On the place of God in mainstream Nigerian music

When scripture meets booty talk

During press rounds for his newly released DAMN. album, Kendrick Lamar had infamously declared that his upcoming album would be focused on God. To support his claim, video for “HUMBLE”, the lead single off the album came peppered with lyrical and visual Biblical references. That God has a place in hip-hop is no oddity, black music has always been entrenched in some sort of spirituality. But usually, this is done with allusions to themes and concepts borrowed for increased artistic value.

In Nigeria faith and religion form a bulk of our everyday life. From random exclamations in daily conversations to fervent deliverance sessions, you can never separate a Nigerian man from his God. It shouldn’t be dismaying therefore, when Nigerian artists bring God along with them on their music. The conundrum however is in usually how biblical allusions or praises to the most high fall flat and fail to connect with any meaningful religious doctrine.

That “Nigerian music is not the place for content” is one of the biggest arguments touted to support the absurdity of pop music in the industry. A bright example is Wizkid’s In My Bed, where the singer thanks the living God he serves then proceeds on a series of random brags about his wealth and fame, before belting a chorus demanding that a nubile body report to his bed. If God himself heard this song, he’d probably be asking the same questions we have in mind and it is “Why am I here?”

“In my Bed” is only one of the many Nigerian songs where verses from holy books have been purposelessly quoted with loose ended references to God or a supreme being in the sky. But the often, the suggestive lyrics and raunchy videos that point to nowhere or connect to nothing have made it easy to conclude God is only a go-to when said artist is out of idea.

We need to do better
Nigerian music is not the first soundscape where spirituality has been married to sex and vanity. The hip-hop culture has rappers like DMX, Kendrick Lamar, Kanye West amongst others, most notable for talking about God in their often sexual and aggressive music. Jamaican Reggae is also heavily rooted in the Rastafarian belief and culture. For Nigerian artists the purpose may be unknown, but this place of God in artist’s discography is significant for illustrating the relationship between how an artist’s background affects his artistic process.

Conclusively it is important to note that religion is often used by many artists as a leveller as they struggle with the many effects of the fast-paced celebrity life. This keeps them from getting too hung up on their own successes. Whether they are thanking God for letting them win an award or for granting them the limelight, spirituality is more of a personal process than it is artistic. However, this should only charge artists to dig deeper for insight on how to incorporate God into their music beyond mere fillers for flat choruses and hooks. Afterall, If you must talk about your beliefs in your music, might as well drive home a message with it like a preacher.

Featured Image Credit: Twitter/@RoyalArts

Meet five Nigerians who have claimed to be god