We know most Naija slangs originate from our iconic Afrobeats music. But what you probably don’t remember is we have Nigerian rappers specifically to thank for the virality of common sayings, like “boys are not smiling”.
We were surprised by this discovery too. And there’s more.
After dropping his controversial This is Nigeria in 2018, Falz made an anthem that brought all men under one umbrella. As members of Sweet Boy Association, every Nigerian man could identify as male slay queens.
Note: “Sweet boy” is not the direct opposite of “Yoruba demon”.
Two years before he became a soft boy, The Bahd Guy did the soft work that gave him his soft lifestyle. Off his 2016 Stories That Touch album, Soft Work was a hit that went on to become a phrase for “rich behaviour”.
Soft like Tony
In 2022, M.I Abaga released The Guy, his long-awaited fourth album and eleventh project. The biggest song off the album, it namedrops Tony Elumelu, and “Soft like Tony” has become the phrase of choice to show admiration for a wealthy businessman.
Chop Life Crew
Chop Life Crew is a musical collective that stormed into the mainstream in 2019 with the self-titled, viral single, Chop Life Crew, featuring Prettyboy D-O. “Chop Life Crew” isn’t just a cool name for a group of people who love enjoyment, it’s a lifestyle.
Falz collaborated with another Nigerian rapper, YCee, to give stellar verses on one of the hottest songs of 2017. They go back and forth on the song, exploring Nigerian women’s wants and needs. “Something Light” is one of the popular sarcastic phrases Nigerian music has created.
Late Nigerian comedian and actor Jagua, born James Afolabi Afolayan, had a popular sitcom on NTA that ran from the 70s to 80s. His series My Belle O, My Head O, mainly revolved around “neighbours” that waste their time being angry on unimportant things. Decades later, M.I a.k.a The Guy applied similar message and title in his 2014 single Bad Belle that featured popular OAP, Moti Cakes. The rap song dominated the airwaves and streets, and gave the phrase more popularity amongst younger generation.
OG B4 IG
Notable Nigerian rapper and voice of the street, Reminisce, integrates the phrase “OG before IG” in this song to describe how legendary he’s been even before the advent of IG. The phrase has since become a salutation in the streets.
KPK (Ko Por Ke)
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Alaye Jor Jor Jor
True Nigerian hip-hop fans were present at the peak of Vector tha Viper and M.I Abaga’s beef in 2019, when they attacked each other with diss tracks. But only one of them gave us a memorable phrase that’s become the Naija version of “Bitch, pleeease.”
Who U Epp
Undoubtedly one of the biggest Nigerian songs of 2017, Olamide Baddo — popularly known for dropping street OTs — linked up with Wande Coal and Phyno to give us Who U Epp. The jam and iconic street slang encourage us to dismiss arrogance and “smelling” entitlement.
OdumoduBlvck’s latest single, named after English footballer Declan Rice, has a relaxed vibe but is lyrically focused on overcoming enemies. And “Ekelebe Stunner”, a phrase from the song, is now slang for a dirty Nigerian Police slap.
Respected rappers, Reminisce and Olamide, came together again on the sensational Omo x100. Immediately it dropped, other rappers did covers and freestyles that pushed the song as the inspiration for a generic internet term that describes feelings of shock, admiration and disgust.
When Naira Marley released Japa in 2018, his style was still strange to listeners, but his sound was irresistible. Japa came out at a time travelling out of Nigeria in search of greener pastures. The desire to avoid a situation or leave Nigeria for a new dispensation is best expressed with “Japa.”
Boys Are Not Smiling
This is a classic statement that captures the hot anger and frustration of being Nigerian. It quickly became cool and gained public acceptance after Boys Are Not Smiling came out in 2011. It featured veteran rapper Terry tha Rapman, off Olamide’s debut album, Rapsodi.
With Naira Marley on the verses and Young John handling the production, this 2019 banger made a huge impact on the Nigerian soundwaves and vocab. “Mafo” is a Yoruba word that means to “don’t be broken.” It was the Marlian president’s way of telling us not to fret in face of adversities. Even though you’re a Nigerian living in Nigeria, you’re stronger than your cross. Mafo.
Article was updated on 17th May 2023.