Friday, October 21, 2005

Nigeria's Version of Gangsta Rap: Cheerful, with Colorful Ethnic Costumes

Oyinbo man i go chop your dollar
I go eat your money

The new hit song in central Africa, by Nkem Owoh (aka Osuofia), is about the fun loving criminals who run the 419 scams that appear in your email inbox all the time ("Dear Esteemed Sir, I write to offer you a business proposition.") Here's the video. This page has lyrics and discussion.

White men, I will eat your dollars
I will take your money and disappear.

419 is just a game
We are the masters
You are the losers

Like a lot of Nigerian music, the song is incredibly cheerful. I’m always interested in the emotional tone of the music from different criminal undergrounds. American gangsta rap is so angry. We haven’t had joyful music from a criminal underground since the original Dixieland jazz in the early 1900s. Honestly, the joyful music makes a better case that the unjust life is the good life than the angry music does.

I don’t approve of real life 419 criminals. They ruin lives and foul the internet with spam. But like most people, I’m a sucker for the icons of the outlaw and the trickster. As music “I go chop your dollar” is great fun. Reminds me of Bankrobber by The Clash:

Daddy was a bankrobber
Who never hurt nobody
He just loved to live that way
And he loved to steal your money

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