The 2015 Headies will forever be remembered in the hearts of the media, the fans, the artists, the press, the critics, and every player involved in what we call the Nigerian music industry; Vector got recognized for his hard-work, Timi Dakolo smiled home with multiple awards, Olamide was crowned the King of Nigeria, and M.I Abaga can sleep happily after having his “Chairman” album rated as an a**-kicker in the Rap category, but the chief reason why we would all recall this glorious night of wonder and share fond tales with our kids and the kids after them, is the bad blood and show of shame by Mavin Records omnipotent boss, Don Jazzy, and YBNL‘s Street Champion and messiah, Olamide. Who would have thought these 2 had it in them to brawl in the open space? Good Lord! This episode is worth it’s weight in PR Gold – Olamide and Don Jazzy both came into the night rooting for their acts to win in various categories, but the main prize of the night lay in the Next Rated category which came with the added benefits of a car for the winning artist.
Prior to the evening, popular opinion gave the gong to Lil’ Kesh, who has had an immensely successful year, but opinion is cheap – everybody owns one; heck, I even rooted for Shania Twain to nick the Best Recording awards – that was my opinion, and it cost me nothing. See?
But on the stage where it mattered most, Mavin Records boy wonder and Pop singer, Reekado Banks, was announced winner; here was a shocker to many people – Lil’ Kesh lost, but Olamide disagreed – he even pulled a Kanye West.
“Adekunle Gold let’s be honest, this award belongs to Lil Kesh, because Lil Kesh is our Next Rated artist,” he said.
In November, I had predicted this episode; we as a music industry are lacking in reality and genuineness. This is because the real issues get swept under the collective industry rug, branded confidential and controversial and allowed to fester in the minds of those affected. But on this episode, it spilled so badly, that it was good; which neutral observer doesn’t enjoy this drama? Who? Beef in itself is good for the art; although in the Western cultures, it tends to spill blood and result in loss of life, in Africa, our artists and all their representatives lack that amount of conviction mixed with hatred to pull off a killing because of beef. No one has that guts, we are too conscious of our status to compromise our careers on it.
So, where are our Nigerian beefs? Where are our thrilling diss tracks, messy Twitter fights, and entertaining words of Social Media anger, banter and bile? Why have the Nigerian fans not enjoyed some of this?
The truth is simple. Nigerian artists don’t in their hearts love themselves; most of them are a bunch of haters unto themselves. They long for each other’s success, see another’s gains as a personal chance lost for them; they carry out ingenious plans to steal each other’s beats and choruses, and when that fails, they copy it and try to improve on it so as to take the shine off the other guy, thereby killing off his song.
Honestly, ignore all the high-fives, selfies, bonding on Instagram, birthday shout-outs, gay tweets and supportive interviews; deep down, and in muted conversations, when the cameras are gone, and the lights are off, there’s anger, bad blood and bile. That’s when the real story is turned on, and the intrigue that scratches the underbelly of what we call celebrity lifestyle come to the fore; once in a while, this escapes into the open, and it becomes a good reason to follow the news but almost all of it gets swept under the carpet due to compromise, bullying and media cowardice – see Basket Mouth and Sean Tizzle‘s exchanges here – it’s just a sneak peek into what the real story is.
The reason why our artists don’t beef is fear. A typical Nigerian artist who has had considerable success is a walking bag of skin, blood, bones and consummate fear; they are scared for their careers, they are scared for their cash-flows, endorsement deals, and reputation. They hold tightly onto the image they have, and try their best to not upset their cart; what makes theirs further interesting is that they have perfected the art of masquerading this fear as moral superiority and undeterred focus on their music, films, comedy and art. This fear which rules the industry has taken off the element of relativity from it; we are all flawed beings, and beefs are a normal way to express unhealthy struggle, but with each new way the artists devise to hide their disgust at the next singer and rapper, they further alienate their fans from the true workings of their minds, and lose out on the opportunity to grow a cult following based on relativity – fans adore truth – they love fallible humans, who they can project their personal misdemeanours, character flaws, and indiscretions.
Check out the biggest stars in Nigerian Pop culture, and see a trail of imperfections; Wizkid loves his weed, Burna Boy‘s arrogance and veiled disgust for humans is happy fodder, Jim Iyke is a gift that keeps on giving, Charlie Boy is a master of dark spectacle, 2face Idibia has a chronicled history with women, D’banj is all shades of robust living and debts, Iyanya‘s need to show off his anatomy sparks of lovable narcissism, and DavidO can’t just stop spending without caution.
Someday, there will be a big bang in the industry. All these pent-up emotions that haven’t been acted upon will rise to the fore, and break free; there will be some sort of emotional purge and cleansing, and it will be ugly, very ugly. There will be books written on wrongdoings, epistles crafted to expose some indiscretion, the mother of all tweet fights and everyone will be smeared by this beef-pocalypse; it will be artist versus artist, actor versus actor, journalist versus artist, journalist versus journalist, veterans versus newbies, and most amusing, veterans versus veterans; for now it’s Don Jazzy and Olamide – just imagine a 2face Idibia and ModeNine beef! How enthralling a contest that would be.
When this happens, only then can this brand of fakeness which the average fan has given to the industry be removed, and true follower-ship can rise in it’s stead; until then, all is fair, square and sunny, in Nigerian entertainment. And we all have to believe that.
Joey Akan is a journalist and music critic based in Lagos, Nigeria; he is currently Head of Music at Pulse Nigeria.