Fifty Years of Hip-hop: Rappers who Shaped Africa in the Past Five Decades (Part 4)


Olu Maintain and Lord of Ajasa

Truth be told, rappers of South-east extraction dominated the hip-hop scene in the early 2000s in Nigeria. But two of the earliest indigenous rappers of Yoruba origin to impact hip-hop of the period were Olu Maintain and Lord of Ajasa. Although he enjoyed some measure of airplay, his career was not entirely a commercial success. Ajasa, born Olusegun Osaniyi hails from Akure, Ondo state. He earned the moniker “the Lord of Flavor ” (Ajasa is Yoruba term for flavour) in his polytechnic days in Ondo state, where he majored in Quantity Survey. Recording his rap primarily in Yoruba Language. “Ma yi lo” was his first hit track released in 2000. In the beginning of his career, he collaborated with 9ice, Olamide, and the late Dagrin, among other Nigerian hip-hop heads. 


“Ara we” is yet another hit from Ajasa. The song, performed in Ondo language, is quite comical and indeed a second of its kind.


Olu Maintain wasn’t exactly a strong lyricist in hip-hop. He was more of a comedic rapper who demonstrated how to infuse a variant of Yoruba dialect in his rap at the peak of his career in music when he was a member of the group called Maintain which he co-founded alongside his cousin, Tolu Ogunniyi. Adeboye Bammeke, popularly known as Big Bamo, joined the group. Then, it seemed like a trend to have a rapper- or something like it- in a music group. The group released six albums between 1998 and 2004 with the hit songs “I Catch Cold”, “Domitila” and “Alo” before they separated in 2004.


Later, Olu Maintain pursued a successful solo career in music this time as a singer. Olu rose to prominence in May 2007 with the release of the hit song “Yahooze” a controversial song that glamourises internet fraud and lavish spending from his debut studio album, Yahooze (2007), and a second album, Maintain Reloaded (2008). He featured Big Bamo in the single “Kowonje”. “Yahooze” was an instant hit and was named the Hottest Single of the Year at the Nigeria Entertainment Awards. The song orchestrated a turning point in Nigerian music of that time that many singers decided to follow the template of Yahooze” by celebrating  lavish spending or escape from the long arm of the law after committing fraud.


The song catapulted Olu’s career so much that in 2008, he performed “Yahooze” at the Royal Albert Hall, London and brought Colin Powell, the former United States Secretary of State on stage. Much later, it became a global joke of sorts that many music fans embraced this kind of music content without a sense of morality or empathy for those who might have been victims of internet fraud simply because many were swept away by the beats and there weren’t music reviews to point listeners in that direction until later when some bold commenters on radio began raising the issue on radio and television talk shows in Nigeria.


Back to Lord of Ajasa, it was a struggle to remain in mainstream popularity. After a long hiatus from the music scene, he returned with another single titled “Esa lobade.” The video was an upgrade for a rapper who had to compete with other artists like Psquare and Dbanj  who were selling out shows. But he began to pay attention to other businesses and no one heard of him again until he revealed in 2019 that he needed funds to undergo a surgery for peptic ulcer. 


The whole idea of recounting this story is to counter the views that the likes of Asake made it to the global stage by being authentic. There were several authentic artists before Asake who struggled to attain fame but were blindsided by the promoters in the industry. Also, there was no music streaming site to market their music. They were milked dry by opportunistic salesmen in the guise of record labels owners and music distributors.




Dat Ibo Boy popularly known by the stage name iLLBLISS is unapologetically ibo. Many young generations of music fans would remember him for the role he played in Kemi Adetiba’s movie and series, “The King of Boys.” However, the rapper made a name for himself way back as a rapper using his native tongue Ibo to express himself.


Tobechukwu Ejiofor known as iLLBLISS is a  rapper, businessman and the owner of the talent managing outfit known as ‘The Goretti Company.’ This company has been the launchpad for the careers of the likes of Chidinma and Phyno.


iLLBLISS came from the Nsukka School of Hip-hop, if there is anything called that. He was a member of the rap group Da Thoroughbreds alongside Obiwon, MGB Elajoe, B-Elect and Amaka. The group was formed while all its members were studying at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. Without a surprise, this collective proved to be one of the most cerebral ones to have taken roots in Nigeria. In a June 2004 article for African Hip-Hop, music critic Harry Okoh, described them as an equivalent of “Sandhurst-trained special elite commandos.”


Over the years, the members grew apart and in 2019, B-Elect, born Anthony Bright Erighon died 


But on his part, iLLBLISS also known as Oga Boss, was well received in the hip-hop scene earning many nominations and awards, the most notable being the award for Best Hip Hop Video for the hit “U Go Wound O!!” at the 2008 maiden edition of the Soundcity Music Video Awards. This award was presented to him by the American hip-hop legend, NAS. 


iLLBLISS’ debut album, Dat Ibo Boy was  released in 2009 with songs like “Aiye Po Gan! (Enuf Space)”. His lyricism was centred on self-adulation and not necessarily provocative like some other rappers. He then released a new album in July 2020, Illy Chapo X. His album IlLY CHAPO X was also nominated for the category of best rap album for the HEADIES 2020 award.


But iLLBLISS is not the only quiet Hip-hop artist of his time.

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