This week, we are going wayyy back
After spending years in the undergrounds of the Bronx, New York music scene, the first mainstream rap song Rapper’s Delight by The Sugar Hill Gang, hit the airwaves in 1979. The genre has since evolved from an experimentation with the jazzy electro-disco sounds of the era it emerged from to become a standardized sound with its own perks, quirks and contexts.
Thanks to Nigeria’s national independence (one of the few in Africa at the time), young economy, a booming entertainment scene and vibrant disco era, the in-road of foreign record labels was inevitable. And barely a decade after rap music hit the airwaves in America and other parts of the world, Nigerians caught whiff of the revolutionary sound known today as rap.
Knowledge from the academic sphere suggests labelling anything as a ‘first’ could be sketchy, as prior documentation doesn’t always equal innovation. But it would be difficult to debate Ron “Ronnie” Ekundayo’s place in the writings of Nigeria’s sonic history.
Like many who became mainstream entertainers after him, Ekundayo was a famous on-air personality, TV presenter and nightclub DJ. With his gained exposure to the disco-pop and electro funk from the club scene, he debuted The Way I Feel; a disco-pop collective reminiscent of Kris Okotie’s famed disco dance pop songs from his late 70s debut album I Need Someone.
But instead of sticking to the disco formula, Ekundayo sailed the titular single from the album towards a disco-rap that actually played more like he was giving commentary to the instrumentation playing in the background. However, he kept the song connected with solid narratives and occasional rhymes that sometimes strayed out of the confines of the song’s disco tempo.
For unknown reasons, Ekundayo never recorded a follow-up to the unofficial disco-rap song, but with all the bars and rhythmic patterns intact, he undeniably recorded the first Nigerian rap song ever.
You can check out the song here