Nigeria Speaks, Diaspora Speaks Back

Falz, Wale, Vector Tha Viper, Shaybo, Eva Alordiah, and ENNY: though all Nigerians, where these artists are based informs the way in which they talk about Nigeria vs. the U.S or UK.

“Nigeria Speaks, Diaspora Speaks Back” Mixtape

The first pairing in exploring this topic is Falz’s “Foreign” compared to Wale’s “Black Bonnie”. By lyrics alone it would appear that Falz is bragging about his international experiences compared to those whose only experiences have been in Nigeria. To do so would have aligned with the common trope found in other forms of Nigerian media where Western products and life are seen as signs of success compared to life in Nigeria. However, in Falz’s music video he flips the meaning of the song by having himself and Simi dressed in ridiculous Western outfits and adding clips of clearly photoshopped Western experiences. In this way he makes fun of people who look down on Nigerian life to brag about their connections to the West, and how these connections are often faked or exaggerated. By doing this the message of his song shifts to praising Nigerian culture and life and calling for others to have pride in it rather than turning to the West for status. In a different way Wale also uplifts Nigerian culture and life in the music video for “Black Bonnie”. The very first shot of the music video features Wale and the woman of interest decked out in outfits from traditional Nigerian materials and dotted with face paint. They are also sitting on thrones made of elephant tusks with a dead lion at their feet all while being fed drinks and grapes. While this imagery falls into some “African” clichés, it’s royal undertones are clearly intended to uplift Nigerian culture and beautiful and desirable. This is supported by his consistent reference to the woman as his Black Queen and praising her for “graduating from Prada”. Like Falz, Wale rejects Western brands that are popularly seen as signs of success for a more Nigerian aesthetic. However, Wale’s transition in the video to representing the Black Panthers and pro-Black movements in the US reflect how his worldview is different from that of Falz who famously created the “This is Nigeria” video critiquing the hardships of Nigeran life. This exemplifies how the difference between a Nigerian and a Nigerian-diaspora upbringing has in the artists’ view of Nigeria and the West. Both artists praise Nigeria but Wale’s is more superficial and cliché. Both artists also rap about Black struggles, but Falz is able to attack the negative things about Nigeria because he has a deeper understanding, whereas Wale is able to address Black hardships in the US since that is his context. It would not make sense for Wale to critique a Nigeria he does not have sustained and innate understandings of since he is diasporic.

This may be because the negative portrayals of Nigeria/Africa in the West may cause some artists to want to overcompensate and only show the positives of Nigerian culture.

The next pairing, Vector Tha Viper’s “No Peace” and Shaybo’s “Dobale”, looks at the way language usage is different with the artists’ backgrounds. In “No Peace”, Vector uses Yoruba to bring a more profound tone to his critique of state violence in Nigeria in the wake of the #ENDSARS movement. In the song he says “Jowo baba m’o fe itelorun aiye r’aiye” [Please father I want everlasting peace in this life]. “Jowo” as a deeper more pleading version of “Jo” – meaning please – places Vector’s confusion and anguish at the violence in Nigeria in an even more heartfelt light. Similarly, he also says “Wetin we dey do” [What did we do] and “Wan so mi di baby” [They’ve turned me into a baby] which uses Yoruba and Pidgin to highlight the confusion and despair that he seeks to convey about the situation. Contrastingly, in Shaybo’s “Dobale” she uses Yoruba in a more braggadocio sense that presents her Nigeria identity as a sense of pride. In the hook she raps “Dobale, dobale / The queen has entered, je kin sokale” [Bow down, bow down / The queen has entered let me come down (meaning make an entrance)]. In Nigerian/Yoruba culture to bow down to someone means that person is deserving of a lot of respect either for age or status. Her use of this and “sokale” for making a grand entrance highlights the way she upholds Nigerian language and culture with pride. She solidifies this sentiment when she raps “Emi lomo ghetto / I was born in the ghetto” [I am a child of the ghetto / I was born in the ghetto]. To say one is an “omo” [child] of something contains a positive and prideful connotation which aligns with the tone in which she uses Yoruba throughout the song. The comparison between Vector Tha Viper and Shaybo’s use of Yoruba is thus representative of how diasporic Nigerians tend to focus on the positives and sources of pride in Nigerian culture whereas Nigerian rappers have more liberty to express critiques of their country. This may be because the negative portrayals of Nigeria/Africa in the West may cause some artists to want to overcompensate and only show the positives of Nigerian culture. However, it may also be because the disconnect diasporic Nigerians feel from being raised elsewhere causes them to not feel they are in a position to offer critiques of their native home.

Nevertheless, they are all Nigerian and take up space in their own niches to represent Nigeria to each other and the world.

The last pairing, Eva Alordiah’s “Friend or Foe” and ENNY’s “Peng Black Girls” demonstrates how upbringing influences the wardrobes featured in music videos. The wardrobe in Eva’s music video can be described as a Western-styles meet Nigerian prints aesthetic. These outfits are representative of what many younger Nigerians can be found wearing today to unofficial events which is representative of her cultural context. Contrastingly, the casual wardrobe in ENNY’s music video are sweats and jackets. When she brings in Nigerian clothing they are full on official dresses with carefully wrapped geles [head wraps for special events]. This gives the sense that wearing Nigerian clothing is not an everyday thing but rather a special thing to be celebrated which highlights ENNY’s own cultural context. This aligns with the trend found in all the songs in this mixtape: diasporic Nigerians tend to place Nigerian culture on a pedestal and focus on the good while rappers based in Nigeria tend to have more nuanced representations of Nigeria. Nevertheless, they are all Nigerian and take up space in their own niches to represent Nigeria to each other and the world.

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