Is Nigerian Hiphop Serious At All?

Oris Aigbokhaevbolo
3 min readMay 31, 2023

Any hiphop fan will tell you that some of the very best songs made by a Nigerian in that genre are encased in MI Abaga’s Illegal Music series. The first two deserve to be in some museum of modern art somewhere in Lagos or Jos. Bar-crazy fans cannot forget the opening of Illegal Music II.

I’ve been brewing more of my whiskey
Have a sip see, let’s get tipsy
Then Lose Yourself and get risky
Cuz this is for the grown and sexy
Now my dough nuts cuz you bless me
Yes sir my cream is more Krispy
Make money blow bills Lewinsky

“Did Illegal Music 2 take long,” Mr Abaga asked at the time.

Well, last night it did indeed take long to have the man appear on the Hard Rock Cafe, Lagos stage. Some three minutes before 1am, the man appeared. The show, created by The Hiphop Event, had advertised 5pm.

To be fair, there were other events taking place, principally a battle rap series and at some point it appears there was a sound problem. And yet, the draw for some of us who had followed hiphop for years was the chance to see some of the greatest Naija hiphop songs live. As someone associated with Chocolate City back in the day told me, MI never performs the songs from the Illegal Music series.

After waiting for hours, the throng of people thinned. Die-hard fans like myself, or maybe just me, felt we had put in too many hours to leave without hearing the man rap those songs. It happened by 1am but it was too late. MI apologised and it was a shame because the energy in the songs, the man’s charisma were 100, to borrow the rap slang.

The male fans rapping the lines back to him were a reminder that hiphop is a heavily masculine genre. (Hiphop has few female fans but it seemed unlikely that too many women would have waited till 1am without company.) It was also a reminder of Illegal Music’s enduring impact.

“Timeless music yo,” MI had said on Illegal Music I and he was right. That was what had moved me from my home to Hard Rock. But I have to wonder if Nigerian hiphop will survive at a high level if this is how an event billed as “THE” hiphop event organises itself for its fans.

There’s one solution: The organisers and MI get back and actually do what they said: Get the guy to perform songs from the Illegal Music series in good time. The new setlist better have the Nina Simone sample, “Do I Move You?”

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