12 Years Ago Ruggedman delivered lessons on being a Successful Artist in Nigeria – And it’s still relevant
12 years ago Ruggedman laid the blueprint for blowing in Nigeria
In 2007, as I prepared to write my National Examination Council Senior exams in a South-western, Nigeria boarding school, I stumbled upon a ‘contraband’ in the coffers of my friend, Ayobami. It was a freshly minted CD, obviously snuck in with the idea to consume while the authorities were not looking.
Despite my reservations (and those of my friend, Olawusi Dele, who – like myself – wasn’t a fan of the contraband’s creator, and even the album art), I pressed play and my life never remained the same.
I also had two contrabands; a portable CD player and headphones to experience the CD with. The contraband was ‘Ruggedy Baba,’ by Nigerian Hip-Hop legend, Ruggedman. In the second quarter of 2007, ‘Ruggedy Baba,’ the classic – yes, classic – Ruggedman sophomore effort dropped and the rest was history. Ruggedy Baba came three years after the release of Ruggedman’s debut album, “Thy Album Come” to critical acclaim, sonic and stylistic evolution, multilingual deliveries – in Yoruba, pidgin and English, and numerous controversies and rap beefs.
Ruggedy Baba equally continued that path Rugged had carved with his first album, merging the Nigerian essence with the atypical Hip-Hop sound and substance to produce his best and most impactful album till date – in many ways a classic.
On a personal note, it was one of the first set of Nigerian Hip-Hop albums I fell in love with – I loved him for his boldness and daredevil attitude which forced Hip-Hop to sit up and take notice of him. I’ve also bought the album four times.
Whatever reservations some might have towards ‘Thy Kingdom come,’ the brilliance of ‘Ruggedy Baba’ can not be denied – it also gave us some classic songs foremost collaboration and title track, ‘Ruggedy Baba’ featuring another legend, 9ice; ‘Club Rugged’, ‘Rock Da Spot’ featuring Lord of Ajasa, ‘Waka’ and ‘Watch Me.’
Through all the songs on the album, one often overlooked gem is the track ‘9ja Hip-Hop.’
On the album’s opener, Ruggedman laid the blueprint on how to properly break into the industry and work a single. You can read his 10 principles below;
One! You have to be sure you have the talent in you
Two! Only then can you develop words in you
Three! Your stage craft should make your fans scream
Four! No message could mean the loss of a war
Five! If you abide, you keep the industry alive
Six! Do a dance track to stay up in the club mix
Seven! Up your game a notch to another level
Eight! Add your mother tongue to represent where you’re from
Nine! Let them know they can’t stop your shine
Ten! No need to start all over again
– Ruggedman, 9ja Hiphop, 2007
Backed up by what seemed a supporting cast that recited the numbers for him, and running on a silky smooth beat, consisting of a razor sharp drum presence, piercing piano chords and the ever-present bass riffs, they were the opening words to the Ruggedy Baba album.
“I’m speaking from experience, you know what I’m saying?”
His 10 principles to blowing up in the Nigerian music industry – especially for Hip-Hop artists are still as relevant as the day Rugged recorded them.
A cursory look at the success of rappers like M.I Abaga, Ice Prince Zamani, Jesse Jagz, Dagrin, Reminisce, Olamide, Phyno and Falz proves the efficacy of how true those words were – but we didn’t know and we still don’t understand.
While some people don’t fully pass the bar of rule one – not as talented – and have succeeded, most of the successful mainstream Nigerian rappers have loads of talent imbued in them that they could make music in their sleep. The definition of success also goes more than having one successful album; success means creating a legacy through music – legacy that stands the test of time.
Ticking rule one means ticking rule two, “Only then can you develop words in you.”
Rules three, five and ten
The confluence to these rules means having a big enough ego or self-esteem to make sure you tick rule five. And to fulfill necessary things for rule five, you must have fulfilled all the rules before it.
An ego is why you have megalomaniac convictions that your music can make an impact on an entire market. Even Hip-Hop has certain demands of Hip-Hop and braggadocio in music to succeed and it’s why most rappers boast, brag and pump their chests through their art.
Asides mastery over a period of time, the only way you can hold down a crowd of people for even 10 minutes is a huge personality, which is usually inspired by huge self-esteem. Who better to discuss matters of ego than Ruggedman? The same guy who had enough balls to go at industry mainstays to announce himself – the man was not afraid to rustle a few feathers.
Rules four, six and eight
Pick out to songs for radio a first singles
For Naija, a dance track and a slow one for the mingle
For one, when Ruggedman was rapping in a mix of Pidgin and English, a lot of Nigerians stomped on him. This lack of understanding is the same reason why most people were caught napping while Ruggedman soared and transcended spaces. Since then, Olamide, Phyno, Reminisce, Dagrin and Falz have followed the same blueprint in different shades.
The need for radio worthy songs has remained the bane of Hip-Hop. It has created successes of the rappers – like M.I Abaga, Olamide, Falz,M.I and Reminisce – who understand how it works without completely selling out and created angry fans for a lot of rappers who have completely gone to the commercial side because money must be made.
For the ones who don’t completely sell out and still succeed, it takes a recognition of when and how to balance the acts for radio hits – which make money – with the acts that make the Hiphop truly be a success and it is a battle rappers never stop fighting – even till date.
To make sure you’re relatable, your art needs to resonate with your audience. Nigerian Hip-Hop has no solid cultural foundation and it’s the reason why we keep trailing South African Hip-Hop – which learned to merge the inner-city lifestyle and culture with its Hip-Hop and it has kept the bloodlines and evolution of Hip-Hop pure.
Only recently did we start acknowledging the essence of ‘local rappers.’ The power of rule 8, underlines the need for indigenous tongue in Nigerian Hip-Hop.
The following bars
Drop at least 8 copies at each radio station
Not just in your city, but if you can, across the nation
Follow up with SMS and occasional phone calls
Of course, you’ll still meet presenters who try to play God
Move to people who only enjoy your music
Because when you blow up, the will turn around and use it
Do a lot of interviews
Don’t let pride get into you
It (pride) goes before every fall
Your enemies will have a ball
Grease the right palms if you can and if you have to
I’m being realistic coz money plays a part too
These days, we hear the madness of payola, coinciding with the scores of aspiring Nigerian artistes without the required funds to forge ahead. In fact, the rich represents less than 25% of Nigeria. Thus, it takes calculated efforts and extra grind to succeed in Nigerian music while understanding the reality that has only started seeping into Nigerian entertainment fabric; though Lagos might be where it happens, Nigeria is way more than just Lagos.
In those simple bars, Ruggedman tried to speak to both the privileged and underprivileged dreamers of the good life of music stardom, even against the backdrop of payola – grease palms if you have to, look beyond Lagos and take advantage of the media for exposure. But most importantly, be humble; you’re the one who needs something.
Some Nigerian artistes still think their music is good enough to blow them like MF Doom who was never really mainstream. While some with the know-how are now strategically placing themselves on local and foreign media platforms, a lot of people still don’t understand the usefulness of media.
In 2018, we spoke more about payola than in any of the previous years. But sadly, though a vice, it is needed to succeed – Ruggedman highlighted these in 2007, but some people still live in delusions.
Making money with your music another way
After Ruggedman delivered messages on how to blow up in Nigeria, he delivered the need for dance tracks from the angle of getting endorsements, “I’m talking about dance tracks. It doesn’t make you less of an artist. Dance tracks; the rock radio; they rock parties and clubs…”
Corporate bodies that pay the big bucks, they want an artist that can pull a crowd, you know. So they can sell their products, you that faster with a dance track. Do your dance track first, let the people feel the music, feel the groove… When they buy your album, they will play your other tracks… That’s just how it goes, it’s NAIJA!” Ruggedman continues.