A Growing Rap, Fashion Scene in Northern Nigeria

19 March, 2017

In Sub-Saharan Africa, Lagos has long been known as Nigeria's center for pop culture. It is home to Nigeria's film industry, Nollywood. And many of the country's most well-known musicians and artists live there.

But a group of rappers and fashion designers are creating their own cultural community in another city, Kaduna. The northern Nigerian city is about 600 kilometers from Lagos.

A new generation of rap

DJ Jakes Tudu is a disc jockey, or DJ, in Kaduna. On his weekly radio show, he plays the latest music from local rap artists.

Hip-hop is very popular in Nigeria. And rappers like Morell, DJ AB, Kheengz, and Classiq are part of a new generation of Kaduna musicians. They are trying to put Kaduna – and northern Nigeria – on the music map.

To most people, Kaduna may seem like a quiet and conservative city. But, its growing music scene shows there is much more to the town.

One popular music artist in Kaduna is Kevin Words. He is a local celebrity, thanks to songs like "Heaven".

DJ Jakes is a very big fan of Kevin Words.

"Stepping into the Kaduna music industry you have to listen to the likes of Kevin Words because a lot of people out there have this stereotype or this mindset that Kaduna artists or Kaduna industry is full of mediocres, and when you hear people like Kevin Words, man, trust me you want to sit up."

Another of Kaduna's rising stars is 28-year-old Ibrahim Ilyia. His stage name is IBI.

Ilyia mixes Hausa, the local language, with American hip-hop style. His recent hit song is called "Alhamdulillah." Ilyia says he fell in love with rap music at a young age. He makes rap music now because he still loves it.

He says many of Kaduna's rappers move to Lagos to try to advance their music careers. But, Ilyia wants to stay in Kaduna -- and help build the city's music scene.

"I'm not actually against people going to Lagos, but if Kaduna people can just build themselves alone, reach a certain level, I mean Lagos is nothing now. We'll counter them."

Combining old fashions with new

Music is just one part of hip-hop culture in Nigeria. Fashion is also important. And Kaduna has also become a promising place for young designers.

One successful designer is Hussena Raji. She is the CEO of Mummy's Fashun. She designs clothes that combine both urban and African styles.

Hussena Raji, a fashion designer in Kaduna, teaching her employees about hip-hop fashion
Hussena Raji, a fashion designer in Kaduna, teaching her employees about hip-hop fashion

"I decided to blend hip-hop because that's what's selling right now in the market. Almost everybody wants to wear and feel like it. So, we try as much as possible to make everything look it."

Mixing styles is popular now among Kaduna fashion designers. One of them is 24-year-old Patrick Yamai. He tries to mix professional styles with casual ones. He likes to makes clothes that can be worn to work as well as out to restaurants and bars in the evenings. His label, YKP Clothing, tries to keep an African influence in all of its styles, as well.

Yamai did not start out as a fashion designer. He studied accounting in school. And, DJ Jakes studied architecture. But, they each grew to care about building Kaduna's own arts scene.

As DJ Jakes said, he has a passion for northern talent, and is trying hard to promote it.

I'm Phil Dierking

Chika Oduah reported this story for VOANews. Phil Dierking adapted it for Learning English. Ashley Thompson was the editor.

What are other parts of the world that have a good arts scene that is not well known? We want to hear from you. Write to us in the Comments Section or on 51VOA.COM.


Words in This Story

ambitious adj. having a desire to be successful, powerful, or famous

celebrity n. the state of being famous or celebrated

fashion – n. a popular way of dressing during a particular time or among a particular group of people

blendv. to mix (things) thoroughly and usually with good results

mediocre adj. not very good

music map n. a record of where different music comes from in the world

passion n. a strong feeling of enthusiasm or excitement for something or about doing something

pop n. modern, popular, aimed particularly at younger people.

urbanadj. of or relating to cities and the people who live in them

stereotype n. an often unfair and untrue belief that many people have about all people or things with a particular characteristic

evening n. the last part of the day and early part of the night

style n. a particular form or design of something