By Chinedu Iroche
April 23, 2010 03:43PM
When it comes to new artists, I am one of the most skeptical people out there. I’m so stuck in my ways and can easily be put off as quickly as I can be sold on a fresh act. When driving through Lagos traffic on my way to work, I buy new albums from street hawkers and pass them on to reporters at the office to review, partly because it is their responsibility and part of their training, and partly because I do not expect anything exceptional to come out of the CD.
One such purchase and pass sequence was of a guy called Dagrin, whose album was titled CEO, an acronym for Chief Executive Omoita, Yoruba for ‘street kid,’ pretty much. To be honest, I thought, ‘And another one. Here we go again,’ and tossed it to the beat reporter, Abidemi Dairo.
Who is Dagrin?
All day long, Mr. Dairo had a big grin on his face - notice the irony - while listening to something via his headphones. He would occasionally laugh out loud and exclaim, ‘Oh God!’ I didn’t want to believe he was listening to one of the CDs I had handed him a few hours earlier, but his continuous singing of, “Momi mi o si nule” (translation: my mother isn’t home) proved otherwise. And when he turned in his review of CEO: Chief Executive Omoita by this Dagrin fellow, he had given it an A3 (a very good rating in essence) and gotten my attention.
I retrieved the CD, something I hardly ever do, and decided to ‘audit’ the review; another action seldom taken as these need to be independent acts of an individual’s opinion. I got into the car, slipped in the disc and was arrested by the opening chords of “Ghetto Dreams”, followed by the banging drums and somber chorus. Then a gruff but sincere voice goes into tales of his struggle.
“Ayimoye clubbing ti mo le afford one Red Bull/Ayimoye many colored T-Shirt but one red shoe/...Ayimoye many times ti mo play free show/Ayimoye ngba awon eyan ti ni kin lo give up/wo ni mo local, pe ona mi o se Hip-Hop/but mo wa determined, mo de wa focused/tori yen ni oruko mi’n spread bi staphylococcus/and ayimoye yawa, ayimoye insult/ayimoye je concoction without no salt...” (You don’t know how many times I went clubbing and couldn’t afford a Red Bull/You don’t know how many coloured T-Shirts I had but just one pair of red shoes/... You don’t know how many times I performed for free/ You don’t know how many times people told me to give up/they called me too local for Hip-Hop/But I was determined and stayed focused/that’s why my name is spreading like staphylococcus/and you don’t know how much trouble, how many insults/ You don’t know how many times I ate concoctions without no salt...)
I’m a believer
Just on the opening track, the honesty and delivery, I was sold. I became a believer. Not only was he spitting in Yoruba, he was spitting knowledge and making much sense, unlike majority of our rappers today. As the disc progressed, I found out that he was a gifted wordsmith and a talented rapper who knew how to carry a song, regardless of its topic or tempo. The infectious, raw energy of “Pon, Pon, Pon” and its gun clicks provided the ultimate adrenalin rush, and its matching video released months later, is one of the most impressive Nigerian TV has ever seen.
Then the crowd-pleasing, no holds barred raunchy ditty, “Kondo (Magic Stick)” took the young MC to brand new levels of public adulation and appreciation. This was what kept Mr. Dairo smiling during his listening session. A whole nation was set to follow. Wherever you went and heard the youthful cackle followed by:
“Momi ti lo soja, dadi mi travel lo Lokoja/e mi nikan mo wan le, so ma wa ba mi sere...” (my mom has gone shopping, my dad has traveled to Lokoja/I’m home alone/do you want to come over and play...) Dance floors went ballistic, in anticipation of the must-sing-along hook:
“Momi mi o si nu le/dadi mi o si nu le/egbon mi o si nu le/e mi nikan mo wan le/wa gba kondo o/kondo/kondo/wa wo Commando/mando/mando (my mother’s not at home/my father’s not at home/my older sister’s not at home/I’m home alone/come get the magic stick/and watch Commando).
The local boy had not crossed over to the ‘posh’ side of things, he had brought the ‘posh’ to the streets. Everybody was now a believer in the boy with one red shoe. Including me of little faith. Dagrin was here to stay and wasn’t apologising to anyone who didn’t like it. I liked it and made it a mission for everyone to like it as well, in fact, love it. What was not to love? Even those who had no idea what he was saying sang along with perfect timing. Mr. Dairo even asked him why he chose to rap in Yoruba and he said, “I believe if I can’t rap in English better than 50 Cent, Jay-Z, Jadakiss and the rest of them, I’ll rap in the language where they can’t do it better than I too.” Touché.
In living color
All this while, I had never met this young man but knew I would soon enough and planned to shake his hand and tell him how much of a fan I was. Beat FM gave me a chance at their launch event. Donaeo of the UK was the headliner for the concert, but I remember telling anyone who would listen that this was Dagrin’s night and the ‘little engine that could’ did not disappoint. It was interesting to watch him argue with his manager backstage because he wanted to take his shirt off but his manager was against it. He’s the artist and the one everyone came to see, so of course he won this battle... and the respect of any other doubters that might have still existed.
Shirt off, pants sagging, adrenaline pumping, Dagrin took to the stage and ripped through his set driving the crowd close to pandemonium. Song after song, the crowd sang along and Dagrin’s star shone. He was so pumped up that he hit the floor and sped through about 30 pushups. Even Donaeo, not taking his eyes off the stage, tapped his manager for a Flip recording device and captured this young man captivate an entire audience. This was the kind of moment he had worked for all his life and he grasped it with both hands and milked it for what it’s worth. Me? I was happy to have witnessed the birth of a star, a bona fide, shine at night, glow in the dark, soar above the earth, super duper star.
And his name was Dagrin, a kid that wasn’t meant to be here because he was too local for Hip-Hop. When I finally did shake his hand, I let him know all this (not in so many words of course, not to sound like a groupie) and the young man who was sitting down, stood up and was bowing as I was speaking to him, showing his appreciation. That’s the kind of guy he was.
It’s so hard...
The kind of guy I am, I don’t like referring to people in past tense but the Grim Reaper has left me no choice. When I got the sad news that Dagrin had been taken from us, I didn’t know what to think. I heard about the crash, saw the photographs but believed he would bounce back. This was not his last bus stop.
His destination was the top. His story was to inspire a whole generation to believe and never give up. To stay focused and have their names spread like staphylococcus. That was the plan.
But that’s the problem with plans; they don’t always come together. They just leave unanswered questions. What if he never got into Hip-Hop? What if he never met Sossick, his producer and partner? What if he never had a hit? What if he didn’t start the car that day? What if he didn’t leave us so soon? What then?
He didn’t come up like most of us. Definitely not like me but we embraced him, with arms wide open because he was honest; brazenly so. He was personable; charming to a fault. He was passionate; raw and uncompromisingly so. He was different but we loved him all the same. He was meant to feel uncomfortable and out of touch in our world. He couldn’t have been more comfortable. And he did it all with a grin. Never scared.
All we can do now is pray for his family, his friends, and his fans. Dagrin wasn’t meant to leave us so soon. That’s what we tell ourselves. God knows best and He knows why the CEO has changed office.
I thank God that I witnessed this phenomenon. So young. So talented. So full of life. I would like to thank Dagrin for his courage and dedication; for having a dream and pursuing it; for his honesty and for the music. I will not cry for you, instead I will laugh like you laughed and bump your music with a huge grin on my face.
“You know what it is, you knew what it was baby.”
Tripple Hip-Hop World Awards nominee Dagrin, was yesterday involved in a motor accident. Although details were not available, a source said he suffered severe injuries to his head and chest which necessitated his being operated upon at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital, LUTH. His manager, Tunde, would only confirm that the Yoruba lyricist, who is currently enjoying rave reviews on his album CEO, is in a “critical state.”
Dagrin, real name Olaitan Oladapo, is currently with Miosofunyin Entertainment where he released his sophomore rap album Chief Executive Omoita late last year. He is nominated in the Album of the Year, Artist of the Year and Best Rap Album categories of the 2010 Hip-Hop World Awards.