Mohbad shines brighter from the afterlife—the charts have tangible proof
His songs ensure he is not lost to the winds of time.
His songs ensure he is not lost to the winds of time.
It’s been more than three weeks since Mohbad—born Ilerioluwa Oladimeji Aloba—passed away. The man, who before his death had rechristened him Imole, had left behind a wife and child, family relatives, distraught fans and music lovers, a fine discography of music etched with his life experiences. A candlelight procession held in his honour at Lekki, Lagos had attracted thousands of mourners, including fans and industry colleagues such as Davido, Zlatan and Falz. A thank-you note on X (previously known as Twitter) had, in part, read, “Your loyalty and love will keep him alive in our memories forever,” exemplifying the outpour of condolences that have trailed MohBad’s passing.
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On the other hand, the unclear circumstances of Mohbad’s death have alerted the Lagos State Police Command of the possibilities of foul play—heightened by the release of videos that showed the bullying and intimidation MohBad faced as well as his well-documented run-ins with previous label and its boss Naira Marley. An autopsy is being conducted by the police who have also recently taken Naira Marley and Sam Larry, a close associate of Marley, into custody for questioning. There is also confirmation by police that Primeboy, an associate of MohBad, is another person of interest in the investigation. While the case is still shrouded in a lot of mystery, it is hoped that the police will be able to unravel the details and circumstances that led to Mohbad’s untimely passing.
While death is a constant occurrence in the cycle of life, there’s usually unimaginable grief that follows the death of a person still in the early years of their life. Mohbad was 27 when he passed away, and in many places and cultures around the world, that age is far from deserving of meeting their end. Although MohBad isn’t here anymore, he’s left memories of himself in his music, and it’s this music that serves as a connector to his ideals and pains and wins and aspirations. This week, music data curator TurnTable Charts released their Official Nigeria Top 100, revealing MohBad in six spots on the Top 10, including No. 1. There’s “Ask About Me” leading the pack, “Beast & Peace” at No. 3, “Pariwo” with Bella Shmurda at No. 6, “Peace” at No. 7, “Sabi” at No. 8 and “Sorry” at No. 10.
“Like many street-pop artists, Mohbad didn’t try to be everything to everybody; he sang and rapped for himself, for his people—people raised in circumstances where you have to make shit happen because that was the only option,” Dennis Ade Peter wrote in his tribute to MohBad. Born and raised in Ikorodu, a suburb in Lagos State riddled with many challenges, ranging from poor infrastructure to pervading poverty, the singer’s music chronicled his path through life in plain and affecting detail. On “Sorry,” the opening track of MohBad’s 2020 EP ‘Light,’ the artist opened up about his difficult upbringing, singing, “Daddy no get salary/Ten years I no see money/Stepmother no care/Landlord e dey worry/My brothers are hungry/Daddy gather money make I go poly/I go poly but I no go class/Daddy, I am sorry/I don dey do Yahoo.”
Mohbad’s earliest efforts boasted sharp wit and attention to detail as he highlighted the occurrences in his immediate environs, addressing matters of cult violence, youth unemployment, desperate swings and finding hope. On 2019’s “Imole,” Mohbad poured years of frustrations and longing into the track as prayed for a change in his fortunes. “Take away my pain give me fame/Take away my weakness give me strength/Take away my korope give me Benz/Oh lord, this stress is not for me,” he raps. It’s this aspirational tone—relatable to millions of young Nigerians grappling with personal, economic and institutional setbacks—that endears listeners to MohBad’s music, as it is a reminder that they are not alone in the race to reach the top.
After Mohbad’s death and the suspense of its circumstances began to circulate, fans and colleagues in the Nigerian music industry took to social media to pay homage to the artist, sharing stories about him and the impact he had on their lives. It didn’t stop in Nigeria. American Hip-Hop stars Lil Durk, Kodak Black and Meek Mill also paid their respects to Imole, further highlighting the fact that music is a unifier of people and cultures. Mohbad’s most recent project ‘Blessed’ became the first EP to top Spotify Nigeria’s weekly albums chart and, according to TurnTable Charts, MohBad becomes the first artist to posthumously reach No. 1 on all the three major aggregate charts in Nigeria: The Official Nigeria Top 100, the Official Top 50 Albums Chart in Nigeria and Official Artist Top 100.
Globally, artists topping music charts posthumously isn’t a new occurrence. Juice WRLD’s 2020 album ‘Legends Never Die’ , which came one year after his death, debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 albums, becoming the biggest posthumous debut in 23 years since Tupac and Notorious B.I.G. posthumously released albums in 1997. Lil Peep’s 2018 album, ‘Come Over When You’re Sober’, reached No. 4 on the Billboard 200 in its first week. “The overwhelming love that millions of music fans clearly have for Jarad reminds us how much his poetic words, creativity, and bright light continues to shine throughout the world,” Juice WRLD’s mother, Carmela Wallace, and record label Grade A said in a statement about ‘Legends Never Die’.
Although posthumous releases have offered fans and music lovers the opportunity to get new materials (sometimes unfinished) from their favourite artists, there is an argument that it is an exploitative act that disregards the privacy and creative rights of the artists. In her article for The Outline, which centres on Lil Peep and XXXXTentacion’s “Falling Down,” Rosemarie Ho questioned the ethics of pairing two artists who didn’t share the same ideals while alive, writing, “Had Peep ever liked X, or wanted to collaborate with him?…X was a well-known domestic abuser, who once bragged about beating up a gay cellmate in prison, who systematically brutalised his ex-girlfriend and admitted to it.” Other critics have also argued that most posthumous releases are families’ and labels’ way of earning quick cash from the sympathy and sour mood surrounding an artist’s demise
While it’s yet to be seen if there will be any posthumous Mohbad releases, his achievements on the charts point to the accessibility of his music, which offers insight into his person. A significant portion of his discography is built on introspective, lived-in musings and spiritually-indebted quips. “I open Bible chaptеr/I step on the Satan,” he sings on “Ask About Me”; and on the evergreen “Peace” (Marlian affiliation no less), the lyric sequence, “Wetin be this one like this?/Been through many things/Many many gists, though I still find my peace,” is one of the most resonant in Nigerian pop. Further highlighting the impact of MohBad’s music career is Ayox & Zlatan’s “Walking Dead (Tribute to Mohbad),” which is at No. 9 on the TurnTable Top 10. These songs are the avenues that fans connect with MohBad and ensure that his thoughts, fears, pains and proclamations are not lost to the winds of time.
“There’s no neat resolution to his life, he could’ve written so many more chapters if he had more time. However, his work is testament that he lived as best as he could,” Ade-Peter concludes. It’s this admittance of a life lived that fans and audiences around the world observe through Mohbad’s music. It’s this admittance that secures his voice in our airwaves, sharing his gospel of light.