By Bayo Omisore
Twelve years ago, Eedris Abdulkareem was an overlord.
Despite the fact that Ruggedman (the sword-bearing verbal ninjitsu version; the half-man/ half-machine rapper that was before the MC Hammer dancing bubblegum character) had exposed him on the dis track Ehen, Eedris, with the Kennis Music machine firmly behind him, had still managed to become the number one artiste in Nigeria. His flaws were evident to anyone who listened to music, no doubt. But Eedris did not let that deter him. Like Kanu, he was determined. So he worked on his act. And boy, was Eedris a great performer or what?
That’s not all though; he was actually a quite popular, if infamous, character. He caught the attention of then President Olusegun Obasanjo. You need to understand that it takes a special kind of special for your music to get to our ruling class; especially the nonagenarians. Eedris’ Jagajaga was so huge that, not only did OBJ come into contact with it, he felt compelled to respond to the lyrics in the public space. This, ladies and gentlemen, was pre-social media. This was bigly. Absolutely!
To be honest, I never quite understood the idea behind his persona: the funny accent, the stiggidy rap flow (which went away with Das EFX and Fu Schnickens back in the early ‘90s). And the towel. Gaddemmit, that towel. If you knew him, on his day, he was a great guy. But you couldn’t convince Eedris different once he had wrapped his head around an idea. Maybe that was the problem. Too many things wrapped around his head. The thick blunt smoke. The herb-inspired ideas. The towel again. And therein, in my not-so-humble opinion, lies his downfall.
Eedris was a believer. And his belief always shined through the fog and smoke in the air swirling around his turbaned skull. He was the Nigerian music Nicklas Bendtner that came before Nicklas Bendtner. He believed in himself. He believed his own hype. He was the best rapper in Africarrr! Actually, he was the best in Lagos. Lagos is Nigeria. Nigeria is Africarrr! Or something like that.
Star Mega Jam, back then in 2004, was a major event in music. The behemoth called Nigerian Breweries invested millions of dollars in a touring brand that actually gave many a struggling Nigerian talent a platform for expression and make some decent earnings at the same time. Eedris somehow convinced himself that he (read that as all Nigerian artistes) was being cheated by the head honchoes at Nigerian Breweries. First off, he was earning a few million naira whereas Fiddy was rumored to have pocketed a cool million dollars. Then, they had the nerve to put the American in a private flight while he had to fly with the hoi polloi albeit in first class. No way he was having that. He’d show them Nigerian musicians were not to be trifled with.
I stood on the stage behind Eedris at the first show in Abuja and watched him do his thing. As a Hip-Hop head, I didn’t think much of him. But I had to respect the pictures my eyes were processing. Eedris had been building up his rhetoric all night in the bus that represented backstage for him. Once he had the stage, he started to serve up his audience with his spoken word. He would raise a hand to stop the music and rant for minutes; his fans listening with rapt attention. He literally had them eating out of the palm of his hand.
By the time he ended his performance in Lagos, the deed was done. He had implanted the notion that his sponsors had little to no respect for the Nigerian artiste. He was going to take it upon himself to fight for his peers to take that respect by force.
First stop? 50 Cent’s seat. We all know how that panned out.
Dear Nigerian artiste, if Superman lost his life, who are you? Stop acting invincible. This music business of a thing is very tough. Since you are in it, you know this. You know how much money, time, effort and sleepless nights went into getting you where you are. Did I mention the money you had to shell out at every turn? And radio station?
Second chances are very rare.
Don’t be like Eedris. He had it all: a label head that loved him; fans that would literally do anything for him; a well-paying job. Heck, he was one of the Nigerians to carry the Olympic torch. But, at the height of his powers, he felt the need to show off. He felt the need to shake things up. He fell off the pedestal that was handed to him on a platter of gold. He’s been trying ever since to climb back. Don’t be like Eedris.
Instead, be like 2Baba. 2Baba, who is undoubtedly the Lazarus of our generation. 2Baba, who was pronounced dead but managed to come back and take back his number one position. 2Baba, who, twenty years after he first appeared beside Cally Ikpe on television, is still very relevant in Nigerian music. 2Baba, who has made the transition from being an important musician to being a very important Nigerian. 2Baba, who, despite all he has achieved, has no airs. 2Baba, who does not understand why people cry when he sings; who does not know that there are people all over the place who would spend their last kobo if ever he needed it.
2Baba is smart. 2Baba is humble. Be like 2Baba.
I was moved to write this a little while back. But I struggled with my spirit man until recently when I had to write for a newspaper. This was my submission for them. In truth, it didn’t excite me much until The Headies a few days ago. Then I knew there was a purpose to the article.
I watched some artistes act like they’re bigger than the industry. They didn’t have the decency to attend a ceremony where they were nominated. A platform that has supported them and been instrumental to their growth. It has become expedient to set them straight.
Let me use my son to try to explain.
At age one, I gave him a cheap phone so he would not feel the need to touch mine. That phone was everything to him. The phone helped his gum when he was teething. Even though it was my phone, it was his phone!
By the time he was two, you could not separate him from his tyre-less fire truck. His grandfather gave him on a Monday, brand new. It had no tyres by Tuesday. Not that he noticed. He did everything with it: slept with it; had his meals with it; wanted to go to church with it.
By age five, he had gone through a piano, a water pistol and an action figure amongst others. These days, his best thing yoyos between a scooter and a football (amen!).
But my son has a cap that his Uncle Efa gave to him when he was about two. We usually have to hide the cap because, even now, more than three years later, he is still smitten by the headgear.
Tony Tetuila is the phone. It was an integral part of my son’s process.
Eedris is the fire truck. It was a great toy before it lost its tyres and siren.
You can choose between Durella, Bigiano and Terry G to fill the piano, water pistol and action figure spots.
The scooter and the football would be, say, Tekno and Phyno.
The cap? Easy. The artiste formerly known as 2Face.
You know what they say: soldier come, soldier go, barracks remain. Look around you. There are artistes that were bigger than you are. They rocked shows and had sex too. They travelled the world and consumed large quantities of alcohol just like you do. They were adored by the same people that egg you on today. The challenge is the minute a shiny new toy came on the scene, the audience moved on.
You can find Bayo Omisore on Facebook as and on Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat as @ibayoomisore. You can also be found on his blog.
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