rap fans wanted not only to listen to real rap songs but more ear-friendly ones.It was afro-pop boom era and it was getting harder for even the conformative rappers to win on the strength of their choruses.The minute few who did notably Naeto C,had sacrificed the respect of the hip hop community and had become more or less afro-pop artistes.Rap needed a game changer.
The consumer’s taste had very well transcended the status quo.Enter the short black boy; the total package.
The recipe for Crowd Mentality was brilliant but fans needed some confirmation it wasn’t a one off and when he dropped Safe,you knew a genuine trend setter had beckoned.
He was on everyone’s lips till the Talk About It album dropped which sold a record 30,000 copies in its first 30 minutes of release.He had above anything else,a great musical mind.
MI not only had an extraordinary lyrical ability matched by an inch-perfect delivery for whatever he was on,he understood the other extra ingredients for a great song.Never had rap sounded so good and never had non-hip hop fans loved an artiste from that genre so much.
The game had officially changed.It wasn’t just enough to have skill,how it was utilized mattered.
Umar Sa’ad Hassan is based in Kano

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