We take a deep dive into a Nigerian classic: Sauce Kid’s Money Long mixtape, released in 2006.
We create history every day. Everything we do today becomes past tense immediately after the moment passes. And sometimes, the only way to understand how things are is to study how things have been. Music evolves just like every other art form and the need to understand its origins about where it is right now cannot be understated. This column, titled Lost Files, lets us take a deep dive into records to understand the state of music as it once was. Together we’re going to look through some classics from yesteryear. It’s going to be fun!
Bolu and I took a short trip to Jazzhole, Ikoyi. Jazzhole is the home of old records. So, it makes sense that when you step in, you feel a wave of both known and unknown history hit you in the face. Everywhere you turn, you are face-to-face with an album that probably changed someone’s life. We came across albums from artists ranging from Durella to Grace Jones. As I moved through this endless sea of records, the one that caught my eye was Sauce Kid’s Money Long: Best of Both Worlds mixtape. The never-ending discourse of rap’s death in Nigeria piqued my interest in the project and made me wonder what changed over the 17 years since the project’s release.
Nigeria’s hip-hop started taking shape around the late 90s. Initially, the hip-hop sound was heavily influenced by what we picked up from Black American hip-hop. Ayo Shonaiya’s Afrobeats: The Backstory documentary gives more context to this. The early iterations of Nigerian hip-hop and music, in general, were characterized by groups and boybands who eventually split to pursue solo careers. Our rap music was also conscious at the time, with rappers like Eedris Abdulkareem and Mode9 making music that depicted the country’s state and a collective consciousness. Rap is a conscious genre at its core, but there was a gradual shift towards braggadocio and flexing culture towards the middle of the 00s.
Enter Sauce Kid, who took the country by storm with his smash hit, “San Bori Bobo”. At the time, Sauce Kid was a breath of fresh air. He came with a swag that was new to the scene and an aura that made you focus on him. Maybe because his style was heavily modeled after artists from America we already loved. Or maybe because he blended that style with lyrics that were very much Nigerian. If for nothing else, “San Bori Bobo” displayed the ingenuity and flavor that Nigerian artists have, a flavor that is heavily sought after now. A chorus of gibberish shouldn’t sound so good, but it does, and it’s fun. He christened himself the African Rap Ambassador and his first project Money Long: Best of Both Worlds proves that he had a hold on the genre in a unique way.
I’ll start by saying the project is actually good. As far as introductory projects go, it gives a good first impression of a young artist blending two styles to bring something peculiar to him. Sauce Kid balanced his Nigerian upbringing with an assimilated version of what an Atlanta rapper would sound like. The Mike Okri-assisted “Omoge Wa Jo” still sounds fresh; so fresh that Spotify enlisted Cruel Santino to remake it as part of their campaign to honor Nigerian classics. Sauce Kid expresses aspects of the Nigerian sensibility through Uncle Tenta — a caricature of a somewhat annoying family friend who shows up at your home unannounced. Every slang uttered immerses you deeper into what it feels like and means to be Nigerian as it cuts across different eras.
The evolution of Nigeria’s music in the mid 2000s set the tone for Afrobeats’ magnitude today. Looking back, it all feels prophetic; because even after 15 odd years you can hear how refined the sounds were. Sauce Kid, along with Don Jazzy, Ikechukwu and some other artists from that era had a good feel for where Nigeria’s music could reach. The A&R was quite delicate and at that time, I doubt even these artists knew the true levels they touched so early in their careers. Money Long: Best of Both Worlds highlights that Nigerian music has always possessed an X-factor because we’re prone to absorbing other cultures to embellish ours. Nigerian culture has always been world culture, and Afrobeats has struck symbiotic relationship with the world stage as it lends its flavor in exchange for a wider reach.
Duality plays a big part in the Nigerian experience. Heterogeneity is at the heart of it all, and the country is a melting pot that arms Nigerians to experience Western cultures. Sauce Kid covers several hit songs from that era of American music, ripping Fat Joe’s “Lean Back” beat and Remy Ma’s “Conceited”. His period of schooling in America plays a big part in Sinzu’s immersion into Western rap music. Sauce Kid, although occasionally switching cadences and tone, reclaims the genre that was created by people with the same skin as us. Money Long proves that Nigerian rap had a strong starting point, and the people enjoyed it. So, why has Nigeria’s mainstream rap scene deteriorated?
The demand for rap music in Nigeria has taken a great hit. The rise of the gargantuan Afrobeats genre surely played a part in this. But there is also a lack of imagination with the music. Sure, rappers like Blaqbonez and ODUMODUBLVCK have injected new life into the genre in recent times. But they are not the only rappers in the country. The truth is rap music in the country is no longer fun. Money Long holds up a mirror to the current rap scene to show it what it misses: fun delivery, kicking production, and well-written verses. There is a lot of that, but most of these sounds come from the underground. As much as the mainstream artists have to stick to their craft and work on it, the listeners have to give a chance to young blood who have a fresh take on what rap music could be. We did it with Sauce Kid, why can’t we do it with more people?