Skepta: Why This Rap Chief Is so Big in Nigeria

Skepta | © Batiste Safont / WikiCommons
With a career spanning over a decade, Joseph Junior Adenuga, one of grime’s biggest artists, was ordained a chieftaincy title of Amuludun of Odo-Aje in his hometown of Ogun state, Nigeria. This may come as a surprise if you never knew that the well-known British artist, better known as Skepta, is actually of Nigerian heritage.

Who is Skepta?

Skepta was born on September 19, 1988 to Nigerian immigrant parents who raised him on a council estate called the Meridian Walk Estate in Tottenham, North London. The estate was most likely an influence on the name of his first group, Meridian Crew, who disbanded in 2005.

By 2006, Skepta had taken to MCing, and together with his younger brother, JME, also a grime artist, formed the record label Boy Better Know, which still serves today as his independent label. On September 17, 2007, two days shy of his 19th birthday, he independently released his debut album Greatest Hits, and his second album, titled Microphone Champion, followed in 2009. However, his third album, Doin’ It Again, was released in 2011 by AATW, a subsidiary of major label Universal.

Skepta performing with Section Boyz © Chazz Adnitt / Flickr

In March 2014, Skepta released the single ‘That’s Not Me’ featuring his brother, JME. And when he took to the stage to collect his award for best video during the MOBO awards ceremony that year, he revealed that the video for it was shot on a budget of just £80.

After nearly a decade in the industry, his fourth studio album, Konnichiwa, was released independently on May 6, 2016 to critical acclaim, winning that year’s £25,000 Mercury Prize and entering the UK album charts at number two. That same year, he made his debut performance on Glastonbury’s iconic Pyramid Stage and signed Canadian rapper Drake to his Boy Better Know label in the UK.

Smh. The one they could not kill. 2018 level. #Super18 🌍🦅 😤😤 #BigSmoke

A post shared by Skepta (@skeptagram) on

Grime in London

Grime is known as the 140bpm blend of UK club music, dancehall, garage and hip-hop, an equivalent to America’s rap genre. Grime was birthed in London around the early 2000s, gaining an initial following from pirate radio stations like Rinse FM, and later gaining popularity in the underground music scene, before then achieving success in mainstream UK charts with the rise of artists like Dizzee Rascal (whose album Boy in da Corner won the Mercury Prize in 2003), Kano, Wiley, Lethal Bizzle, and Roll Deep, among others; and by the mid 2010s grime began to receive attention in the US with major signings and collaborations.

Popularity of newcomers to hit mainstream like Stormzy has also helped to give the genre and its budding stars a bigger platform, as his 2017 album Gang Signs & Prayer was the first grime album to reach number one on the UK charts.

As grime becomes more renowned, more underground artists are happy for the change in tide and are now able to leverage their increasing platform to speak on their varying realities in life. In an interview with the Guardian, Skepta revealed that grime is finally catching on and with its surge in popularity a revolution is occurring. This revelation is perhaps a result of shaking off his ties to Universal who signed him from 2010–2012, a period where he briefly diverted from his usual raw lyrical style for a more chart-friendly vibe.

Skepta’s ties to Nigeria

Skepta has always been proud of his Nigerian heritage, and in the past shared a picture to his millions of fans on Instagram of the playground that he helped his father (and mother who have now retired back to Nigeria) build in their hometown in Ogun state.

In 2015 Skepta had his first mega collaboration with an Afrobeat star, Nigeria’s own pop phenomenon Wizkid, on the remix of his single ‘Ojuelegba’, also featuring Drake. ‘Ojuelegba’, already a hit and favourite of Afrobeat fans worldwide, had a monumentos recharge with the collaboration between the stars, who are both of the Yoruba tribe in Nigeria.

On April 2, 2018, Skepta was one of the headliners on the Homecoming concert in Lagos organised by Grace Ladoja, another British-Nigerian powerhouse who also happens to be his manager, making it his biggest performance yet in his home country. Other performers included J Hus, Not3s, Tiwa Savage, Wizkid, and Davido, among many other acts.

Lagos, Nigeria #HOMECOMING 2018 🇳🇬 @andikan_

A post shared by Skepta (@skeptagram) on

Skepta ordained as Chief of Amuludun of Odo-Aje

Joseph Junior Adenuga is of the Yoruba tribe, his roots linking back to Ijebu-Ode in Ogun state where his father is from. The Yorubas are an ethnic group of southwestern Nigeria, as well as south and central of the Republic of Benin, making them one of the largest ethnic groups in Africa.

In Yoruba culture, chieftain titles are usually given to those who have been of high service in bringing positive contributions to their community. As the Chief of Amuludun of Odo-Aje, his title translates as “Chief entertainer in all forms”, a title well befitting of the highly-regarded artist.

The inauguration ceremony for the chieftaincy is known as “ifini joye” (the ritual of chieftaincy) and the use of “ewe akoko” (the leaf of confirmation) serve as a symbol that completes the appointment of the new chief.

This new phase in both the Nigerian and British music industry might mean more opening of doors for the emerging artists and an even bigger platform for artists in the motherland and the diaspora to connect more and bridge the gap in an ever-growing music scene and emerging market.