Throughout different eras of Afrobeats, there have been artists whose talent is forged by the reality of the street. These artists make music whose components be it in language, delivery, and production convey the bubbling spirit, electrifying passion, coarse leanings, and underlying stories of inner city realities.
By Street hit we aren’t referring to Nigerian mainstream (Pop, Hip Hop, Gospel, Indigenous) songs with street acceptance and popularity. Instead, we are referring to the type of music that came out of the inner city and was sonically different from Western music-influenced Pop music.
Street music refers to Konto, the hybrid of Dancehall and Indigenous music (Highlife, Ogele, and Local groove music) that came out of Ajegunle in Lagos State and influenced other creative locales.
Street Music refers to the blend of Indigenous music (Fuji, Apala, Highlife), with Gospel music, and Hip Hop.
The underlying factor of street music is the use of street language (lamba), the addition of notable local elements, and a style that while similar doesn’t conform to the pattern of Western mainstream imports like Hip Hop, R&B, and Pop music.
The above is what we mean when we say Street music.
These Street acts have contributed a huge part to the commercial success of Afrobeats through timeless hit songs that swept across different parts of the country. Years after their release, these songs offer an insight into the evolution of Nigerian music while also serving as evergreen party-starters.
Here are 10 unforgettable street songs
Tony Teitulla – ‘My Car’ (2001)
Released in 2001 by the blonde headed star who was one of the pioneers of what would become Afrobeats, ‘My Car’ is a comical narration of Teitula’s struggles in the exhausting rush of Lagos life. The line “You don hit my car, Oyinbo repete,” essentially became part of the street lexicon as the song swept across the country.
Dando Driver – ‘Danfo Driver’ (2003)
Perhaps no act in the history of Afrobeats has effortlessly and naturally captured the spirit of the Street as the duo Mad Melon & Mountain Black.
‘Danfo Driver’ the Konto (Nigerian blend of Dancehall and indigenous Highlife music) record is an anthem of their experiences in the Ghetto as commercial bus drivers. The song swept Nigeria like wildfire and took them from obscurity in the inner city of Lagos to nationwide fame.
Stereoman – ‘Ekwe’ (2006)
This Stereoman’s chest-thumping record is driven by the street language of the Southern part of Nigeria and it enjoyed massive popularity even in the mainstream. Over a decade after its release, it would be reimagined by Nigerian celebrated producer Masterkraft.
African China – ‘Mr President’ (2006)
When African China decided to address the societal injustice that pervaded Afrobeats, he recorded ‘Mr President’ and the result was a hit single that resonated with listeners. Almost two decades after its release, the song is still being used to capture the poor leadership and social injustice that motivated its release.
Timaya – ‘Dem Mama’ (2007)
Timaya might not have been counting on his documentation of the Odi massacre of 1999 becoming a party starter but that was exactly what happened with ‘Dem Mama’.
The conscious single enjoyed the massive success that took Timaya from a local star in Port Harcourt to a nationwide sensation.
Terry G – ‘Free Madness’ (2008)
In the late 2000s, Terry G held Nigerians spellbound with his electrifying music that combined Konto, White Garment gospel music, and Hip Hop. His breakout single ‘Free Madness’ has his eccentricity and unconventional nature on full display as he made a party-starting record that is essentially a freestyle that combines street slang.
The single was an unforgettable moment in Afrobeats as he infected one and all with his maddening sound.
Lil Kesh – ‘Shoki’ (2014)
Lil Kesh came onto the scene as the smooth-talking Yoruba rapper with the cadence of an American teenage hip-hop star. His hit single ‘Shoki’ accompanied by the viral dance move rocketed him into the limelight.
Olamide – ‘Bobo’ (2015)
One of Nigerian music’s most reliable hitmakers, Olamide Baddo delivered maybe his biggest song in 2015 with ‘Bobo’ which had both the young and old dancing along. The single driven by Yoruba street slang was an instant hit and remains a reliable party-starting record.
Small Doctor – ‘Penalty’ (2016)
Across the length and breadth of the South West and beyond, there’s no wear Small Doctor’s ‘Penalty’ comes up and listeners don’t get to their feet. For this smash hit, Small Doctor pieced together street slang that sounds alien to the uninitiated but makes perfect sense to those whose everyday conversation revolves around the language.
Idowest & Slimcase – ‘Shepeteri’ (2017)
‘Shepeteri’ is song is one of the biggest releases of the “Shaku Shaku” era and just like the dance step, the song swept across the streets and had listeners in a chokehold. While the Street music in Afrobeats has evolved, the song captures what the soundscape used to be in 2017.
Naira Marley – ‘Soapy’ (2019)
During his electrifying 2019 run, Naira Marley had listeners eating from his palms and youths abiding by his gospel. After he was released from detention in Kiri Kiri prison Naira Marley, released ‘Soapy’ which captures his time and experience in detention. The song is driven by the same vulgarity that informs his music and which made him an oddball in the industry. Little wonder, it became an instant hit despite how swiftly it was banned from the radio.