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Monday 20 October  
Leonard Pizat Lepdung AKA Pizzo da Lyrical Praxis
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Jos, Nigeria
Jos, Nigeria

In Nigeria, battling the system one rap at a time

Published on : 2 January 2013 - 2:10pm | By RNW Africa Desk (Photo: Kingsley Madueke)
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In Jay Town – that’s Jos, Nigeria, for the uninitiated – hip-hop talents and enthusiasts converge on Basement Studios. This is the setting for their rap battles and where they record the songs that don't shy away from social and political issues. The government and political elite may not like the lyrics, but these young firebrands don’t seem to care about anything except telling it like it is.

By Kingsley Madueke, Jos

On a recent weekend, I find myself hanging out with the Critique Entertainment crew. When I arrive at Basement Studios in Kufang, a suburb of Jos, no one needs to tell me it’s all hip-hop with these guys. It’s not just their gear: the sagging jeans, baseball hats and Timberland boots. It’s hard to miss the swag in both tone and behaviour as we exchange pleasantries.

Questions
In the studio itself, I'm greeted by fiercely delivered lyrics laid on a bassy-sounding track.

“‘Questions’: that’s the name of this song”, says in-house producer Iortom Abiem, more commonly referred to as Tommy Shield. He is busy mixing sounds, his eyes glued to the computer screen. “Here we do it raw, not caring what anyone says or thinks.”

The artist behind ‘Questions’ is Leonard Pizat Lepdung AKA Pizzo da Lyrical Praxis and famous for weaving rhymes and head-banging beats with strong socio-political messages.

“I can’t think of a better channel of communicating with my audience”, he says, nodding to the music. “Rap music speaks across cultures and social classes. The hip-hop culture has penetrated every society and so rap gives you the opportunity to speak to a broad audience.”

Pizzo explains why the track currently in Tommy Shield’s hands bears this name: it raises critical questions about Nigerian politics, elections and the recurrent ethno-religious conflicts in different parts of the country.

As ‘Questions’ fades out, a set of African percussions introduces the next track, a mid-tempo lyrical description of Nigeria’s political culture and all its woes. On ‘Army Arrangement’, the rapper goes for the jugular of the political elite. Pizzo blames the economic hardship that youth face on leadership failure. He makes reference to the late Afrobeat legend Fela Kuti, who was also very critical of Nigerian politicians and army generals in the three decades following the country’s independence.

No airtime
Pizzo is known for his explicitness. Discussing 'Rayuwa', a track inspired by the 2010 Christmas Eve bombings in Jos, he recalls hoping a local radio station would air the song “to reach the people” and “to touch their consciences”.

“We weren’t trying to be badass”, he says about himself and his boys. “We were just attacking the issue the way it was. It was just the naked truth.” But the station’s feedback was negative. “They were like: ‘We can’t play the song. The lyrics are too hard. The reality is too much.’”

In fact, the road has been bumpy for Jos-based underground rappers. According to Pizzo: “Because of the nature of our songs, which are mostly critical of the system, we’ve been having difficulties getting our songs on air. Some radio stations have refused to play our music.”

Just like young black Americans used rap to speak out against racial prejudice and other ills in US society in the ’80s and ’90s, young Africans are increasingly turning to the genre as an outlet. That is, a channel for voicing discontent with their leadership, corruption and a host of other issues bedevilling their communities.

Liberating Nigerians
Jos, in particular, is home to many underground hip-hop artists and poets who express their views – notably, disgust – with the system through rap songs and poems.

But Pizzo looks to the future with hope and confidence. Besides an album release, in 2013 he’s scheduled to play a lead role alongside partner-in-rhyme Basics in the TV series ‘Jay Town Hustle’.

Critique Entertainment plans to release its first ‘Mix Tape’ album on 14 February and Pizzo’s album soon after. “We hope it will be well received because it’s packed with what true hip-hop fans desire”, says company CEO Louis Okopi.

Dr. Flames, as Okopi tends to be called around here, points out that the company is founded on good intentions. “We seek to liberate the average Nigerian from the clutches of ignorance, corruption, poverty and many other sad realities”, he says. “And we’re motivated by love.”

  • From left: Jay Blaq, Def Flow, Pizzo, Tommy Shield, Dr Flames, Kingsley Madueke<br>&copy; Photo: Kingsley Madueke - http://www.rnw.nl/africa
  • Some fans call producer Tommy Shield the “one with the ill touch”<br>&copy; Photo: Kingsley Madueke - http://www.rnw.nl/africa

Discussion

Anonymous 3 May 2014 - 12:02pm / nigeria

STORM RECORDS AUDITION 2014 Storm Records Superstars has been away from the Nigeria music industry for a while now,so STORM RECORDS is looking upcoming talented artistes to come for an audition and the most talented artiste will have a record deal with STORM RECORDS and lots of consolation prizes for the participating artistes all interested artistes are to send their details via email to (stormrecord93.5@musician.org)or tel storm record via +2348147825411 in the following format.
NAME…….
STAGE NAME…..
MUSIC GENRE…..
ADDRESS……..
AGE……
PHONE NUMBER…… All entries should be sent via email to (stormrecord93.5@musician.org)or tel storm record via +2348147825411 immediately because limited slots is available.
STORM RECORDS
AUDITION TEAM 2014
BEST REGARDS

stormrecord 25 April 2014 - 11:34pm

STORM RECORDS AUDITION 2014

Storm Records Superstars has been away from the Nigeria music industry for a while now,so STORM

RECORDS is looking upcoming talented artistes to come for an audition and the most talented artiste

will have a record deal with STORM RECORDS and lots of consolation prizes for the participating

artistes all interested artistes are to send their details via email to (stormrecord@musician.org)or tel storm record via +2348159754342 in

the following format.

NAME…….

STAGE NAME…..

MUSIC GENRE…..

ADDRESS……..

AGE……

PHONE NUMBER……

All entries should be sent via email to (stormrecord@musician.org)or tel storm record via +2348159754342 immediately because limited slots is available.

BEST REGARDS

STORM RECORDS

AUDITION TEAM 2014

moncler weste herren 30 January 2013 - 6:29am / moncler weste herren

This is the best article I have read, thank you, I have learned a lot of knowledge in this area.

Annette De la Court 18 January 2013 - 8:10pm / UK

Good to see that there is more music coming from Nigeria!

Hans Boonen 4 January 2013 - 10:47am / France.

When at last will it be possible to share an article on facebook without having it accompanied with "your in burqua dressed up woman", instead of the relevant photo of the article in question ??? Surely this ought not to be sò difficult !!!

Anonymous 3 January 2013 - 11:03pm

Nobody looks the same, however, nose of both in black t-shirt and white with print same, oval only more musculine as in striped shirt:)
Ourdays music has to have double meaning when we talk about social, political reality..

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