Apparently, titles are important to contemporary Nigerian musicians. The most bandied title of late is Alhaji, which, until recently, used to be a stereotype for an agbada-wearing money bag, Nollywood sugar daddy and, of course, Mecca pilgrim. Interestingly, the Christian equivalent, the Jerusalem Pilgrim -JP for short, has not been reckoned with as such, except in Obsequies. But back to the title Alhaji, you won’t be hard-pressed to find important musicians (including Alhaji Teckno of the Pana fame) who use it.
Enter Reminisce, aka Remilekun Safaru, Alaga Ibile, Baba Hafusa and, most recently, El-Hadj. Of course, El-Hadj is a stylized form of Alhaji – which Reminisce isn’t, but once again he finds a way to latch on to this trend and make it his.
Still on trends, Reminisce seems to have set a template for naming his albums after himself, a tradition in both American hip-hop and fuji music. Reminisce, of course, does drawn his lineage from the Ajisaaris but there is no robust way of talking about El-Hadj without a word on Fuji. Until recently, Lagos Kombi buses wore stickers of popular fuji artistes, the likes of Kwam 1, Obesere, Adewale Ayuba and Saheed Osupa. But these days, you might find a Phyno, an Olamide or Reminisce grinning at you from the back of a red BRT.
The reason for this is not far-fetched; it links up to the local rapper connection. Local Rapper, produced by Tyrone and featuring Olamide and Phyno, is by far one of the biggest songs of Reminisce’s career. It might be the only reason his third album, Baba Hafusa, is important; because, it speaks to a tendency. Nigerian rap music, prior to the arrival of this triptych, was almost entirely American braggadocio, accent, turn of phrase and white sneakers. Now Nigerian rap music can (and is) being done in Yoruba, Igbo, Hausa and even in Esan. Our street poets have pushed English to the fringes and energized our local languages.
Reminisce’s fourth album is easily his most confident. For one, the beats are mostly mid-tempo, a slight departure from the zeitgeist of heavy ‘shoki-attuned’ percussion. The album starts with Asalamalekun, the Arabic greeting of peace, for his proper fans. Rhyme, wordplay and use of local slangs are top-notch—and of course we find out that Reminisce’s bet is on the third dog.
On Where I come from, he raps lucidly to a reggae beat. If one was to look for an American equivalent of this song, it will be Game’s One Blood but this is clearly more laid back and involved in the politics of being Nigerian. And of course, we get the memo that Reminisce’s third dog has become a Boeing.