Karen Eloke Young encounters a fascinating hip-hop duo, whose brand of the musical genre sparkles with its unique qualities
Note that this is a world brimming with all stereotypes. A meeting with the hip-hop artistes, who call themselves Show Dem Camp, can be likened to the relief a wave of cool breeze brings to a sweltering day.
This fascinating duo, who simply introduced themselves as "Wale Davis a.k.a. Tec" and "Olumide Ayeni a.k.a. Ghost", indisputably embody the promise of resuscitation that the nearly comatose genre of Nigerian hip-hop music sorely needs.
Even their looks tell a different tale from the stereotypical dress code of the average hip-hop artiste. Garbed in plain tees and blue denim, standard-issue apparels like the wife-beater, durag and saggy jeans which have become ubiquitous in hip-hop clothing are nowhere in sight.
The fact that they had no prior knowledge that the interviewwould take place on this day only confirmed the fact that they were really in their elements.
For an apt description of their haunt, the word "chaotic" easily suggested itself - laptops, headphones and connecting wires were strewn everywhere; a fast-paced beat could be heard wafting from one of the speakers in the corner. Were they in the middle of producing a track?
With a smile, Wale, one of the duo explained that they were actually in the process of editing their next music video. A video he said they shot and produced themselves.
Their offer of light refreshment politely declined, the party moved to the living room area to begin the interview.
The first question was one they were obviously used to: why the name "Show Dem Camp"?
"Really it is a name that was given to some of the other crew members, Tolu and Femi before we even became Show Dem Camp as a group," came the response. "We've been doing music for about six to seven years but when we moved back to Nigeria, it was a name that our crew was already known as so we just adapted it to music. Another reason for the name stems from the belief that in Nigeria creative talents and creative arts are not promoted like they should be, so for us it's about showing the world, showing our families, showing ourselves, showing anybody that doubts that you can do what you believe in and have a passion for and be successful at it."
Although their name is not one that will easily ring a bell like other popular Nigerian artistes, Show Dem Camp (also fondly called SDC by fans) is no stranger to the Nigerian rap game. In fact they have been steadily honing their skills for years. In 2011 they released their first album titled "The Dreamer Project", a 20-track album that featured prominent artistes like Nneka, M.I, Poe, Eva, Temi Dollface, Efya, Badman Floss, Lynxxx, and MayD.
SDC described "The Dreamer Project" as a concept album projecting "a statement of empowerment to show people it is alright to dream and to chase those dreams without compromise."
The Project was Show Dem Camp's proof that they were well groomed to take Nigerian rap music to the next level, an actualisation of the dreams and goals that Ghost and Tec have had for a long time.
Worthy of note in this album is their second track titled "Welcome" where SDC gives us a glimpse of skilful "rap and flow". This track has Ghost and Tec schooling the listener, hashing over their journey and struggles both personally and professionally. The track ends with Professor Wole Soyinka's comments on the sad state of the Nigerian tertiary institution. "Your motivations is paper but you swear you're my kinfolk, Na lie/ Because I'm here chasing my dreams and I plan to make it last/Let's get back to the curriculum/homework in particular/Study the greats/ Plagiarism is forbidden brah."
Undeniably their background has played a significant role in shaping what these young men are now all about. Olumide, who said that music has always been a part of his childhood days, also admitted that his love for music influenced his decision to become a rapper.
"I've always loved music so rap has always been a part of me, I didn't always want to do it professionally but a time came when I thought the game needed some life to be added into it and we thought, hey maybe we could provide some of that so we decided to come and do it professionally as well. But more importantly, it's the fact that we love music that influenced our decision to become rappers."
Wale also attested to this and went on to reveal that his father owned a record label back in the days. What is interesting is the fact that he started his music career before he even began to understand the significance of the role that genetics played in shaping his choice of career.
"For me personally there has always been music in my household, my dad had a little record label back then; it was when I started my own musical career that I began to understand the significance that my background played in shaping who I am today. To be honest music is what I love doing more than anything else."
With a strong following here in Nigeria, plus the United States and United Kingdom, these young and fresh lyricists have taken their position in the music industry with the sole intention of projecting a genuine musical message laced with raw yet intelligent beats and lyrical content. Show Dem Camp synchronises Nigerian beats with westernised melodic styles thus concocting a distinctive sound with an extra twist, a sound that makes perfect sense to the multicultural ear.
A twist, which they successfully infused into their new mix tape titled Clone Wars Vol.2 The Subsidy, which dropped last December. Ingrained with superb rhythm, great lyrics and a political undertone this mix tape touches on several issues that the Nigerian society is plagued with today. Olumide explained that they started working on this mix tape during the tumultuous fuel subsidy period and they felt they could use their music to send a message to Nigerians all over the world.
"Our message touches on the general struggle of Nigerians, the whole point of hip-hop is to raise the consciousness of people and that's what this subsidy mix tape tried to bring out," he said. "Funny enough nobody actually comments on the comedy in the skits we put into the mix tape because most of the subliminal messages are actually in the skits. It's basically just to raise the consciousness of the people, to let them know exactly what society is doing and what is happening around us. We think that as artistes we have the responsibility to raise social awareness and that is what we try to do with our music."
At this point Wale interjected: "We try as much as possible not to preach to people. So what we do is that we use sometimes humour to get our message across, this is because Nigeria is the sort of place that if you are not able to laugh at yourself you'll probably go mad from all the different stress that you see every day. I think our ability to see the humour in every situation is our gift and our curse. Nigerians are very docile people and I think it is because we are one of the African countries that independence was basically handed to, we didn't have to fight too hard for it, so we are not necessarily used to that fight-fight mentality but we try - this is basically our life, it's what we go through everyday so we have to put that in our music."
While these utterances sounded very noble, one would be foolish to ignore the reality of the state of hip-hop music in Nigeria. A reality that raises the poignant question "is hip-hop music in Nigeria a dying art?"
While Wale and Olumide seemed to be holding on to the belief that there is hope for the revival of the art of hip-hop in Nigeria, they also admitted that most hip-hop artistes in Nigeria were succumbing to the irresistible allure of popular music.
"Nigeria especially is a difficult market for hip-hop music because there really are no genres, everyone wants to listen to popular music in parties and in the clubs so artistes with the talent to do hip-hop would rather do music that they feel will sell. Sometimes months or even years go by were you don't hear anything that inspires you in hip-hop but there are a few people in the industry who are trying hard to push it, to keep it alive. People like Mode9, MI and others have been trying to keep the hip-hop flag flying and their efforts are commendable."
Despite this verdict one can only hope that Show Dem Camp and other like MCs will continue to fan the flames that keep the fire of Nigerian hip-hop burning. They seem to be up to the task as they revealed that regardless of the fact that their last mix tape was barely two months old they had already started working on some new material.
"We have a new single that is about to come out, it's called 'feel alright', it's with a guy called BOJ who is from DRB. It's a different sound; we always try to do something different from everything else we've done in the past. We've also decided to do videos for Clone Wars Vol.2 The Subsidy; we are going to shoot a short movie around the mix tape because we feel that there are a lot of different messages that we can send visually. We have new material ready to go for the entire year. Last year we didn't really put out much in terms of material so this year we want to rectify that and keep putting stuff out there. And we also have some international things that we are working on as well, that Lord willing will come to fruition very soon."
Without a doubt Show Dem Camp is intent on showing Nigeria, Africa and eventually the world that something exceptional can arise from this part of the continent and in their determined struggle to bring this dream to reality, one can only pray the god of fortune deals them a good hand.