When you make your year-end review of Nigerian pop culture and the musical space, it is easy to get lost in the haze of events that occurred in 2018 – music tracks, standout moments, Odunsi, Able God and many other things occurred that would literally leave you whirling. However, certain moments in the year under review come to mind with startling clarity – Ye, Fake Love, the Loose Talk Podcast about Wizkid… Logo Benz.
YBNL boss, Olamide joined his favorite protégé, Lil Kesh, to release “Logo Benz” in the last calm days of December, just as the vast majority of the population was preparing to close for the year and dirty themselves in December. Logo Benz almost seemed like a deliberate attempt at conversation provocation/shock effect, and within few hours of its release, fans and critics alike had come calling out the duo for the lyrics on the song that was interpreted to glorify money rituals and the get money at all cost attitude that currently engulfs Lagos and the wider Nigerian state.
Social media raged at the tacky nature of the song and then ‘canceled’ Olamide’s concert that was supposed to hold days later – lost in tweets in between and in the half spaces of Twitter [our very melting pot] was a question I found interesting –
What is Olamide’s legacy?
Every established music act is mindful of their legacy, how they are perceived when the spotlight goes off and they no longer run the scene. Interestingly, music alone doesn’t often define legacies; actions, reactions and message are contributory to that. Olamide has played a huge role in the Nigerian music industry since he burst onto the scene in the post-Dagrin music space, using the indigenous rap music space as his starting base, Baddo rose to mainstream acclaim by interpolating diverse spectrums of music to accompany his original rapping, he has consolidated his gains and built his brand around his life story – born and bred on the streets of Bariga, Lagos, he has worked hard to get to the pinnacle of the music game in Nigeria. Olamide has been on a constant up for more than 7 years while still bringing up fresh talents along the way.
The crux is that most of Olamide’s fans are young, impressionable, and in spaces where the messages of drug culture and money rituals are already widespread.
It is a hard story not to love, but what threatens Olamide’s legacy more than anything is his music – Logo Benz is the second time in two years he has had to do PR damage control for the lyrics of a song he has been involved in. In 2017, it was ‘Science Student’ with the lyrics interpreted as a cultural icon giving an endorsement to fans to drink codeine, take tramadol pills and make unsafe mixtures of drugs and liquor. I was a university-level student last year, I saw the carnage that resulted from that song, I saw people drink unfathomable mixtures that ordinarily should not be anywhere near a human kidney all in the name of “being a science student.”
Logo Benz feels like a climax [of some sort] that has been a long time coming. Released on the heels of Olamide’s ‘Poverty die’, the lyrics of the clearly show a posture leaning towards empathy for ‘blood money and rituals.’ Olamide came out with explanations for both songs, the explanations toe the same line, ‘I was doing this to raise awareness,’ in 2017, the awareness was about the drug culture rapidly taking over the country and in 2018 it was about money rituals; the problem is that this kind of revisionism doesn’t hold steady. The crux is that most of Olamide’s fans are young, impressionable, and in spaces where the messages of drug culture and money rituals are already widespread.
Olamide’s music actively reinforces these messages in the hearts of the young and impressionable, the adults see it as a stamp of approval for their point of view, they use Olamide’s music as their enabler, when you look out for where ‘science particles’ are being mixed, Olamide’s music often plays as the soundtrack to these affairs.
In all honesty, Olamide puts out rejoinders – they are sadly not enough, the moment the music comes out and filters down the smallest corners of the streets, it weaves itself into the society’s fabric and constructs as it is. The rejoinders are for a part of society. The section of the city that truly internalizes Olamide’s art don’t care about rejoinders or statements, they just care about Olamide’s music and their codeine which allows them to have soft, wispy dreams of driving their own Benz.
Logo Benz is for the 3rd party to have a glimpse into the current state of youths in our society. (Runs girls x runs boys) “ I’m not sure if there’s anything like 2 much awareness, but pardon me if there is. It’s all over the news, it’s always been in movies, don’t box musicians.
— Olamide Adedeji (@olamide_YBNL) December 21, 2018
Within the music scene, Olamide’s influence is less subtle; he has launched numerous careers through his direct mentoring and co-signing other works, it is interesting that the artists who share the most lineal connections to him are at the vanguard of the make-money/drink/drugs music glorification culture – Lil Kesh, Zlatan Ibile, Chinko Ekun, Davolee are examples of this connection. But it goes deeper than that, Olamide provides the structure, setting the pace while the younger artists often look to him for direction and artistic influences. Now more than ever the crop of artists sprouting need a new message and a leader to push that new message forward, Olamide should be at the forefront of that new message.
In discussing Olamide’s legacy, it is not hard to envisage, history will probably remember him as one of the biggest to get into the game, a game changer for the indigenous music community and the little guys; but the danger persists that in this era of a more rigorous record keeping, these seemingly innocuous songs will split what should be unreserved acclaim for him – that a coming generation will one day stumble across say Logo Benz and think in their heart that Olamide was complicit.
I love Baddo, I enjoy his music most of the time, I grew into my own just as he was staking his claim at the top echelons of the Nigerian music industry, he has a voice now, a kid from Bariga gone global, he should use that platform vigorously to stand on the side of a message that isn’t in any way complicit with the ills that are present in the Nigerian society. That is not too much to ask from the voice of the streets, I think?