Nigerian hip-hop, long a copy, grows into its own

Nigeria’s most talked-about hip-hop video exhibits all the excesses of its American counterparts _ beautiful, scantily clad models, a mansion and a bathtub full of hundred-dollar bills.

But the biggest surprise? America’s own Snoop Dogg playing back up to Nigerian star D'banj, embracing him as his nephew and taking a Nigerian passport before leaving the rest of the remixed “Mr. Endowed” to the Yoruba-singing heartthrob.

Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation with 150 million people, long has been a leading cultural influence across the continent. Its low-budget “Nollywood” films can be found everywhere, while its music plays in taxicabs and minibuses far beyond its borders.

Now, however, Nigerian artists who once mainly imitated U.S. hip-hop proudly include African beats and their local languages on their own energetic songs. That combination appeals to both Nigerians, who are now proud of so-called “Naija” music, and to a growing foreign following as well.

“The beauty of music is that you don’t need to understand it,” female rapper Mo’Cheddah recently told The Associated Press. “Our music is traveling.”

Like American hip-hop and pop music, Nigerian hip-hop uses samples, and also borrows from dancehall, house, and even zouk beats. The languages used are mainly Nigerian, with a predominance of Nigerian Pidgin English, as vocalists either sing, rap, or blend a combination of the two. It’s is mostly upbeat, feel-good music, and the message usually optimistic. It’s hugely popular, represents the youth culture and has become part of the mainstream Nigerian sound.

Satellite television networks like MTV Base, Channel O and Trace that transverse the continent cemented the reputation of Nigerian urban music in Africa. Songs by Nigerian artists like 2Face, P-Square and MI feature prominently at nightclubs in neighboring Ghana and as far away as Uganda and South Africa.

With a growing Nigerian population in the United States, Europe and Asia, the appetite for the tunes has only been growing.

“When I started out in the `90s, I struggled to play Nigerian music, but now I find it difficult to play anything else,” Nigerian DJ Jimmy Jatt told the AP after recently returning from a trip to Malaysia.

“People are feeling our sound everywhere,” he said. “I try not to be selfish but the moment I move away from our stuff, the party slows down. Music from other countries is also good, but it’s just that ours is high energy.”


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