- By Osayimwen Osahon George
Let’s go straight to the point because I want to make this as brief as possible. The grievance between rappers Vector and M.I is actually a good thing. Nobody is pulling a gun on his rival and I believe there will be no bloodshed. Both parties are actually well-educated gentlemen. Beef is part of the rap game and nutritionists will also tell you how proteinous that can be especially in a country like Nigeria where people don’t eat a balanced diet.
Hip Hop in Nigeria is dead. It’s like a forbidden genre of music right now. Ace producer Don Jazzy some years back converted his rappers like Ikechukwu, Dr Sid and D’Prince to singers because he believed it was difficult to market rap music in Nigeria. Doing dancehalls or what we call ‘commercial’ in our local parlance rakes in the money faster. Rapper Eedris Abdulkareem made money and became famous by apparently ‘speaking in tongues’ on songs and Kennis Music projected him as the best thing since sliced bread.
At that point, Ruggedman did the real thing and stayed local to the doctrines of the game but failed. He spiced up his rap with a total switch from Queens English to Pidgin and then went after Eedris. He exposed his weaknesses and stole his shine. Modenine also made attempts to dethrone Ruggedman. Ruggedman was obviously inferior to Modenine lyrically so the former shifted to pop music a little bit to focus on the money. While Ruggedman enjoyed his windfall, Modenine also earned a few bucks from his sweat. Overdose, Terry Tha Rapman, Pherowshuz and iLLBliss were other players in the Hip Hop world with strong ties to Modenine.
The Hip Hop game was progressive as the casuals and hardcore rap fans knew which music artistes they had to listen to for maximum satisfaction. When M.I arrived at the music scene and dropped his debut album ‘Talk About It’ in the year 2008, he was all over the place. He corrected the lapses of Ruggedman and rapped with lines that were easily relatable. With the advent of M.I, thousands of Nigerian young ladies who never fancied Hip Hop loved his rhymes and flows that they became fans of rap music.
It would be recalled that several Nigerians felt Modenine’s lines were too deep and abstract, people had to literally employ lecturers in literature to decipher them. M.I apparently had no rival; he was like a god. The late Da Grin later came on board in 2010 after being underground for a long while to tell the Nigerian story in the indigenous Yoruba language. Nobody really thought that style would work but it did. Well, he was not the pioneer of that style considering Lord of Ajasa too who was there before him. Kelly Hansome, Iceberg Slim, A-Q and other rappers wanted M.I’s spot.
These notable figures attacked him openly and he responded. Yes, it made the Hip Hop game so fun and brought out the best of most guys. I still listen to ‘Somebody Wants To Die’, Nobody Test Me, Beef by M.I and others till date. Kelly gave M.I a run for his money. It was stunning that Kelly Hansome, a natural singer could take on a rapper and give him a bloody nose. M.I’s dominance birthed several rappers like Ice Prince, Jesse Jagz, Loose Kaynon, Yung6ix and other dopeheads who I can’t mention due to limitations of time and space. Vector also appeared on the music scene while the show was all about the ‘short black boy from J-Town’.
Olamide later replaced Da Grin but the dude wasn’t interested in being the king of rap, he just wanted to make money. He delved into singing and made an instant impact. Meanwhile, M.I also toned down his rap in his second album to make it more marketable. He was focusing on money, a step down from his ‘Illegal Music mixtapes’ and his first album. As Olamide soared in success, rap music was the sacrificial lamb; that genre of music was severely polluted. Olamide was interested in catchy sounds and rhythm laced with lyrical emptiness. The era of hard drugs and alcohol epidemic in Nigeria in which people don’t realize what they listen to but dance helped the career of Olamide. Even Skales took to his heels and embraced singing and he got the instant results with a better life. M.I faded away gradually, even Vector and others who had better music skills couldn’t hold it down for Hip Hop. M.I made a comeback track in 2017 titled; ‘You Rappers Should Fix Up Your Lives’ trying to diss all Nigerian rappers for failing to dethrone him but nobody took the bait. He was wearing a crown nobody seemed to need. Other rappers were busy trying to deal with the hard economic conditions inflicted by the new government of President Muhammadu Buhari. Only a man that has eaten will have the energy to rap in the studios. It took Cassper Nyovest of South Africa to remind Nigerians that we were now actually lagging behind in Hip Hop as he alluded to the view of M.I on the dire state of Hip Hop in Nigeria.
So, M.I dropped a few songs that didn’t do quite well and the diminutive rapper went on performing old songs from his reigning days to keep body and soul together. He gave the audience the nostalgic feelings and it worked for him but he wasn’t on high demand in the entertainment industry.
The long-term term beef between M.I and Vector has had a positive effect which is that it has given M.I the attention he needed to reaffirm his status as the king of rap in Africa and also revive rap music in Nigeria. He dropped his diss song titled ‘The Viper’ and it started trending on social media for hours. That kind of unprecedented publicity is what politicians even fail to get after paying millions of naira. He got it on a platter of gold!
Vector’s other attacks on him have also gained serious traction online. I feel this is a good thing; life and providence have handed both parties second chances. M.I and Vector are off the market but they have much quality to offer the Nigerian music industry. They finally have the ears of the core rap fans and the casuals. It’s time for them to feed out of it and put Nigeria on the rap map again.
Both responses have come with limited flavours and lyrical strengths. It appears Vector forced some of his rap lines to make sense. They are not coming naturally. From the look of things, Vector might be releasing his songs with a manual to help us understand them. This wasn’t far from the reason why he dropped the lyrics of his song in the form of a video explaining them on M.I’s birthday. I would have loved to break them down but this article might become a textbook.
M.I has also confirmed my fears that he is far-spent as he left rap to focus on what Nigerian bloggers do; tell bland and unfounded stories rather than show his lyrical strengths, depth and rap skills we know his brand for. M.I also borrowed some ideas from Nollywood by dramatizing the whole thing with sounds, effects and religious practices. He needs to understand the basis of the beef. it’s more about competition, not real jealousy or hatred; rap is a game of superiority. Every rapper believes he is the best just like we have in boxing too.
Even the historic animosity between legendary boxers Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier later died when they both left the sporting scene. This is not personal, it’s about the game and the love and language of it. Let them make history as they are at the twilight of their careers already. A last bold statement will make a difference and help inspire the younger generation.
Vector is jeering up to bomb M.I again and I hope we can see an improved version of him. I have a feeling M.I might not respond again. He has nothing to lose but much to gain. My advice is that both parties should focus more on metaphors, wordplays and other parts of lyricism as against attacking their personal lives. Let’s enjoy this while they get back into the game and make final statements.
As for who is winning, the game is winning. We have all missed interesting beef in Nigeria. It has a way of bringing excitements among fans, bringing the best out of the parties involved and also boosting their careers.
Osayimwen Osahon George is a journalist and a PhD student at the University of Ibadan. He can be contacted via his email; firstname.lastname@example.org