On Wizkid’s debut album, Superstar, track two was a song titled, ‘No Lele.’ While the percussion gymnastics which began the song stole our hearts before the song even started, his first words were, “Ojuelegba, Shitta, ask your sister, my music travel no visa…”
As the son of Alhaji Balogun, he grew up in the Ojuelegba-Surulere area of Lagos, in Surulere Local Government. That area is known for its low-income feature and inner-city aesthetics, not necessarily about poverty, but an ace dwelling place for the lower middle class Nigerian.
Shitta is one of the most popular places in Surulere and its environment. It’s affectionately called, ‘Small London’ by its dwellers. Hood loyalty is popular amongst artists across the world because where you grew up is definitely a part of your identity and fabric that make you up.
So, when Shoki Shitta, a man who should ordinarily have some loyalty to Wizkid, his hood kin pelted him with heavy words, denounced him as a ‘Shitta person’ and with his chest, and adopted his perennial ‘rival’ Davido as his new star, one knew he had poked Ayamatanga’s bear.
His reason was worse, he was apparently angry that Wizkid gave a non-Shitta person money.
Two days later, a video of him getting on the painful end of some interestingly-paced slaps and beating from a reasonably-sized 2/2 plank at the hands of men, allegedly supervised by (self-) appointed Knight of Wizkid FC, and popular ‘street king,’ Baruwa, whom Wizkid hailed on his song, ‘In My Bed’ surfaced on tabloid-format Instagram-based news platform, Instablog9ja.
The ‘beating session’ was so long, it was chopped down into about six parts. It showed a half-naked Mr. Shoki Shitta in his tattered shirt was rolling in the dirt, screaming for mercy and declaring his undying loyalty to Starboy himself – albeit under a little duress, you might imagine.
One would hardly believe he was the same man confidently talking to the camera only two days prior.
While news that Baruwa has since been arrested has surfaced on the internet, with a chat exchange allegedly between Baruwa and Wizkid now exchanging willing hands, the message was clear; ‘don’t speak ill of Wizkid in any way, lest you become the focal point of Lagos gang violence.’
More importantly, that trap set by Wizkid defenders sometimes expands to include music critics and Journalists who are simply doing their jobs.
When a huge person comes off low-income hoods like that, where major world class success is a distant dream, the achievers of those major successes are treated like gods by the regular people. The loyalty, affection and esteem those dwellers have to their hood get transferred to the achievers of that level of success.
They become a focal point and loyalty binds all of them. In other situations, it’s also about what they can get from those few successes.
Even though he is out of the hood, Wizkid still idolizes and recognizes his roots on smash hits like the ode, ‘Ojuelegba’ and the Runtown feature, ‘Lagos To Kampala.’
Violence in Nigerian music industry
Singers and performing artists are some of the most entitled, self-focused people in the world. In their eyes, they are perfect and beyond criticism, both in music and real life – even when they deserve it.
Violence is now the answer to criticism that can be settled by conversation, realistic acceptance, simply ignoring or all of the above. With the rising whispers of rumoured unwanted elements hanging around Nigerian artists, violence is seeping into the Nigerian music scene.
From a beatdown in Eko Hotel to a brawl in faraway Dubai, it seems our artists are using knuckles to settle their grievances instead of recording beef tracks.
Even worse, in the comments section under the Instablog9ja video of Shoki Shitta’s beating, public figures offered an implicit endorsement to what Baruwa and his merry band of soldier ants did in the name of Wizkid fandom.
To showcase the power of the internet, if a celebrity playfully asks for henchmen on social media, he will get them in numbers.
Even worse, these celebrities lack the understanding that a fan naturally prone to violent outbursts could do anything if he thinks it will get him his fave’s attention and money.
We need to cut the violence
The issue of hood loyalty might be normal, but an endorsement of anything as a norm does not equate rightness. If it’s wrong, it’s wrong. In this case, it’s wrong.
Some bloody rivalries in Hip-Hop from America to Latin America have started over less, even with the rappers ignorant of what their fans were doing to each other.
With the way Shoki Shitta matter is unfolding, the problem of simple ego trips could boil over into full-on beef.
The fact that we implicitly or explicitly endorse violence in music – in any anyway – is disturbing as a way to settle any kinds of disputes. Violence should seriously not be a way to settle dispute.
Violence serves no reasonable purpose either to address disrespect from fans, or to settle differences with other celebrities. Nigerian artists need to realize that in the grand scheme of things, they have the most to lose if the violence escalates.
Being happy at the violence unleashed on anybody – either a critic or a rival – shouldn’t be a part of Nigerian music.
The country is bad enough, the government significantly erodes freedom of speech. Yet, it’s funny how artists who criticize the government for this or that are the same people who endorse violence as the default response to criticism – it’s hypocrisy.
Even when you get disrespected, violence should not be your response. I hope one of them doesn’t become the reason anybody gets killed soon.