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


June 4, 2019

Thanks largely to the grand efforts of the Nigerian rapper, Naira Marley, internet fraud and just how much it has penetrated Nigerian society have been standing front and centre or lingering in the background of online conversation for weeks now.

As his ubiquitous name hints, Naira Marley, whose real name is Afeez Abdul, has created an online persona that revolves around his love of the bag and marijuana, alongside his music. He’s added another feather to that cap by donning the role of spokesperson for internet fraud sympathizers.

It began with a series of retorts to Simi’s put-down of cyber-crime in this video and peaked with the release of rhetorically-titled “Am I A Yahoo Boy?”, a song which addressed claims that he, and fellow rapper, Zlatan Ibile, are internet fraudsters.

Either they were foreshadowing or just using a very elaborate music video to draw even more attention to themselves, the two, alongside three others, were arrested by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission. Marley’s arrest and the shenanigans he’s been up to have overshadowed another issue; that of yahoo-yahoo and its marriage of circumstance to Nigerian music.

Many Nigerian musicians have stained their white with yahoo money at various times, wittingly and unwittingly. And more money is always useful; they’re in an industry that’s low on cash beneath the charade of overlit music videos. But what happens from there? I’m thinking it’s either of these;

  • Nigerian Gansgta Music

The original gangsta rap, a sub-genre of hip-hop, emerged when gangsters – the street and mid-level criminals, gang members and drug dealers, and people close to them began to tell their grimy real-life stories on wax. Now imagine that, but in Nigeria with songs like “The 10 Bombing Commandments”, and “Lexus RX350 Music”. My point is we can still get something good out of this mess.

  • The G-Boy Music Monopoly (*insert evil laugh here*)

Now that everyone’s agreed that we’re broke, individually and as a nation, it shouldn’t be hard to notice that music and entertainment is one of the few sectors that’s growing while everything else shrinks. A big part of that is down to the funding, and the federal government’s budget for 2019 sure as hell doesn’t have a provision for “Wizkid, Davido, Don Jazzy and friends”. The clue is in the nods; like how M.I Abaga praised internet fraudsters and blessed their hustle for keeping Nigerian music alive, so to speak, on an episode of Pulse Nigeria’s Loose Talk Podcast. So what happens when the proceeds from internet fraud become the go-to source of seed funding for music startups? Which brings us to the next alternate universe.

  • A Yahoo-Music Cabal

What if the proceeds from internet fraud become the ONLY source of seed funding for music startups? There are already signs of what it would sound like; quite a few musicians have earned their keep and name by praise-singing certain ‘gentlemen with questionable income’. I thought about the best way to say that last one. It wouldn’t be new. For centuries, artists were entirely funded by families, dynasties and empires. So picture it. Record labels named according to the scam? Wire Records Inc. Genres by most profitable country?

  • An Underground G-Boy Music Scene

Naira Marley and Zlatan Ibile didn’t just crawl out of the woodwork. Both artists have been making music for years. They represent a lane of street rappers from mainland Lagos that popped with Small Doctor in 2016. The subject matter dates way back though. Some people mention Olu Maintain’s 2007 mega-hit, “Yahooze” as a landmark moment.

D’banj’s “Mobolowowon” features a supposedly personal tale featuring credit card fraud that seems a direct inspiration for Naira Marley’s “Japa“, a 2018 sleeper hit. In both songs, where the rapper, cast as a survivalist anti-hero, repeatedly evades arrest by officers of the UK Police. Since 2012 and Reminisce’s “Too Mussh“, indigenous rappers and singers have been naming benefactors and friends by name. Some of them are, you guessed it, gentlemen of questionable behaviour.

To be fair, the behemoth that is Nigerian music is too strung up on dancing and immediate returns on hasty, large-scale efforts to cultivate a rap scene for 100 Stacks, the retired g-boy from Agege. Nigerian music has eyes on it now, and the bar for entry is rising. So sorry, 100 stacks.

Naira Marley’s recent arraignment before a Federal High Court in Lagos is proof that the powers that be are hip to the times (or in simpler terms, STREETS IS WATCHING), it’s unlikely this moment alone would undo almost a decade’s worth of cultural influence. Get strapped; we’re in for some very interesting times.

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