Words by Ehis “Combs” Ohunyon

The latter part of the year usually witnesses a rush of albums/new music released into the Nigerian market and rappers are usually not left out of this. Illbliss and Mojeed already dropped their Illy Bomaye and In Search of Higher Frequencies projects with A-Q’s Blessed Forever due anytime.

Recently, rap icon and lyricist, Terry tha Rapman gifted his fans with several singles, most notably Baby Boy ft Barz, a single where he blends with modern sound and appeals to a larger audience, followed by the remix which had SOS and Phero in anticipation of his full body of work.

I remember watching TV as a curious kid and images of this energetic young rapper popped up on the screen with a remake of an Eminem song he titled I am a Nigerian, he had this uncanny ability of infusing humor into his lyrics as he bursts:

The condition I’m in is turning my girl into a love peddler,
If a rich man offers a million bucks to sleep with my wife
I be like sure, take her, gimme half the price

This young Terry Waya was lyrical, witty and ahead of his time.

Born Terry Terhemba Madaki, Terry tha Rapman has done it all, with 3 albums, Tha Rap Manifestation (2001), Tha Rapman Begins (2007) and Boy’s Are Not Smiling (2011) and 3 mix-tapes/EPs in Joe Spazm, World Domination (2012), G.O.D (2015). He is the perfect definition of an industry veteran.

It has been a long road for the baby-faced lyricist and when asked at what point rap became a career for him, he says, “I would say from 2005 when I first came to Lagos after I left the label Paybacktyme Records which housed the legendary rap clique SWAT ROOT, before then I was just a young kid doing hip-hop as a hobby and never for the money, my second deal with Charles Novia’s November Records actually marked my beginning as an artist, that chapter opened me to a lot of things that went down behind the scenes.”

Off the SWAT ROOT clique that once paraded the fiercest names in Nigerian rap like Mode 9, Overdose, 6 foot +, Pherowshuz, El Dee XL, it is noteworthy that whilst the others have either retired or moved onto other businesses, Terry remains the most visible, dropping new materials, seen at events and promoting his works.

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He has proven overtime to be in a league of his own and even though his babyish looks may defy his age, he has scars to show for his many battles over the years The rapper has had to switch labels, tweak his sound, change his stage name to Lord T.R and then revert to Tha Rapman. He’s signed endorsement deals, been criticized for some of his below par songs and engaged in his fair share of controversies, the latest being his spat with rapper Ikechukwu. But perhaps his highest moment yet as an artist was in 2010 when he won the Headies Award for Best Rap single with his hit song, “Sample”.

A two-year window has passed since he last dropped any full body of work and although hesitant to share vivid details on the upcoming project Joe Spazm II, the veteran emcee is unleashing his alter ego for his core fans, “Joe Spazm II is the sequel to my first ever mixtape in 2009, which was then executively produced by The Knighthouse family, the label/production outfit headed by Rogba and it was hosted by DJ Jimmy Jatt with the project parading acts like Wizkid, Iceprince, Kel and Mo Cheddar”. So Joe Spazm II is a much improved version showing his artistic growth and covering his experiences over the years.

In the recent past, Nigerian artists have been panned for wrongfully tagging their projects, with the latest being Wizkid, who is insistent that his latest project Sounds From The Other Side is an EP, not an album. Terry is therefore quick to clear things with his own project, “The concept of mix-tape has gradually evolved into somewhat of an album these days, so this project will also have that same feel, though it will be mostly lyrical and targeted at my day 1 fans, who know me by the alias, Joe Spazm and have followed my career thus far. I still have fans especially back in the North where it all began for me, who still want that Joe Spazm they began with and that is what I aim to achieve on this project. It will be available for free but also can be bought on the regular online platforms for those who choose to support by buying or streaming.”

There has been a new wave of young rappers shooting for the throne and Terry insists that, with this project, he is not trying to prove anything that he hasn’t already attained in the past. On where he will rank Joe Spazm II amongst all his projects, he claims that it’s hard to tell as he has simply poured his heart into the music and tried to capture that fire that his fans have always known him for, “I will let the fans decide, as artistes every project is personal to us and I am sure rap listeners will love this one”.

One wonders if he ever gets pained seeing how large some rappers now live off an industry he helped build, “No, I just celebrate my victories and embrace my losses, over the years, I have gotten the experience and resume of a veteran so I can’t really be angry at the game, I know a lot of things these new rappers don’t and that is why I’m still relevant, the digital platforms are a good way to ensure I still earn from my old works, so I am good, I am not in competition with anyone as I just want to leave behind a good legacy now and gracefully bow out”.

On the state of rap and the reception of fans to the genre in Nigeria, he states “Rap in Nigeria has always been good, there are so many people who love rap music and the fan-base has increased over the decades but the problem lies with the media and we the artistes. The media doesn’t give rap a lot of spotlight when compared to our Pop counterparts, we don’t even have people willing to sponsor hip-hop events for rappers to connect with their fans and build their base. The artists too have a problem when it comes to selling their brand right, plus we don’t take enough risks.” I believe rappers should do more rap collaborations, touring and release more body of works, rappers should also be willing to come together so we can be strong enough to push the culture forward, there is so much division and segregation amongst rappers and for us to break forth, this has to stop because we actually all have mutual fans.”

With a mixtape and a proper album due this year, Tha Rapman hasn’t only evolved into an all-round matured emcee but one who has found his peace and is set to infect his fans with a piece of it.

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Ehis “Combs” Ohunyon is a Lagos-based realtor, asset valuer and writer