Music

Is Sugarboy Nigeria's Next Reggae-Dancehall King?

24-year-old Sugarboy, who describes himself as Africa’s “dancehall king,” has the daunting task of matching the continuing rise of Kiss Daniel.

Kiss Daniel's debut New Era, released back in May, has been a huge success peaking at number 8 on the Billboard World Album charts, propelled by monster singles “Woju," “Good Times,” and “Laye."


Only one artist was featured on the entire album. His name is Sugarboy, the 24-year-old Akwa Ibom native who has the daunting task of matching, and possibly eclipsing, the continuing rise of Kiss Daniel.

Comparisons between Sugarboy and Kiss Daniel are unavoidable given that they're label-mates at the start of their careers with everything to prove. Kiss Daniel’s New Era has done exceedingly well and its title isn't an overstatement. Along with Reekado Banks, Korede Bello and Tekno, Daniel and Sugarboy occupy the next stratum of afrobeats stars right after the Wizkid and Davido column.

“Napo” and “Ghetto Boys” are two of the songs on New Era that Sugarboy is on, but before these were “Molue” and “Raba,” both orphaned singles that showcase what Sugarboy says is the “musical synergy” he shares with Kiss Daniel.

We spoke over the phone and right before a studio session in Lagos where he was putting the finishing touches to a new single, “Legalize,” having just returned from the German leg of Kiss Daniel’s tour.

Subarboy’s enthusiasm for the music he's making and the reception it's receiving is palpable. His output, however, is not substantial.

His solo singles—“Hola Hola,” “Double,” and most recently “Legalize”—aren't enough to give a rounded sense of who he is as an artist. “Double” is about one’s hustle and the hope that it'll one day pay off, “Hola Hola” is a triumphalist tune about living the good life because, "this life, I cannot kill myself" and “Legalize” is a breezy dancehall track infused with a particular Nigerian ghetto parlance—“ekute no be race horse,” “ishu no be cocoyam.”

Sugarboy. Photo courtesy of the artist.

Is “Legalisze” a good song? Yes. Is he reinventing the dancehall-galala wheel? No. But he's changed a few nuts and bolts and has fitted it to his own musical vehicle, which is in an upward trajectory.

Sugarboy describes himself as Africa’s “dancehall king,” but what he's probably referring to is "galala" which is an interpretation of dancehall that has become a confident cousin, rather than a feeble nephew made popular by the likes of Daddy Showkey, Baba Fryo, African China and Danfo Drivers.

“Napo” and “Raba” are two very good songs but it's the former that points to a lineage I refrain from mentioning, not sure if he'd be pleased with it. Danfo Drivers were one of the biggest Nigerian pop acts in 2003 on the strength of their single “Danfo Drivers,” a made-up equivalent would be a go-getter anthem like Cassidy’s "I'm A Hustla" reaching the popularity level of Pharrell's "Happy".

Sugarboy jokingly refers to him and Daniel as “the new Danfo Drivers,” but Sugarboy’s aesthetic is clean and his reputation unsullied so far, while Danfo Drivers were far more convincing as hood stars who were even alleged to have once been armed robbers before turning to music.

But Sugarboy is of a different ilk and what's more, he's got everything going for him. The hope is that the comparison to Daniel and expectations to match or supersede him does not distract him from pursuing his own path.

In choosing to work with some of the same producers Daniel worked with on New Era—Beatburx and DJ Coublon in particular—the hope is that rather than retrace Daniel’s rise, what he's doing is building on the impressive work that G Worldwide Entertainment, as a new and independent label, has done so far.

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Photo by KOLA SULAIMON/AFP via Getty Image

#EndSARS: 1 Year Later And It's Business As Usual For The Nigerian Government

Thousands filled the streets of Nigeria to remember those slain in The #LekkiTollGateMassacre...while the government insists it didn't happen.

This week marks 1 year since Nigerians began protests against police brutality and demanded an end to the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS). The #EndSARS protests took the world by storm as we witnessed Nigerian forces abuse, harass and murder those fighting for a free nation. Reports of illegal detention, profiling, extortion, and extrajudicial killings followed the special task force's existence, forcing the government to demolish the unit on October 11th, 2020. However, protestors remained angered and desperate to be heard. It wasn't until October 20th, when soldiers opened fire on demonstrators at Lekki tollgate in the country's capital, Lagos, that the protests came to a fatal end. More than 56 deaths from across the country were reported, while hundreds more were traumatized as the Nigerian government continued to rule by force. The incident sparked global outrage as the Nigerian army refused to acknowledge or admit to firing shots at unarmed protesters in the dead of night.

It's a year later, and nothing has changed.

Young Nigerians claim to still face unnecessary and violent interactions with the police and none of the demands towards systemic changes have been met. Fisayo Soyombo the founder of the Foundation for Investigative Journalism, told Al Jazeera, "Yes, there has not been any reform. Police brutality exists till today," while maintaining that his organization has reported "scores" of cases of police brutality over this past year.

During October 2020's protests, Nigerian authorities turned a blind eye and insisted that the youth-led movement was anti-government and intended to overthrow the administration of current President Muhammadu Buhari. During a press conference on Wednesday, in an attempt to discredit the protests, Minister of Information and Culture Lai Mohammed hailed the Nigerian army and police forces for the role they played in the #EndSARS protests, going as far as to say that the Lekki Toll Massacre was a "phantom massacre with no bodies." These brazen claims came while protesters continued to gather in several major cities across the country. The minister even went on to shame CNN, Nigerian favorite DJ Switch as well as Amnesty International, for reporting deaths at Lekki. Mohammed pushed even further by saying, "The six soldiers and 37 policemen who died during the EndSARS protests are human beings with families, even though the human rights organizations and CNN simply ignored their deaths, choosing instead to trumpet a phantom massacre."

With the reports of abuse still coming out of the West African nation, an end to the struggle is not in sight. During Wednesday's protest, a journalist for the Daily Post was detained by Nigerian forces while covering the demonstrations.

According to the BBC, additional police units have been set up in the place of SARS, though some resurfacing SARS officers and allies claim to still be around.

Young Nigerians relied heavily on social media during the protests and returned this year to voice their opinions around the first anniversary of an experience that few will be lucky enough to forget.



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