The Nigerian music industry is one of the most interesting entertainment sectors in the world. A key exponent of this system is its diversity, which is as a result of the multiplicity of certain elements present in our music, including the language and style involved in its creation. This style includes a host of genres like Fuji, Apala, R&B, highlife, hip-hop, amongst others. To the western world and to a large extent on a global scale, these genres are merged as one, and referred to as afrobeats.
Nigeria as a country is plagued with divisions ranging from economic to political, religious, ethnic and a host of others. Therefore, there is a strong probability of people supporting ‘their own’, which means giving allegiance to those who they feel share the same fate with them. In the Nigerian music industry, we have several artists who as a result of the stereotypical division present in the minds of listeners, fall into these seeming distinctions. Hence, there is the supposedly chaotic distinction of ‘Trust fund artists’ and ‘Street artists’. The former being those who the listeners think are from well-to-do families, and the latter as those with humble backgrounds.
It must be noted once again that generally, the majority of Nigerians thrive on emotional attachment to those who they either see themselves in, or those who they feel once shared the same fate with them, and have now emerged successful. This gives them some level of hope and belief that they too, can attain that height. Some of the artists that have shown this capability include Wizkid, Olamide, Zlatan, Phyno, Reminisce, amongst others, who were from some of the worst backgrounds, go on to become global superstars.
Away from the default sentimental leverage bestowed upon street artists by a greater bulk of the population, is the fact that over the years, street artists have been known to take advantage of whatever opportunity is given to them, by channeling their effort towards ensuring they come out successful. This is majorly driven by the desire to not go back to where they came from, and a strong yearning for a better life. Several examples of these abound in artists like Bella Shmurda, Omah lay, Asake, Seyi Vibez, Odumodublvck, Shallipopi and more.
Another reason street artists seem to be the next best thing, is in how they bring with them at every point, a fresh version of sound, energy or the staple lingua which serves as a proper representation of their background. For instance, in the 2010s, the slangs that became widely used at different times in the country, came as a result of street artists using them in their songs. A big propounder of these slangs was Olamide. He had a way of infusing these slangs in his songs, and with the constant inclusion of these slangs, they stuck in the minds of the audience, which created a stronger sense of bond and representation for not just the community he was raised, but for others who found these slangs as interesting buzzwords. This contributed to his career advancement and increased his listenership.
An essential element which also contributes to why Street artists will always be at the fore, is their commercial potential. Street artists tend to have a lot of loyalty, with a huge chunk of that, from their hood. This becomes evident when they host street concerts with hundreds of fans gathered in excitement. It is also seen in the metrics of free streaming platforms like Audiomack, whose users are mostly those who lack the financial capacity to pay a monthly premium for other Digital service providers. Hence, when you take a good look at Seyi Vibez, who in the early parts of 2023, according to Turntable Charts, recorded a total of 1,000,000,000(One billion) account plays on his audiomack profile and a total of 680 million streams, you will clearly see how much commercial value he wields as a street artist. With this level of reach, mainstream artists see some of these street artists as the right bet to promote their songs to a wider audience, which has created some of the best collaborations ever. Some of which include Cruel Santino‘s collaboration with S-smart on FTR, Burna Boy ft. Seyi Vibez on Giza and Davido ft. Asake on No Competition.
On a final note, it is important to know that street artists will always be here. Everyday, new artists come into the music scene for different reasons, with a large number of them from the streets. Each of them with a strong desire to change the course of their lives and those of their dependents, coupled with outrageous support from their community. As a result, these artists tend to have a stronger lasting potential than others, gain a higher level of attention, and continue to thrive.