Nigeria’s mainstream afrobeat sounds are made for the streets. Those ghettos and less fashionable areas where an exploratory stroll would reveal the country at its rawest. Places where the fronts of barbing saloons are often turned into mini dance clubs, with nude-from-the-waist-up kids dancing to the latest songs and with the latest dance steps.
The likes of Olamide and small doctor have at various times being touted as the faces of street music because their ability to come up with trendy dance steps and catchy songs has made their music more often than not appealing to these parts of town.
While their creativity demonstrates a propensity to find vigorous expression amongst these people, perhaps nobody embodies their spirit in the Nigerian Hip Hop scene more than Victor AD.
The Warri music crooner burst into the scene last year with a genuine street anthem in “wetin we gain”, but it is rather the very honest portrayal of the average street man’s attitude Towards hustle, for good or bad, rather than a catchy song or trendy dance step that endeared the artist to many.
Quite simply, Victor AD embodies the street. His biggest motivations are the motivations of the ordinary man on the streets; those who doubt his capacity for success; his poverty-stricken family who is always on his phone. The average street hustler wants to cater to his dependents as well as prove his doubters wrong.
His lines are the streetest you’ll hear because they are plucked right out of the ghetto, in all its rawness, grit and wit. They are sifted out of the mouths of the average Nigerian, embodying his real thoughts. It doesn’t seem artificial, it is as street as a Nigerian artist can get. It is as real.
When Victor AD said “na by your grace I take dey live I no fit attack and defence at the same time” he was only referencing the average street hustlers relationship with God. It is one of total devotion and of recognition of his powers and ability to take them out of poverty.
But this devotion is at best twisted and at worst artificial. Victor AD would still go on to declare “if we no get money wetin we gain”, displaying a typical “money at all cost” attitude in direct conflict with the command of Jesus Christ when he said “seek ye first the kingdom of God and every other thing shall be added.”The average street hustler is unlikely to pick anything out of the Bible that goes beyond the simple promise of blessings and favors of God to his faithful adherents. The belief that God wants nothing but their progress and wealth typically leads to a strangely twisted expectation that God would help even their most illegal and clearly sinful ventures in pursuit of money.
On his latest song, “emoji”, Victor AD once again displays his lyrical depth and grasp for the spirit of the common Nigerian man. Social media has come to stay in the world, but with it has come a disturbing level of artificiality and dishonesty, aided in no small part by its anonymous nature.
His message of originality is not new, but the charm is in the delivery. Lyrics like “shoemaker wey you take save my name no really bad o… but I go like if you give me the real gist as e dey hot o” are so original and well couched in local slangs that you can relate very well with them.
You can relate to the ease of using emojis at odds with how you are feeling at the moment. You can relate to the frustration of second guessing that “haha” emoji from your crush; you don’t know whether she there’s a comical smirk accompanying the fingers typing the text. A smirk of derision hidden behind a seemingly approving emoji.
In many ways this song embodies the mixed feelings the average Nigerian would have for social media. On the one hand you are happy that you can now connect faster with people, while on the other you are frustrated that you are really not “connecting” with them.
Victor AD is a breath of fresh air in a contemporary Nigerian music space filled with basic and empty music. But his ability to talk about relateable issues with depth as well as the ability to pepper his music with delightful local spice- complete with local proverbs and slangs- is something we should be grateful for. What’s more? He does all these while still sounding great. He is indeed the ‘streets’ personified.