This is rapidly becoming old news but I thought I’d add my tuppence worth. Falz gave an unusual (for him) interview a couple of days ago. He criticized musicians for glorifying fraudsters in their music. He said that such music encourages young people to think fraud is the thing to do, musicians should honour their status as role models, and was especially critical of singers who name fraudsters in their songs. Nigerian twitter has linked his comments to 9ice’s single, ‘Living Things’ as he appeared to quote some of the lyrics.
Coming from a relatively ignorant angle (I’ve neither been a victim of fraud nor of the type of anti-Nigerian prejudice that assumes all Nigerians are fraudsters), this seemed a reasonable statement to me. However the social media backlash had me wondering, did Falz say something wrong?
First came the badly written tirades. Did the terrible grammar and writing mean we could dismiss the authors as idiots or simply yahoo boys defending their trade? Or had Falz struck a chord among working class people – people who are unlikely to have access to well-paid jobs in Nigeria, because of lack of connections or influence, or who will struggle to have his kind of career without investment from dodgy money? Some of the very people who Falz mimicks when he puts on his comically exaggerated Yoruba accent; who with a little money and opportunity may well turn to internet fraud for whatever reason (although I recognise that people from all classes in Nigeria engage in internet fraud).
Then came the twitter intelligentsia and ‘woke’ twitter expressing disbelief that anyone could possibly criticise Falz for his comments. Despite their condescending put downs and over-egged, ostentatiously dumbed-down authentic-Nigerian-twitter-speak (“Is Nigeria ok?” “I tire oh”), I found myself unable to fault their logic.
Then came the more articulate attempts to defend 9ice. Toni Payne, Fumni Iyanda, and some poor guy on a timeline debate (“I quit!” he declared “I’m overwhelmed!”). They made some good arguments but didn’t quite get there, for me, in terms of putting together a convincing defence.
I should mention that 9ice popped up once or twice but didn’t do a good job of defending himself; if indeed you feel he had to. “Erm…the song wasn’t about glorifying internet fraud. It’s about…oh yes..it’s about going to work in the morning….you have to be in the realm”. In his second attempt, possibly buoyed up by the online support he had received, he asked Falz to report anyone he had mentioned in his song to the EFCC if Falz had the evidence to do so.
I’m going to dedicate some space to the very special people who follow Falz on Instagram. They seem to hang around his page waiting for him to make any kind of political or social statement just so they can shout at him about his father. I thought Femi Falana was just a human rights lawyer myself. According to Instagram, he is a thieving, villainous rogue who, armed to the teeth, went from polling booth to polling both during the 2015 general elections, forcing people to vote for the APC. So vicious were the comments that I actually caught myself indulging in some victim blaming (you finished annoying everybody and you now went to put your face on Instagram – to borrow some Nigeria-speak from woke twitter – yes, of course I do it too. You’ve never heard of a hypocrite?).
However, there was some real emotion in the Instagram comments. People said how dare you, Falz, with your privilege and your opportunities? HOW DARE YOU?!? ‘Yahoo’ fed me and my sister, sent us to school! Despite the misery that internet fraud causes for millions, I must admit the sheer hopelessness in that last statement got to me a little bit.
One of the questions that Falz’s fans asked him on instagram was who do you think attends your highly priced concerts? Who can afford your tables of 10 for one million naira but yahoo boys and corrupt politicians (the consensus appears to be that the latter are the underlying cause of crime in Nigeria but not of course an excuse for internet fraud)? In those circumstances, can you really afford to criticise internet fraudsters?
Now the point has been made that Falz wasn’t having a go at internet fraudsters as such, but saying, gosh guys, let’s not glorify fraud in our music. Things are bad, maybe crime is inevitable but that doesn’t mean we have to act like it’s a good thing; a viable moral choice.
Having absorbed the above information, what’s my (still ignorant) view? I don’t think Falz can be sensibly criticised for his comments. I do think however that people sing and rap about all kinds of crap and other people have their personal crusades. Nigerians’ reputation as internet fraudsters is clearly one of Falz’s bugbears. You can’t really blame him. He has made himself clear on the matter in many of his songs and was recently almost denied entry into Kenya because of completely unsubstantiated claims that he and his mates were fraudsters (shouldn’t have let big-boneded Shody carry the laptop then, should you? Ha ha).
However other people with other bugbears could pick at the lyrics in Falz’s songs. As gender equality is my current crusade (had to find a way to crowbar feminism into this article), I could object to Reminisce’s lyrics in Falz’s song ‘Clap’, or Olamide’s first line in ‘Bahd Baddo Baddest’ or even Falz’s character in ‘Soldier’ who is essentially telling a woman that she has no choice but to date him. Couldn’t it be said that these lyrics are glorifying violence against women or at least chipping away at the necessity of consent?
So long story…less long, I think Falz made a reasonable point but I think he could have had a more complex, sophisticated discussion about it. Perhaps one that didn’t involve him telling his colleagues what to sing (“Tell a story. Paint a picture”) and perhaps one that didn’t involve him using the same accent which identify those who have been robbed of opportunity because of the state of the nation.