‘Lagos Stori Plenti – Urban Sounds from Nigeria’ is a compilation which showcases what young Nigerians all over the country listen to. It is about tapping into the lyrical and musical expressions of a young generation that grew up on hip-hop, reggae and dancehall, yet is very conscious about their Nigerian roots. It is the first internationally released compilation that presents this new sound from Nigeria.
Nigeria is the most populous country in Africa with a staggering 130 million people (a recent census brought the country to a complete stand-still for over a week). There is wide-spread corruption and fraud (you will learn a lot about the so-called ‘419’ advance fee fraud from this compilation); the churches are the sizes of football pitches; the oil wealth and associated problems with how this wealth is split and the environmental problems are cause for international concern. All Lagos licence plates say ‘Centre of Excellence’, yet extreme poverty and enormous wealth live side by side, separated by big security gates. The go slows (slow traffic, virtually at a standstill) makes getting around Lagos a nightmare, the traffic chaos involves danfos (mini buses), okados (motorbikes which act as the city’s taxis), countless cars, horrendous fumes – and between all this you will find people selling everything from useful everyday items to the most obscure items, plus of course CDs, predominantly of locals acts, and more often than not, pirated. You can’t help being drawn in and fascinated by Lagos.
One way of coping with all the madness is humour; stand-up comedy in Nigeria is a new phenomenon. And some of the songs here like the opener “I’m A Nigerian” by Terry Tha Rapman is as good as any stand-up. (Sample lyric: “Hi, do you trust Nigerians? Kinda people who are rugged and resilient, shady like Sicilians?”)
‘Lagos Stori Plenti’ brings together a very diverse set of artists, sounds and styles (hip-hop, reggae and dancehall and Afrobeat) and languages (English, Pidgin English, Yoruba).
There is Eedris Abdulkareem, Nigeria’s most controversial rapper – he made international headlines when, whilst on a Nigerian tour with 50 Cent, he got into a fight with 50 Cent’s bodyguards, feeling Nigerian artists on the tour were not getting the respect they deserve. Modenine is regarded as Nigeria’s best freestyler and can hold his own against any American lyricist. Ruggedman managed to diss the whole of the Nigerian music scene and the most prominent industry figures in one move on his breakthrough hit.
The vibrant Reggae-influenced Ajegunle sound (Ajengunle is a ghetto of Lagos) by Nutty & Wharfy and African China. In his song ‘Mr President’ African China sings: ‘We are the giant of Africa but it’s hard to get a visa to Ghana …Mr President, lead us well. If you’re a governor, govern us well. If you’re a senator, senate us well. If you’re a policeman, police us well, don’t take bribe.’
Nigerians in the Diaspora are also making waves: from London there are the Afropean four-piece JJC & 419 Squad (featured here with a song which includes Tanzania’s R’n’B superstar T.i.D.) and the only female on the compilation, Weird MC, and from Cologne, Germany, Bantu. Bantu recently took home two Kora awards (the pan African equivalent of a Grammy) for his work with fuji star Adewale Ayuba. He mixes hip-hop, dancehall, Afrobeat and fuji like no other, and is also part Brothers Keepers, a famous Afro-German collective.
The future of Afrobeat can be found on the compilation as well in the form of Dede, who performed as an opening act at Fela Kuti’s last few shows.
‘Lagos Stori Plenti’ offers a fascinating insight into one of the craziest, most fascinating countries on earth.