Asake vs Seyi Vibez: 4 key points on their brewing rivalry

Some important context to look into before a seemingly incendiary single raises the stakes

Following a brief, grief-induced hiatus, Seyi Vibez is set to return with a new single, which has already proven to be controversial. In a recent snippet of the soon-to-be-released song, the singer is heard taking not-so-subtle swipes at rival apparent Asake. “Mr Ability, organise yourself,” he sings, referencing “Organise” and “2:30,” two smash hits from Asake. It’s the latest development in a situation that’s been partly stoked by the public over the last six-plus months since Seyi Vibez vaulted into wider ubiquity with “Chance (Na Ham)” and copycat accusations immediately followed.

Beyond the surface chatter of two of street-pop’s biggest stars supposedly going at each other, there are more questions that need to be examined contextually—especially if the temperature of the tiff dials up a notch in the coming months. Below, three writers of The NATIVE’s editorial staff take a look at four major talking points.

Is the Asake and Seyi Vibez comparison apt or lazy?

There are good reasons why the comparisons between Asake and Seyi Vibez exist. For one, sonically, especially in recent times, both artists are cousins cut from the same cloth. The mainstay in their sound is South Africa’s Amapiano, which they embellish with indigenous rhythms. Also, concerning fashion choices, Asake and Seyi Vibez share similarities. However, what negatively impacts the situation is the constant lack of nuance in the conversation, which doesn’t take each artist’s uniqueness into account. While some music observers have noted the history that runs through the music of both artists, some sections of fans from both sides seem to fan the flames of conflict with mostly a bid to undermine the art of either artist. This is exacerbated by both artists who have chosen to keep mute publicly and exchange shots on wax. Perhaps, both artists see the benefit of the situation in having their names continually discussed in public but the absence of nuance robs audiences of dollops of needed insight.

Uzoma Ihejirika

Are there any peculiarities separating the artistry of both artists?

There are definitely peculiarities in the artistic skill-sets of Asake and Seyi Vibez and, even though they might not be very obvious to many, the details are apparent in the music. Asake has always been upfront about the influence of Fuji music, as well as Juju music to a lesser extent, on his sound and general approach to music. From the definitive single, “Peace Be Unto You (PBUY),” to ‘Mr Money With The Vibe’ deep cut “Sunmomi,” the Fuji inspirations are clear. 

For Seyi Vibez, his music leans more on influence from Apala music, an obvious evidence being his interpolation of Alhaji Fatai Olowonyo’s “Elewure Wole” on “G.O.A.T,” the intro track on January’s ‘Memory Card’ EP. Fuji and Apala are two distinct genres, which means the way they inform the music of both artists is peculiar, and it shows in their diverging points. Asake’s music clearly deals in pop appeal, taking the innately colourful nature of Fuji and synthesising it for a younger, more global audience. Seyi Vibez clearly takes pride in being gritty and specific in his super-lyrical approach, a descendant attribute of Apala music.

While they both infuse log drums and sometimes employ rap-adjacent cadences, there’s enough stylistic differences that shows there are some layers of separation even though both artists are luminaries of street-pop at this moment.

Dennis Ade Peter

Is there any chance for this beef to escalate beyond the music?

Beef is an avowed culture in many music genres, especially those started by Black people. The case of Seyi Vibez and Asake is particularly interesting because their origin genres were heavy on beef, attempting to upend their musical rivals through lyrical wits and ingenuity. The heady beef between The Notorious B.I.G and 2Pac during the nineties showed the world how conflict could influence the sensibility of a music industry, more so when said conflict is approached artistically. Among industry stakeholders and fan bases, that should be the credo to stand by.

Violence or actual recourse to physical challenges hasn’t been a fixture in Nigerian music for a while. Except for those with unquestionable criminal character, there’s little basis for why “beef” between these musicians should be discouraged. We should rather engage the positive aspects of this Seyi Vibez call-out, even though the nature of response would rest ultimately with Asake, YBNL and their stakeholders, to a much lesser extent. Being street-influenced artists, from a purist perspective one would expect a sustained run to this. Should Asake opt against a direct reprisal, at least the situation would have informed his awareness going into that next record, and that’s exactly what he needs after his unprecedented and largely unchallenged run as the artist of last year.

Emmanuel Esomnofu

What’s the broader significance of this supposed rivalry to the fabric of Nigerian music?

There are several talking points here, the most obvious of which is immediate cultural impact. Beef sells and rivalries are very profitable when the primary parties are clearly talented. Part of the reason Wizkid and Davido emerged as huge Afropop superstars is the rivalry between both artists, fanned by the flames of Stan culture. It’s not quite the like-for-like comparison but the similarities are already brewing, and the artists are playing into it.

The other talking point is versatility, considering that we’ve already established the artistic differences between Asake and Seyi Vibez. On a wider scale, it just shows the range of street-pop from Nigeria’s southwest no matter how much mainstream conversations want to flatten the scene into a singular sonic ideology. Finally, it could be a throwback to the iconic rivalries in Yoruba music, think Ayinla Omowura vs Fatai Olowonyo or Salawa Abeni vs Kubura Alaragbo or Wasiu Alabi Pasuma vs Saheed Osupa. To many, this detail might seem esoteric but Asake and Seyi Vibez are carriers of Yoruba music and cultural heritage, and it would be flat-out wrong to ignore the history behind them even as Nigeria’s music mainstream is tuned into this brewing situation.

Dennis Ade Peter