There’s a viral video that’s making the rounds. In it, an indignant athlete can be seen talking to bank officials who appear to have slighted him before the clip began running. “F**k you!” The embittered man cursed. “I work for my money…you don’t touch me,” he fended off another staffer, before pulling off the most Nigerianised switch up ever: “In fact, I need to go foreign…”
Nigerian music has had it’s “I need to go foreign,” stage. They work for their money. In Africa, you don’t touch them. You have seen their team, and everyone else is prostrating. It’s not only 30 billion gang o, there are also countless others pushing beyond our territorial glass ceiling, and using their local wattage to aspire for more.
Look at the music coming out from around you. Yemi Alade has Rick Ross shoe-horning himself into a song that had him looking like an imitation of himself, although the numbers from the record will make her smile to the bank. Walshy Fire – of Major Lazer – has an album titled “Abeng.” That project has it’s sonic spine supplied by Nigerians. Runtown, Adekunle Gold, Ice Prince, Mr Eazi, Ketchup and Wurld played heavy roles to finesse the final product.
Teni The Entertainer gets featured on the biggest global culture media, Lady Donli is getting into exclusive niche spaces, Wizkid marches on through the US, Davido has just powered his way with ‘Fall’ on to some recognition in the US. Burna Boy is reining in the plaudits and attention with a stream of songs and live performances. Alongside Mr Eazi, he’s hoisted the Nigerian inclusion at Coachella. Eazi himself continues to extend himself and his business, working from his base in London. Maleek Berry and Goldlink performed on Jimmy Fallon, Odunsi and RAYE have a record together, Santi is signed to Love Rennaisance, and Tiwa Savage announced a mega-deal with Universal Music. WΩe have gone foreign.
It’s BET weekend, and Teni is in for a chance at the Best New International Act, Burna Boy and Mr Eazi also have a fair crack at the Best International Act. Do you know how the mood is in Lagos this year? Chilled.
Nigerians have normalised this level of achievement. Going foreign continues to look like the bare minimum these days. If anything, it is a necessity for local stars to cast their nets far beyond Buhari’s economy. These new territories offer what the Nigerian market sorely lacks; a huge paying fanbase that supports the art with their hearts and pockets. Free music is taboo, and people take pride in spending to support their favourite musicians. That’s a blessing that is still a struggle in Nigeria.
Wizkid’s One Dance’ with Drake continues to be the apex of our march towards global domination. With billions of streams and Billboard chart success, that song not only gave Nigerians a glimpse of what could be. Which self-respecting music enthusiast has dreamt of a future that has a core Nigerian song on the Hot 100 chart, competing at the highest level? The song also raised the ceiling for what tangible achievement really is.
Think about it, the next time a Nigerian star is photographed in a studio with his American counterpart; it’s no longer significant news. If anything, it flies under the radar. Even when a record comes out from such an association, it is judged and accepted solely on the grounds of its sonic merit. Not because an American star is featured on it. And how about those pesky clips of foreign celebrities dancing to, or playing any Nigerian song? We have seen it all. In fact, there are voices dedicated to shouting down and shaming people who try to amplify it as a big deal. Nigerians make good music. It’s only normal that it connects beyond our boundaries. It’s only normal that people celebrate our work. It is beautiful music.
Whether Nigeria brings home a BET or not is immaterial. Life will continue to grind in its endless motion. The music at home will be pirated and downloaded for free. Our Police will continue to be a menace to the public. Unknown gunmen will keep their rampage on. And the war in the North will keep churning out bodies.