Dear Nigerian Musician, Rejoice When You Are Cancelled
“I will never listen to Mr Eazi again.”
“Burna Boy will no longer have my money again.” (LOL)
“Tiwa Savage is appealing to a male base; I and my feminists will no longer listen to her music.”
Every time I see someone solemnly declare their “brave, bold and clownish,” boycott of a Nigerian musician, I am tempted to reach out to them and book them to entertain my little nephews and nieces on their birthdays. The invoice will specifically say “Performance Fee For Clown Services.”
Ask any Nigerian artist who has been opportune to break into other markets. Do you know what they would tell you? They would say there is no money in Nigeria, and they would be correct. The biggest musicians in Nigeria continue to push for their music to pop abroad (everywhere else that isn’t Nigeria); because they would make more money than if they are stuck with you at Eko Hotel. That’s because they are better valued and remunerated for their services outside this country.
A brilliant example is East Africa, if you are booked to play a decent-sized show, your fee would be in the region of $30,000 to $70,000. Depending on a lot of factors, it can continue to spike north of that. That’s why Yemi Alade is one of the richest artists in this country. She isn’t big in Nigerian anymore due to how disconnected her music is from the home base. But she kills it in other regions, raking in the biggest bucks and deals. Mr Eazi too.
After you guys cancelled him here, he moved from Lagos to London and has become one of our foremost voices in the conversations about our cultural export and explosion. While local emotions towards him have softened, his resolve to focus on global domination has hardened. If anything, he gives the best of himself to Ghana now, a move that isn’t hurting his pocket.
Nigerians can’t cancel their artists. They can rail and rally when you share a thought. They will dance naked and angrily in your mentions and every comment section that amplifies your controversy. They will call you names, rub dirt on the best parts of your work, and invent new ways to drag you by your lace front. They do this because they possess an over-bloated sense of entitlement towards homegrown talents. “We made him,” they would say, before ending it in the stupidity that leads them nowhere: “We will bring him down.”
Burna Boy is the latest artist to be dragged from his “African Giant” perch with a common derisory campaign. In other words, Burna Boy has trended with many cancelling him for his comments about deals and streaming. People have attributed his commentary to target Mayorkun and Tiwa Savage. There’s no proof that he was trying to sour the celebrations of his colleagues. But the timing of his utterances is suspect and leave room for shallow correlation; Burna boy cried, Tiwa announced a new deal with Universal Music Group. Mayorkun celebrated streaming records for his album. Burna complained about the streaming game being rigged, and how “real recognize real,” in the game. Too close for deniability?
If Burna Boy is referencing Mayorkun’s victory lap, (he denies it completely), that would not only be low, but out of character. Burna Boy has a long history of dealing with his grudges offline and physically. He was once a wanted man by the police for one of such infractions. Burna is the kind of guy to call you and give you a time and location to meet and settle the dispute. He’s never been a Twitter finger. That’s how he deals with the opposition.
But Burna cannot be cancelled in the true sense of it. Nigerians love to be angry. They exist in a constant state of combustibility. The country is designed to keep everyone on the edge. No one makes it through the day without interacting with negativity or bringing themselves closer to death by stress-related complications. Everything in Nigeria is trying to kill, oppress, hinder or subdue you. With such an environment, people react angrily to everything. They are constantly on the lookout, looking for ways to express this anger. If an artist dare has an opinion, Nigerians attack!
Here’s why I cannot take Nigerians cancelling anybody seriously: It doesn’t work. Cancelling and outrage only serves to further amplify the work of the artist, and give them enough fuel and conviction to broaden their influence beyond the home base fans. Home base in Nigeria is entitled and broke. Home base in Nigeria downloads free music. Home base in Nigeria believes in ginger over streaming and putting money in your pocket.
What’s the price of music in Nigeria? If you ask a random home based fan, you would be directed to a free download site. That’s why the home base is not economically useful. What they do have as their chief currency is hype. And once you have gotten enough of that as an artist, up next is to move beyond them.
And if you have any doubts about anything in this column, ask Mr Eazi, Tiwa Savage, Burna Boy and Yemi Alade for confirmation. Home base feeds the ego, away is where the true coin resides.