‘Bahd, Baddo, Baddest’, the new song from Falz, is perhaps the first time in Nigerian pop a song title (and maybe the song itself) was conceived wholly from alliterating nicknames. It’s an easy explanation:
- The moniker Falz (real name, Folarin Falana) is fully, 'Falz the Bahd Guy'.
- Baddo is Olamide's other rap name. It is the first semi-coherent thing you hear him say on 2012’s ‘Stupid Love’.
- For a while Davido has called himself the Baddest, although on the 2014 hit song 'Aiye' the word refers to his beloved.
In short: Bahd, Baddo, Baddest. Just in case anyone was in danger of missing the joke, the trio repeat those three made-up words in the chorus. Someone must have thought this clever, and it is. And yet for that reason the song never had a chance at greatness. It is, however, a serviceable piece of music—if only for its beat, which seems to have a lot of synthetic parts that cohere. It is one of those songs that hardly serves a purpose beyond a thumping declaration of its own existence. It is not exactly a club song. It is not thinking music. It isn’t as funny as the usual Falz servings. You can’t really dance to it; you can’t laugh to it; and you can’t think to it. Nonetheless, it is a valuable artefact of the mind-sets of three of Nigeria’s leading young men in music. And it is interesting how all of the artists use the song as a snapshot of their current circumstances.
Falz, who almost certainly came up with the title and chorus, begins with a verse not quite as impressive as the best cuts on his sophomore Stories that Touch. “They say know they his father,” he says at the start. Then he explains that his success is not connected to his well-respected lawyer father. Instead he has succeeded because of his skills at rapping, he boasts. Otherwise no one would know him.
With the self-justification over, he asks the question which he has clearly needed to ask for weeks now: “Which musician do you know has an AMVCA?” By AMVCA, he means the yearly African Magic Viewers’ Choice Awards, the award ceremony that last month rewarded the rapper with a trophy for his role in a comedy. Girls, money, alcohol, acting awards—rappers will brag with anything. So Falz’s verse is a rapper asking that his success should not be traced to his well-off dad. Why? Because he really can rap and because he has an acting award. If the second reason makes you laugh, well Falz is part comedian. In any case, that entire story about his father is one he will have to keep telling.
In a key sense, all three rappers are sons seeking to escape a very familiar affliction: the persistence of the father. Two of them, Falz and Davido, are from famously rich families, with fathers they were never going to surpass if they stuck to the family business. Both were sent overseas to school, perhaps to continue that family business. Both broke out from that familial tyranny.
Davido, who finished his university education in Nigeria and at 23 is somewhat still a child by Nigerian standards, now has his own daddy issues since he has a child of his own. Unfortunately, he spends time on ‘Bahd, Baddo, Baddest’ belatedly addressing the uncle of his baby-mama, bringing up an old story long after Nigerian blogs and tabloids have forgotten the controversy. It does him no favours but boys will be boys. Until they become men, that is. And from this evidence that may be a long while from now. Like Falz, he brags, “I cover magazine, I cover magazine” - a reference to his appearance on the cover of US magazine Fader. Davido is hardly a rapper but by association it’s okay to add feature stories to the list of things rappers brag about.
As the sole artist on the song without a wealthy provenance, Olamide is focused on the new realities of his life: money and women. Apparently, every girl he meets wants to marry him. “To be a man is not easy,” he sighs in Nigerian pidgin and Yoruba. “I greet my father.” Naturally, he craves money more, a detail that sets up the song’s best sequence:
Olamide is, of course, motivated by a fear of returning to the poverty of his early life, an area covered on the song ‘Anifowose’ from his third solo album Baddest Guy Ever Liveth (2013). Even if the man who has recorded five solo albums in five years greets and commends his father, the old man’s fate is what he is working hard to avoid.
And so we have it that three of Nigeria’s swaggering male artists come together to record a song. You would think they will emerge as men. Instead we get boys, sons preoccupied with daddy issues. Bahd, Baddo, Baddest? Not quite. 'Fath, Fatho, Fathest' sounds about right. All of these words are misspellings anyway...