RIP Dagrin: A tale of cars, life and legacy [11th death anniversary]
If Ruggedman was a forerunner of the ideal, DaGrin broke the door down and created a worthy blueprint that rappers like Olamide, Reminisce and to an extent, Phyno and Classiq could follow.
Carroll Shelby is one of the greatest car designers in American history. After giving up an illustrious career due to incessant migraines, he formed a successful partnership with Ford Motor Company and effectively ended the Ferrari dominance at the prestigious endurance race, the 24-hour Le Mans. Much of this was dramatized in the movie, ‘Ford vs. Ferrari.’
But in the movie, Need For Speed (2014), another thing was dramatized. Embedded in the fundamental movie plot is the idea that Shelby was working on a Ford Mustang that could have been the greatest endurance race car with Ford Motor Company at the time he died.
While Shelby and his company Shelby American had built some amazing cars, the one he died building would have been his crown jewel. That inconclusive end to that arc deprives Shelby and the American automotive industry of a momentous work of art that could have re-imagined the idea endurance race cars. That inconclusive end is pretty significant to the story of another human being across the Atlantic. His name is DaGrin.
Shelby died on May 10, 2012 two years after April 22, 2010, the day Nigerian rapper, DaGrin, a budding superstar with a head for rhymes and a skill for deft punchlines passed away after succumbing to injuries sustained in a car accident – nonetheless.
When the car was fictionally re-imagined in the movie, Need For Speed, it was a one-of-a-kind, beautifully built sports car with a muscle peculiar to Ford Mustangs. It bore a conspicuous silver painting with blue lining, had the gruffness to excel in dirt and importantly, it travels at a top speed of 234 miles per hour. The car was then sold for a whopping $2.7 million.
DaGrin’s story is like the unfinished version of that car. Born Oladapo Olaitan Olaonipekun on October 25, 1984, DaGrin excelled because he represented the voice of the Nigerian people. Except you are counting the underground song, ‘Democracy’ and the off political reference in his music, being the voice of the people was not about being politically-driven.
Instead, he spoke for the polity and documented the struggles of inner-city Nigeria with a detail everyone could relate to. Even when you didn’t understand what he was saying, you could tell that he was saying something special. Nigerian journalist who is now the Creative and Design Lead at MAVIN Records, Segun Akande agrees.
“It was a feeling of knowing that there was someone who could channel the soul or the spirit of the streets – like the place I was embedded in – because of where I grew up. He talked about things I knew, but he did it with a kind of class, precision… Everything he had was amazing producer in Sossick – who is one of the greats,” Akande says.
He had a baritone voice perfectly suited to Hip-Hop, he was short of stature, but he had charisma, confidence and a personality. His natural ‘street looks’ was a brand and image that organically sold itself. Nigerian rapper, Paybac says, “Dagrin proved that there should not be a box. His flows and mannerisms were American as f**k. His content was very Nigerian and it worked.
“To me, he just showed that there’s always a way to do it if you’re passionate enough. The first time I listened to him, I think I felt awe. He reminded me of 2004 50 Cent and 2008 Lil Wayne – the swag and the delivery.”
Asides that, he was the rapper’s rapper and that endeared him towards the Nigerian Hip-Hop community that endorsed him without second thoughts. Between 2008 and 2010, he fed the beast of Nigerian Hip-Hop, impregnated it, watched it bear fruit, watch the fruit attain infancy and then passed on.
His emergence also coincided with the golden era of Nigerian Hip-Hop (2006-2010). Ayomide Tayo, Senior Editor at Opera News felt DaGrin marked the golden era of Nigerian Hip-Hop because he shifted culture.
His album, C.E.O (short for Chief Executive Omo-Ita or in English, Chief Executive Street Boy) sold out like colored ice water laced with sugar at 2pm in an inner-city Lagos primary school in the 90’s. ‘Pon Pon‘ became arguably the most-remixed Nigerian song of all-time. Across Nigerian radio stations and car sound systems, ‘Pon Pon,’ a core Hip-Hop track blared with intensity.
In fact, that beat birthed a lot of rap stars across Nigerian universities. Nigerian rapper, Mz Kiss told City FM in 2019 that she was a regular artist until she heard DaGrin. Of course, when you see Mz Kiss on a good day, she’s an eloquent ‘prom queen.’ The street voice is all part of an act she sells and that’s all down to DaGrin.
“I was not close to Dagrin, I was not close to Sossick either till much later. We (Sossick and I) even had a rap battle back then, of course you know what the result was (laughs). Sossick and his brother Gino had started MOB records, I had recently finished marketing my first project Listen and Overstand and distributed 5000 copies hand to hand – It took me close to a year,” rapper/100 Crowns Exec, AQ tells Pulse Nigeria about the mutual respect between him and DaGrin.
“We put up posters everywhere we could. I wanted to collaborate (with DaGrin) – MSpeech was close to Sossick, so I asked him to help me talk to Sossick to set it up. Sossick told me Dagrin came to his crib to listen to beats and he saw my posters in the studio and said I was one of the guys that inspired him to push through.
“If I could cut CD’s and push myself to sell them, then he could do it too. When I heard that, I was super inspired and did not request for a feature anymore, I just felt I could do it too.”
During his chat with Pulse, Lagos-bred Lebanese rapper, Oyibo Rebel credits DaGrin with his style and gritty flows. He claims that his catchy tune, ‘Ojumi Bloody’ is highly inspired by DaGrin.
On April 14, 2010, DaGrin’s Nissan Maxima rammed into a stationary truck at night. Some reports claim DaGrin was drunk, but those reports are unproven. He went into a coma as a result of the collision.There were conflicting reports about his injuries. Some said he was okay and recovering. Others said he was in a pretty bad shape and his life was in the balance.
Capturing those events as a young journalist working for Hip-Hop World Magazine in 2010, former Senior Editor of Topnews T, David Simeon writes, “We got to LUTH and it was pretty much obvious something was going down. People were gradually trooping in from all corners. The word was spreading, Dagrin, the ghetto champ and the people’s representative was dead.
“For some reason, we all gathered at a spot, fans, press people and the curious. A few minutes later stars started rolling in. Sasha was one of the first to show up. She looked sad. Olu Maintain in his immaculate blue jalabia and dark as hell sunshades managed to look ruffled.
:If you had any doubts that Dagrin was dead, YQ erased those doubts. He ran into LUTH like a man looking for hope. People who were with Dagrin at the time of his death confirmed to him that he was dead. YQ lost it. He rolled on the floor and wailed. Olu Maintain shrunk in size as he sadly shook his head. Dagrin was gone forever.”
After DaGrin died, Nigerian music shrunk into one unit away from the competition. Even rivals momentarily forgot rivalry and focused on humanity – he was 25 and destined for greatness. He is like that car Shelby never got to finish. In his element, DaGrin’s entire run was actually the early stages of a greatness. It was a career in en embryonic stage – not fully formed.
When he passed, we had only started to see signs of the greatness – that was not even remotely close to his peak. It just so happens that the embryonic success of DaGrin is the peak for other artists. Asides that, his embryonic run was immense enough to warrant arguments for greatness. Like the unfinished car Shelby was working on when he died, the world never got to see the best of DaGrin.
David Simeon opines that, “When DaGrin came out with ‘Pon Pon’ and C.E.O, people knew it was a gamechanger. Together with ‘Kondo’ and the remix, DaGrin was crossing over into the mainstream proper in the South-West especially when he passed away – it’s just sad.”
The arguments for DaGrin’s greatness are also partly induced by the incidence of DaGrin’s death in his prime. As Akande always says, “Death is a ready-made canvas for immortality. All you leave behind got no fault. Die young, live forever…” Nonetheless, only those destined for greatness will have arguments of greatness made for them after they die young.
The best we can do now though is build a dreamy song like ‘Jonylah Forever‘ by Lupe Fiasco and dream of DaGrin living it out as a legend in a parallel universe. He was set to rule.
At his best, DaGrin would have been like a rare Shelby-$2.7 million Ford Mustang cruising and excelling effortlessly through the many punishing terrains of Le Mans while mocking the competition for being inadequate. He might even have evolved into something bigger and left a legacy bigger than anything we imagine.
But unlike Shelby, DaGrin’s legacy is now constantly bedraggled by petty arguments around his greatness, remembered with momentary big ups from his peers and pressure on the shoulders of his brother, Trod – also a rapper. It doesn’t help that Trod went from being an Olamide fan to telling Naijaloaded TV that he would be bigger than Olamide in two years.
We have gotten the tribute songs, we have gotten the lazy conspiracy theories about DaGrin’s death from hungry liars, we have heard the posthumous rap verses, the eerily prophetic ‘If I Die’ and we have seen the Headies award. You might not believe it, but there is a legacy and a root.
The arguments for greatness is not without reason though
Most people knew DaGrin when he dropped that monster verse on YQ‘s 2008 trap song, ‘Efimile.’ Nigerian rapper, Paybac, TeckZilla (also a producer) admit that the first time they heard DaGrin was on that song. But before then, DaGrin had a life and even an album released in 2006 titled, Still On The Matter.
The album spurned popular songs like, ‘If I Die,’ ‘Rap Rules Anthem,’ ‘E Soro’ and ‘Nii 94.‘ Unlike a lot of people, Akande discovered DaGrin on ‘Nii 94.’ He says, “This was after I got into University in 2008. He was rhyming with ‘4’ like, ‘Buki to ma n wo Pina4 Nii 94, gbogbo yen o, itan ma niyen o..’ His cadence and flow were on point, even though the beat wasn’t A1. I was like ‘who is this guy?’
“I wasn’t sold right away because he wasn’t everywhere, but I’d expected to hear of him later. When C.E.O dropped, I was so excited that I held a listening party for it in my parents’ living room by inviting all my friends. We were vibing with my Mom until we got to ‘Kondo’ and when she yanked the CD out of the player. (laughs)”
Terry Tha Rapman
Terry Tha Rapman says, “The first time I heard of DaGrin was about 2008. I was in Ikeja, Lagos at the time and word was around the streets about this Yoruba rapper who was really dope and gaining a lot of recognition.
“The second time was when he got on DJ Jimmy Jatt’s Jump Off which got him a lot of attention and street cred. Then a few colleagues I worked with kept telling me about him (YQ, Laylow) but we never met.
“We first met on the set of ‘Owo Ati Swagger (remix)’ video set for Cartiair in 2009. I was the last to come on set because I had just flown in from Abuja and straight to location. He actually came at met me with a bottle of Hennessy which he told me he saved just for me. He got my love and respect that night. That was the kinda guy he was, cool and humble to my astonishment.”
Sossick is now a veteran who mostly started out as a rapper. He is regarded as one of the greatest Nigerian Hip-Hop producers of all-time. His other brother is Owen Gee, but in 2006 while attending YabaTech, he became known for producing his other brother, Gino‘s critically-acclaimed album, Pain Plus Work. Famously, he produced a chunk of DaGrin‘s classic debut, C.E.O.
Also famously, DaGrin hailed Sossick on ‘Pon Pon‘ intro, “Sossick on the beat, 70 beats in a week…” On how he met DaGrin, Sossick told Loose Talk Podcast in 2017 that, “We had just finished recording ‘Pain Plus Work’ when Gino came into the studio said there was this guy called ‘Grin… something’ He said the guy raps in Yoruba and he had seen one of his videos.”
Gino had heard ‘RapRules Anthem‘ off Still On The Matter and he was raving to his brother, Sossick in 2006. Sossick never heard the song or watched the video and he moved on with life. Then, one day in 2007 Sossick got a call from DaGrin. Immediately, it rang a bell in his head that it was the guy his brother was raving about months earlier. They agreed to see.
DaGrin went to see Sossick at YabaTech with Sati Ramoni. On that moment, Sossick says, “The way he believe in me ehn, nobody in this life has ever believed in me like that. So he said, “Boss, we gats work o…'” The plan was to work on one or two songs, but it became an entire working relationship and a brotherhood.
The first beat Sossick gave DaGrin was meant for Banky W. That beat became ‘Gboro.’ From there, Sossick who was blown away by DaGrin’s prowess requested they work on more songs and so it began.
AQ is now one of the greatest Nigerian rappers to have ever picked up a microphone. He has worked his way from the underground into the sub-mainstream. In the days that Sossick met DaGrin, AQ used to record at another rapper named MSpeech’s (on Twitter as @AceAkes) studio. MSpeech was close to Sossick and through that connection, AQ met DaGrin for the first time.
MSpeech and AQ had both just left a record label at the time. AQ says, “We had both just left a record label that did nothing for us and he decided to set up a home studio, He (MSpeech) introduced me to Sossick and a network of music makers around Ejigbo. I think DaGrin was a Gowon boy with DJ Neptune and YQ.
“These guys Sossick, Laylow (now Kelvin BOJ) , Frizzle of Frizzle and Bizzle who was a talented producer and singer then, Rayce, Sheyman, KP all lived in Ejigbo. They were some of the first people I knew to own home studios, Dagrin had started to buzz and had just started work with Sossick.
“Honestly, I was always around incredible talent back then. There were so many artistes rapping in Yoruba around that area. Dagrin had this 50 cent thing about the way he delivered. I think that’s what stood him apart. There were a lot of us – we were all special, any of us could make it big but not all of us would eventually stick to music.”
2008/2009: DaGrin’s confidence
In 2008, DaGrin was blowing up. AQ attests to that period, “Dagrin was blowing up we could all feel it.” That was the year he contributed his famous verse to YQ’s ‘Efimile.’ For me, that was when I heard of him. My friends came back from Lagos to then-University of Ado-Ekiti and would not shut up about this guy named, DaGrin who had just killed YQ’s trap song.
While speaking to Kraftmatiks for Modenine‘s album, Da Vinci Mode, he told me a story about MI Abaga and DaGrin. Kraftmatiks produced the famous ‘Fast Money, Fast Cars‘ featuring Wizkid from MI Abaga’s debut album, Talk About It. Asides that, he knew AQ, Sossick, MSpeech and the rest of the Ejigbo-Ikotun crew.
On how he made ‘Fast Money, Fast Cars,’ he says, “MI Abaga and I were at Bogobiri when we walked outside and I played him the beat for ‘Fast Money, Fast Cars.’
“MI Abaga lost his mind and was overjoyed. Work began on the song immediately.” As we spoke further, Kraftmatiks confirmed that MI Abaga also saw DaGrin coming. He says, “MI Abaga had commenced work on the song and guess who was meant to be featured alongside Wizkid? DaGrin (laughs).
“When I gave the beat to DaGrin in Surulere, he was excited and kept saying, “I will kill this beat…” but somehow, the collaboration never happened for some reason.” A lot of people will allude to DaGrin’s confidence in himself at the time just as he could easily get excited over anything.
AQ agrees, “I did not know him in person, but artists wanted to always know what fellow artists were up to back then – especially if you knew someone in their camp. It was the only way to keep up with the game and not be left behind. Everyone was trying different things – there was no blue print.
“From what I heard about him, he just somehow knew he was going to be big; his confidence was on a different level and he went out there on his own and did it. We all used to ask, ‘Who is behind this guy?’ because back then everyone that was popping in rap had some label or sponsor behind them. He had none, sponsors started jumping on the train when he started blowing up.”
By 2009, he was a full-blown menace in Hip-Hop. TeckZilla says, “I could tell that DaGrin knew Hi-Hop. The way he rapped was steps ahead of other Yoruba emcees at that time. He definitely raised it when it came to rap.”
He killed five minutes of the famous Jimmy’s Jump Off, released his monstrous single, ‘Pon Pon,’ supported it with an amazing video and released his debut album, C.E.O.
On this era, Ayomide Tayo says, “I felt ‘Pon Pon’ was going to change everything. Nigerian rap never got the street constituency right, but DaGrin hacked it better than anybody else – he was basically writing biographies of people below the poverty song. I think Sossick and DaGrin formed an amazing producer-rapper duo. Some songs sound dated on the album, but it’s a great album.”
Ayomide Tayo says, “DaGrin is one of the most influential Nigerian rappers of all-time – someone who shifted culture for Nigerian rap music. The soundscape before DaGrin was ruled by pop music – especially by P Square, D’Banj, 2Face and 9ice. A year before DaGrin dropped ‘C.E.O,’ MI Abaga dropped ‘Talk About It’ and Naeto C dropped, ‘You Know My P.’
“‘Talk About It’ changed Nigerian rap music forever. At that time, Nigerian rap went from super-lyrical to being flashy and lifestyle-driven. We had Nigerian versions of T.I. Kanye West and Lil Wayne – everybody could enjoy MI Abaga, Naeto C and DaGrin. At the time, you have to also realize that rap music influenced pop waves even at the time – Ruggedman, Swatroots, Eedris and Trybesmen.”
In a country like Nigeria where Hip-Hop is not exactly a staple of mainstream pop music, Hip-Hop is best-consumed by its detractors in ways they wouldn’t realize is the Hip-Hop they criticize. Ayomide Tayo says, “I think DaGrin broke that stigma attached to rap music and made it easy for people.”
On the streets of Lagos and beyond, DaGrin was a cultural staple that built a link between Hip-Hop and the mainstream. On the streets of Nigeria, human beings of all ages would blurt out DaGrin punchlines with the passion of a Harlem youth rapping Nas in ’96.
Segun Akande says, “He (DaGrin) hacked the problem of embedding his brand into the minds of people – something a lot of artists still have not figured out. Kudos to his team – DaGrin stayed on the streets, but got to that mainstream level where he was banging in the clubs. It was like a TIDAL Wave.”
In fact, at the height of DaGrin’s fame, he exemplified the oft-missing truth that Hip-Hop will only thrive in Nigerian mainstream when a large section of the polity can relate to it.
He exemplified what Paul Play Dairo told Ruggedman in the early 2000s about infusing the mother tongue, Nigerian cultural references and Nigerian ideals into Hip-Hop as the only way to succeed. (Ruggedman rapped about it on ‘Ruggedy Baba’ featuring 9ice.)
Ayomide Tayo says, “Before DaGrin came, a lot of so-called ‘Hip-Hop heads’ never really accepted indigenous rappers – they felt rapping in your mother was some sort of gimmick. AY in London or Lord of Ajasa got buzz, but not credibility from the Hip-Hop community. About three years before DaGrin blew, Ruggedman and Modenine had a beef over this issue of mother tongue.
“But when DaGrin came, he brought realness, rawness and authenticity to indigineous rap music in Nigeria and had that respect and credibility.”
Terry Tha Rapman says, “DaGrin was a major force in Naija Hiphop not just indigenous – he could rap in English and Yoruba effortlessly and he had a movement growing in the streets after the second album CEO dropped.
“I was on two collaborations with him before the untimely end (Owo ati Swagger rmx & Meet me at the Top). His legacy still lives on till date and he will always be in Naija rap debates and topics.”
AQ says, “Dagrin is the most important figure in Nigerian Hiphop. He could rap in English and Yoruba, he would rap with any rapper whether you rapped in English or Yoruba and still stand out. I don’t know if there is anything like ‘English rap,’ I believe we all just rap. M.I blew up, Ice Prnce blew up, Naeto C too, but Dagrin took blowing to a whole new level. That became what rappers aspired to and Olamide was able to rise to the occasion.”
If Ruggedman was a forerunner of the ideal, DaGrin broke the door down and created a worthy blueprint that rappers like Olamide, Reminisce and to an extent, Phyno and Classiq could follow. While Nigeria had seen rappers like Lord of Ajasa, Nigga Raw and more rap in their mother tongue, DaGrin’s success was different.
He had the respect of the Hip-Hop community and the star power that could sell in the mainstream. He was the antithesis of English speaking rap in Nigeria and he made English speaking rappers contemplate their next moves. Speaking on how DaGrin influenced non-Yoruba speaking rapeprs, Ayomide Tayo feels it was not as direct.
However, he feels like DaGrin showed that language is not really a barrier. He says, “DaGrin proved that if your music is honest enough, you will sell. Today, Zlatan is doing shows in the core North, Olamide is doing shows in the East, Phyno is doing shows in the west.
“There’s also something with language that DaGrin changed. It’s like going to the market and you’re speaking English with a Yoruba woman. If you switch to Yoruba, you’ll find out that the connection is different. People who have their guard up against Hip-Hop will let their guards down when they hear Yoruba, Igbo or Hausa – it’s emotional.
“A lot of people who listen to Olamide or Phyno won’t listen to Jay Electronica – it’s not their business, he’s not telling their story. But once Badoo speaks in Yoruba or Phyno speaks Igbo, you give them a chance. Even if you’re not from that tribe, you listen because you’re a Nigerian and you can feel emotions. I don’t understand what Phyno says, but I listen.”
On what made DaGrin different, Segun Akande says, “It was around the time that Lord of Ajasa was blowing up as well, telling grimy stories and releasing hits. Lord of Ajasa felt like some guy who came off a bus-stop and went into the booth to vent all the trouble he’d experienced while Dagrin felt like some guy in the corner of his mom’s room just taking everything in.
“But instead of going straight into the booth, he had a workman listening to 50 Cent, Lil Wayne, Ludacris and early trap music. His experiences were not just filtered through momentary music, they were filtered through quality music worthy of respect and blueprint status. It felt like Dagrin knew he could make sense on that international level, but knew he lacked the resources. I just wanted him to get sponsors.“
While Segun Akande was just a member of the audience at the time, this point ties into the confidence that Kraftmatiks and AQ had pointed to earlier.
While MI Abaga is the greatness that the golden age of Nigerian Hip-Hop (2006-2010) birthed, DaGrin was its crown jewel, its legacy and its greatest offering and lesson to the Nigerian Hip-Hop community. Asides that, DaGrin was a potential lifestyle movement who spoke the truth of the majority. His stories represented the bread and butter for the mainstream.
Again, Segun Akande comes through. He says, “I think before DaGrin, a lot of rappers felt a need to sell aspirations, but DaGrin simply validated the struggle when he came on. Even Lord of Ajasa that was talking the grimy stuff was pulling up in big whips and getting all the girls.
“Every young person would aspire to that, but Dagrin was special because he was not focused on getting to the top of the ladder, he was focused on everybody at the bottom of that ladder to get to that top. He kicked the door open for a lot of people. The way I see it, I don’t think there will be a Naira Marley without a DaGrin because there are certain perspectives that the mainstream shuts out.
“Dagrin opened the door to those perspectives.and packaged it in solid, grimy Hip-Hop and that was it. The opening words of his first verse of ‘Pon Pon’ was my reality, it’s yours… He didn’t force it and it was organically resonant. I remember when a friend used to look down on Dagrin and another of my friends said, “You nor know my story, you nor fit understand.”
“It’s like how people look down on mumble rappers now while kids who have been addicted to drugs all their lives due to personality or behavioural issues can relate more than they will to Jay Electronica.”
To Paybac, DaGrin taught him that, “There shouldn’t be a box.” Veteran producer, TeckZilla says, “He had a good ear for beats and his songwriting was good. He could flow on boombap, afropop effortlessly. It should be that he opened broke down doors for Yoruba rap to really sink in. Only time will tell but as long as we pay respects his legacy should still be intact.
“He was able to fuse the grittiness of the streets with commercial appeal while keeping the Hip-Hop element in his delivery. Need I say more?! Rest in power.”
DaGrin paves the way
In a previous article, this writer examined that, this writer wrote thus, “If DaGrin were alive, chances are he could have operated at the level Olamide is. Chances are also that he might not have. In 2010, Nigeria’s hottest artist was Wande Coal. Fast forward 10 years later, Wizkid who is probably an offspring of his style is far greater than Wande Coal. Thus, nothing is ever set in stone.
“Olamide could have eclipsed DaGrin and he could have ended up playing catch-up to DaGrin throughout his career – nobody knows.
“There is also a chance that could have both co-existed like Wizkid and Davido and thrived together. But one thing we shall not deny is that, DaGrin is Olamide’s forerunner. When DaGrin died, the listener-scape was better prepared to accept a Yoruba-speaking rapper as a superstar than it was when Ajasa was popping.
“DaGrin crashed doors open in the soundscape with his endearing ability and technique. Lord of Ajasa was a momentous occurrence in Nigerian music, but DaGrin took it further than Ajasa ever did. Apologies to Burna Boy, but DaGrin paved the way for Olamide.
“Yes, DaGrin did things for himself, but while doing things for himself, he became a trailblazer who inspired many and made an entire country more willing to celebrate a Yoruba-speaking rapper. At least, DaGrin took over from where Ajasa left off. That’s not to say DaGrin didn’t also benefit from time – he did.
“Everyone in the history has benefited from the element of timing for their greatness. Even Jay Z only really took off as a mainstream superstar after The Blueprint was released. You cannot undermine the influence of DaGrin in what Olamide has achieved and that’s facts. That said, we need to be careful about arguments that could easily be defeated by time.”
In those quotes, take Olamide to mean other indigenous rappers – especially the Yoruba-speaking ones. Akande buttresses with Hegel’s philosophy that, “His main postulation is that history is a thread of events, rather than random events just happening. If you look at history, you would see that things are connected cordially – outcomes and events are interlinked.
“If you look history as a thread, you begin go notice patterns. I feel nothing happens in isolation. Applying that to music, one pacesetter cannot exist without another pacesetter. I grew up in Ketu and I used to see Reminisce as a neighbourhood hero. I can’t say Reminisce wouldn’t have made it without Dagrin.
“However, I also understand that the doors Dagrin opened would have remained shut for Reminisce had Dagrin not opened them. It would have been more difficult for Reminisce. I’d never say that Dagrin paved the way for anybody, but he made it easier for people who came after him to pass through.”
The question then becomes whether Dagrin opened any doors. On that, Ayomide Tayo says, “I don’t want to say DaGrin directly influenced anybody or that his death triggered the golden era of Hip-Hop. I remember that a few months after DaGrin died, a young Olamide came to audition for Ayo Animashaun to perform at the Headies nominees party.
“I was like ‘who is this guy coming after DaGrin?’ But what do I know. Look at Baddo now (laughs). I think DaGrin must have given the Yoruba rappers confidence or courage to go at it. Olamide did it, Reminisce switched to Yoruba and boom. Phyno from the East did it with four hardcore singles. I can’t say Phyno listened to DaGrin, but you can’t take certain things out of the equation.”
In the end, Ayomide Tayo says, “DaGrin had a great moment, but it will be unfair to then elevate him over people like Olamide, Phyno and Reminisce who have done greater things. DaGrin could have been a great rapper, but it never happened.”
Today, a young rapper like Alaye Proof is still referencing DaGrin in his 2020 album. On the ‘Intro’ to his album, he raps, “Tupac is alive and DaGrin dey. Jesu won l’oku, Jesu wa ku l’ojo ajinde…” Thus means, “Tupace is alive and DaGrin is alive. Only their Jesus died, our Jesus rose on the ressurection.’
DaGrin isn’t dead. DaGrin lives. His legacy is intact. 10 years after, the pulse of Nigerian music still resonates his impact.