…Why he’s dominating Nigeria’s music scene
By BENJAMIN NJOKU
The Nigerian music scene in recent times has been saturated with lots of talented music stars, who are redefining the space and creating their own buzz. One of such wave-making stars is Azeez Adeshina Fashola, popularly known as Naira Marley.
Marley burst onto the country’s music space like ‘a colossus’ and suddenly stole the hearts and minds of many lovers of music in this part of the world. It still seems like the pop sensation dropped out of nowhere unto our collective music ears.
Before last year, not much was heard of the Agege-born rapper. Even after the release of his 2017 hit “Issa Goal”, which featured Olamide and Lil Kesh, Naira Marley was still not a name to be reckoned with in the Nigerian music scene. But it was after releasing his hit song, “Am I a Yahoo Boy” featuring popular musician Zlatan Ibile, where he alleged to have declared public support for internet fraud. Naira Marley became the name on everyone’s lips.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission,EFCC had arrested him alongside Zlatan and three other persons. They slammed an 11- count charge bordering on credit card fraud, car theft and Cybercrime against Naira Marley. Thus started a legal battle that culminated in his detention for 35 days. Many believe the EFCC arrested him because of his alleged support for internet fraud and his claim that cybercrime is a form of reparation of the wealth stolen from Africa. That was the beginning of his journey to stardom.
While the trial lasted, the controversial singer was busy creating buzz on social media. His fans were not deterred from protesting against his arrest outside the EFCC headquarters in Lagos.
Marley was quoted to have said in an interview that their rage was understandable. “Because they know the system. They knew what [the EFCC was] trying to do and they followed what happened. They knew I shouldn’t be getting arrested for what I’m saying. Freedom of speech! I should be allowed to be saying what I’m saying. But the EFCC said I was supporting fraud, because I said I have no problem with these people.”
Today, Marley remains one of the hottest artistes that have dominated the mainstream music chart in Nigeria and diaspora. His fan base has continued to increase on daily basis, just as he’s not free from troubles. Recall that in November, Marley set social media agog when he tweeted that a lady with a big butt was better than one with a Master’s degree. Few days later, the lewd singer alongside his siblings and cousins landed into another trouble after they were accused of stealing a car. But unfortunately, the court early this year dismissed the theft case and the singer walked away a free man.
Marley is a phenomenal singer who has a lot going for him. His journey from prince of Peckham to cult figure in Lagos, represents his evolution into a bonafide intercontinental rock star: selling out shows across Africa, and trailed intently both online and off by his mass of obsessive followers, called the ‘Marlians’.
Named after the Nigerian currency and known for his anti-establishment spirit and viral dance crazes, Marley’s wave connects the West African diaspora to their roots as he delivers his lines in a syrupy mixture of Yoruba and English.
Like Eedris Abdulkareem, Terry G and Bobrisky before him, Marley has been able to traverse between public hatred and adoration. On social media, he’s the most talked about Nigerian singer at the moment. While he’s yet to break into the international scene, Marley is currently enjoying the buzz he’s creating with his music back home. He’s in a lane of his own that politely ignores the commercialism of Afro-pop. To many, Marley is using his music to promote immorality and a generation of valueless youths, while to others, his music is awesome.
RnB singer, Asa described Marley’s music as “awesome.” Just as some twitter users once called out the ‘Puta’ hit maker after he declared that his songs can cure depression. They complained that his songs are noisy and senseless and “the only thing his songs can do is that it can cause depression rather than cure it.”
Since he burst onto the UK music scene in 2014, with Marry Juana, a song he wrote with his friend Ma Twigz, the Agege-born, Marley has been banging out hit after hit. In November 2019, the controversial singer sold out the almost 5000 capacity 02 Arena for Marlian Fest in three minutes. Tickets for the Marlian Fest which held on 30 December 2019 at the Eko Convention Centre, Eko Hotels, Lagos also sold out. There was chaos at the venue as fans tried to gain entrance into the concert.
But believe it or not, Marley is a singer you will hate to love. At present, the rapper is not just the rave of the moment, he is arguably the most popular artiste in Nigeria today. But the negative influence of Marley’s songs on the youths is unimaginable. This Marlian fever, like the era of Makossa has taken over the streets of Lagos and everywhere you go, men, women, the young and the old, the affluent and the poor are quick to claim they are Marlians with glee; and the buzz word “I am a Marlian” hits you like an unforgettable dream.
The lewd singer currently has a huge fan base. They call themselves Marlians. His songs and dance steps are inspiring a new generation of morally debased youths, who follow him around. It seems the youth would be his followers for a long time, except something serious is done. They revel in being “outsiders’, and as a trademark, they are disrespectful of rules and agents of law enforcement.
From the dance step, ‘Soapy,’ that has popularised the habit of masturbation to his off and on life inside prison to his recent dance step called ‘Tesumole,’ Naira Marley has continuously been a source of controversy and confusion in the Nigerian music scene.
It’s not for nothing that a clergyman, Chris Omashola, early this year took to his Twitter page, where he shared a series of prophecies concerning Nigeria. He warned that Marley is a demon and his music is inspired by demons, to destroy the youths in Nigeria.
“In 2020, God told me, Naira Marley is A Demon, He is Satanic and should repent before it’s too late. His songs are demonically inspired to destroy the Destiny of The Youths of this generation, Nigerian youths should desist from calling themselves Marlians. #ACOProphecies2020,” he tweeted.
Marley’s fans have since dismissed the clergyman’s warning, as they sent him threat messages; while he himself reacted by sharing screenshots of the pastor’s leaked sex tapes with an interesting caption. “To all Naira Marley’s fans aka Marlian. Please what’s your final judgment on this #NairaMarley and Apostle Chris Omashola case.” . Then on another occasion he tweeted: “Jesus never went to church.”
That’s not all, a certain mother reportedly cried out on social media after her teenage daughter was suspended from school for being part of a Marlian cult. According to the woman, the school caught over 25 girls who were members of the cult, including her daughter.
The teacher had found underwear in one of the girls’ bags and when she was questioned, she revealed that she was part of a cult whose members do not wear underwear to school on certain days.
It was, however, ascertained that the girls don’t wear pants, while the Marlian boys don’t wear belts.
However, it’s said that being a marlian has its ups and downs, from the rumoured beltless trousers for boys and underwear free girls who all believe in the marlian philosophy. You suddenly behold a boy next door who identifies himself as a Marlian, and ready to dance his Marley’s latest dance steps , ‘ Shaku shaku and Soapy (a demonstration of someone pleasuring him or herself through dance) and you are taken aback.
Despite the legal battle and the backlash against him, Marley’s fan base continues to rise., just as the singer is not relenting on his resolve to rule his world. On December 30, 2019, Marlians thronged the Eko hotel venue of the maiden edition of his headlining show, ‘Marlian Fest’ to keep a date with their music idol. While performing at the show, the singer announced his new record label, Marlian Records and resident presented the four artistes who are signed to his music imprint. He equally won his first major award at the 2020 Soundcity MVP Awards, held at the Eko Convention Center, Lagos Nigeria.
The Marlian President beat Tiwa Savage (49-99), Chinko Ekun (Able God), Prince Kaybee (Banomoya), Shatta Wale (My Level), Burna Boy (On The Low), Rayvanny (Tetema), Zlatan (Zanku – Legwork) to clinch the award for Viewers’ Choice for his viral song Soapy. And it was a major boost to his music career. But one wonders how far Naira Marley can go in this journey?