In these streets, talent has to come preinstalled with a 'humble' plug-in.
Nigerians love humility. They love it in all its forms because it represents some sort of societal ideal that is non-threatening and pleasant. That’s why 2face Idibia is regarded as the greatest Nigerian pop artist that ever lived.
“Awww, he is so humble.”
How many times have you heard Nigerians make that declaration everywhere and anywhere the man pops up? Aside from his music, that humble image has been the driving force of the love and acceptance that he enjoys across the country.
That’s just one artist. Other artists include Olamide, and sometimes Sunny Ade. These artists get the most love from being ‘humble’, or having a public persona that plays into humility as one of its cornerstones.
For the public, it’s everything. An artists is more likely to penetrate the hearts of fans, if he sells humility. They would flock to him, sing his name, share stories about him and say he is the best example of how people should carry their celebrity and run with it.
The only time artists are allowed to be proud is if they come from ‘bastard money’ like Davido, or if they are so undeniably good with the music that they their fans have become blind followers, without a modicum of critical thought.
That’s why Burna Boy, Phyno and Wizkid can get away with it. Their music is so good, and has eaten deep into the heart of fans, that they are working on a behavioural blank cheque. Wizkid can hit the lowest behavior, and an army will rise behind him to scream his name and justify his actions.
But the best case scenario is when you are a true maestro, and marry that skill to humility. You would be on the highway to immortality, and your music will sell in droves.
That’s why there’s a proliferation of the ‘humble’ stereotype in Nigerian music. Artists theses day, employ professional services to maintain the humble image consistently. They want a brand that can win hearts via their exemplary behavior, while seeking a sound that can conquer the ears with melody and beats.
But this isn’t always a good thing. What we have successfully cultivated are a generation of fake artists, who are working really hard to suppress their true characters. They are selling a fake lie, and playing themselves too. What it means is that the star you know, is not the star you should know. What you see is a packaged commodity that appeals to your desire to see ‘good humility’ in artists.
Ideally, we should not place demands on the character of their music. These people are normal folks, with the same cravings and desires that we do. They are simply blessed to be working in a very public and connected field. And once they are extremely good at their job, they become stars.
Humans should be humans, both in public, and when the cameras go off. But not in Nigeria. In these streets, talent has to come preinstalled with a humble plug-in.