. Welcome, Hiphop Head . Log In . Register .


View Larger Map

• Nigeria is located on the west coast of Africa, with an 853-km coastline on the Gulf of Guinea and shared borders with Benin Republic on the west, Chad and Niger to the north, and Cameroon to the east. Its land area is about twice that of California. Geography varies from arid desert in the far north bordering the Sahara, to the lush tropical areas around the Niger Delta in the south.

• With a population of about 150 million, Nigeria is the largest country in Africa and the largest black nation in the world. (That means that one out of every five Africans is Nigerian!) An estimated 70% of Nigerians are under the age of 30.

• Nigeria is also one of the most linguistically diverse countries in the world, with over 500 languages spoken within its borders. English is the official language, used in schools and government offices, but Nigeria also recognizes three dominant languages: Hausa (spoken primarily in the north), Yoruba (spoken mostly in the southwest), and Igbo (spoken in the southeast). Other languages include Ijaw, Ibibio, Tiv, Kanuri, and Efik. The country's unofficial lingua franca is Nigerian Pidgin English.

• About half of Nigerians are Muslims; 40% are Christians, and about 10% practice indigenous religions. However, these indigenous practices are often infused into both Islam and Christianity as well.

Popular music in Nigeria has a reputation for melding local melodies, languages, and polyrhythms with influences from all over the world, including Brazil, Cuba, Niger and the Sahara, Congo, Jamaica, and the US. It is often used to express religious messages, and even hiphop contains a subgenre of gospel rap. Popular music also carries political and social messages: the most famous example is Fela Kuti, the king of Afrobeat, whose inflammatory lyrics (in Nigerian Pidgin) and nontraditional lifestyle endeared him to millions inside and outside Nigeria. Local music, especially in the Hausa north, sometimes addresses a particular political candidate or office holder, or it may exhort the populace to take a particular action. The most widely listened-to music for the past several years has been American-inspired rap and dance hiphop that is based on local beats enhanced with the advent of music production technology. As young Nigerian rappers - who as children idolized American stars like Tupac, KRS-One, Jay-Z, and Nas - are coming of age and have greater access to production equipment, Nigerian rap is becoming increasingly popular.

Timeline Excerpts

1914 Amalgamation: Lord Lugard decides to merge the protectorates of Northern and Southern Nigeria and the colony of Lagos, bringing together two regions with vast cultural differences.

1920's-1940's Growth of highlife and palm-wine music (performed live in bars) in Lagos and other British colonies in West Africa; Babatunde King pioneers a new genre based on palm-wine music called juju, which uses brass instruments, Islamic beats, and Brazilian musical techniques.
1930's British record labels begin to record palm-wine music.

1950's Ghanaian artist E.T. Mensah pioneers highlife music in Nigeria; by the 1970's, it has established its presence in the market thanks to such performers as Bobby Benson and Jim Lawson.

1953 Oil is discovered in Niger Delta. In two decades, it will be the mainstay of Nigeria's economy and government revenue. It will also be the main target of dictators who reappropriate the revenue for their own purposes.

Oct. 1, 1960 Nigeria becomes independent from Great Britain.

1960's Haruna Ishola leads the way in developing apala music, a style associated with Muslim Yorubas in the southwestern part of the country. Apala is characterized by lyrics that are passages from the Qur'an or proverbs. This style provided inspiration for fuji music, another Yoruba style.

1963 First Republic declared, marking the beginning of an ongoing struggle to become a functional, diverse democracy.

1966 First coup, January 15 - General Aguyi-Ironsi, an Igbo from the southeast, takes power and ends the First Republic. Following the coup, the north experiences paroxysms of violence as Igbos are attacked in revenge for the deaths of northern-born Prime Minister Abubakar Tafawa Balewa and Premier of the Northern Region Sir Ahmadu Bello.
The countercoup of July results in Ironsi's death and General Yakubu Gowon taking power. Gowon and his colleagues, all Northerners, returned executive control of the country to the hands of the north. Igbo refugees from the north flood into the southeast.

1967 The Republic of Biafra, declared as an Igbo homeland in the southeastern corner of the country, breaks off from Nigeria, led by Col. Odumegwu Ojukwu.

1967-1970 The Nigerian Civil War pits federal ("Nigerian") forces against the comparatively smaller and less experienced Biafran army. Civilians are harshly affected by the war, and Biafra is not recognized by the international community. Over one million people die of disease and starvation. At one point, traditional Hausa musician Dan Maraya is brought to sing for the federal troops to raise morale. The war ends with a final push by Col. Olusegun Obasanjo, who will later serve as both a military dictator and a civilian president.

1969 Fela Kuti visits the United States and is inspired by the Black Power movement. He returns to Nigeria, forms the band Afrika 70, and sets up a commune in Lagos called the Kalakuta Republic. There he experiments with marijuana and having 27 wives while developing Afrobeat music to be explicitly political. Even his language choice is political - he sings in Nigerian Pidgin to reach uneducated speakers of a variety of languages across West Africa.

1970's Oil boom. Nigeria joins OPEC.

1977 Fela Kuti releases the hit "Zombie," which describes the shortcomings of the Nigerian military.

1977 Nigeria hosts FESTAC, the black arts and culture festival, showcasing its many cultures to the rest of the world as well as its blossoming oil wealth. Fela is at first a member of the organizing committee, but walks out because, ultimately, the events attempt to mask the social injustices Fela's music aims to expose.

1979 Fela Kuti renames his band the Egypt 80 and releases "International Thief-Thief," a 25-minute indictment of then-chief of the ITT telephone company (and later presidential candidate) Moshood K.O. Abiola and former dictator Olusegun Obasanjo.

1980's Hiphop music arrives in Nigeria from the US, beginning with the immense popularity of "Rapper's Delight" by the Sugarhill Gang.

1981 Ron "Ronnie" Ekundayo records the first rap song in Nigeria (and possible all of Africa), "The Way I Feel," a one-hit wonder.

1986 Nigeria surreptitiously joins the Organization of Islamic Conference, outraging Christians throughout the country and leading to violent religious clashes in several cities the following year.

1985- 1993 General Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida (known as IBB, or according to Fela, "I Bad Bad") takes power from the weaker Buhari and promises reform and a return to civilian rule. While it appears, at first, that Babangida is as good as his word, he siphons off oil money into his private accounts and quietly makes opponents "disappear."

1991 Rap trio Emphasis releases the major hit "Big Deal," which for the first time uses Pidgin English in rap and represents the culmination of a decade of experiments by Nigerian artists combining rap with funk, highlife, and disco.

June 12, 1993 After many postponements, free elections are held for the next president of the republic. When it appears that southern businessman M.K.O. Abiola has won, Babangida annuls the election, leading to widespread outrage, especially among Abiola's Yoruba people.

1993 Sani Abacha seizes the government and suspends all politics. The next five years see repression of many rights, including the freedom of the press and virtually all freedom of speech. As Abacha and his wife drain billions of dollars in oil revenues into offshore accounts, the economic and infrastructural progress made in the 1970's slowly unravels.

1994 Junior and Pretty release "Bolanle," a humorous rap in Pidgin English about Junior's attempts to court a pastor's daughter. The song combines Yoruba musical styles and call-and-response chorus with rap.

1995 Ken Saro-Wiwa, an environmental activist and Ogoni national-determinist, is executed by the Abacha regime following his organizing Ogoni youth in the Niger Delta to oppose the damage being done by oil companies like Shell.

1997 Fela Kuti dies of complications due to AIDS. Nigerians everywhere mourn his death, and over one million attend his funeral; his son Femi inherits his legacy as the crown prince of Afrobeat.

1998 In a "coup from heaven," dictator Sani Abacha dies of cardiac arrest. An interim government quickly makes arrangements for elections to hold the following year.

1999 In its first democratic elections since 1978, Nigeria elects former general and former head of state Olusegun Obasanjo as president. Obasanjo promises transparency and a fight against corruption.

1999 The Trybesmen, led by Kaduna native eLDee (Lanre Dabiri), release their first hit singles, "Trybal Marks" and "Shake Bodi." eLDee remains one of Nigeria's best-known rappers. One reviewer writes of the group, "The true talent of the Trybesmen is in their multi-lingual lyrics. Their ability to spit out tongue twisting rhymes in Nigerian Pidgin English, Yoruba, Hausa, Ibo and English is quite astounding. Perhaps even more astounding is their ability to cushion the lyrics with beats that do not alienate the listener, so whether or not you understand what they say, the music gets you. It's the same feeling you get when you listen to Germany's Die Fantastischen Vier, or France's MC Solaar." Danceable beats and language mixing become trademarks of Nigerian hiphop.

2000 In a strategic move, a candidate for the governorship of the northern state of Zamfara promises to enact Shari'a (traditional Islamic) law in his state if elected. He is elected, and following his lead, eleven other northern governors enact Shari'a law. Christians across the north and the Christian Association of Nigeria protest, reminding Obasanjo and the Supreme Court that the 1999 Constitution promises freedom of religion. Shari'a law in northern Nigeria legally applies only to Muslims, and in practice, it disproportionally affects poor, illiterate people, especially women.

2001 Ethno-religious crisis breaks out in Kaduna, the former capital of the northern region and a major center of commerce and ethnic diversity.

2001 The Trybesmen release "Plenty Nonsense," which comments on a number of social ills, including police corruption, the difficulties of obtaining an education, and lack of opportunities for young people.

2002 Kano-born rapper Eedris Abdulkareem makes his debut with the album P.A.S.S. - Pains And Stress = Success. His second album, Mr. Lecturer, released the same year, results in a hit video that highlights problems of sexual harassment in Nigerian universities.

2003 Obasanjo is re-elected president; while no one is surprised, international observers accuse Obasanjo and his People's Democratic Party (PDP) of rigging the elections and intimidating voters.

2007 Umaru Musa Yar'Adua is elected president amid widespread accusations of rigging, ballot box stuffing, and intimidation - but there are few instances of major violence. Sworn in on May 27, Yar'Adua promises to enact his Seven-Point Agenda and unite Nigerians. His taking office marks the first peaceful civilian-to-civilian transfer of power in post-independence Nigeria.

Early 2008 9ice (pronounced "Nice") blows up the hiphop scene with the hit "Gongo Aso," which incorporates a Yoruba proverb into a dance track. The refrain of the song, "Gongo aso kutupu ahu," means "Something great (huge) is coming." 

Summer 2008 Banky W releases the single "Ebute Metta," a remix of Rihanna's "Umbrella." The song shouts out to different cities and states in Nigeria and calls on Nigerians to "get unity."

October 2008 Jos-born rapper MI releases his debut album Talk About It and quickly gains a reputation as Nigeria's Kanye West. Several tracks deal with social issues, from government corruption to prostitution; "Crowd Mentality" is addressed to a pan-African audience and calls on black people to "break free from the crowd mentality, so we can start to build a new reality."

2008 Violence breaks out in Jos, where Hausa non-indigenes are angered over the election of a local government official who is Christian. Over 500 people are killed, and thousands are displaced.

2009 Newly appointed Minister of Information Dora Akunyili announces her "Rebranding Nigeria" initiative, which aims to improve the reputation of Nigeria and its institutions to be more attractive to tourists and international contests like the FIFA World Cup. One of the first changes renames the National Electric Power Authority ("Never Expect Power Anymore") to Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN), quickly adapted by Nigerians to stand for "Please Hold Candles Nigeria." The federal government promises full power supply by the end of the year.

Nov. 2009 President Yar'Adua leaves Nigeria for medical treatment in Saudi Arabia. He does not hand over power to his vice president.

Jan. 1, 2010 Sound Sultan releases "2010 Light Up" ft. MI, a jab at the government which has not delivered the promised 24/7 power supply. "When we ask our government / when dem go give us light / dem say na 2010 / We don dey wait 2010 since then but now the waiting must end / 'cause 2010 don come." The song calls for Nigerians to stand up and unequivocally demand better service from the government.

Jan. 2010 NEXT newspaper reports that the still-absent President Yar'Adua is brain damaged and cannot run the country. With complete silence from the President and the Federal Executive Council since November - and rumors running wild - a political crisis seems imminent. Wole Soyinka and other notable leaders from all over the country form the Save Nigeria Group and lead demonstrations in Abuja and Lagos to protest the ongoing "power vacuum." The Supreme Court rules that Vice President Goodluck Jonathan can exercise all the powers of the President in the latter's absence.

Jan. 29, 2010 Microsoft Internet Safety, Security and Privacy Initiative for Nigeria (MISSPIN) commissions a team of Nigeria's musical stars, including Banky W, MI, Omawumi, and producer Cobhams Asuquo (among others) to release "Maga No Need Pay," which exhorts Nigerian youth to "hustle" legitimately instead of baiting foreigners with email fraud. The song takes a decidedly different tone from Modenine's 2004 "419 State of Mind," which mocks the "magas" (stupid people) who fall for advance fee fraud (419) in the first place.

Back To Africa

Video Clips

Hiphop In Nigeria Documentary

[Visit page to watch the video]

Jay Dizzle - "Reppin' Naija"

MI - "Crowd Mentality"

[Visit page to watch the video]

Banky W - "Ebute Metta"

[Visit page to watch the video]

© The Hiphop Archive | This site is licensed under a Creative Commons License