Bella Shmurda’s tracking on the path of the motivational voice of the streets.
The music that we consume is aural repositories of history as much as they are enjoyable tunes that soundtrack our experiences and here is how Bella Shmurda’s transformation into a new voice of the streets.
Whether regaling you with the exploits of a person, the circumstance of a place, or basking in the glow of an event – fictional or otherwise – music continuously offers a first-hand account of the places and people it springs forth from.
In Nigeria, no form of music offers that palpable connection to its circumstance and origin like street-bred music does.
Whether just by the sheer boisterousness of its adherents or the unique cadence adopted by these artists, these experiences demand to be felt.
Stitching together the old works of masters like DaGrin, Lord of Ajasa, Olamide, and Reminisce, you can piece a tapestry of the fears, doubts, hopes, joys, and perspectives that powered them, and, inadvertently, from their own stories tap into the state of mind of the people from their birthplaces.
When DaGrin, on “Ghetto Dream”, off his iconic album, ‘C.E.O.‘, rapped, “Aimoye many times ta wan eyan ti ni pe kin lo give up, pe mo local, pe ona mi on se hip-hop,” listeners can be instantly translated to the othering of indigenous Hip-Hop for most of the 2000s.
Or when Olamide vociferously declared himself the voice of the streets, definitively stepping into the leadership void bestowed on him by DaGrin’s tragic passing, music enthusiasts can acknowledge a changing of the guard for indigenous music. 28
Musicians sometimes distance themselves from distinct regionality in favor of appealing to everyone however, the marker of a good (read: great) Street-pop artist has proven to be one who meticulously crafts worlds we want to be a part of, or at the very least intently observe.
Of all of today’s Street-Pop stars, no one presents a more factual representation of the incidents that have marked –and continue to shape – them as Bella Shmurda does.
The Olamide-assisted remix of “Vision 2020” that brought him to fame was a thought spiral on feeling abandoned by the government in the ghetto, and seemingly resorting to illicit means to live a good life.
Many have, and will continue to, call it fraud-glorifying music at its most addictive, but it is also an unfiltered perspective that can help us understand the mindset and perspective of the average joe effectively trapped in a vicious cycle of lack.
One could argue that is not necessarily glorifying the fraud culture as it is speaking to the nuance that inspires its proliferation.
Fictional or not, the stretch in the remix when Shmurda raps, “Mama call me say Chinedu is balling, what are you doing, son?/You are dulling/Four years in LASU is really nothing/Bella get that money, son we are starving,” is instructive of inter-generational struggles and the subtle pressure to blow up that many young people in 21st century Nigeria are confronting.
There really is no hyperbole in Bella Shmurda’s music and that is why he’s been able to build such a dedicated fan base built around people of a similar ilk who see their struggles in his struggles and take encouragement from his wins.
From front to back, his debut project ‘High Tension‘ has a distinctively autobiographical feel: whether it’s the growling search for motivation on “Ginger Me” or the hood love tales of “Amope”, there’s a feeling of authenticity that pervades Shmurda’s music and by the time he arrives at “Upgrade”, it is clear that he is on an upward trajectory.
The Bella Shmurda that made ‘High Tension‘ no longer exists, at least not in an artistic sense.
In the over 18 months since he dropped that project, his life has changed in more ways than imaginable.
A relative sense of comfort has been achieved, and direct proximity to the street bends that raised him has been greatly reduced by his soaring success.
Starting with a feature on Runtown’s “Body Riddim”, Bella has been summoned to the high table of Nigerian Pop, where women, weed, and hedonism are supreme drivers of what moves the nightclubs and the raucous culture that Afropop thrives on.