Tuesday, October 12, 2010


For the sake of the public, it is important to note that for EVERY competition; official or otherwise, there are rules; written or unwritten and the battle is no exception. Even the world has unwritten rules, else it would all be chaos.

Now first all, before we go any deeper it is important to recognize and applaud the fact that whatever his reasons were 9ice went on record to take things further, just as it is important to recognize the fact that whatever his reasons were, Ruggedman responded. It is considered ‘unhiphop’ to ignore a diss record, except you’re bigger than the art (as in cases of players like Jay-Z & P. Diddy for example). Now let us proceed.

If you’re going to battle someone it was be clear from the get go that every part of your armaments must be on point. You don’t go for war wearing an agbada/dashiki; you go loaded for bear! As a result, on production/choice of beats, the 9ice camp wins hands down. The ‘Talk I Am Listening’ beat sounds like ‘Ether’…a rousing beat, heavy horns interjected with the sound of a bottle breaking. The ‘9ice The Ingrate’ beat on the other hand sounds like a party/club joint; one of those ‘dance tracks’ Ruggedman is so famous for. Trying to kill two birds (battle and make people dance) with one stone does not always work, as Rugged should have learned on that his 'Banging' track. And besides, the beat sounds curiously like the beat of that old diss record from Ruggedman himself; ‘Big Bros’. What happened? Did they run out of producers?

Another minus for the Ingrate track is the fact that Chinaydu sounds muffled and unclear; in other words it would be difficult for a layman to hear or make sense of what he is saying. Add that to the fact that Seriki spits in Yoruba, and that he states his case clearly and succinctly in a verse of 16bars while it takes Chinaydu three verses to get it all off his chest, it’s clear who the mass appeal is with.

The first thing to know about a battle is; no matter how dirty it gets it should be kept clean i.e., it is between the contenders, no family members or friends are normally mentioned or brought in play unless it is done in a way to cast the opponent in a bad light (listen to Canibus’ LL Cool J battle track, Second Round Knockout). Such a thing could have far reaching consequences, e.g. Eminem getting involved in the G-Unit/Murder Inc. beef because Ja Rule mentioned his daughter Hallie’s name on a record (‘your mother’s a crackhead/your wife is a nut/what do you think Hallie’s gonna be/when she grows up?’), or Jay-Z’s mum telling him to apologise to Nas for bringing up his baby mama’s name in a disrespectful manner, even though he had an affair with her, thereby embarrassing himself. Even some freestyle battles even have rules of no cursing; in other words, you use foul language you’re disqualified and the other guy wins by default.

Therefore, it must be said that Chinaydu’s repeated hammering of Toni Payne and Zion (9ice’s estranged wife and son respectively) is in bad taste. For the record, 9ice did not say anything disrespectful about Rugged BEFORE he leaked their phone conversation, and despite all her constant Facebook and now tweet rants; he never bothered to respond to Toni either. So one must wonder; is the Ruggedy camp trying to curry favor from Toni and her son?

Unfortunately Chinaydu does not stop there. He also goes as far as suggesting that 9ice’s mum abandoned him when he was just eight months old and his father sent him off to leave with his grandma because he suspected her of infidelity. That was obviously in response to 9ice’s calling Ruggedman a bastard on the outro of the ‘Talk I am Listening’ record, so maybe all’s fair in love and war, but to actually mention his father, mother and grandma…is taking it too far. Even MODE9, in his lyrical assassination of Rugged never mentioned his (Rugged’s) parentage or family ties.

Another thing about battles is facts; you JUST HAVE TO GET YOUR FACTS RIGHT. On the opening bars of his verse, Seriki spits ‘Seriki bu Rugged/e le ni pe ko nice/awon kan lo oun na bo/to fi rise/I’m a gentleman/I’m a gangster/I no be Ruggedman/wey dey straff im dancers/’ meaning ‘Seriki disses Rugged/you might think it’s not nice/he also dissed some people to rise/I’m a gentleman/I’m a gangster/I am not Ruggedman/who sleeps with his dancers/’, alluding to the aforementioned ‘Ehen’ track that unquestionably shot Ruggedman to fame, and his reputation for sleeping with his dancers.
Even Chinaydu agrees with the statement, shown in his spitting in response ‘Rugged straffs dancers/perhaps/but im na single chap/you try am too/your marriage collapse/’. Maybe Rugged’s affairs with his dancers are not a big deal as Chinaydu says, but he's supposed to be a professional. And besides, could anyone tell me, on or off record, where they heard Toni Payne accuse 9ice of infidelity?

Before that, Chinaydu states ‘Hey 9ice, you must be out of your mind to think Ruggedy baba, the man that brought you up in this industry would stoop low to exchange childish words with you. For what? Stop being a coward. Say what your problem is or shut up. Face your music, try and fix your broken marriage.’

Hm. I know of no record, private or otherwise, that says that 9ice owes his meteoric rise in the music industry to Ruggedman, neither would I go as far as to call 9ice (who actually spoke on his diss record for Ruggedman as opposed to Rugged who did not say a word) a coward. And why would 9ice want to fix his former marriage when he moved for separation? Bad advice.

On the other hand, it is common knowledge that Ruggedman’s arguably largest hit record, Ruggedy Baba owes its success to the presence of 9ice on the hook, the same way it is common knowledge that for someone who champions rapping in the mother tongue, Ruggedman hardly does it but for a smattering of pidgin every now and then in his lyrics, and since when did pidgin English become ‘the mother tongue’?

Anyways, Seriki mentions this in the lines ‘kilode to bite/finger to feed e/the same person/to bless beat e/eni tio je oun lo tun ko chorus hit e.’ meaning ‘why did you bite the finger that fed you/the same person/who blessed your beat/and also sang the chorus to your hit/’. Now, that’s on point.

No to sound like a hater; Chinaydu does have his points as well. On the third and fourth bars of the second verse he spits, ‘your so-called street credibility’s a scam/you used up all the Yoruba adages you can/’. That remains to be seen, as the Tradition album does sound like 9ice was trying hard to put down those lyrics that had us feening for Gongo Aso. Chinaydu goes on to lash out; ‘you couldn’t spell your name right/you need to get a life/you couldn’t keep it tight/you couldn’t even keep your wife’/ alluding to the fact that the ‘9ice’ name should actually be pronounced ‘N-I-N-E-I-C-E’ and not ‘N-I-C-E’, and the ‘couldn’t keep it tight’ probably refers to the fact that there would indeed seem to be a steady decline in the quality of 9ice’s music. But the last line ‘you couldn’t even keep your wife’ spoils everything, in that 9ice allegedly asked to be free from the marriage, so why would he want to keep his wife?

Finally Chinaydu; in a direct response to 9ice asking about T-Boy, an artist(?) who was with Ruggedman back in the day; asks; ‘where is Cabasa? Where is Ajasa? Jahbless? 2Phat?’ and other members of the Coded Tunes clique after saying at the beginning all those guys had been used and dumped by 9ice. Cabasa still handled the bulk of the production on ‘Tradition’; he sang the hook to Ajasa's largest hit till date; Le Fe Nu So; worked on a song with 2phat (unconfirmed), so what does Chinaydu mean with ‘used and dumped’?

I have to admit though, I like the ending. After Chinaydu’s rant, a comical voice comes on and sings ‘Abolore my son/I sent you to school/you don’t know how to spell your name/’ That one had me in stitches for minutes, because as mentioned above, NICE is not spelt ‘9ice’. That’s NINE-ICE.

And the end of the day, it’s still clear who is on top of the verbal battle so far. Streets cannot wait for the ‘Alapomeji’ response…and one wonders, with the Ruggedy camp seemingly having used up all their ammo in their first salvo and still coming short despite all that, what will they do when the Alapomeji general decides to respond?

Time will tell.

Monday, October 4, 2010



One element that can never be taken away from rap; Hip Hop music is the battle. This is the part of the art in which an emcee (or a dj or b boy or graffiti artist/bomber for that matter) steps up and goes against a worthy or not-so-worthy opponent for respect and; as in the case of smarter artists like Jay-Z and Nas; for the art and the cash.

There have been several battles/beefs in rap, most of which ended well (Kool Mo Dee vs. Love Bug Starsky, KRS One vs. Nelly, D. Block vs. G-Unit and most notably Nas vs. Jay-Z), but about a handful that ended tragically. The Pac/Biggie beef most readily comes to mind, but battling is something that true rap fans enjoy not only because it allows them confirm the validity and street credibility of their favorite artists, it also allows for good music to enjoy. Therefore, thanks to a constant competing environment (every rapper is the best dead or alive), there’s hardly a time in the culture with a lack of active competition.

Hip Hop, as we all know (or should know) has a far reaching influence, and Nigeria has not escaped the clutches of this culture. Hip Hop is so powerful that even acts who do not know or have any idea of what genre their music falls into hide under the Hip Hop umbrella (D’Banj, 9ice, Tuface, Sid/D’Prince of Mo’ Hits to name a few), and of course there’s hardly a place on this planet where emcees/rappers can co-exist peacefully. Too many egos at play, too many so-called reputations to protect. As so therefore, here comes the battle thing again.

Quite a number of battles tracks/diss records/beefs have also been recorded in the Hip Hop community in Nigeria. From arguably the most popular of all time; the Ruggedman track, Ehen featuring Nomoreloss which had Rugged going against a third of the Nigerian music industry and the most popular artists of that time, to Big Bros that had the same Ruggedman going at Kenny & D1 who were like the Diddys of music in Nigeria; to lesser known ones like For Free, a scathing record from the Kalifate going at Freestyle for selling a beat to two different artists; the Kalifate & Too Short; from Iceberg Slim going at M.I to Ghetto P going at Mode9 to Mode’s (unconfirmed) response; Warning…and the list goes on.

One of the most disappointing has to be the battle/beef between Mode9 and Ruggedman. It was disappointing in that fans were hoping to at least get some great music from two of rap’s vanguard in Nigeria but alas; only one side of the verbal war passed muster. With scathing tracks like ‘Talking to You’, ‘Deathblow’ parts 1 & 2; it was pretty clear who the winner was. There was an attempt by the opposite to respond, but it was a lame one in that in a battle, no one scores points by bragging about being richer. You might talk about selling more records, but that (if mentioned at all) is usually to prove that you have more credibility than the other guy. Check Jay-Z’s Takeover. So the ‘Banging’ track sailed over heads; core Hip Hop fans and mere listeners alike. But before long, one of the contesters would be involved in a more famous battle of words.

It probably began a long time before now, with an undercurrent of veiled threats and subtle disparaging, but what the general public knows is this: on 9ice’s third album there is track titled ‘Once Bitten, Twice Shy’ on which the Alapomeji boss sings about a trifling partner. Before long, the rumors started flying around that said song was about Toni Payne; 9ice’s then-wife & mother of his son, Zion. Before the album dropped, to further attach credence to the infidelity rumors, 9ice and Toni walked the oft-tread path of separation. That was the spark that was needed to ignite the entire forest.

I cannot say categorically when or how Ruggedman (real name Michael Ugochukwu Stephens) came to be involved in it, but the gist started doing the rounds that the ‘friend’ 9ice had mentioned on the above track was Ruggedy. And then, the entire thing moved to Facebook where, via status updates Toni allegedly insulted her estranged hubby repeatedly and Rugged asked 9ice to say something to clear the air, urging him to think about his son and such and such. Apparently, not too encouraged by 9ice’s silence, he placed a phone call to 9ice and asked him to call a press conference to clarify who exactly the ‘mysterious friend’ was, despite the latter’s reportedly repeated stating that the song was not about him (Rugged). This obviously was not enough for the man, whose persistence at asking 9ice to clear his name had begun to raise eyebrows.

Things apparently came to a head when Ruggedman, probably feeling burdened (for a very unclear reason) decided to release what was supposed to be a phone conversation between friends to the press, probably to clear his name. Unconfirmed rumors (given credence by the fact that 9ice had not spoken in public against Rugged before then) say that was the move that ticked 9ice off, and the man born Abolore Akande, true Hip Hop style (note; 9ice is Hip Hop as in culture wise but does NOT do Hip Hop music which is rap) took to wax to air out his aggression via Seriki; a professional beginner in popular rap circles on ‘Talk I Am Listening’, a two minutes ten seconds long track.

Things were tense, because on the above track 9ice had bragged about releasing the full version of the track on Ruggedman’s birthday; September 20 (the track had hit the internet a week before) and people wanted to know what the baba would do. Would he take this lying down? If so, it would be another nail in his coffin; 9ice being the hammer, Seriki being the nail.

And then, roughly two weeks later the Ruggedman camp responded via a young cat named Chinaydu on a track called ‘9ice the Ingrate’, a four-minute sixteen seconds long track containing a lot of verbal venom (note: I said verbal not lyrical). The airwaves began buzzing again; what would the self-styled Bashorun Gaa do next? But, even as the issue was being thrown back and forth, there was a subtle undercurrent of feeling; a deeper discussion going on. Now that the first round is over; shots had been fired by both camps, points were supposed to be awarded. Who is leading so far?

To be continued next week