Sex, consent, and Kizz Daniel’s Madu

I once read something about women in a part of Asia covering their bodies so only the nape of the neck could be seen in public.

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I can’t remember why this happened but I recall that it was said that men in the community shifted their lusty concerns to this sliver of neck-flesh. At the time it struck me as a funny story about the male libido; these days it suggests to me something about the deathlessness of desire.

Kizz Daniel’s single ‘Madu’ has ideas about desire and its maker’s relentlessness.

The story starts from ‘Woju’, one of the most misunderstood songs in Nigerian pop. The song’s lyrics are mostly a threat to a lady who may or may not be considering the attention of a man, but there is no ambivalence from the man: on the chorus, he tells the lady not to take him for a ride.

For reasons that one has to believe are connected to the song’s groovy beat, Nigerians took this subtly creepy tune as a love song and it was slotted into the Nigerian wedding playlist. This off-label usage of his first unexpected hit forced Kizz Daniel, back when his name was spelled Kiss Daniel, to record a true love song. ‘Laye’, reused pretty much the same elements from 'Woju’.

He wasn’t so lucky the next time sex and consent crept into his music. The negative reaction to lyrics from ‘Yeba’, which has a female voice say, “Uncle, stop touching”, was widespread. Many said the line endorsed the unfortunate appropriation of women’s bodies by men. The kindest thing said about the line was that it was unnecessary. The outcry led to one of those transformed meanings artists give when caught red-handed.

“The song teaches our ladies to speak out against what they haven’t consented to and for the men to realise that if a lady says no, no means no,” he said in a statement. “Apologise and don’t go further, hence the reply by the guy, ‘Sorry madam’. The fact that a lady agrees to dance with you doesn’t translate to sexual consent.”

It was a reasonable explanation except that, of course, Kizz Daniel never set out to “teach our ladies”. (A variation of this educating-the-audience excuse was also used by Olamide after Nigerian health authorities wagged a finger at his song ‘Science Student’.)

Since the outrage that greeted that song, Mr. Daniels seems to have figured two ways around this pesky concept of consent in sexual matters. Both appear on his sophomore album, No Bad Songz.

The first turns up on the song ‘Time No Dey’, where he explains how he gets two girls into bed. “Chinelo got me looking fly all day/say she like guy when dey dress well/opportunity come and I use sense/I swear nack am unlimited.”

Another girl likes money so he borrows his friend’s car and “Alhaji mansion” and proceeds to sleep with her. In other words, he works out what a woman needs and gives it to her.

It’s an old pickup manoeuvre and, obviously, you can’t really say anything about this type of sleazy behaviour—except wonder about and disapprove of the level of deceit and the amount of time invested into the scheme.

‘Madu’ has the second method. The song incorporates “Are you okay” from Michael Jackson’s ‘Smooth Criminal’, which weirdly enough has a female victim. Kizz Daniel is wooing a love interest on the song. He wants her to call him Zaddy, he wants to give her the now famous phallic cassava and intends to use money to “scatter your brain”, which as far as Nigerian pop artists go is both banal and, I guess, effective. He also wants to use a tool he doesn’t vocalise to “shift her womb" before asking, "permit me?”

You get the idea. Kizz Daniel has built some deniability into the song itself. He never says what the tool is and, importantly, he has satisfied those who complained about his lyrics' tricky relationship with consent by adding those last two words, "permit me?" And yet, the coup de grâce is probably just how catchy the song is. It's hard to keep what is going on in the lyrics in mind as you listen to the barrage of sounds and his impressive phrasing.

It is also a somewhat clever move the man has concocted to escape his critics, but maybe it is not so much an escape as it is a trolling. He seems to be addressing the women who kneecapped him for 'Yeba': "Now that I have given you what you want, are you okay?"

Clearly, Kizz Daniel has not quite solved his problem with consent or violence of a vaguely sexual sort; but, like those Asian men of old, he has shunted his sexual concerns. Maybe he should be asked his own question: Oga Kizz Daniel, are you okay.

Nigeria’s most acclaimed writer-reviewer. Business: www.criticsandbylines.com.

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