Usually, it is political journalists, commentators and social media thought leaders in third world countries that look over their shoulders for fear of being physically assaulted by the powers that be.
Right now in Nigeria’s entertainment field, music journalists and online commentators have to be security conscious more than ever. Threats to their lives are not coming from Dodan Barracks or a fortress ruled by an iron dictator. They are coming from music stars who have developed egos more fragile than egg shells.
Threats and slaps are now dished out like a skinny black Father Christmas handing out gifts to little kids. Once an influential journalist or social media commentator (with clout) writes or tweets an opinion that runs contrary to the ‘bootlicking’ culture that is prevalent in the music scene, threats of violence or an act of physical assault follow rapidly.
The most recent example of this was when DMW recording artist Peruzzi physically assaulted a Twitter influencer by the name of Pamilerin over certain statements he made online about the popularity and quality of his music. Peruzzi (and his boss Davido) quickly apologized for his actions, but the incident indicates the rising trend of violent culture in Nigerian music.
Contemporarily, music criticism is still new to Nigeria. I remember reading the first album reviews for Nigerian albums in Hip Hop World Magazine circa 2004. Over the years since then, Nigerian artists have reacted to criticisms about their work.
I have been at the forefront of that backlash. My review of D’Prince‘s debut album ‘Frenzy‘ attracted backlash from his label mate Dr Sid. A few years later, my comments about M.I’s third solo album ‘Chairman‘ was met with an emotional response from the rapper which climaxed into arguably the most famous podcast episode in Nigeria.
I get that creatives (artists included) are sensitive about their art. Who isn’t? Nobody likes to be criticized, especially on social media which is a firing range or fertile ground for uninformed opinions. Yet, if a fool says your songs are the worst thing he has heard since fingernails on a chalkboard, you have no right to hit or threaten the person.
I know social media is toxic and a lot of people say mean things just to trigger a reaction, but instead of engaging with someone who is a troll, you have the option to block the person and move on with your life. To degrade yourself by fighting with a pig says a lot about character and discipline.
Over the year, it seems a veil has been pierced and certain Nigerian artists can now reach out to pimp slap or send threatening tweets at individuals who don’t rate their songs. You can ascribe this to the entrance of ‘certain elements’ in the music scene.
Nowadays, the ‘thug’ element is a welcome addition to many studio sessions and cliques. Mix this with fragile inflated egos and what you get is an Asaba Nollywood version of the pre-West-Coast/East Coast days. It would nearly pass as laughable but a discerning mind knows that violence only begets more violence.
Of course, Nigerian senses have been warped and disfigured where we no longer recognize these things as bad but as a superstar flexing on his haters. ‘Keep the same energy’ is what they call out. Cheerleaders of violence call for the heads of people who call out their faves. Toxic fanbases have been created to hound those who criticize their mini-gods.
In my final year at the University of Lagos, a lecturer, Dr Okoye, made a profound statement about creativity and criticism that has always stuck with me. He said you don’t reply criticism with criticism but with a body of work that will crush contrary views about your creativity.
Elevating his statement, I would like to say that instead of slapping people who have negative views about your work, or threatening them with tweets, the best thing to do is use that energy to create a body of work that is timeless and without blemish.
If someone says you haven’t had a hit song this year, the best way to reply is to drop back to back singles to shut the person up. The answer should never to shut the person up with intimidation or violence.
The truth has to be told. The Nigerian media has been lackadaisical in dealing with artists who encourage violent elements in our music scene. When payola and boot licking are the order of the day, not only will crappy songs be forced down our throats, thugs, street urchins and louts can cause mayhem on journalists and music listeners without repercussions.
In saner climes, artists who explicitly encourage intimidation and violence would be blacklisted, but let’s be real here, the piper dictates the tune, and many in our line of job, don’t know the difference between a good song and a ‘lamba’ song boosted by payola.
As long as we allow NURTW rejects who now pose as hangers on to have a say in the music industry, music journalism and influence the opinion of music tastemakers, then we should get ready for a hail of bullets.
Na from clap dance dey start.