The hip-hop world is a less than sensible place - lots of times, you're even required to clarify when bad means bad and when bad means good - so once a week we're going to get with a rapper and ask them to explain things. Have something you always wanted to ask a rapper? Email it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
This Week's Rapper: RUKUS
This Week's Subject(s): Nigeria, Nigerians, Rapping, Rapping Nigerians from Nigeria
Note: RUKUS has made it to the final round of a very prestigious rap competition that's being run by a very prestigious person with very prestigious friends. We'll let him tell you all about it.
Ask A Rapper: First, explain what exactly this competition is.
RUKUS: The competition was put together by International Producer/record label CEO Don Jazzy. He owns the biggest record label in Nigeria called Mo-Hits, and he recently was signed (along with his label's flagship artist D'Banj) to Kanye West's G.O.O.D Music label as a producer.
He co-produced "Lift Off," off Watch The Throne. The competition was to find the best rapper over a beat aptly named "Enigma" that he threw out to the public. Whoever did the best job over the beat gets $2,000, a chance to be on D'Banj's next album, and a ton of notoriety, connections, etc.
AAR: Did they say why this was only open to Nigerian rappers? Are they creating some sort of super-race of rappers?
R [laughs]: This was open to everyone. Don Jazzy has a 90,000 followers or so on Twitter, most of them being Nigerian, and the competition was primarily plugged on Nigerian blogs, radio, etc. So there were non-Nigerian submissions, but I think the Nigerian ones happened to stand out most. As for a super-race of rappers, I would like to think that we're not bad. Wale, Chamillionaire, Theo, Chiddy (from Chiddy Bang) and hopefully I can carry the torch as well.
AAR: Had this been open to, say, only white rappers, would that have been some big controversy? It seems like it would have.
R: If this was open to white rappers, I think it would be controversial; but it sure would be something to see Mac Miller, Asher Roth, Machine Gun Kelly and all those guys duke it out. But again, it was open to everyone, white rappers too.
AAR: Is there, like, a growing rap scene in Nigeria? That's kind of cool to think about.
R: People have no idea. The Nigerian music scene is probably one of the largest in the world. And it's not just hip-hop; it's Afrobeat, world, R&B, Fuji, rock, etc. There are some real stars out there and if Kanye West has noticed, the rest of the world is not far behind.
AAR: Ooh, how did you prove you were Nigerian? Is there a card or something?
R [laughs]: I carry my "I'm Nigerian" card with me everywhere. Usually, the last name is a dead giveaway. Mine is "Okafor." Thats pronounced "Oh-calf-er" not "Oak-uh-fur" like Emeka Okafor pronounces it; I'm just sayin'. But I've got my Nigerian Passport if you really need proof.
AAR: Why did you decide against rapping in Nigerian? Did anybody try that?
R: There's about 200 different dialects. The major ethnic groups are Igbo, Yoruba and Hausa. So a lot of people did enter and rap using those languages. There's also "Pidgin English," which is like broken English. I threw a sprinkle in there, but I stick to what I'm most comfortable with (English).
AAR: Lastly, and this is the most important: How, oh how, did you make it throughyour entire song and not make a Christian Okoye reference?
R: Christian Okoye was a beast! Props for remembering the Nigerian Nightmare. I figured I'd have a mostly Nigerian audience and contrary to popular belief, the most popular sport in the world and in Africa is easily soccer; so I had a J.J. Okocha reference. But, man, how many people did Okoye flatten while running? Let's hope I can do the same to the competition here.
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Listen to the final 10 contestants of Don Jazzy's #Enigma Beat Competition here. And vote for RUKUS, damn it.