Naira Marley was born in Agege, Lagos State, Nigeria and later moved to Peckham, South London when he was just 11 years of age.
According to him, he had the youth aspiration of becoming an MC and voice over artiste.
Naira Marley found his singing ability when he was asked by his companions to sing in one of their sessions.
In the wake of seeing his ability and prospect in his music vocation, after the ‘joke’ track, Marry Juanna (Marijuana) became a hit in the UK, he chose ultimately to seek after his music profession.
He came entirely into the spotlight after releasing ‘Issa Goal’ featuring Olamide and Lil Kesh. His next song, ‘Am I a yahoo boy?’, the tune that got the attention of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) became an infamy, that caused his fans to support him even harder as they adopted an ‘us’ versus ‘them’ mentality, thus making Naira Marley a ‘hero’.
Granted bail two weeks later, Marley told the story of life behind bars in a single called ‘Soapy’ which became not just a club anthem, but a world listened song. His added fame and detention got him releasing ‘Pxta’, ‘Mafo’ and ‘Bad ‘Influence,’ among others while showing off his marijuana wraps and puffing the smoke in everyone’s face.
Not much was known about Afeez Fashola a.k.a Naira Marley, at least in Nigeria, until his world cup anthem, ‘Issa goal’ featuring Olamide in 2017 became a hit. Fast-forward to present day, Naira Marley’s songs are the toast of any party. In fact, any DJ worth his name, has to include his songs at short intervals in order to liven up his audience, especially if they are Nigerian youths.
The Naira Marley fever is one that has swept across the entertainment scene like a flood, giving rise to a new generation of people called ‘Marlians’. Now the term ‘Marlians’ is used by people who are fans and followers of Naira Marley, with obvious characteristics. In fact, many have confessed to becoming or associating with deviants, rebellion, among other vices in order to be tagged as true ‘Marlians’. Since his (Naira Marley’s) arrest for seeking support for advance fee fraud (internet-related) also known as Yahoo Boys, the rapper has become a phenomenon not just in Nigeria, but around the world.
He calls his music ‘street music’; blunt, raw and filled with slang and expletives that would make any normal music lover’s skin crawl. But, to the surprise of many, his songs, in all rawness, has found acceptance with millions of fans all over the world. Armed with his slogan #NoMannaz, Naira Marley exploited the instant fame offered after his arrest by dropping the runaway hit ‘Soapy’ (a song that explains that prisoners masturbate a lot behind bars), which would stamp him as one of the most sought after artistes in Nigeria in 2019. Suddenly, the ‘mastubator’ dance became ‘normal’, with old and young, people from all classes trying out the signature dance.
After his career breakthrough in 2019, his massive fan base was code named ‘Marlians’ with the motto ‘No Mannaz’ as one of the most used words. ‘Marlians’ are alleged to be fraudsters , yahoo boys, drug addicts and others who have negative means of getting rich, but have the influence to determine the outcome of most events. His fans are also known to attack anyone who vilifies Naira or even tries to call him to order whenever he posts something.
Thus, the ‘Marlian gang’ became a trend. A post online explains the rules for becoming a ‘Marlian’ (most of which were gleaned from most of his songs and online interactions to become behavioural patterns).
It reads, “To become a true ‘Marlian’, you must conform to most of these.
- Crazy Hairstyle: Usually dreads or plaited.
- No belt/pant: Naira Marley is known to have said in his songs (PXTA) that he doesn’t wear belts but owns many trousers. It was discovered that some girls also translated this to mean they shouldn’t wear panties on certain days.
- Alcohol/hard drugs users: Naira Marley refers to himself as ‘Igbolabi’ (Born for weed) and so ‘Marlians’ are expected to be able to smoke weed, drink and also mix local concoctions/herbs which boost sexual performance as rendered in his song ‘Mafo’.
- Zero manners: This is one of the famous ways to identify a ‘Marlian’. They are expected to fear nothing as explained in his song titled ‘Mafo’ (Don’t break). Also recall that Naira Marley posted on Twitter saying, “Admit it, life would be boring without me… Having a big booty is better than having a Master’s degree.”
However, the post didn’t go down well with many especially from some ladies who claimed to have big butts. Following the reaction, having been tagged a bad influence to society on several levels, Marley came out to advise his fans on the use of drug and drug abuse. Taking to his Twitter, the singer sent a note of advice to warn his fans not to do drugs.
He then went further to say they could do so only if it was prescribed. “Marlians don’t do drugs unless it is prescribed”, he wrote.
- None or minimal education: Naira Marley has always prided himself as being a self made individual having dropped out of school abroad and returned to Nigeria. So, according to the unwritten rules of his followers, real ‘Marlians’ don’t graduate!
No respect for the police/law: Like he sang in his song ‘Japa’, daring the police to shoot if they dare, Naira Marley preaches defiance in the face of the law.
These are some of the most popular guidelines to becoming a ‘Marlian’ and sadly, have become a trending issue that is currently causing concerns for parents and the society at large in present day. While Naira Marley may be oblivious to how ‘effective’ his behaviour, and songs have become in the society today, many are concerned that if not nipped in the bud, a generation of societal nuisances may have been born unknowingly.
Growing societal concerns
Many parents and social critics have, on various platforms, voiced concerns over the behaviours of their wards or youths. They allege an increasing lack of morality, regard or respect for elders/authority/self as some of the most visible signs among youths nowadays.
Adetoun Olayiwola, a banker, in a chat with Nigerian Tribune stressed that she was worried by the current trend of mannerlessness exhibited by the young people today.
She said, “My heart bleeds every time I shop at the mall and see may young boys and girls dressing roughly, smoking in car parks and even romancing themselves in dark open spaces. I understand that they want to identify with their entertainment idols but what we are having today is worrisome. Growing up I listened to music from Bobby Brown, Boyz 2 Men and some Nigerian artistes and they sang about love, sex and all but we were sensible enough to know what we wanted for ourselves. Today, especially with the #Marlian trend, which I believe is more of a cult, youths are losing their self esteem to alcohol, drugs, sex, and get rich quick attitudes. I can only advise parents to monitor their wards more.”
Another parent recently posted on Facebook, the discovery that her daughter had become a ‘Marlian’ after finding her panties in her school bag (a secondary school student). According to her submission, “I am just coming from my daughter’s school. Their principal called me around 9:00 a.m to report to the school over an emergency. I panicked and drove over only to be told that my 15-year-old daughter and most of the girls from her class and other senior secondary classes were to be suspended for being members of a female secret cult. They were about 25-30 girls all kneeling with their hands up. I was shocked and I asked for further explanations. The head teacher said that a teacher, who was disciplining latecomers, found out that one of the girls had her pant inside her school bag and on further investigation, it was discovered that she wasn’t wearing any on her waist. When she was flogged and interrogated further to know why and how she was not wearing her pant, she confessed that she was a member of the Marlian cult in the school and that parts of their rules was that they must not wear pant to school on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. I was shocked. The head teacher told me that she was flogged some more until she mentioned all their members from SS1 – SS3 and unfortunately, my daughter was involved… I found my daughter’s pant in her bag and upon interrogation, was shocked to discover that she and a group of female friends (in JSS 3) were ‘Marlians’ who, as a rule, must not wear panties on Mondays and Wednesday. That means that apart from her school uniform and bra, they wore no other underwear! Parents, please monitor your children and may God save us from this menace disguised as entertainment”, she wrote
A psychologist, Nnamdi Okechukwu, in his submission, said that peer pressure plays a big role in today’s society, especially with the advent of social media.
“Youths are predisposed to all manner of information at their finger tips as granted by the internet and are easily influenced today than ever before. When they see what their peers and idols are ‘achieving’ online, they tend to desire same. Now, who these friends and idols are, remain the most important question. Sadly, today, many artistes do not see themselves as role models and the regulatory bodies are also grossly failing in their duties. There is no structure or regulation within the entertainment industry in Nigeria so the society is free to gobble up whatever is fed to them, especially online. Even if Naira Marley’s songs (and he isn’t the only one) are banned by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), how about the satellite TVs, Youtube and other streaming sites. I guess this is where the monitoring of social media comes in but its intentions are also debatable.
At the end of the day, the work is for parents to monitor and train their wards as best as they can, the artistes concerned to have some sense of responsibility, the media to stop glorifying mediocrity and the regulatory bodies to tighten their control.
“Another respondent, Sadiya Usman, believes the media is largely at fault for whatever problems the society is facing today.
“I blame the media. They always hold all these people in high esteem. He who pays the piper dictates the tune. If the media platforms refuse to play or air certain songs and videos, entertainers will be forced to have sense. I switch on my TV and seen near naked women in various videos. Over time, if these are exposed to young children, they will be brain-washed to think it is the normal way of life. And so today, our youths are endangered species.
“Look around you and see how our young adults are misbehaving. Everything that we thought was bad, growing up, today, is normal; smoking in public, glorifying obscenity, sex, alcohol, name it. I am disappointed”, she stressed.
A Marlian confession
The Nigerian Tribune engaged a self professed 21-year-old ‘Marlian’ on WhatsApp days ago and the conversation was quite interesting. According to him (names withheld) he became a ‘Marlian’ because of the ‘values’ that his rap idol stands for.
“Naira doesn’t fake it, He is so real. He does what he likes and speaks his mind. I also love his dance steps. I became his follower and fan because his songs speak freedom”, he said.
When queried on the type of freedom that he speaks of, he said, “Freedom from societal values and expectations. I can dress the way I want, do whatever pleases me because I am responsible for myself. The EFCC tried to oppress him but till date, he has been triumphing. Naira Marley is a prophet”.
While it is evident that more Nigerian youths are becoming more independent and vocal against societal norms and values (Not limited to Naira Marley’s input), according to Okechukwu, it is expected that individuals fortunate enough to be in positions of influence, in this case entertainers, should be ready to assist in shaping public perceptions with their craft.
“I understand that they are into entertainment to make money, but when it is to the detriment of society, of what value is such entertainment? I urge our musicians and entertainment stakeholders to rethink their core values as a matter of urgency”, he said.
Many other respondents also harped on the importance of parental diligence and monitoring of wards.
Mr Seun Popoola, a school proprietor, stressed that parents should not leave their duties to teachers entirely while they busy themselves with searching for daily bread.
“Many parents hardly monitor their children anymore. They drop off their wards in the morning and pick them in the evening. When they get home, its dinner and TV time, then the same cycle is repeated weekly. Parents must do more. Teachers can only try”, he said.
Another respondent, Idris Abubakar, who has been following the trend from his base in Scotland, said, “Like the confraternity in Nigeria began via Wole Soyinka who meant well with the Sea Dogs, now the Marlian syndrome via Naira Marley. Nigerians always twist things to suit their purpose and take it to another level, that is, overdo things. I think our youths need guidance though difficult in this social media era and people need to work close with Naira Marley himself, advise and encourage him to convert his huge following into positivity like advising kids/youths to be better behaved, stay in school and aspire to do great things with their lives and for the society.