Open letter to AKON

Dear Akon,

The recent untimely deaths of two legendary African football coaches, in persons of Stephen Keshi & Shuaibu Amodu, got me thinking in terms of living legends who aren’t being celebrated enough.

That brings me to you, Akon. You deserve one or two lifetime achievement awards for what you’ve accomplished musically. Left to me, I’d organise I special award ceremony in your honour today if I could. I don’t even understand why you’ve not gotten multiple Grammys by now. We don’t want no posthumous awards for someone that great & you surely deserve to be celebrated while energetic.

On your song ‘Ghetto’-
The instrumentals got all the brothers reminiscing about the ghettos, made the ‘shawties’ jump in ecstasy, the fishes leaped in the waters, the lions roared for joy in the wild and thunder strikes appeared from the heavens. ‘Ghetto’ changed the way the world listens to music in 2005. Akon, you forever changed our world with your style of singing!

‘Locked Up’ was the ultimate classic hip hop song. That style has become the prototype for every new artist in that genre ever since- from TeeFLii to Bryson Tiller to Tory Lanez.

‘Belly Dancer’ was just out of this world. Nobody had ever anything like that before.

On ‘Lonely’, It’s safe to say I was swept off my feet by the sweet rendition and video. I still remember how me & my high school mates used to imitate some moves from the video. It is in a class of its own and broke new grounds.

The songs, ‘Show Out’, ‘The Rain’, ‘Clap Again’ and ‘Don’t Matter’, are great timeless classics. You have more than 100 classics, I simply can’t mention all…but I’m probably the biggest Akon fan in the world.

I don’t want to wait for the next 20 or 30 years before I express my mind on a musician who has blessed my world with his musical acumen. I don’t want to be passive with my love when I should be loud & clear about it, just as Akon’s divine vocals are.

Lest I forget, thanks again for your charitable endeavors, bringing power to Africa with ‘Lighting Africa’ in 2014.
God bless.

With Love,

Tomiwa Olasiyan.

Bobby Shmurda this, Bobby Shmurda that

In July 2014, when I first saw the video of “Hot Nigga”, the platinum-hit rap single delivered by Bobby Shmurda, my first reaction was that of irritation. Now, my displeasure was not only due to the violent lyrics that kept reverberating but moreso, due to what I saw as basic rap lines. As a youngster in high school, I had penned down lyrics (not carrying violent tones!) of such standard after listening to some DMX album tracks. Who best to judge basic rap lyrics than someone who himself has written them down before? I wanted to be a rapper back then after being inspired listening to DMX, Ja rule and Nas. I wrote down several simple rap lyrics down, copying my mentors in some and original with the rest. Sadly, my older sister got to my rap sheet and tore it, wondering why I’d want to be a hip hop artist. I got discouraged & that was the end of that chapter.

The fact that Bobby Shmurda got that level of fame and whatever achievement (if he had any) was basically due to his place of birth, America. USA is a land of freedom, affluence and prosperity and most of its citizens have learnt to do things ‘the right way’ for the good of their country, unlike any other nation in the world. If anyone is lucky to be born in such a geographical space and possesses even a miniature talent, such is likely to succeed ahead of those with better gifts but unlucky enough to find themselves in politically & economically unstable nations. Bobby Shmurda, real name Ackquille Jean Pollard is of Jamaican descent. He couldn’t have achieved the same level of attention he had garnered even without an EP if he was born in Kingston instead of Miami!

The young Bobby Shmurda was going to “blow off” a crime, violent & gangsterism influenced music career and organized America wasn’t going to let that happen, not from a black man again! They had to stop him. Of course, several other “young black brothas” like Tupac Shakur, Notorious B.I.G, Snoop Dogg etc. had done gangster hip hop before and got away with it for a long time, but not at the level in which Bobby Shmurda conspicuously depicted it. Tupac Shakur was the only act who ever was so ecstatic about it( especially when he created his super-group ‘Outlaw’) and was he not finally murdered in 1996? Maybe Bobby Shmurda should thank God to even be in prison although, his days are numbered. Even Tupac did different times behind the bar before finally taken out of the scene when he refused to change his kind of music. What has America done to unravel the mystery behind Tupac’s death 19 years after? Isn’t it obvious his murder was backed by the state? But Tupac isn’t my topic for today, I want to write just on Shmurda.

Bobby Shmurda, young as he was was a pioneer in his own right. He made popular & maybe even pioneered the rachet-like dance moves which has now been tagged the “shmoney dance” and further popularised on social media when world-acclaimed acts like Rihanna, Chris Brown, Beyonce, Justin Bieber, and Fabulous did it. This is another disadvantage and misuse of the social media. In as much as it has changed some lives positively for life, the social media has the potential to infect the minds of people negatively. A song like ‘hot nigga’ would never be heard outside the recording studio if not for the internet. A song like that wouldn’t have become a hit during the years of the turntable DJs and actual rap battles when you must be highly exceptional to even get a recording contract. Nowadays, labels (Epic records etc.) acquire these rappers like band boys who are just there on the roster for the sake of presence. The world has changed. Much emphasis is now placed on materialism and epicurean values, therefore, ‘rappers’ would say anything to ‘get paid’ & sell a record!

Bobby Shmurda doesn’t appear to me to be the kind of youngster who has the stomach for all the criminal activities he claimed responsibility for in his ‘hot nigga’ lyrics. Some of the other youngsters in the video looked even tougher than he was. Left to me, I’d rehabilitate the boy with a good psychologist and a changed environment. I still believe the bulk of his problem originated from youthful exuberance and bad examples/environment. As I noted earlier, USA is a land of opportunities and this probably makes her citizens heady and crazy, just like the egoistic child of a wealthy tycoon. You dare not release such music Bobby Shmurda was doing if you were in some African countries. This I know. The artist won’t sell a single record and go into obscurity.

Life is based on expression. You have to express yourself whether in writing or by talking. Some people express themselves by drawing pictures. I watched a documentary once of a young boy who was deaf and dumb but this boy was a genius. He could sketch anything out in drawing and painting. Sadly, people like him don’t get to live long but they always leave an indelible mark behind on earth. All life expression is art. Whether you express yourself in talking with any form of language or sign or whether you’re a writer like me. Creative writing, poetry, prose fiction etc. are all artistic endeavors. Apparently, expression is not what really matters as we’ve seen but what is expressed. Everybody always find a way to express themselves, you can’t live life wholly being passive. The dumb use signs and symbols to communicate. Whatever we feel inwardly, think, do, see, experience is what we express outwardly. This brings us to the environment that influenced Bobby Shmurda.

He’s just 21 and he didn’t invent gangsterism, he met it on ground. He isn’t Tookey Williams who founded the Crips gang. He didn’t invent gangster rap, he was influenced by it and decided to tow that line. As I pointed out earlier, I wanted to be like DMX, Ja rule and Nas too. These are gangster/hardcore rappers I was copying so I could have ended up in jail like Bobby Shmurda. Music is so powerful that you could make the mistake of completely following the examples of the artist you idolize irrespective whether he/she is a criminal in real-life. DMX has been to jail severally on different count charges of misdemeanor, assault and battery, felony etc. This was the same guy I was trying to be like? Just because I listened to and love some of his rap songs such as ‘Make a move’, ‘One more road to cross’, both in the 1999 Grammy-nominated album “And then there was…X”. Ja rule has done time in jail too. Now, I’d later become a lawyer because I had a sister who didn’t give a nod to my rap choice. Because she tore my note, I got discouraged and pursued my academics. That was the difference. Between good and evil, its a thin line which could be crossed over very easily. Nobody was born bad although, its not easy to prove if anybody was born good either.

I saw a picture of one of the many Bobby Shmurda court proceedings early in the year and my convictions were further strengthened. The attorney defending him was a young black man, the policeman in the picture was also black American while Shmurda was being docked for several offences ranging from arms possession to intent to commit murder. There were three black men, two chose to uphold the law of the land while one chose to wholly decimate law and order. Life is a choice after-all and your background should never deter you from greatness. Bobby Shmurda could have influenced thousands of teenagers worldwide wrongly if he got away with his public affront. He was going about his business as a budding gangster with all impunity, making gang signs in videos, shooting guns (in Bobby Bitch video) and living recklessly. The state had to stop him.

His record label, Epic records has distanced itself as much as possible from the controversy. Epic records is a subsidiary of Sony Entertainment. Well, I’m not suprised to see their interested detachment from Shmurda’s case, knowing fully well the role Sony Entertainment company played in the Michael Jackson saga. Thus, Epic has refused to pay the $2million bail bond to free him. What I’m so surprised about is how Bobby Shmurda, with all the swagger and arrogance, couldn’t come forth with the money & free himself when he had the opportunity. This speaks a lot about the fake life most of these ‘stars’ depict publicly. To get the bail doesn’t look so easy now and as of Monday, he was denied bail for the umpteenth time. He’s looking at a possible 25 years behind bars. Seeing how most people become hardened by their prison terms especially black men in America (see Jeff Fort, Nicky Barnes, Freeway Ricky Ross etc.), we can only hope he comes back a reformed man.

Kindly follow me on twitter @tom_olas