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How TikTok has Aided the Emergence of Hypemen in Afrobeats

The biggest hype songs, like “Shedibalabala”, “Wife material”, “Run This Town” and so on all benefited from Tiktok’s insane ability to amplify short snippets of part-melodic part-gibberish sounds to epic…

  • Patrick Ezema
  • 1st January 2023

The Nigerian nightclub scene is relaxing, yet oppressive. In the blue-hued scenery of Cubana and the smoke clouded rooms of Club DNA, music and money are kings. A new entrant in the Nightclub scene may be taken aback at first encounter, as music is stopped at intervals to hail the latest big spender. The hypemen take it upon themselves to induce such acts of extravagance, and to their aid they invent slangs, or “lamba”, as it’s commonly called in the South Western part of the country. “Dorime no be for civil servant” is a common one, that implies such grand acts of spending — when the music stops, lights dim, vixens emerge bearing drinks over their heads, or perhaps in a coffin — are best left for those with the financial capacity, and this excludes salary earners. While the role of sentences like this in promoting the get-rich-quick culture among Nigerian youth is another discourse entirely, what cannot be ignored is the power of these hypemen to induce spending in even the most frugal people. 

 

Today, a person needs not have an active nightlife to become acclimated to hypemen and their ways. Having been soaked in the spirit of Afrobeats, night after banging night soundtracked by Nigerian pop music, the last few years have seen them attempt to get even closer to Nigerian music culture, and a few have taken to the studio to record songs of their own. The music they produce is a direct extension of their already established role in the nightclub ecosystem, now they no longer have to shout these lamba over playing music, the music can come “pre-hyped”. Take a hypeman like Toby Shang, who has the largest footprint in music and was one of the first to make a proper cross-industry switch from hype to music. His music is primarily composed of beat heavy sounds into which he inserts his trademarked lamba, lines like “na we dey run this town” and “shutdown is a shutdown” which are created especially for the club, and he makes no attempt at passing a message, content only with being able to get feet moving on the dance floor and money wads flowing from pockets.

 

 

While acts like Toby Shang, Emmyblaq, Jerry Shaffer etc are the most visible in today’s hype industry, especially at its intersection with Afrobeats and Tiktok, a delve into hype’s origin in modern Nigerian music will highlight names from before their time. Names like Special Ed (now Special Spesh). The large sized hypeman made his debut on the first ever MTV Base VJ Search in 2007, and, despite losing out in the finals to Cynthia ‘C-Von’ Okpala (now a TV producer and OAP), was able to score a contract with Mo’hits records. He would later leave Mo’hits with D’banj, before settling with Davido as a hypeman for 30BG artists. Do2DTun (the self-styled Energy gAD) is another name worthy of mention. The dancer, OAP, hypeman and businessman was one of the first to professionally hype for other acts, and he hosted the Star music trek show on a tour of the country between 2014 and 2015. Today he’s an industry big shot, serving as host of Pepsi’s turn up Friday, chief brand officer of Clout Africa and CEO of Ecleftic entertainment, which manages his brother, Pepenazi. Other forerunners like Ehizojie Ehiz Okoeguale, winner of the second edition of MTV’s VJ Search in 2013, or Jimmie, former hypeman for D’banj and Industry night host and many more were instrumental in the propagation and acceptance of hype culture in Nigeria, adapting the pre-show gyrations of hip hop greats like Flavor Flav, P. Diddy, Swizz Beatz etc to a Nigerian audience, delivered in Nigerian English/pidgin and taking our culture and unique sensibilities into account.

 

None of these men, though, brought the hype industry as close to Afrobeats as it is today. They did make brief forays into music, as evidenced by Do2DTun’s songs with his brother and Olamide, as well as Special Spesh occasionally hopping on hip hop tracks, but neither act made sustained efforts to properly enter the music scene. Today’s hypemen however, have been able to abridge both industries, so that an act can create a lamba this friday and have it recorded for a song release the following week.

 

The widespread adoption of hype lamba in music is aided in no small measure by TikTok, the video sharing social media platform. The biggest hype songs, like “Shedibalabala”, “Wife material”, “Run This Town” and so on all benefited from Tiktok’s insane ability to amplify short snippets of part-melodic part-gibberish sounds to epic proportions. As the internet and social media bring changes to how music is discovered and enjoyed, more and more artists realise the influence of TikTok in quickly introducing a new sound to an audience, and a few are able to capitalise on this to draw the public’s attention to an upcoming or already existing song. 

 

 

“Shedibalabala” is an example of how big a song can become with little publicity other than a viral TikTok sound. Still hotly contested by Toby Shang and Jerry Shaffer as to its original ownership, both parties went on to release their own versions of the viral original that was the soundtrack to several Tiktok twerk videos. Shaffer retained most of the elements of the original viral sound, with his version named “Shedibalabala trademarked” to emphasise the smartness of his team in quickly copyrighting the word. Shang’s version on the other hand is without some of the additional lamba of the original “Irole le ma n we/ Ale le ma n fine“, but chaotic beat production ensures it is the more danceable song, which seems to be the ultimate goal in this industry.

 

“Wife material”, created by Emmyblaq has had young ladies dance before the camera while outlining the features of a good wife according to Emmyblaq. Snippets like these, especially when shared by large accounts and celebrities on the platform, have the ability to trend very quickly as Tiktok culture encourages its users to recreate the videos they see, allowing for a continuous self propagation of free publicity. The other biggest sounds in the hype-afrobeats scene, Toby Shang’s “Shey e dey shake”, DJ Flexy Naija and Emmyblaq’s “Hennessey V.S.O.P”., and Toby Shang’s “Run This Town” have all tapped into Tiktok’s influence to increase their popularity.

The hype industry, once a primary consumer of Afrobeats, has now stepped up to production. As the young acts behind this merger stretch their artistry to accommodate and create new sounds, it is exciting to imagine what could be when hype and lamba are fully installed into Afrobeats to create, from scratch, an entirely new genre.

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