Wednesday, June 5th, 2019

Naira Marley ft. Zlatan – Am I A Yahoo Boy

Me, I prefer to kick it on MSN…


Katherine St Asaph: No, but your track’s too short by half, perhaps because it’s in some part a gimmick.

Julian Axelrod: The circumstances surrounding Marley and Zlatan’s imprisonment are vastly different from the spree of imprisoned American rappers in the past few years (decades), so it makes sense that this is no “Stay Woke” or “First Day Out Tha Feds”. It’s muted, scattered, confused — an earnest attempt to make sense of this bizarre situation. Naturally, this leads to some bizarre moments. (I don’t remember Gucci saying “Bloggers are armed robbers” and giving out his personal email address when he got out of prison, but I could be wrong.) Coming in cold, it’s a slight but effective bit of mood rap. But the more you sift through its layers, the more affecting it becomes. It’s either a stirring political statement or a solid alibi, and the key is that it could be both.

Iris Xie: The title “Am I A Yahoo Boy” is a bold-faced fire back against accusations and a plea of innocence from both Marley and Zlatan has been arrested on several identity theft charges. Marley works hard, with such lyrics like “Yahoo is what my friends do, my bragging is all about music” right after Marley gives out his Yahoo email address, which is admittedly pretty funny and harkens back to how yahoo boys get their name from the (other) search engine giant. The real shining aspect of this song is how the vocals, rhythms, and textures all meld into an easy familiarity, where even being bold about proving your innocence doesn’t have to sound very stressful. US Top 40 would definitely be more interesting if more of our self-glorifying songs about (not) committing crimes sounded as breezy as this. 

Nortey Dowuona: Plush, dissonant chords play over pumping, circling drums as Naira sharply turns and skids all over it.

Ryo Miyauchi: Based on his lack of vigor pressed on the titular hook, the answer to Naira Marley’s question seems to be an obvious “no.” But consider it a classic effect of rap music for the pop strengths working behind his denial, from his detached nonchalance to the beat’s hypnotic percussive rhythm, to make even the suggestion of him being a yahoo boy into an appealing title of notoriety. His shrug only makes him more of a wanted figure as an artist but also on the government hit list.

Anjy Ou: The gall it takes to say “actually stealing isn’t wrong” — and then seek sympathy for people who steal, because they “contribute to the economy” and “slavery happened” (though not to the people who stole, mind you), should surprise me. However, I am a Nigerian with eyes and ears, and a lot of my countrypeople operate under their own special value system with wealth as the sole embodiment of “good.” As long as they believe they’re entitled to wealth — or rather, as long as there isn’t a reason why they shouldn’t have it, or why someone else should enjoy it instead of them — they’re owed it and are justified in doing anything to acquire it. It’s this warped entitlement and general lack of sense (for want of a better descriptor) that allows Naira Marley to put out a song where he simultaneously jokes about being a criminal, compares himself to Fela and Mandela without shame, and prays to God “may I never be separated from the fool who pays my money.” It’s exactly the sort of headassery I expect from Nigerian celebrity culture, and yet I find this song especially irritating. He would have us sympathize with him — a rapper making stupid money considering the average GDP of his fellow countrymen, and his friends who are fraudsters (but not him, oh no, he would never) rather than people who are the victims of these crimes. As if we have any sympathy to spare while dealing with a sinking economy, crumbling infrastructure and a government that thinks lip-service is an adequate replacement for action; as if any of that money trickles down to those most in need, or those who could do more with it than rack up more indicators of wealth. I’m annoyed that this song is getting any sort of attention, but it does shed light on an aspect of the Nigerian psyche that we like to pretend doesn’t exist: a prevailing belief that money IS the moral, and no price is too high to avoid the pain of poverty, not even your conscience. That knowledge will be useful when the country eventually collapses — if nothing else, we’ll be able to articulate why it happened.

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