When Nigerian artists, especially rappers, get older, an uncommunicated hiatus or retirement lurks around — impacts of personal decisions and the fickle nature of an industry that lives in the moment.

But should whatever new music they make remain in the vault indefinitely because they’re no longer the rave of the moment? Will anyone give them any time of the day if they release new music?

Let’s look at these issues, using Nigerian Hip-Hop artists as case studies, in this piece.

In-between the general banter and check-in between Vector tha Viper, Sinzu and Ikechukwu in a recent 11-minute long screen-recorded IG live video, the three rap veterans discussed their status as older artists and renewed focus to make more music. The core of their conversation bench-presses on this year’s Nigerian unofficial watchword: “No gree for anybody”, which can be colloquially interpreted as “to stand on business.”

Evidently, these three rappers are standing on business: Sinzu is posting new music snippets, Ikechukwu released a new album, “O.G.Unkle.Killz” on March 15, and Vector, who hasn’t stopped releasing music in the last six years, is ready to go harder.

During the IG live, Sinzu mentioned that Gen Zs act like they don’t know him, which is almost true. Sinzu (FKA Sauce Kid) hasn’t been in the spotlight in almost a decade, not since his 2017 run-in with the law in the U.S. His last EP went by without a noise in 2021. On the other hand, another colleague put out a project without much care for Gen Z’s acceptance. Breeze, a song on Ikechukwu‘s new album has been labelled a fresh breath of air since its release.

But I think that instead of being hyper-focused on Gen-Z, OGs should direct their energy to their dedicated fans. They’re familiar with the brand and will listen to the music as long as it’s great. While life, family and other things may take priority, if a released music resonates, new fans will pick it on the way. In November 2023, Reminisce released “Alaye Toh Se Gogo”, seven years after his last album. Fans’ demand inspired the project and the reception he’s since received has surpassed his expectation. Four years after “ILLY CHAPO X”, rapper Illbliss put out a new album, “Sideh Kai” in February 2024. Modenine is still active and catering to the fans who enjoy his art.

The “small” matters of finance and profitability can’t be ruled out, though. Nigeria is a poor country and has no industry structure and funds for OGs to stand on. Here, people make money when they are on top. Diminished star power and fanbase and intangible streaming revenues aren’t enough fallback options either.  In markets like the U.S., artists can do 500-1000-capacity halls because investment in infrastructure supports them — Older international acts like Sisqo can still go on tour simply because there’s a structure to cater for him. The opposite is the reality that plagues the elderly class of contemporary Nigerian music.

There’s no need for OGs to force or recreate what they were widely known for anymore. Identity crisis, fear of ageism and criticism should go out the window. No one will be on top forever. But the grace is always there. The veterans may not be popping like they used to but their core fans — their community — will always listen.

The realisation and acceptance of everything above comes with an openness to tell new stories in tune to their current reality. This has played out in the case of Reminisce who’s embraced fatherhood since “Baba Hafusa” till “Alaye Toh Se Gogo,” which talks about getting older, navigating relevance and putting on the next generation of artists.

Illbliss’ “Sideh Kai” is a testament to giving back to his fans and importantly, being a family man and a dad. Vector and M.I have also been on self-discovery yet triumphant journeys— it’s clear in the content of their new music. This openness pushes their art to more impact and opens them to more interpretations. This is the only way they’ll possibly make music that gets finer with their age.

The beauty of making music at an old(er) age is rooted in the purpose and passion of the artist. So, instead of worrying about investing in streaming farms to push albums like Ikechukwu jestingly said on the IG live, he should double down on the newly found purpose that’s fuelling his passion.

As we go deeper into the year, more veteran artists should quit watching on the sidelines and get back into the game. Not to prove a point or dump stashes of stale music on us, but to find love in what they do again. People are still cheering.

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