By Udochukwu Ikwuagwu
“Look, fuck all that “Happy to be here“ shit. That y’all want me on · I’m the big homie, they still be tryna lil bro me…” Drake (Pound Cake/Paris Morton Music 2)
Nigerians love to be put on that happy-to-be-here tip, and “Osinachi” singer just proves this theory. They love to get into their ‘fake humble’ mode while mopping the floor with their culture of ‘too much respect’. At the just concluded 11th edition of The Headies, 25-year-old Humblesmith met up with fellow nominee, Wizkid, and what could have been a typical greeting between the music industry colleagues, spiralled into a disturbing, irksome sight. One would have expected the usual ‘hi hello’, exchange of handshakes, perhaps a ‘bro’ hug or high-five gesture when mates run into each other. But Humblesmith decided to act like the average Nigerian, with the ‘oga sir’ mentality, and go for a bow. He bowed in such an obsequious manner that it could have been assumed he was putting up a strong entry for the #BidoungChallenge.
Africans like to display ‘too much respect’ towards those they consider authority figures or have-made-its or generally to anyone they regard as successful. So, it wasn’t a surprise recently when Cameroonian Sports Minister, Bidoung Kpwatt, got parodied, ridiculed and slammed heavily on social media for the lowness of his bow as he greeted President Paul Biya. That action spurned hundreds of memes, and thousands commenting or participating in the #BidoungChallenge, that got the internet buzzing for days.
Why would 25-year-old Humblesmith bow so low, as though re-enacting a Flo Rida song, to a 26-year-old Wizkid? For Pete’s sake, they are colleagues in the same industry, nominated at the same event, and almost age mates. Even if Wizzy is twice Mr Smith’s age, why the heck should he bow so low, in a subservient manner, for one not responsible for his sustenance, career growth or livelihood? This same culture of ‘too much’ respect or fake humility rears its ugly head in the relationship between Nigerian employers and employees, or in interactions between ‘big men’ and not-so-known entities, or even between peers. Nigerian writer, Yemisi Aribisala once wrote on this culture of ‘too much’ respect or disrespect, as she termed it: He adds “sir” to the end of every sentence, never looks [him] in the eye, and doesn’t speak unless he is spoken to. Sometimes, he endures berating or verbal abuses from [him], as if he were a child… Nigerians love the rungs of the ladder. Love the fact that people are compelled to know their place, compelled to earn their place by whatever means to suit the context.
Some may argue: but Wizkid isn’t up and coming artist Humblesmith’s peer; Wizzy could be considered an OG in the industry after two successful albums while Mr Smith only got one hit record and much to prove; Wizzy got a number-1 record in the USA, how are they peers; Wizzy-assisted “One Dance” notched over a billion streams on Spotify, who Humble epp? But that’s that I-am-happy-to-be-here crap that we keep putting artists and creative people on—like, why won’t Humblesmith be grateful to be in the presence of a Grammy-nominated Wizkid? Why won’t he feel honoured to shake hands with the one who hangs out with Chris Brown, TY dolla $ign, Trey Songz and other superstars? Why won’t the relatively-unknown Ebonyi-born singer reverence the Ojuelegba legend? Freaking why should he? Nigerians are so obsessed with humility and culture of respect to the point of nausea. Nigerians have engrained in their minds that entitlement mentality. That’s why an older person will demand you bow, kneel or prostrate before him, or risk his wrath and anger or be labelled ‘rude’ or shouted at, “you have no respect, you this small boy.”
That’s the reason Mr Humblesmith will be told by industry watchers to remain ‘humble’ and pay obeisance to a Wizkid who is his senior in the game. Utter nonsense! Crap! Born Ekenedilichukwu Ijemba, Humblesmith has hustled his way to the stage where he is; worked odd jobs from Ebonyi to Asaba and down to Lagos, before luck shined on his path. He deserves to be where “Osinachi” brought him, not some happy-to-be-here, humble la-la land. For half-a-decade, Mr Smith dirtied his hands to get to the Headies podium, and shouldn’t fake modesty at the presence of Wizkid. So what if Wizkid just got a Grammy nod—is he the first? Sikiru Adepoju, Babatunde Olatunji and Lekan Babalola all got Grammys long before StarBoy got nominated. I don’t see anyone falling over themselves to shake them with two hands while getting their backs patted like a newborn. Humblesmith needs to cut that crap quick. Sure, he should respect a senior colleague, or any colleague at that, but not bow so low because he wants to be seen as respectful. This Bidoung-esque culture of respect was what made Don Jazzy call a much younger Olamide ‘egbon’, before sending out a condescending, immodest statement towards the YBNL leader at the 2015 Headies. Little wonder an enraged Olamide called out the Mavin Boss’ bullshit: God will punish u and ur fake ass… Bastard omo ale forming humble… de form humble on social media (sic). Same reason D’banj, who was 2 years older than Don Jazzy, once prostrated on stage before his co-label owner and partner during their Mo’Hits days. Same ‘fake humble’ nonsense that got D’banj lying flat before GOOD Music founder, Kanye West, after receiving the latter’s chain and welcomed into the GOOD Music family. Same reason industry personalities are fond of advising young artists to emulate 2Face’s humility. But forget to mention that Mr Idibia’s humility didn’t save “Unstoppable” from being a mediocre project and flop. They always forget to mention that copyright theft issues and baby mama drama almost ran Mr Idibia under, despite his meekness and respectfulness. They refuse to credit Efe Omoregbe and 960 Group for Mr Idibia’s comeback into a highly competitive market. They dismiss the fact that Mr Idibia worked hard on his artistry and released dope music that kept him on top. No, they would rather focus on his ‘humility’ than his artistry and strong team.
On one edition of The Gist with Emma Ugolee, an Alaba marketer complained bitterly how Timaya blew up and didn’t remember boys who were instrumental in his career at the beginning. Oh, Timaya don blow so im no get respect for im elders? So what? Was it business or personal? We will voice out frustration because Timaya doesn’t pay homage to those he met in the industry and who made him. He’s cocky. He’s arrogant. So what? Rapper 2Shotz was once labelled ‘arrogant’ by a popular music promoter, and he credited his cockiness for his fall from grace to grass. But is that the true story? Back in the mid and late 2000s, 2Shotz had hits back to back from “Which Level” to “Odeshi” to “Carry Am Go” to “Make Dem Talk” to “In Case You Never Know” to “Oyoyo”. He told the world he was going to retire after his fifth album, and put his signee, Olstar, on, but fizzled out without a plan. What business decisions did he make? Perhaps he had no A&R machinery, promotion strategy and financing structure to push his label and artist to commercial levels. But, no, we have to blame his ‘arrogance’. We romanticize Mr Idibia’s humility and force other artists to be ‘humble’.
Tekno was called out for his arrogance towards The Headies enterprise when he told them and their Next Rated award to sod off. Oh, Tekno Miles should watch out because ‘arrogance’ is a killer. Many may have wanted the MMMG artist to be on his ‘humble’ tip, but he won’t live a lie. Tekno has always been that way, way before he dropped bangers “Duro”, “Wash”, “Where” or “Pana”. Go back to his The Juice interview with Toolz to understand his personality. And he isn’t about to switch to satisfy the establishment. The establishment doesn’t want big personalities like a Kanye West, who would say “I’m a creative genius,” or a Steve Jobs, who wasn’t bothered about being likeable, or a Kiss Daniel, who knows his worth and won’t collect crappy performance bills. Artists should be cocksure about their art, and it should show in their personalities—whether they are liked or not. They shouldn’t concern themselves with being ‘humble’ or ‘what will people say’-type worries.
Humblesmith should cut that ‘humble’ crap and be real! Comedian Koffi was right after all when he said: Shaddout to humblesmith too for not coming anything close to his name (sic).