Naija DJs and the Struggle to Stay Relevant
Chronicled by Afronuts @ Thursday, March 24, 2016
It was yesterday afternoon and I was in the studio at my office discussing with one of our contract sound engineers when Bunmi, one of our Account Management ladies walked in to sort out a couple of issues with the production unit.
Now Bunmi wasn’t just a corporate employee but also a part time disc jockey who goes by the name DJ Baldie. Her trademark look is her smooth clean shaven head which sits well with her stage name.
Bunmi is a heavily social person and always liked to groove so I wasn’t surprised when she walked up to Daniel the Sound Engineer/Producer and jokingly asked if he could produce a single for her. We all laughed wondering what on earth she was getting at until she decided to strut what she could do and told Daniel to play Asa’s ‘Jailer’ on the keyboards while she covered the song.
Daniel hit the keys and Bunmi started singing…and she wowed everybody!
Then it suddenly hit me – Bunmi is a DJ and she can sing.
Okay…where am I going with this?
It’s no longer a new thing to see so-called popular Naija DJs releasing videos of singles and crediting themselves as performers or artistes that own the track.
This trend apparently started eight years back with DJ Jimmy Jatt’s release of the track ‘Stylee’ which featured Tuface, Mode 9 and Elajoe. Watching the video or listening to the music you could feel Tuface dominate the song followed by Mode 9 and Elajoe. The element that showed that DJ Jimmy Jatt was relelvant was his ad-libbing call-outs, intermittent disc scratching and outro at the end of the song.
So if we ask the question, was DJ Jimmy Jatt relevant in the song? Maybe…if we at look at the call outs and most importantly the disc-scratching, then he did make himself relevant.
But how long will that be evident?
Years later Jatt would release more singles or videos where his elements of relevance are reduced to just calls-outs. No more disc-scratching. Other DJs would eventually spring up to do the same and today we have them all over the place in the likes of DJ Neptune, DJ Xclusive, DJ Spinall, DJ Shabsy, DJ Enimoney, DJ Humility to mention a few.
|Above: DJ Jimmy Jatt & Wizkid|
Below: DJ Neptune & Olamide
I’m still struggling to understand WHY DJs release these videos and singles…okay, it’s weird saying they ‘released’ when in actual fact they are not the real talent performing the songs being released. Just check out any video credited to any Naija DJ, you’ll discover that they end up being the ‘waka-pass’, 'background dancer’ or ‘background demonstrator’. Imagine if you had to perform the track before a live audience, then you would need the artistes you used to come on board making it look like they own the song and not you.
|Above: DJ Spinall & Timaya|
Below: DJ Shabsy with Kiss Daniel, Sugarboy and some dude
Okay, let’s raise the argument that our DJs’ relevance would be in contributing to the song’s beat (as some DJs happen to be creating beats as well – wow!).
So what about the ace producers who are not DJs but are the brains behind beats and instrumentation for songs that become a hit? Unless the producer himself also performs like you see in the case of Don Jazzy and Masterkraft (Yes! I said Masterkraft…check him out on Coke Studio and the video‘Indomie’), most of them don’t dabble into unnecessary showcasing like these DJs.
|Above: DJ Xclusive & Wizkid|
Below: DJ Enimoney & Olamide
Me thinks DJs dropping stuff and crediting themselves when they aren’t the artiste will never shine like artistes unless they train themselves to do something new that will require a performance. Take for example American DJ Quik who is not just a DJ but also a producer, actor and rap artiste – now that’s serious relevance. We’re in an age where if you don’t upgrade yourself, you’re gonna fade into obscurity. It’s not by appearing in a video that makes you relevant or by crediting your name to a work that shines on an artiste and not you.
I once asked a colleague about a certain song I was trying to remember and she said ‘You mean the Kiss Daniel song?’ I nodded and she told me it was titled ‘Rabba’. Then I reminded her that it was credited to a DJ. She couldn’t remember. Maybe if DJ Shabsy could do something like sing or rap she might have remembered him.
So Naija DJs…upgrade yourselves and stop doing waka-pass in videos that give the glory to someone else but is credited to you….abeg!