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Dagrin…10 years after death, his legacy lives on

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It was exactly a decade ago, on Wednesday, April 22, when the Nigerian music industry was thrown into mourning following the announcement of the tragic death of DaGrin, one of the most promising rappers the industry had seen.

He bestrode the entertainment industry in his own unique way, especially as he incorporated Yoruba, English and Pidgin English into his style of rapping, which was not common at a time.

Da Grin remains one of the Nigerian rappers who revolutionised the Nigerian rap industry. Years after his death, his legacy lives on, and his music remains iconic, as it has inspired what may today be considered a revolution in the Nigerian music industry, as a number of rappers hit the studio spitting in indigenous language.

Though he depicted a thug life synonymous with street rappers, he was unabashed about his bad-boy ways. Yet his music portrayed a cultural significance, as he infused English with his native dialect (Yoruba) and pidgin.

With DaGrin’s emergence, the Nigeria industry, which literarily has had Lagos as its base was gentrified, as there was a new wave of indigenous or dialectical rap music – hip-hop that fuses street slang with native dialect.

Suddenly rappers (Lagosians) were talking in their own languages about their own experiences: Nigerian working-class struggles, inner-city hustle, stories of thriving despite the odds, the roving American ‘R’ swapped for heavy clicks, dips and double consonants.

As pointedly note by one Nigeria’s shinning light rap music genre, Tobechukwu Melvin Ejiofor popularly known as Illbliss, Dat Ibo Boy or Oga Boss, “Dialectic rap had always been there, but it hadn’t been sold. The first person able to do that was Dagrin.”

In the very short time he spent in the industry, DaGrin released one of the most critically acclaimed albums titled C.E.O (Chief Executive Omota) translated as Chief Executive Gangster) that won the Hip-Hop World (now Headies) 2010 Award for best rap album.

He worked closely with Y.Q, 9ice, M.I, Iceberg Slim, Omobaba, Terry G, Ms Chief, Owen G, K01, Code, Mistar Dollar, TMD entertainment, Omawumi, Chudy K, Bigiano, and Konga. He associated with music producers like Sossick, Dr Frabz, Sheyman, Frenzy, and 02.

DaGrin’s style of music made him a point of reference in major music-related discussions. His songs touch upon ethnicity, pride while surviving the streets of Lagos and a hint of criticism elderly people hurl against bad behaviour.

He was indeed the mouth-piece of the streets. His music mirrored the struggle of the average Lagos ghetto hustler trying to survive in a world of inequality. His song Ghetto Dream laid emphasis on his dreams, hopes, and aspirations.

Some of his hottest award-winning hits such as Pon Pon Pon, and Kondo, remodeled how music was recognised. He bridged the gap between core hip-hop and pop music.

Unlike the white-washed hip-hop videos coming out of America brimming with muscles and bravado, DaGrin’s video for Pon Pon Pon showed the gritty streets of Lagos, with hardcore Yoruba lyrics over a heavy bass line and the punctuation of a clucking firearm.

With callouts to Lagos communities like Shitta in Surulere, Egbeda and Mushin, street kids saw themselves and their culture represented and hyped on TV for the first time.

“Dialectical rap or local rap music has finally broken barriers because you don’t need to hear what we are saying. People have changed their hitherto perspective. There is the rhythm, there is the sway, and there are the catchphrases and the slogans

“It’s almost like I want my people to know your people. If I get on a song with say Olamide or Lil Kesh, it is a seamless exchange where I carry my culture to them and they bring their culture to me. Even our leadership has never unified Nigerians as much as music,” Illbliss stated.

DaGrin’s legacy is evident in the type of music that sprung after his passing. His successor was pegged as a young rapper, Olamide from the relatively deprived community of Bariga picked up the baton from where he left off.

Other artistes that have find their path from the road the late rap icon paved for artistes include Phyno, Lil Kesh, Naira Marley, Zlatan, among others, to find their path in an industry that was still at its teething stage.

Lil Kesh’s breakout hit song Shoki catapulted him to stardom and popularised his signature dance — fingers held tightly together mimicking a cobra, while the body bobs slowly up and down, then builds to a quick drop of the hand and then back up again.

There was horde of tributes as some fans of the late Misofunyin Entertainment head honcho was remembered on Wednesday, April 22. Among the fans were Ruggedman, who wrote via his twitter handle @RuggedyBaba: “I am honoured to be one of those who witnessed and featured your great talent. Some truths in life are hard to accept. Your departure is one of those hard truths. Your memories will never be forgotten!”

Jude MI Abaga said, ‘ama hold hip-hop down and keep the fire’ and he kept to his words.”Segun Awosanya 2010 @segalink wrote: “Oh, Heaven, it is mysterious, it is awful to consider that we not only carry a future Ghost within us; but are, in very deed, Ghosts! R.I.P. Da GRIN….”

For Aisha Yesufu @AishaYesufu, “Dagrin died in a tragic accident 10 years ago and if you are still comparing him with today’s artiste then that says everything.”

In his tribute DaddyMO @therealdaddymo1 said, “10yrs ago today, we lost a young and super talented icon, Oladapo Olaitan Olaonipekun, also known as DaGrin. He initiated and paved the way for the street style & sounds you hear today. Rest on King. #Dagrin10yrs #DaGrin.”


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