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The Cliché in Nigerian music

Posted by @Tobi_tx on August 16, 2013 in AUDIO, Feature, News, Social Views · 37 Comments


I remember when I discovered music as a child, thanks to my parents who constantly played the likes of Fela, Ebenezer Obey, Lagbaja. Koko-below is one song that could never be overlooked, the lyrics and beat got to me every time. I feel the lyrics have a story to tell, bringing the audience closer so they can connect from an emotional standpoint. Emotions are what drive great songs; they give you that feeling to hear more.  A day without music to me is a day wasted, but there is something about the song that grabs me like a hook on guitar or a catchy melodic bass line or a groove that sets it up.

Sometime between the late 90s and now, the content of songs in the Nigerian industry has changed. You rarely concentrate on the lyrics and we promote this because they’re hits that we can vibe to, beats became more important that lyrics. Rappers are forced to change their style just to suit the popular demands, Lyrics matter. I shouldn’t even have to say this but I’ve had this chip on my shoulder for a while. It gets heavier every time I get a promo without lyrics which is 99% of the time now. It gets heavier every time I hear someone say, “Lyrics don’t matter to blow”. This chip has become very heavy and it’s time to cast it off, at least for today.

Nowadays, I often hear these counter-arguments: “the vocals are just another instrument or texture” or “the music is really what’s important”. Well, vocals are always another instrument and texture. Lyrics, when presented in a rhythmic and sometimes melodic manner, are part of the music. It’s not enough just to sound good.

Meaningless lyrics often get a free pass because of the underlying music. Ideally, both parts are good. Hip-hop faces this problem often. The radio is riddled with “great beats, awful MC” (hello, Kelly Handsome). And, to be honest, I can put up with that more than “awful beats, great MC” (hello, D’banj). But the pleasures of “great beats, awful MC” are temporary. What lasts longest and means the most is “great beats, great MC”. This applies to all music with vocals. The best things in life are great total packages and the best things in life should be the only things we seek.

I’ve been privileged to meet some of the pioneer artists, songwriters and producers in the Nigerian industry and I noticed these guys don’t really put as much effort into lyrics as they used to in the past, a good beat, couple of rhyming hooks an you’re good to go with that “hit”. Most artists in the Nigerian industry don’t realise how important lyrics are. People draw emotion, strength and most of all, happiness from music. Lyrics can mean one thing to one person, and something completely different to another. Just like no two people are the same, neither is they’re taste in music. Lyrics make people feel like they belong, and that others feel the same as they do. For others music is simply an escape form they’re world. For me, it’s both a feeling of belonging and an escape. There is nothing I love more than escaping into the rhythm and lyrics of a great song.

Just as you shouldn’t watch a foreign film without subtitles, you shouldn’t listen to music with words without knowing what they are. One should not pass judgment on something without perceiving it in its entirety but since everyone’s a critic now, and reading music critics is a great way not to enjoy music, this priority is just as important for listeners.

So we should not volunteer to be ignorant in music, which, if you’re reading this, is probably important to you. Music feeds the soul, it saves lives, it is a source of power and it should be the last place where people don’t have the full picture. Listening to music without knowing the lyrics is like eating food without knowing its ingredients. It’s irresponsible; if music is important to you, take the time to embrace it fully. Know what that guy screaming at you is saying.

What grabs you first the music or lyrics? Why?

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37 total comments on this postSubmit yours
  1. pls how can i get a music page for upcoming artiste on tooxclusive thanks help me out.

  2. For me, its the l.yrics…and the flow on a nice beat…these days everyone wants an instant classic and end up singing the same noisy thing…truth be told Kelly Hansome is the only one I repeat only one still saying something meaningful in his songs, just that not everyone hears igbo, but yall wld be happy to hear Olamide talk rubbish on a nice beat by pheelz, cmon its time we appreciate nice music

  3. Maybe that's why some songs I listen to aren't cliche. I would confess that I sometimes like to listen to what's in vogue; but really what you wrote is nice. Some suggestions: Asa, Nneka, Emeli Sande, Bez, etc.

  4. how would you call d banj a great mc

  5. This article is stright up trash bcos it aint gon stp ya'l 4rm promoting al diz trash music..Bloggers are responsible 4 al trash music being put out 2day cos everyone is on d internet nw n the blogs hav been kinda empowerd wif jorneying these sngs 2 listeners ears.Ya'll jst collet money 4rm pple and host their sngs weda dey gud or nt.Ask urslf diz question…'wen last av u hosted a random sng wif an unknown artiste wif great lyrics on ur site?'..d question u r posing at d end of d article shld also b posed 2 urslf!…jst take a gud luk @ d SA music industry…dey accomodate al genres of music bt here we jst gat afro beat nd evn rappers r on dat shii nw evn mode…Ogbeni na una dey fuck up! Im an artiste whose sng has been hosted on dis site b4 nd i paid hugely 4 it despite d fact dat it wz classic material.I stil dnt undastnd al d forming in uploadin d sng of an artiste 'who hasnt blown yet'..Ya'll r d fuckin cause nd if u reali luv music dat mch den ur conscience shld b killin ya'll…wen gud sngs pop up in ur mail,upload dem…im particularly bittered cos i hd sngs whre i wz reali spittin real ish nd ya'l refused 2 upload em despite d pleading bt oda top blogs lyk urs hosted dem n gave it mad reviews..4k ya'll mehn..Ya'll caused dis shit!

  6. dats 4 dose who listen 2 dose kind of shit!

  7. u'v got it all figured out bro.. nice analysis but, a little contribution here. the first thing that connects an audience to a music is the melody in that given music. remember, music is a universal language…. thats why u can listen to an Indian song and get goose pimples without understanding the lyrics. Am Ibo, but i've come across lots of Yoruba songs, Arabic, spanish, even Hausa Songs that give me goose pimples just because of the melody in the given music.

    However, I might not be able to relate with the artist or his subject matter cus of the SEMANTIC NOISE as Linguists may call it but am enjoying his melody. LYRICS is only a SECONDARY ish that audience may consider after considering the MELODY *Bitter truth*. A lot of Dope rap Musics get less attention because of little or no MELODY atleast in their choruses or the song as a whole. bottom line, MELODY in Music comes first before the Lyrics…

  8. the best rapper whom ?o?u refusing 2 host his song in yõu??r godam site ?o?u A??r???? Dope lyrically,?o?u said ????t all….where do we get †?h?????? trash from if not from †?h?????? internet.?o?u wud never find upcoming artist track on †?h?????? blog;i a

  9. aikay u are a fool 4 saying olamide is talking rubbish, olamide is nt only rapper bt entertainer, if u like follow rhythm or lyrics, dnt abuse musician pick ur choice, olamide rep d street,

  10. We all should also know this is a global case not just a Nigerian case. Lyrics and beats of course, the beats is sort of the fuel to any music but the lyrics is what burns out the real flavour. As far as am concern Nigerian market is not all about the lyrics, just pure party vibes and that's that. But to be honest with u I like what some of the artist who started from Jos are doing to Nigerian music, pips like Bez, Asa, Jesse jagz, kahli abdu et al. A good artist is one who tries to harmonize a dope lyrics on great beats. Sometimes I feel dz artist communicate to me via their music, shit sinks deep into my soul. So generally its lyrics and beats that make a great song but as we all knw u either be a real emcee and end up broke or be a wack emcee and make the guapp (kheengz).

  11. I love this piece! I really do. Big ups swaggednerd, u actually took words outta my mouth.

  12. Has kelly handsome drop somfin new @aikay

  13. Bloggers are the cause. ?? promote trash music while the classics lie under d carpet. Y'all piss me. Tooxclusive refused to upload my songs since 2011 maybe cos I didn't feature ?ou??r "favorite artistes" who happen to drop trash music. Blame it on bloggers.

  14. 2face Idibia is 1 dude dat has been a able blend nice beat & great lyrics. Even in love songs he uses deep words. That said….. How many of u agree with me dat X-Factor is shit?

  15. the Nigerian culture places Beats to lyrics. even the best Nigerian musicians in the old days played instruments take a look at KSA,FELA,Lagbaja etc. a human mind is attracted to the beats first before the lyrics. lets take for example Oliver Twist and Bi

  16. Please i dint like the '(hello d'banj)', '(hello kelly handsome)' thing u wrote. Like u said music means diff tinz 2 ppl. Kelly handsome is one of my favorite musicians Of all time. He makes good music pls go back and listen. Dont get it wrong. Nice points u made tho. Really nice.

  17. Pls and pls this syndrome is not only in nigeria its the world in general eminem said it it not about the lyrics anymore its about a good beat most musicians don't have lyrics because they don't have a story to tell all we want is to party and get high and carry women its hard to get a new hit that is not foucused on women if you can't beat them join them is what I would suggest as a dejay u don expect me to play songs that people wudnt want to hear we gat no choice people mode 9 try am tire even till now e no still work oya turn up baddo (what a song)

  18. errrm why are you trying to hit on kellyhansome.. the dude makes good music and his voice is dope. if not for packaging d'banj aint that better than him.. good point though but would have been better without mentioning names. Plus your website has a lot of the so called trash music on it. The sanitation should start here.

  19. One more thing… In my opinion,kelly hansome is more talented than d'banj.he has better vocals,he raps & has better lyrics. I doubt if u(d writer of dis article) knows much abt music.

  20. Well said… I'm an up and coming music producer so I'm pretty much at d centre of this topic. You see, talking about content in nigerian music now is like wishing kids will leave this PS3 days and go back to flying Kites. There are many artists out there who would not bulge to the pressure and still do great music but who buys them. These days you pay to get radio play and even internet hype. You perform a song with a good message and people can't wait for you to get off stage so some "Terry G like" artist can come make em dance. Plus, An alaba distributor wouldn't buy your album if its not the dance all day type. I've personally had a distributor tell me to go n feature people like Terry G and Timaya on a dance track then come back to negotiate… So its basically not these artists fault cos even if u wana do music at its best u've goto make money from it. And the fastest way to get off the streets still seems to be joining the pointless music wagon. The day Nigerians start appreciating and buying good music, you will be surprised at how creative Nigerian artists can be!!!!!!

  21. This would have been a nice write-up if those artistes names were not mentioned,Kelly hansome is a wonderful hip-hop artiste,not just as lucky as his contemporaries,D'banj is nothing better than him but blessed and I think that's what matteres.Moreso, they sing different genre of music.still a nice article though.

  22. Upcoming artistes,send your artiste profile to,for online and radio promotion.

  23. I agree with you but your writing is horrible. An example is in the fifth paragraph. You wrote, "Just like no two people are the same, neither is they're taste in music." That line is just horrible and I never expected that. Nigerians please go to school.

  24. One thing I find faulty in this article is how much the writer understands music?…You wrote that kelly hansome as Great beats and not good mc(hello writer)….Dbanj as wack beats and is a great MC…Excuse me even a 10months old know dbanj is not in top3.

  25. BLOGGERs can't promote. Upcoming artiste striving to bbe heard for free and you're complaining abt the ones that pay you to promote rubbish please!

  26. Mr. Writer, edit this article as soon as posible and replace D'banji's name with that of Kelly Handsome and put up another Artiste's name(like yourself, if u're an MC). ??????????????????? must've had a problem or an aversion f????????????? Kelly Handsome, an artiste with a very handsome and wonderful vocal ability. A nice article, but on d names; that's where u got it wrong. That makes u a human, they're not always perfect in uttering words.

  27. Mr. Writer, edit this article as soon as posible and replace D'banji's name with that of Kelly Handsome and put up another Artiste's name(like yourself, if u're an MC). You must've had a problem or an aversion for Kelly Handsome, an artiste with a very handsome and wonderful vocal ability. A nice article, but on d names; that's where u got it wrong. That makes u a human, they're not always perfect in uttering words.

  28. #know. #correction of Gbagaun in previous comment

  29. I normally don't do this buh this article is quite nice and almost all true.. the very first tin dat endears you to a music is the melody and the feeling of knowing it speaks to you even when you can't understand the language being said…kelly handsome..

  30. I normally don’t do this buh this article is quite nice and almost all true.. the very first tin dat endears you to a music is the melody and the feeling of knowing it speaks to you even when you can’t understand the language being said…kelly handsome..

  31. Diz article wuld've bin an interesting 1 if it came frm elsewhr bt mehn frm tooxclusive? U don poli'trick'tian? U guys r @ d 4front of promotin nonsense dese days, i've hrd nd seen an artiste whose bin on ur nck 2 upload his song, nys beats(unpopular nd broke producer) nd nys lyrics(unpopular nd broke artiste). Jez squash ur shit mehn nd lets all continue diz shit ur so-called "hot emcees" feed us

  32. Listen 2 d singlez frm M.I's chiarman nd compare d songz frm his album 'talk abt it'. Mehn good music iz on lyf support dats y emcees lyk Modo, Pherowshuz, M.I, Vector, etc, hav 2 jus sellout. Na money we dey hustle 4 naija oh

  33. I wanted to say nice article buh when i got to the Dbanj MC crap i jst had to skip d whole shit. If Dbanj is a dope MC to u ders nothing to talk about cos Ur jst d problem ur talking about. Not to be taking sides buh truth be told kelly hansome makes more sense and pass useful messages in his music dan dbanj ever will. Buh whos d millionaire? And pls dis ia not a topic worth discussing. Its jst like commanding boko haram to stop blowing up people.

  34. I wonder what Dbanj is singing these days. That dude has lost it totally. Always a noise maker rather than a musician. Gushhhh

  35. Firstly dbanj can't sing shiit some1 shud hide dat nigga am so ashamed dat outa all na him kanye see n I blame don jazzy for that (I can rap,sing etc more than that nigga) but I know that by nw kanye eye go don open ,secondly the day ppl stop making music because they want fast money that's the day we wud start hearing good songs again(whch might never happen)…I am a musician bt presently I prefered not to promote my songs just yet n dats because u can't b broke in Nigeria n promote anytin weda ur song good r hustling making the mulla wen am done trust me u go like me song..n itd be good…imagine dagote sing song(impossible sha bt jst imagine if he cud actually make good songs..dats a f**kn bonus)..all the musicians presently in nija are broke boys tryna get more money the richest of em don't have upto half a billion naira I swear..n d average nigerian man dosnt knw shiit bout music he just dances to wateva sooths him…dats y dis musicians take advantage of this fact n sing rubish..anybody can sing on a good beat even sulu on BBA sang a song…bt a proffessional musician makes music an art..sometin to admire..everyone can draw bt no one can replicate d Mona Lisa now dats art..dre is a difference

  36. Nw some1 said d beat is d first tin wen it comes to analysing a good song…if u think that's true ur probably a junkie r somtin worse…pls have u heard of accapela…sometime an artist has a flow r rythm of the song he r she wants to sing from d lyrics itself…when listen r hearing a song for the first time d sound catches ur attention but the lyrics is what makes u actually listen to d song till d end…not the looping beat..cus a good lyric tells a story or gives an info n u wud want to hear it all..lyric rythm concept style uniqueness.

  37. Dis post is meaningful but there is somethin it lacks. U can’t be passionate about presentin peoples songs 2 d public witout makin room 4 gud songz frm upcoming artiste. I’ve been tryin 2 reach u on behalf of my artistes, since a long time nw, bt all 2 no avail.

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