You can turn on the radio today, here in America, and easily find both pop and hip hop songs. Many artists have managed to have both genres on the radio. Even Kanye West has been fluent in both as he has evolved or, as some might think, devolved as an artist. He’s done songs that are undeniably hip hop and songs that would be seen as more pop. This versatility among musicians has translated over to Africa causing a debate on who’s an MC (can freestyle and writes their own lyrics) and who’s just a rapper (not necessarily skilled at the art of freestyle and can have a ghostwriter for the sake of having the fame as an entertainer). This has also made it a bit difficult for some people to tell the difference between pop and hip hop songs. In Nigeria, there’s a strong fan-base for both genres who’s artists, in many cases, end up collaborating.
One pop artist from Nigeria named Yemi Alade is becoming a household name as a pop star with hit songs like Johnny and Tumbum thanks to her African pride and catchy songs about different relationship situations. Her songs for the most part are, without a doubt, pop songs. From her auto-tuned voice to the fast paced, repetitive and catchy rhythms and lyrics Yemi is true to the genre. For the music video of her song Want you, we’re given a simple and upbeat rhythm that is paired with Yemi wearing bright colors on a sunny day. As you could probably guess, she is singing about a guy that she wants but it’s not sang in a longing and passionate way but rather in a more playful way. There are many scenes that show her dancing with backup dancers in bright colors while there are also scenes of her and other characters having miscellaneous fun together on the beach.
These elements are commonly found in music videos for pop artists like Meghan Trainor or Katy Perry. Artists like Yemi Alade create songs that are meant to cheer people up, make them want to dance, and most of all get stuck in people’s heads. It’s a very obvious goal when you notice her lyrics at the chorus are “I-I-I-I-I-I-I-I-I-I-I-I-I want YOU!” It’s a very common trait to find. A pop artist relies on emphasizing a very short and sweet point whereas a hip hop artist relies on taking multiple related points and finding clever ways of fitting the right words together to say them. Now, don’t get me wrong, Yemi Alade is honestly my girl-crush thanks to her ever changing natural hair styles and her bright, Afrocentric outfits.
In contrast to the pop music, there’s a Nigerian hip hop artist who goes by the name Falz who is a small scale musician and has found mild success with songs like Soldier and Marry Me (which, mind you, is featuring my girl Yemi). There was one music video of his that I was able to find that had over a million views and was not featuring another artist called Soft Work. The first thing that I noticed was the rhythm, which could easily be mistaken for a pop song at the beginning if you were only listening to the instrumentals due to its simple claps and dreamy electric keyboard run. Falz jumps in with the lyrics about how his lifestyle is filled with expensive things and not much regard for anyone/anything else.
This theme has been found in many hip hop songs (but definitely not all) where the artist is living the life they’ve been striving for and they express it in the best way they know how: by rapping. The song is all raps (no singing, not even during the chorus) but it still holds many pop-like elements in the music video like how every last one of his props in the video from the pink car to the yellow couch and the red cup are vibrant colors as well as those who surround him. As he raps to the camera there’s a bunch of attractive men and women (mostly women) having a dance party all around him. The video focuses on beautiful women and expensive things. The contrast from a typical pop song that this song has is that despite having lyrics about being happy and rich, Falz kept a very calm and nonchalant tone unlike Yemi’s song where she longed for a guy yet she sounds fun and joyous.
Personally, despite identifying as a hip hop artist, I would honestly place Falz under the title “rapper” which, depending who you are, isn’t something to be ashamed of. If it’s giving you the lifestyle and satisfaction you’ve been seeking then it’s no problem in my mind. There are, though, many artists from Africa (yes, not just Nigeria) who, without a doubt, are MC’s who could mesmerize you with their on-the-spot lyrics and impeccable flow. It shouldn’t be too hard, though, all you’ve got to do is listen out for them.