Born Babatunde Olusegun Adewale, Modenine is an English-born Nigerian rapper. He is the most decorated lyricist by the prestigious Nigerian entertainment channel awards show- HipTV “The Headies”. Definitely one of my favorite rappers growing up as a young boy in Lagos, Modenine‘s tenacity and voice texture in his songs and videos made me resonate with hip-hop at an early age. There are so many aspects of hip-hop culture I have come to understand now from taking this course; Modenine‘s music always comes to mind when I think about all the course content about hip-hop in Africa.
Recently however, the most notorious lyricist of Lasgidi (in my opinion) has been deserted by the Nigerian hip-hop community. Modenine blessed us with hits like Elbow Room, Spartans, The Game Needs Me, My Country (ft. Amuta and Rockstar), etc., forging an important platform for the youth in the communities to embrace hip-hop culture and use it to tell their stories. Despite all of these, the influential rapper’s career has become victim to nonchalant responses from so-called “fans” and industry in general and this prompted his migration to the United Kingdom. In an exclusive interview with OkayAfrica, and in his music video for “Check for me”, Modenine talks about how he questions how his relevance to the hip-hop game has dwindled in the past years while “weaker” and younger rappers still getting celebrated. He expresses his frustrations at the meagre level of respect fans and industry give to his new releases from the diaspora. From his recent album The Monument, he made sure, in the video for the song ” Check for me “, despite the struggles of navigating the hip-hop scene from the UK, to still successfully represent the culture both from the continent and in the diaspora.
Modenine adequately represents his “Naija” roots in this video by rapping about his long-term influence on hip-hop scene in Nigeria. He raps about always being in the game and how frustrations with the industry and fans’ reaction to this music forced him to relocate to the UK. In this song, he raps in his lyrics, ” I do not need to leave the game, I never left” to emphasize how important his voice will always be to hip-hop in Nigeria. He talks about how people in Nigeria still reach out to him after criticizing his lyrical style and accusing him of not rapping in street lingo enough for people to understand his messages, also of labelling his music towards Western audience by not rapping in a way the indigenous people will understand. Despite all these criticisms, Modenine still continues to represent Nigeria and her struggles in his music even after moving to London. He even infused some Pidgin into his lyrics, ” I no want wahala, no doti my name” referring to how he has maintained a blemish-free name in the industry and strives to maintain his credibility even while in the diaspora. He also adequately represents the diaspora in his video by shooting it in an English neighborhood filled with a lot of graffiti celebrating hip-hop in that community while emphasizing his message to the hip-hop audience in Nigeria. He calls out to them to check for him as he will always continue to represent the game and the culture and showing his fervent love, dedication, and commitment to hip-hop.
I remember when one of his responses in a past interview concerning his song “Cry”. Modenine emphasizes how it is harder for him to write a pidgin song and he cannot rap in Yoruba; he would rather quit the rap game than change his style. I will always hold Modenine to highest standards when it comes to the greatest rappers to ever come out of Nigeria; I say this because of his highfalutin approach to rap- a unique combination of his wit, control of the English language, and deployment of punch lines to convey his heartfelt messages in his music and also urge to properly represent the hip-hop culture.
Also referred to as Polimaf, Modenine will always remain a relevant voice in hip-hop in Africa. I urge Africans to make sure we remember our musical heroes and ensure to stay connected to their careers and their messages whether in the continent or in the diaspora. The state of hip-hop in Nigeria is pitiable right now and if we had saved Mode’s 9, the young rappers would probably not be struggling now and the hip-hop community in the region would be faring better.