9ICE versus RUGGEDMAN: THE ART OF THE BATTLE
One element that can never be taken away from rap; Hip Hop music is the battle. This is the part of the art in which an emcee (or a dj or b boy or graffiti artist/bomber for that matter) steps up and goes against a worthy or not-so-worthy opponent for respect and; as in the case of smarter artists like Jay-Z and Nas; for the art and the cash.
There have been several battles/beefs in rap, most of which ended well (Kool Mo Dee vs. Love Bug Starsky, KRS One vs. Nelly, D. Block vs. G-Unit and most notably Nas vs. Jay-Z), but about a handful that ended tragically. The Pac/Biggie beef most readily comes to mind, but battling is something that true rap fans enjoy not only because it allows them confirm the validity and street credibility of their favorite artists, it also allows for good music to enjoy. Therefore, thanks to a constant competing environment (every rapper is the best dead or alive), there’s hardly a time in the culture with a lack of active competition.
Hip Hop, as we all know (or should know) has a far reaching influence, and Nigeria has not escaped the clutches of this culture. Hip Hop is so powerful that even acts who do not know or have any idea of what genre their music falls into hide under the Hip Hop umbrella (D’Banj, 9ice, Tuface, Sid/D’Prince of Mo’ Hits to name a few), and of course there’s hardly a place on this planet where emcees/rappers can co-exist peacefully. Too many egos at play, too many so-called reputations to protect. As so therefore, here comes the battle thing again.
Quite a number of battles tracks/diss records/beefs have also been recorded in the Hip Hop community in Nigeria. From arguably the most popular of all time; the Ruggedman track, Ehen featuring Nomoreloss which had Rugged going against a third of the Nigerian music industry and the most popular artists of that time, to Big Bros that had the same Ruggedman going at Kenny & D1 who were like the Diddys of music in Nigeria; to lesser known ones like For Free, a scathing record from the Kalifate going at Freestyle for selling a beat to two different artists; the Kalifate & Too Short; from Iceberg Slim going at M.I to Ghetto P going at Mode9 to Mode’s (unconfirmed) response; Warning…and the list goes on.
One of the most disappointing has to be the battle/beef between Mode9 and Ruggedman. It was disappointing in that fans were hoping to at least get some great music from two of rap’s vanguard in Nigeria but alas; only one side of the verbal war passed muster. With scathing tracks like ‘Talking to You’, ‘Deathblow’ parts 1 & 2; it was pretty clear who the winner was. There was an attempt by the opposite to respond, but it was a lame one in that in a battle, no one scores points by bragging about being richer. You might talk about selling more records, but that (if mentioned at all) is usually to prove that you have more credibility than the other guy. Check Jay-Z’s Takeover. So the ‘Banging’ track sailed over heads; core Hip Hop fans and mere listeners alike. But before long, one of the contesters would be involved in a more famous battle of words.
It probably began a long time before now, with an undercurrent of veiled threats and subtle disparaging, but what the general public knows is this: on 9ice’s third album there is track titled ‘Once Bitten, Twice Shy’ on which the Alapomeji boss sings about a trifling partner. Before long, the rumors started flying around that said song was about Toni Payne; 9ice’s then-wife & mother of his son, Zion. Before the album dropped, to further attach credence to the infidelity rumors, 9ice and Toni walked the oft-tread path of separation. That was the spark that was needed to ignite the entire forest.
I cannot say categorically when or how Ruggedman (real name Michael Ugochukwu Stephens) came to be involved in it, but the gist started doing the rounds that the ‘friend’ 9ice had mentioned on the above track was Ruggedy. And then, the entire thing moved to Facebook where, via status updates Toni allegedly insulted her estranged hubby repeatedly and Rugged asked 9ice to say something to clear the air, urging him to think about his son and such and such. Apparently, not too encouraged by 9ice’s silence, he placed a phone call to 9ice and asked him to call a press conference to clarify who exactly the ‘mysterious friend’ was, despite the latter’s reportedly repeated stating that the song was not about him (Rugged). This obviously was not enough for the man, whose persistence at asking 9ice to clear his name had begun to raise eyebrows.
Things apparently came to a head when Ruggedman, probably feeling burdened (for a very unclear reason) decided to release what was supposed to be a phone conversation between friends to the press, probably to clear his name. Unconfirmed rumors (given credence by the fact that 9ice had not spoken in public against Rugged before then) say that was the move that ticked 9ice off, and the man born Abolore Akande, true Hip Hop style (note; 9ice is Hip Hop as in culture wise but does NOT do Hip Hop music which is rap) took to wax to air out his aggression via Seriki; a professional beginner in popular rap circles on ‘Talk I Am Listening’, a two minutes ten seconds long track.
Things were tense, because on the above track 9ice had bragged about releasing the full version of the track on Ruggedman’s birthday; September 20 (the track had hit the internet a week before) and people wanted to know what the baba would do. Would he take this lying down? If so, it would be another nail in his coffin; 9ice being the hammer, Seriki being the nail.
And then, roughly two weeks later the Ruggedman camp responded via a young cat named Chinaydu on a track called ‘9ice the Ingrate’, a four-minute sixteen seconds long track containing a lot of verbal venom (note: I said verbal not lyrical). The airwaves began buzzing again; what would the self-styled Bashorun Gaa do next? But, even as the issue was being thrown back and forth, there was a subtle undercurrent of feeling; a deeper discussion going on. Now that the first round is over; shots had been fired by both camps, points were supposed to be awarded. Who is leading so far?
To be continued next week