The Way It Was: 3 Naija Hip Hop Songs That Changed The Game

Gino – No be God

The way it was.

This was obviously ahead of its time – aesthetically and lyrically. It is the way it should be – the way rap should be.

At it’s peak, this was Naija rap’s “Jesus moment”, the song that made wack rappers envious and good ones sit up. And the music video did the song justice – you don’t always get that with Nigerian music.

As far as I was concerned, it was the first time a Nigerian music video earned the right to use the word “visuals” for its music videos.

Gino, take a bow. No, don’t take one. We should be the ones to take a bow inn your presence. Yes, you No Be God, but we still no deserve you.

Modenine – Cry

Modenine was Naija’s rap-god for so long, we took him for granted. Almost like football fans take Messi’s genius for granted.

Mode 9 is a victim of his own brilliance and the inimitable sharpness of his pen became too much for many to take. And over the years, and with Rap’s metamorphosis into something softer that sometimes mimics pop or nursery rhymes, depending on your perspective, Modenine’s fight against the tide has swept him under, where new converts to Naija music can’t hear him.

But don’t be mistaken, he is as good as Naija has ever had. At his peak, he was the god on the mic.

If we ever have a classical period for his genre, his “Cry” should be the rallying call others should move to, and his name should be the default Mode for greatness.

DaGrin – Pon Pon Pon

Gritty, poetic and street wise, DaGrin was like the Martin Luther of Naija Rap – the one that took the genre away from elitist posturings and also elevated indigenous rap two notches at the same time. He dared rap heads who raised their noses at others like him, not to listen.

Of course, they couldn’t help but listen.

Before his breakout, there was an obvious dichotomy between indigenous rappers and “rap heads” who felt the former’s version of rap was a second rate model that deserves no second look. Command of English was the prerequisite for a rapper and he/she was expected to do so. Infact the more foreign accent you could muster, the better.

Then came Pon Pon Pon.

The song, while Da Grin’s breakaway, mended the divide between those who felt we should personalise our hip hop and those who saw any mend to how hip hop, as imported from US. sounded. as mediocrity. The result is history and Olamide, whose meteoric rise on the streets and through the charts is a page out of DaGrin book.

This song epitomises the Nigerian spirit but with a added rapaciousness one would expect from a rapper at the top of his game.

This, like all good music is timeless and brings to the fore the brilliance of an artiste that died way before his time.

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