Over the last couple of days, the Nigerian hip-hop scene has been on edge over the release of M.I’s Illegal Music 3 mixtape. The high-end production value of the album has raised cogent arguments in the realms of players, legacies and market value of rap music in Nigeria.
The reigning discourse since the talks began is the comparison between Olamide and M.I, both of whom are currently the biggest hip hop inclined artistes in Nigeria. Though benchmark criteria like commercial success and lyrical content have made it difficult for a common parallel to be drawn between the two, a glimpse at the level of the cultural impact they launched their careers with may provide some context.
While M.I’s follow-up single Safe may have put him on the map, his 2006 debut single Crowd mentality was a career defining statement. The rap genre is a restrictive sound that sticks to specific rules and precarious wordsmithing formats many Nigerians could not connect to at the time. M.I was the first of his kind to observe Nigerian music as a claustrophobic sonic clime where fans are restricted to the same rules and repetitive subject matters that are the only proven ways to make a hit.
Juxtaposing the limitations of his puritan rap origins with his knowledge of Nigerian music, M.I’s Crowd Mentality embraces it’s own cliche with the added twist of actual content. The sarcastic but ultimately realistic view of the music laid the blueprint for an M.I, brand fans can attest to in terms of talent, but with the hit maker capabilities of an artiste who can add a creative touch to popular music despite its content limitations. Over years, this groundwork became a formular other rappers have replicated to make rap music more accessible to a larger audience.
For Olamide and the release of Eni Duro in 2010, his dilemma was an age-long case of having to fill shoes left behind by DaGrin who died earlier that year. Though he faced a myriad of tedious hurdles, the most insurmountable was avoiding getting pigeonholed as a rapper living in DaGrin’s shadow.
Instinctively the greatest legacy Eni Duro will leave for Olamide is separating his brand and style from that of DaGrin. The cultural impact however, spreads even further. Olamide’s Eni Duro spent many years in the underground making rounds in barbershop jockeys and street parties. For a long time after fans had made contact with the music, there was still no face to the rapper who sleek autotuned bars between Yoruba language and English.
His quasi-freestyle endless run-through rhyme style was initially introduced into mainstream music by M.I’s Safe but Olamide perfected it with a conversational style evident on Eni Duro, giving the endless series of brags and rhetorics he words through the song a personal feel.
This instantly made Olamide a popular favourite because he took the music a step further from being accessible as M.I did to making it relatable. Other rappers have replicated the same style successively on their debut singles as seen on Lil Kesh’s Lyrically, Eva Alordiah’s I done did it amongst others.
While both M.I and Olamide may have derailed from their original forms in recent times, clearly, the impact they have both left on the Nigerian hip hop genre will be their longest lasting legacies.