The Sun And Moon Of Nigeria’s Street Hop


January 30th, 2024

In Africa, we say that time is a good storyteller. It reveals the true nature of opportunities and the stories they create.

It’s December 22, 2 a.m. in Lagos, the city is alive. I am trying to get an Uber home but the ridiculous surge keeps me at the bar, ‘let’s wait 15 mins more, the surge price will be more reasonable by then.’ I say to my friends with the hope that my positivity would rub off on them .

Despite the Bar being closed, there are still people there. Just like me, I assume, we are waiting for better prices so we can all call it a night.

Someone starts playing music and soon enough we all start nodding our heads. In unison we chant “Worldwide Plutomainians, that na normal thing” The air is now buzzing with energy. Someone yelled __“Clear road for Shallipopi!'' at their phone screen, another uttered __“I wan party, where I fit party?” with his hands and imitating Shallipopi’s “small body, big engine” dance move.

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He says “Landmark abi?, e no far, make we go there, I no fit go house with this kind energy”, they look to me to see if I would join them, I give them the __“I can’t” look and they order their Uber, they are no longer worried about the price, they were going to have the time of their lives.

They played Shallipopi’s hit “Cast” again and with every verse, they sang along with more vim. I watched in awe as someone who was unwilling to spend a high amount to go home and barely had any energy, got excited, and sang along to “Cast”.  He had found the energy to party and was ready to spend more on Uber for that to happen. 

My friends knew why I was staring,  They are too real, they get yarns for mouth, Whenever I hear ODUMODUBLVCK, I dey get ginger to face work, you know how work be na? You need ginger!” They explain as “WOTOWOTO SEASONiNG” plays in the background before they erupt into another karaoke session. “Shallipopi dey make me happy, he no like stress, when i hear e song, i just dey happy, and you know sey for Lagos, you gats dey happy or else you go frustrate.” 

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Every year, Nigerian mainstream music delivers a new set of breakout stars. Despite the frequency of new stars rocketing to commercial success, it's a remarkable accomplishment for two artists to develop a unique musical identity shortly after gaining wider public recognition.

“I mount Elon Musk till the kingdom come” Shallipopi, born Crown Uzama, sings on his 2023 Q1 hit single “Elon Musk,”  The song features a unique style of street-hop music that first came to light through his freestyles. He uses a speech-like delivery that combines with the phonology of Edo state street language to create a song driven by speaker rattling Amapiano Log drum. 

Street hip-hop in Nigeria emerged in the 90s, inspired by the galala sound from Ajegunle and the ascent of Fuji music into the mainstream. Nigerian street culture was more of a celebration of the resilience, creativity, and diversity of the people from the inner cities. Street hip-hop carries the sonics and spirit of the street hence it defies language and geographical barriers to connect with the listeners whose realities it conveys. 

To understand the excitement behind Shallipopi’s music, you must examine the man behind the music, the hitmaker whose music ruled 2023.

In an interview on Osikoya Speaks, Shallipopi mentioned he started making music in 2016, he shares being nervous but overcoming that and being able to record. Haven found some confidence, he dropped two singles  “Gra Gra” and ****“Shaka” that barely made a dent. It clearly wasn’t for lack of talent; a lot of it had to do with his position as a largely unknown Street Hop act from Benin City who was attempting to make a name for himself. 

The groovy mid-tempo “Gra Gra” was released in 2021 while “Shaka” released in 2022, was a bolder attempt at mainstream success. Both records presented Shallipopi as an artist who was on top of social media trends and skilled in combining them with his experience on the street to create music that connects with a budding young demographic. 

In March 2023, Shallipopi struck gold with “Elon Musk”, the song first made waves on TikTok before ending up on streaming platforms. In an interview on Zero Terms & Conditions, he recalls uploading the freestyle to Tik Tok and receiving positive feedback that encouraged him to finish the song. He finished the record and played it for his neighbours in Auchi Edo state who motivated him to upload the record.

With TikTok being the chief propeller, ‘Elon Musk’ gained attention that crossed over to streaming platforms. In search of mainstream success, he left  Auchi for Lagos. He got to stay with friends with whom he continued chasing his dream and just when things were beginning to look up with ‘Elon Musk’ growing in commercial success, a failure to clear the song with the South African producer behind it led to a take down on streaming platforms. 

According to Shallipopi, he reached out to the producer whose team requested a higher fee and percentage. Being an independent emerging artist, he knew he couldn’t match their terms, so he reached out to his producer “Busy Pluto” to recreate the production. Shallipopi reuploaded the record and it picked up from where it left off. 

With “Elon Musk”, Shallipopi scored a massive which invariably got him the attention of the street who were keen to see if he could repeat the feat or peter out as a one hit wonder. Shallipopi’s response was “Shapiru which made it a second successive hit and the start of a formidable partnership with producer Busy Pluto. 

Although the release was met with raised eyebrows over the similarity in production, Shallipopi will not be deterred. He had found a winning formula and he intended to stick with it.  

For every success experienced, Shallipopi faced new limitations, shortly after “Shapiru” He had an encounter with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) over allegations of fraud that led to his brief detention in Kaduna. Speculations made rounds via social media where there were conversations about his music glorifying fraud and cultism with lines like “Inside that your evian, another evian dey inside”. There were commentaries about how art imitates reality and Shallipopi’s music is a documentation of his reality. 

As the conversations continued, Shallipopi was released from detention, and like other artists before him that had an encounter with law enforcement, his next release “Ex-Convict” was inspired by this encounter and the result was his first No 1 on the NG Apple Music Chart and a co-sign from Wizkid.

Piggybacking off these successes and doing it independently, Shallipopi joined forces with Dapper who has made a name for himself as the label of choice for street acts. When asked why he signed with Dapper, he explained “I signed with Dapper because Dapper sees what is in you, he said because of ‘Shapiru’, that’s why he was going to give me a deal…Because I know Dapper can take me to another level… and the thing was that Zlatan called him, I trust Zlatan that this guy no go do me wicked.” 

Zlatan was one of the few artists that had responded to him via IG DMs when he released “Elon Musk”, He also invited him to his studio for the Elon Musk (Remix)” and that’s where he met Dapper.

Shallipopi understands the value of time and seizing the opportunities it brings. He released his debut EP ‘Planet Pluto’. With just six songs which totalled under 21 minutes, that debut EP showcased his uniqueness and restated his making status even while he broadened the sonics of Nigerian street music by incorporating his Bini heritage.

With his smash hit “Obapluto” leading the way, Shallipopi was on a fast lane to commercial success yet he would meet a familiar stumbling block in the form of copyright infringement allegations over his failure to receive the permission of Pa Monday Egogabisi in sampling his classic. With a management in place, the issue was swiftly resolved and Shallipopi moved on to churning out the double “Things On Things” and “Oscroh (Pepperline)”   __ahead of the release of his debut album. 

When Shallopopi released his debut album ‘Presido La Pluto’ it served as a celebration of his rise and a crowning moment for the man from Edo State who brought his flavour to Nigerian music without caring for the standards of purists and elitists. 

Shallipopi has attained life changing commercial success but contrary to what his 2023 run suggests, his success didn’t happen overnight. Shallipopi's journey to his current position spanned seven years. 2023 rocketed him to a point where his dreams become reality and his story an inspiration for others to dream. 

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What sets ODUMODU apart is his unwavering self-belief and authenticity. He says it as he sees it without caring whose Ox is gored. 

Born Tochukwu Gbubemi Ojogwu, his music carries street elements combined with an infusion of Nigerian indigenous Igbo music genres like Highlife & Ogene which he combines to form his own sound he calls “okporoko music”. What gave his music a distinctive flavour is his aggressive masculine delivery that burst out through his swaggering braggadocio. Like the Biblical character John the Baptist who said, 'The kingdom of God suffers violence, and violence taketh it by force,’ ODUMODUBLVCK grabbed the industry by the scruff of its neck with no intention of letting go.

From 2017 till 2020, He released 4 projects To All Blvcksheep T.A.B.S’, ‘Anti-World Gangstars’,The Trenches EP’, and ‘TaDE: The Afro Drill Experiment’.

He moved with the audacity of a superstar, his words revered as the truth and with each release there was an elevated hunger, confidence and desire to break through. His stories were the reality of many, from police encounters to pursuit of success, his rap despite the foreign influences was heavily domesticated.

By his fifth project Time & Chance EP’. He applied melodic and groovy elements that complemented his baritone, his accent enhanced his appeal to a larger audience, all the while preserving his ties to his Abuja community. Showcasing a knack for crafting songs that blur the lines between rap and street music, with his lamba (Nigerian colloquial street language) serving as a bridge between both worlds.

His music emitted a distinctive aura, the kind that captivates and immerses you in his emotions. He articulated inner desires that symbolises something profound for people and encouraged them to connect with their emotions—whether anger, energy, or frustrations. ODUMODUBLVCK evoked rawness and sharpness, and these qualities rubbed off on his ever-growing audience.

ODUMODUBLVCK is a man on a mission, with every release, he gives the impression that something is coming.  In 2021, he released Time & Chance Deluxe’, a 3-track EP Eye Don Red’, and the album Odiegwu’.

Odiegwu’ cover art features ODUMODUBLVCK seated in Igbo attire, giving off the resonance of a Nollywood movie.  That intent enters the sound, right from the first record ‘Odiegwu’. 

Cut from the same cloth as Eedris Abdulkareem, Erigga and Mr Raw, ODUMODUBLVCK rings the listener in by using words that would capture their attention —“fortify my spirit, with agbo and dongoyaro, Defend my soul, Celestine Babayaro”. 

ODUMODUBLVCK possesses a strong will, standing firm for his beliefs and challenging societal oppression. One example was during his brief time at Bowen University. 

Recounting the incident, he says; “They asked me to kneel down, can you imagine? Just because I was late for chapel.” He further explains, “They threatened to call my mother, and I told them to go ahead because I didn't want to stay in the school.”  Consequently, he withdrew from Bowen and continued his tertiary education at the University of Lagos (UNILAG).

In an interview with Zero Terms and Conditions, ODUMODU shared that he had a plan to take over the music industry. “I had a plan that my mother would know that I am doing music, then my gateman, then his children…then the whole state.”

After conquering the Federal Capital Territory, he set his eyes on conquering Lagos, Nigeria’s entertainment and economic capital from where Nigerian culture is exported to a global audience. In pursuit of his ambitions, he appeared on Alpha Ojini's Vigilante Bop ****and Psycho YP's Bando Diaries”.

While his impactful performance on Bando Diaries served as an introduction to a larger audience, it’s the decisive presence of Zlatan, on PICANTO that rocketed ODUMODUBLVCK’s to mainstream success. After collaborating with Zlatan, doors began to open and more listeners began to come into the fold. The man from Abuja inked a deal with Native Records which had a partnership with Def Jam.

2023 was going to be his year. ODUMODUBLVCK knew this and made sure to tell everyone who cared to listen. In an interview with Pulse Nigeria, he boasted about his plan, announced that he’s coming with full force, and his impact will be felt as he puts his beloved Abuja on the map. In the coming months, he would achieve everything he said. 

ODUMODUBLVCK’s walk to stardom gained a major boost when he released his smash hit single  “DECLAN RICE. At its debut, the song secured the No. 8 position, signifying the rapper's first inclusion in the TurnTable Top 10.

This gained him co-signs from Skepta, Wizkid, Adekunle Gold, the West Ham football team, and defensive midfielder Declan Rice who rocketed to success winning West Ham’s first trophy in decades while ODUMODUBLVCK picked up the Headies Award for Best Rap Song.

Continuing his impressive streak, ODUMODU collaborated with Cruel Santino and Bella Shmurda for DOG EAT DOG II, __ a video that evokes old Nollywood vibes. He teams up with Fireboy DML  for FIREGUN, a hip hop and R&B fusion.

While ODUMODU enjoyed a successful run, it reached new heights when Arsenal recruited him to recreate ‘DECLAN RICE’ for the announcement record for the footballer's record-breaking move from West Ham. By the third quarter, ODUMODUBLVCK was a full blown star and his verse was in hot demand. He collaborated on Ndi Ike with Falz, Oganigwe with Zlatan, and “Welcome 2 My Strip” with Unknown T.

With his music dominating the scene and co-signs from home and abroad, ODUMODUBLVCK prepared for the release of his first mainstream project. 

It is often said that luck is when your opportunity aligns with your preparation. On 'EZIOKWU,' ODUMODU was thoroughly prepared. He navigated with the finesse of an established artist, the featured acts delivered flawlessly, and the production harmonised with his energy. This success was a result of dedication and self-motivation. Notably, he secured the No. 1 album in Nigeria (confirmed by TurnTable Charts). Most importantly, he could proudly claim that he achieved this on their own turf. If you know, you know.

By December, he released EZIOKWU (UNCUT)’, a deluxe mixtape with 7 new songs and over 9 additional collaborations. ODUMODUBLVCK concluded December on a high.

In 2017, ODUMODU asked his friend Agunna how long it would take for him to make it in the industry, receiving a five-year prediction. Although he secured a big break in 2022, real success materialised in 2023. ODUMODU’s self-belief left the world with no option but to believe in him.

Listening to his music, you can spot a compilation of influences, from his Igbo culture to Abuja, Port Harcourt street language and various inspirations. 

As ODUMODUBLVCK was rocketing to success so was Shallipopi. The duo made music with a unique incorporation of Street and cultural elements while also showcasing striking personalities that offered originality. When they joined forces for “Cast”, the result was a hit single that became the subject of a heated social media debate due to ODUMODUBLVCK’s lyrics that were deemed undignifying of the female gender. 

For ODUMODUBLVCK & Shallipopi, 2023 was their year. They held listeners spell bound by an exciting domestication of hip hop that coincided with the genre’s 50th anniversary. 

Their unique identity and daring spirit has brought them much deserved success and it’s this distinction that will keep inspiring them as they continue writing their names in Nigerian music history. 

This cover story is an excerpt from the special artiste-on-artiste interview featuring ODUMODUBLVCK and Shallipopi— you can watch on YouTube here

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