Since the outbreak of popular genre of hip-hop music widely called ‘Street-hop’, the entertainment scene has witnessed quite some developments as the kind of songs which fit into the genre could be said to have redefined youthful lifestyles with dance moves and particularly slang. KOLA MUHAMMED in this piece examines how social and cultural values are fast giving way to a ‘woke’ culture among youths.
MUSIC and musicians through the ages have demonstrated the tendency to influence not only the present generation but also the future generation. No wonder, decades after they might have gone, generations later are still inspired by them.
The late Bob Marley said in one of his tracks entitled ‘Trenchtown Rock’: “One good thing about music, when it hits, you feel no pain,” underscoring the soft effect of music on people. But there is no doubt that music influences people into action-positive or negative.
The late Afrobeat music exponent, Fela Anikulapo—Kuti, is regarded by many artistes and followers alike as the most influential music figure in the industry to date who works and impact still resonate long after his death. Not only does Fela have sons which continue his music and activism legacies, the Afrika. Shrine also serves as a long-lasting monument to a musician whose music still enjoy patronage till today.
However, today, Fela sounds like ‘old school’ to members the younger generation who have been raised with a different set of values where anything goes.
The new generation espouses the Marlian philosophy, calling themselves ‘NBG’ which stands for No Belt Gang, preferring to “sag” their trousers instead. In fact, a shout of ‘Marlians’ would be met with a response of ‘no manners’ by the adherents of the movement.
Interacting with youths who associate themselves with Naira Marley and his lifestyle, investigaions by Sunday Tribune revealed that among other things, Marlians claim that they don’t graduate from schools, they have no manners, don’t obey the law, lack home training, don’t look for work, take drugs and engage in internet fraud as a legitimate hustle for them.
Though they are jobless, they love to spend money without care and try to enjoy life to the fullest. Their definition of enjoyment ranges from smoking, sex and indulgence in unrestrained acts.
To Oreoluwa Makinwa, “a Marlian is a free thinker or a fearless person who doesn’t care. Such a person is dedicated to the course of Naira Marley and his style. They don’t wear belts, they don’t graduate and a whole lot of other things.”
A Twitter user who sought anonymity, relayed how Marley’s song saved the day during his encounter with some thugs in Lagos.
“I was in my car that day and as I was driving out of my street, some thugs stopped me like thugs would and ask for tips.
“Fortunately for me, I was playing a Naira Marley song. As I wound down and the music became audible to them, they felt because I was a Marlian like them, I shaould go They even hailed me as I drove off.”
However, Anthony Ademiluyi believes that the Marlian movement is one which glorifies vices and as such deserves urgent attention.
“It is alarming that Marley’s music passes no strong positive message and it’s being accepted by all and sundry in the country.
“The movement which is akin to a cult is made up of renegades and outlaws who abhor social convention in their bid to stand out from the pack.
“The glorification of vices like internet fraud, dating scams, money-making rituals and other numerous vices which many Nigerians gladly embrace now is heavily reflecting on the music that is being produced and sadly exported outside the shores of the country.
What drives Marley and Marlians?
Speaking to Sunday Tribune, psychology expert, Chinelo Olayimika, explained that the deviant lifestyle of the self-proclaimed president of ‘No Belt Gang, Naira Marley, could be traced to the kind of upbringing he had.
“One factor which drives a deviant lifestyle is parental upbringing. When parents are either too permissive or too strict, children end up trying to find a space for expression by going against norms. Peer group is another factor which can encourage being a deviant, trying to conform and feel among.
“From there, what started like delinquency becomes a normal lifestyle and as such would not be surprising that such people exhibit disruptive tendencies.
“Their lifestyle is then reinforced when much adulation comes their way for being the way they are. People start emulating them and turn them into models.
“People who are obedient and do normal things do not get any attention. Rather, the society seems to pay attention to people who do abnormal things, who go against the norm, who are unruly.”
On why youths who proclaim themselves to be Marlians who idolise Naira Marley despite his apparent disregard for law and order and embrace of vices, Olayimika lends her professional opinion that the need to conform, social media and space for expression are some of the things which drive them to identify with such a figure.
“At one point in time, youths and humans generally look for conformity and strive for a sense of belonging. If a lifestyle is on the rise or in vogue, and is what is being celebrated on social media, young people will definitely jump on the bandwagon.
“At the same time, it is also an avenue to express themselves. There are vices that many do in secret and would not be proud of because of the sense of morality in the society. When someone is now bold enough to publicly showcase what they do in secret without being made to pay for it, then youths would definitely follow the person because it is their way of expressing what the society would have frowned.”
Who is Naira Marley?
Born Azeez Fashola, the popular singer, according to music analysts, broke into limelight late 2017 with an Olamide and Lil Kesh assisted single, ‘Issa goal’ which eventually became the official theme for the Super Eagles at the 2018 World Cup tournament which was held in Russia.
The artiste then got involved in a case with anti-graft agency, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and after leaving their custody, his fame grew as a deviant, and subsequently making a mockery of his arrest by law agents in one of his songs, ‘Am I a yahoo boy’, saying “emi o mo SARS oh, Sars temi mo is Sars on the beat, Olopa ko le mu wa…” (loosely translated to mean “I don’t know of any SARS, the only SARS I know is a music producer, not the Special Anti-Robbery Squad, the police can’t arrest us).
The manner in which he seemed to defy the law and make music out of the apparently messy encounter gave him an upsurge in popularity and started what would later crystalise into the Marlian movement.
Before the music attention, the Lagos-born singer relocated to the United Kingdom at a tender age before returning to the country in a bid to advance his passion for music.
The singer is reported to have attended Peckham Institute in the United Kingdom and graduated with distinction in business administration.
Attempts were made by Sunday Tribune to reach the institute via electronic mail in order to verify the claims but no response was got as of the time of writing this report.
Naira Marley and Fela comparison
There had been efforts by some music lovers to compare the movement pioneered by the late Afrobeat king, Fela Anikulapo Kuti with that of Naira Marley. However, for veteran musician and producer, Dede Mabiaku, such comparison between the two singers was inappropriate. Speaking Sunday Tribune on his views about the Fela movement and his music influence, Dede slammed those who described Marley as a ‘rising Fela’, insisting that such comparison trivialises the struggles Fela stood for during his lifetime.
He punctured the argument that Marley was fast assuming the role of Fela, saying “I have heard a lot of people comparing that young man to Abami Eda, Fela Anikulapo Kuti. Why are you trivialising the essence of your martyrs? I think these people are just talking from the place of ignorance and gullibility.”
According to him, “Why are people bringing down Fela? Why are you rubbishing the essence of him in this corridor of nothingness? The boy, was he right in doing what he did? Ask yourself. Everything Fela did was based on enlightening the people, wake up the minds of the people for the development of the society the right way with respect and regard for our cultures and traditions.”
In his submission, veteran singer, African China said those who call themselves ‘woke’ generation believe that everything starts and ends on social media platforms, adding that their penchant and blatant disregard for the moral values should give any right thinking person a reason to be worried.
“During our time, we had songs that kept the government on its toes. We respect the elders and we don’t cut corners or look for what some of them now call ‘quick fix’. I am worried for this generation and what the future holds for the music industry. I have a song that was released 15 years ago and is still being reckoned with today. How many of today’s hip hop stars can boast of a song that would remain relevant 15 years from now?” he asked.
Asked what he thinks about the Marlian generation, the singer said he was not aware of such movement, adding that those who go about with such mentality will soon realise that there is no other way to success than to respect elders, respect your culture and work hard.
“It is really sad that things have turned out this way but we can’t look at the bad sides alone because the industry has truly been doing good and I am proud of its success stories but we should not keep quiet when we see things falling apart,” he said.
Also speaking on the Marlian generation, famous music producer and songwriter, Smoothkiss, cautioned the people propagating the idea to borrow a leaf from the books of music greats that have shaped the music industry for years.
“When you listen to Fela, Obey, KSA, among others, the music legends you will observe that they did well with their music and are still being referenced till today. For me, I don’t think we are getting it right. Whatever they call Marlian generation died on arrival because nobody is even talking about it again. We are battling with coronavirus today, who knows what we will be facing tomorrow?” he asked.
Bob Marley Influence
The Tesumole crooner admitted to the influence of the late Jamaican music legend, Bob Marley and probably sees himself as the Nigerian version of the late Marley, hence the moniker, (Naira) Marley. Just like the Jamaican Marley in appearance, Naira Marley keeps his hair in dreads as a form of tribute to the late legend, albeit in smaller size.
However, critics are of the opinion that the Nigerian singer is a shoddy imitation of the ‘purpose-driven’ Jamaican singer born Robert Nesta Marley.
A social critic, Kareem Azeez, in an online post, remarked that the only similarity between the two Marleys is the “smokes of weeds”.
“Naira Marley who is calling himself a Marlian should exhibit the true traits of Bob Marley, as well as his followers and youths who are just pushed without any purpose.
“But having faltered badly by this assessment, it shows he is only a nuisance to the morality of the environment we found ourselves in. In proper perspective, the only thing he represents is the pointless smokes of weeds freely at his shows and concerts. A true Marlian wouldn’t do that.
“Bob’s belief was in one world and one love, inspired by his Rastafari philosophy. He embraced the look of long dreadlocks and beards, the weed, the (reggae) movement and all of the powerful aspects of Rasta.
“Everything about the first, true and only Marlian was with a purpose and drive for positivism.”
The ‘woke’ music generation
Popular artistes and up-and-coming counterparts have found a new way of reaching for the hearts of the consumers of their songs with lyrics that are usually laced with lewd contents and slangs.
Investigations revealed that new artistes desperate for stardom will sing anything or do whatever it takes to draw attention – and buzz – for their next projects. The belief is that if the last project was successful, they could leverage on it for a bigger one.
As the trend escalates, the listeners at the receiving end are daily fed with toxic-like music and are emboldened to shun moral teachings and embrace a life that glorifies crime.
It may not be out of place to say that many hip hop artistes usually pay more attention to dance moves and slang than they do to the lyrics of their songs. To some of them, even if the songs sound bad, as long as the slang is ‘dope’ as they say in common parlance, and the dance steps get the people grooving, the job is done.
This may explain why some entertainment stakeholders expressed their discomfort at what they described as a disturbing dimension that the music industry has assumed in the last 10 years.
While some of them believe that the industry has grown in leaps and bounds in the last few years and has rewarded many music artistes turning them into mega-rich stars conquering the African continent and bringing them global attention with their new Afro pop music wave, the downward side of what many now celebrate as success seems to have turned out to be a menace for Nigerian youths.
The flashy cars, exorbitant lifestyles artistes exhibits in their music videos and display on social media platforms keep fuelling the burning desire of the young generation to always find a quick way to success.
Falz the Bad Guy, a lawyer-turned-musician in one of his songs had said only those who understand how to scheme their ways to success in school are regarded as the bookworm. Falz at other times had used his music to criticise the government about some of its policies, which he said were anti-people.
At the last edition of the Nigerian Entertainment Conference (NEClive) held in Lagos State, experts posited that relatable and conscious music may have given way for what has now become the new normal in the music industry with a growing number of youths embracing what should be condemned by all.
Speaking to Sunday Tribune about the expansion of the music industry and the danger it portends for the Nigerian youths, popular disc jockey, Jimmy Jatt expressed his worries about what he described as a disturbing dimension the music industry was assuming, saying that while the industry has grown and enriched many, it is putting the music culture in a bad shape due to the way practitioners are ignoring the importance of using their craft to build the society and the people.
“It is true that things are fast-changing in the industry, especially with the boom it is currently experiencing but some of us need to caution the young generation about fame management and music business. When you fail to use your music as a tool for social consciousness and engagement, it begins to lose its value. We have a lot of work to do and I am sure we will get there,” he said.
Stakeholders have also argued that Nigerian teenagers, especially those who follow the hip hop music culture are beset by dangerous myths about success.
Mr Bayo Bamako, founder of World Music Entertainment Platform said, “while music can make you rich as an artiste, it can also make others lose their respect for social values and culture because of what you preach and how you go about passing your music message.”
Critics who have been angered by the trends being set by music artistes whose lifestyles are said to be misleading the youths have called on the Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) to be alive to its responsibilities in checkmating songs being played on the airwaves.
The regulatory body had in recent times placed a ban on works by three of Nigeria’s top level music artistes for an alleged violation of its rules and regulations.
It named Olamide’s Wo and Wavi Level; a remix of Davido’s If and 9ice’s Living Things as the culprits in a current list of banned songs and music videos that it released to the public.
From expressions such as who you epp, first of all-introduction, pepper dem gang, shoro niyen, o po and enu gbe, slangs have constantly emanated from mainstream music and faded away with the passage of time.
However, a trend, which many moralists have described as a threat to the boundaries of what obtains as norms and morals, has amassed a lot of followers and continues to grow in acceptability is the Marlian gang.
What started as a slang and was expected to vanish like the others has instead become a movement.
Among the youths especially, phrases such as I’m a Marlian, Marlians no manners are popular and the Marlian cult following could be said to have been born out of the affinity for and wide acceptability of songs and attendant slangs of popular singer Naira Marley.
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