Dagrin: The Man, His Muse And His Music
In the beginning of indigenous rap in Nigeria was Dagrin, he came, spoke his truth, and left. Music, they say communicates the experiences of people and the reality of the musician/rapper, this Dagrin was able to do as a rapper.
In the age where there were lots of rappers but few to succinctly pass across the experiences of Nigerians in Yoruba, Dagrin came forth. Few people make history and Dagrin joined the leagues of those who left their footprints in the sand of time.
Barrack O’ Grin as he is popularly called started his music career in 1994 and died in 2010, he paved way for so many people to find their voices in the genre of indigenous rap and till now, he is still relevant.
His relevancy can be traced to how he distinctively connected to the street, predicted his death, rapped about his hustles and these he religiously did for 16 years with no disconnectivity.
A break down of his lyrics below show how rap can be autobiographical and probably how if rappers can make their music more substantial, they can also make history like Dagrin.
Dagrin as a hustler
Many rappers talk about how they battled with poverty before being successful. This shows the issue of struggle is not only a Nigerian reality, even in raps of international rappers like Lil Wayne, Cardi B to mention a few, this thematic preoccupation is also prevalent.
Often the reason for this is so that most people will be to relate to the struggles of the rapper especially in a third world country like Nigeria.
Dagrin is not left out of this league as he rapped about his struggles on the street, his hustles and how these struggles impacted him to be who he was.
When you listen to his music, you can actively describe his personality, relate to his experiences. This inclusion in experience and realities inscribe his raps in the listener’s memory.
Taking a close look into the visual of Pon Pon Pon a song in his album called C.E.O, it can be said that he used places like Mushin to indicate his affinity with the street. For him, it was not just music, it was a music detailing his experiences.
The men and women featured in the video and the setting indicate the crudity that could be a part of Lagos. The acts in this visual depict the daily life of a typical Lagosian. This shared feeling of the same experience makes the fans keep listening to him.
Furthermore, in his “Ghetto Dreams” he rapped about his rise to fame, his hustles, how poverty-stricken he was and how he almost gave up.
It is a song most people listened to and still do when they need the motivation to keep pushing. One can predominantly have a view of how his life was before fame and why he never lived flamboyantly. He starts with:
Lemme tell you something about ma life real quick.
After that line, he went on to talk about how he suffered and went through life in poverty. This particular song shone a light on his life and his struggles. He talked about how he could not afford the basic things in life and his truth is also the reality for many.
Aimoye igba ti mo dide ti mo ti subu
Aimoye eebu tan ti pe mi loloriibu
Aimoye clubbin’ ti mi i le afford one red bull
Aimoye many coloured T-Shirts but one red shoe
Aimoye aje, aimoye oso, aimoye many times ti mo n oplay free
Aimoye je concorsion without no salt
Aimoye ala ti mo la pe mo di Celebrity
Ti n ba ji, ma a tun bere hustle loju titi
Ending the song, he says:
Yes Lord! Don’t let me cry, Don’t let me die(Please don’t let
I Pray for the Ghetto
Yeah, give them a future…
I got yo’ back, So grateful.
Yeah. You got this mehn.
Look up to the sky, it’s a bright day.
The song ends on a note of optimism, he prayed not to die. A plea to God to live long enough so as to help others who are experiencing what he had gone through. This can be further seen in the part where he sang I got yo’ back.
A close juxtaposition with Ghetto is If I die. They both have a tone of optimism, however, in the latter, he discussed his death. He said that if he dies, they should allow him to rest in peace. This is a level of selflessness where he wants people to move on peacefully, he wants to rest without a pang of guilt.
This message can be compared to Lil Wayne’s Intro C4 where he said And nigga if I die I die a death worth living. The same reality begets the same message and they both hope for a life with purpose and a death worth living.
Dagrin as a Prophet
Most musicians such as Fela were seen as a prophet by the people. Dagrin, however, not only spoke about still prevalent issues in Nigeria, but he also predicted his death.
In his “If I die”, he begs people not to cry, rather, allow him rest because only a few are true to him. This song was released posthumously and it was said to have been sung a week to his death. A shocking revelation to most Nigerians. However, the producer of the song debunked the claim that he predicted his own death.
Apart from his own death, he also rapped about Nigeria and the deep corruption that has eaten deep into the cores of each sector, to say the least, these issues are still present. In his song “corruption”, he says:
Corruption ti hit nation
Gbogbo wa la n live in desperation
Tori ‘e n’mo se n drink medication
Fun protection against starvation pelu corruption
Tori generation yii, a need salvation
This translates that the country has been hit by corruption and the citizens are living in desperation, hence, most people are living on drugs so as to take their minds off starvation and corruption. The truth is not far-fetched now, many cases of depression and drug abuse because mist people are looking for a getaway from the situation they are in in the country.
He further talks about police brutality and bribery, #EndSars has been trending for a long time now. Many are being illegitimately arrested, many killed, yet, no solution.
Hence, Dagrin can be seen as a prophet who predicted the state of his country after his death and his own death.
Many indigenous rappers have come and gone since his demise, yet, most have been unable to achieve the level of popularity he amassed before his death.
Olamide is one person that has stood out. He, however, never fails to thank Dagrin for paving the way for him. He definitely has his own style, however, some elements of the style of Dagrin can be seen in his rap.
In the end, Dagrin’s music is his autobiography, you can listen and understand who he was till his dying moment.