Blaqbonez: Carrying The Torch Of Nigerian Rap
Blaqbonez may not be the most widely known Nigerian rapper, but at the moment there is hardly anyone generating enough buzz. That, in itself, is not even the story. It is the cockiness and self-assurance behind his belief that he is the best rapper not even in Nigeria but in Africa.
And yes, he believes he is better than even his mentor MI Abaga who handed him his biggest break to date. And again, he has no apologies for that.
Braggadocio is at the core of raps oft-talk about hyper-masculinity but Blaq drips it more than any rapper of his generation. His is steeped in the quality of lyrics instead of his masculinity and physical strength. Maybe his lanky frame will not allow that.
“I’m the best rapper in Africa”, he tells me even before we started the interview proper. “I’m better than everybody.”
“I’m sorry, other guys (including MI) are dope. But I’m the best. I listen to my music and compare to what other rappers are doing. People need to step up.”
His last mixtape, The Last Time Under, released before his debut album is reflective of that mindset. The now prophetic mixtape showed he was hungry for fame and success. But largely confined him to the realm of underground rap.
In spite of that overarching fine blend of battle-ready spirit and cockiness, Blaqbonez is very much aware of his commercial viability and reach.
When his debut LP dropped in 2018 as the final instalment of 100 crowns (an imprint of Chocolate City Records) LAMBAugust rollout, that included full-length albums from Loose Kaynon and AQ, MI , Blaqbonez immediately created a space despite his project competing with those of more seasoned rappers on the same label- MI Abaga’s Yung Denzel, and AQ and Loose Kaynon’s Crown.
The album peaked at number one on the iTunes chart, dusting his label mates and Falz’s Moral Instruction. But Blaqbonez knows he has not achieved cult status and is looking to become a mainstay in street culture.
“Right now, I feel my fan base is a selected group of people, it is only mostly posh audience. I don’t know if I got to like Mushin…if I perform there if they will know me. These are the places they call the street.”
Asked if that was not contradictory to his claim of being the best, he replied that he is the best, not the hottest.
His analysis of his audience is apt. His Bad Body Re-Up sits pretty at 46 on iTunes Hip Hop chant for Nigerian two steps above MI’s Rendevouz and twenty notches above his mentor’s critically acclaimed A Study on Self Worth.
The idea of Blaqbonez is a child of happenstance. Emeka Akumefule did not even want to rap. But even in his teens, he already had the ears for how a good rap song should sound. That trained him into an armchair critic. Until that changed one day.
He was listening to the radio with his cousin when the song of a 12-year-old rapper came on. The cousin found the song good enough and challenged Blaqbonez to come up with his own lyrics.
He went into the room and came back a few minutes later with enough bars to do the verse. He has never looked back since then even when circumstance should have forced him out of the game.
“It was a crazy journey,” he said matter-of-factly. “I broke things.”
Barely 15, Blaqbonez, boasting of study book of rhymes, went to a studio. He broke the microphone before he could spit a bar. His hilarious recounting of the events of that day underscored his penchant to trivialise his setbacks.
“I don’t know maybe the guy’s mic stand was broken before and he just used me to make money. I was young,” he says laughing.
He had to go beg his parents to cough out N50,000 to replace the microphone.
Like many Nigerian parents, they were not thrilled by his fascination with music. They chalked it down to youthful exuberance that will fade out as he grows older. In fact, his father had already made a computer engineer out of him.
“Seeing your child go into something you don’t know if it will work out is serious… music can be ridiculous. People spend 10 years of their lives still chasing music. Sometimes, they can become successful after the 10 years. For some people, it is just a waste of their whole lives. That’s the fear of every parent.”
The initial unfortunate studio incident notwithstanding, Blaqbonez still went ahead to record a mixtape while he was a student of Computer Engineering at the Obafemi Awolowo University. His dream of dropping that mixtape died with a crashed hard drive of his producer’s laptop.
Before the Blaq
Before 2019, Blaqbonez held his own in the underground rap scenes. His pre-2019 journey is cluttered with a litany of singles and well-received mixtapes. As a gangly youth looking to break into the big time, he was not afraid to go head to head with the best of Nigerian rappers.
Like many rappers, he was not only discouraged by his parents, the entertainment industry was not exactly welcoming of rap either. But a few rap contests and cyphers provide aspiring rap artist with a platform to vent their frustrations via bars. Even at that, not many are guaranteed a moment in the spotlight.
Blaqbonez is one of the few lucky ones whose success at rap contest and cyphers morphed into industry acceptance. That success is a child of well-honed battling skills and a chance meeting MI Abaga.
MI himself is not a stranger to the hardship aspiring rappers face in a country that is most welcoming of Afrobeats. He told me a few days before the start of LAMBAugust that he wanted to provide guidance for a lot of young rap artists.
Blaq is a major beneficiary of that guidance.
By putting him on 100 Crowns which has AQ and Loose Kaynon, spitters of no mean status, Blaqbonez is able to get both mentorship and advice career direction.
“I’m the one who is getting the most benefits from the arrangement,” Blaqbonez said. “The clique helps. They are people that have been there, they’ve seen it all.
“Loose is an OG. Loose knows things. Sometimes, he tells you things that you will not understand at first. Having those guys around they see things from different perspectives.”
Those perspectives are apparently rubbing off well on him. His latest project B. R. I. A., designed to provoke conversations like LAMBAugust and MI’s Your Rappers Should Fix Your Life, is generating a lot of controversies and reply tracks.
B.R.I.A. is Blaqbonez at his gungho best and with that project comes a challenge:
“Any other rapper that wants to diss, save yourself some studio time, lets set it up live, real crowd real feelings, with real MONEY on the table. Plus you’d get to take your L right there and then and we move.”
Between his last mixtape and his debut LP, Blaqbonez morphed from gritty bar-for-bar rapper to a more rounded artist. In the future, he may consider going the Olamide way and embrace singing.
In fact, he is already training in that direction one of the two projects he is dropping before the end of the year will feature his alter ego, Mr Boombastic.
“Mr Boombastic is more of a dancehall artist. He’s groovy he bounces on the beat. The kind of flow my Mr Boombastic has is the groovy, vibey kind of flow,” Blaqbonez said.
For now he is contended with carrying the torch of Nigerian rap, and of course, clowning other rappers.