Forget the Music, Why Is Everyone Still Obsessed With Naira Marley?

May 31, 2022

One thing about Naira Marley, the man loves chaos. Four years after kicking his way into the Nigerian music scene with 2018’s Issa Goal, the infamous Marlian leader released his debut album, God’s Timing Is The Best on Monday, the 30th of May 2022. In a time where Fridays have become the official day to flood the airwaves and streamers with new music, Naira Marley’s decision to pick a Monday feels chaotic, but is also reflective of who he is — a disruptive artist whose star has been powered by controversy from the very start. 

As I said, chaos is nothing new to the Lagos-born, Peckham-raised artist. Between 2018 and 2019, Naira Marley’s ascension to the top of the charts and social media conversations saw him go through police and EFCC raids, court sittings, social media backlash (or praise, depending on what side you’re on), sold-out shows, and countless hits. Between May and September of 2019 alone, he dropped the certified bangers, Am I A Yahoo Boy, Soapy, Opotoyi, Pxta, Tesumole and Mafo

It doesn’t matter whether or not I subscribe to the Marlian way of life; it’s hard to deny the unstoppable force that is Naira Marley. The man drops a song, and suddenly, you can’t escape it. From rowdy bus stops to bougie clubs, Naira Marley is everywhere all at once. He is a movement. 

With this much controversy, Naira Marley is not your conventional star. Going by his antics and shocking lyrics, this is the type of artist parents would ban their kids from listening to in a heartbeat. So why are we still obsessed with Naira Marley? 

RECOMMENDED: 10 Nigerian Songs That Are Yoruba Men’s Anthems

One thing about Naira Marley that I recently discovered is how he taps into the dramatic chaos of some of the artists before him. Artists that we loved. Think back to Terry G’s Free Madness era and how the unhinged star had all of us in a chokehold. Then there’s early Timaya — not the mellow Cold Outside Timaya Gen Zs know today, but the one that frowned on all his album covers and sang about the killings in Bayelsa state. I also feel the need to add the king of the streets, Olamide, whose decision to name his record label Yahoo Boy No Laptop (YBNL) was a major conversation back in the day. Naira Marley leans into this feeling of nostalgia where everything and everyone was extra. Think Cruel Santino, but comprehensible. And it’s not just the music; it’s the energy—the rebellious energy of the ones that came before. 

This rebellious energy is arguably why Naira Marley gets a pass, especially with a generation that is tired of being told what to do. While Naira Marley had built a massive fanbase before the #EndSARS protests of 2020, it took the protests happening for me to finally understand why he was such a modern day rockstar. Agreeing with his alleged lifestyle or not, his entire existence and success are a big middle finger to the powers that be, especially the police and other security agencies. And with more young Nigerians feeling the need to rage against the system, it makes sense for Naira Marley to be placed on an artistic pedestal. After all, it feels good to see someone beat the system over and over again. 

Antics and controversy aside, the music still matters to me. And while I still describe myself as Marlian-adjacent, the music doesn’t slap like it used to. The shock value and repetitive beats have worn off, and now, I want more. The thing is, I know he’s capable of delivering. God’s Timing Is The Best has its moments, but I expected better from a debut album that was due like four years ago. When Naira Marley came on the scene, we didn’t have the Zinoleeskeys, MohBads or Zlatans killing the game and blurring the lines between the streets and our playlists. So to keep up, our favourite rebel might have to reinvent his sound because shock value won’t do much  for you in a time where Nigerians move on quickly. 

ALSO READ: Internet Fraud’s Marriage To Naija Music Could Go In Different Ways

Join The Conversation

Bring a friend.

You'll like this

September 6, 2020

Because the housemates in the Big Brother Naija lockdown house have been moving funny, their fans on Twitter have been trending funny hashtags to match. Here’s a list of the funniest BBNaija hashtags we saw this week: 1. #JusticeforKiddwaya The first time I read this I got a panic attack. Was Kiddwaya arrested by SARS […]

January 24, 2020

Before I get into this article, let me confess something to you guys: My favourite Nollywood movie of all time is 2011’s Blackberry Babes — a movie so objectively terrible that it inadvertently morphs into something hilarious and undeniably entertaining. I’ve seen it 12 times; 11 more times than I’ve watched any other Nollywood movie.  […]


Now on Zikoko

November 29, 2022

The Nigerian Voter is a series that seeks to understand the motivations that drive the voting decisions of Nigerians — why they vote, how they choose their candidates, why some have never voted, and their wildest stories around elections. This week’s subject of The Nigerian Voter is Kachi*, a businessman in his late 30s who […]

November 28, 2022

If you’re a Nigerian student feeling discouraged from pursuing a tertiary education because you can’t afford tuition fees, we have good news for you! You’ll soon be able to get a student loan from the government with zero interest! How’s this possible? The Student Loan Bill provides public university students with financial assistance through the […]

Recommended Quizzes

December 29, 2021

A new year is right around the corner. Before we go into 2022, enjoy some of our top quizzes from this year. 1. QUIZ: Only Nigerian Gen Z’ers Can Make It To The End Of This Musicians Quiz Forget about your age. If you can make it to the end of this quiz, you’re definitely […]

September 1, 2021

August is over, and here are some of our best quizzes from August. Enjoy: 1. QUIZ: Only Ajebutters Can Get 10/21 On This Quiz Some people like to form ajepako when they’re really ajebutter. Are you one of them? Let’s find out. 2. QUIZ: Sorry, If You’re Under 25 There’s No Way You Can Pass […]

how much of an ajebutter
February 12, 2020

Are you an ajebutter or not? Well, if you’ve gone through life blissfully unaware of its harshness, then you probably are. Now, we want to know just how high you rank on that ajebutter scale, using your food preferences as a (very accurate) measure. Take to find out:

March 24, 2020

While we know that a lot of the best Nigerian artists deservedly have fans across generations, that won’t stop us from attempting to guess how old you are based on your taste in Nigerian music. So, take this quiz to see if we got it right:

More from Pop


Trending Videos

Zikoko Originals

September 13, 2022
Vs The World is a Zikoko original video series that follows best friends Astor and Hassan as they take on the world.
August 23, 2022
Zikoko Ships is a Zikoko Original series where we invite two people who share a relationship to play the Zikoko card games
December 14, 2020
What happens when a group of chatty young Nigerians talk about things they're passionate about? You get Nigerians talk. A show that discusses very familiar struggles for the average Nigerian. From relationship deal breakers to sex education with Nigerian parents to leaving Nigeria, be prepared for a ride.
November 2, 2020
'The Couch' is a Zikoko series featuring real life stories from anonymous people.
October 26, 2020
A collection of videos documenting some of the events of the EndSARS protests.
June 22, 2020
'The Couch' is a Zikoko series featuring real life stories from anonymous people.
June 22, 2020
Hacked is an interesting new series by Zikoko made up of fictional but hilarious chat conversations.
June 4, 2020
What happens when a group of chatty young Nigerians talk about things they're passionate about? You get Nigerians talk. A show that discusses very familiar struggles for the average Nigerian. From relationship deal breakers to sex education with Nigerian parents to leaving Nigeria, be prepared for a ride.
June 2, 2020
Quickie is a video series where everyone featured gets only one minute to rant, review or do absolutely anything.
May 14, 2020
Isolation Diary is a Zikoko series that showcases what isolation is like for one young Nigerian working from home due to the Coronavirus pandemic.

Z! Stacks

Here's a rabbit hole of stories to lose yourself in:

Zikoko amplifies African youth culture by curating and creating smart and joyful content for young Africans and the world.