The internet has undoubtedly made life more convenient for its users, but it’s hard to deny some of the less glamorous effects of the 20th-century invention. Like social media for instance; on one end, it’s great that our favourite celebrities are so accessible but not so much when they get exposed as terrible people. Conversations on separating the art from the artist have grown more prominent as a result of the problematic tendencies some of the most celebrated artists displayed on the internet.
Just as Kanye West’s Twitter misadventures from last year shocked fans when he aligned himself with Donald Trump’s campaign, Naira Marley surprised everyone with his comment in support of internet fraud on the 21st of April. The Japa singer commented, “If U Know About Slavery You Go Know Say Yahoo No B Crime” on his Instagram picture and quickly went viral with several accounts reprimanding him while others cheered his opinion. While his Instagram page is no court jury and anyone caught committing internet fraud will serve their time jail, it certainly showed how divided the country is on the subject of internet fraud.
Songs celebrating cybercrime have a long history in the Nigerian music scene, dating as far back as 2007, when Olu Maintain released his hit single, “Yahooze”. Though Mr Olu Maintain tried to downplay it, explaining the song as a tribute to the Monday to Friday worker-bees, no one was buying it. More recently, 9ice released a more bare-faced song titled “Living Things”, a track where the veteran runs through a list of some of the biggest names in Nigeria’s cybercrime circle. Though he came under fire from artists like Falz who has spoken openly against the promotion of internet fraud, explaining that “it is killing our future”, the narrative remains a staple in the Nigerian music scene.
Because music is often inspired by artists’ reality, it’s no surprise that the street acts are most renowned for promoting internet fraud, inspiring slangs like “waya waya” and “mo fe sa se”. The gritty reality on the streets is often given as an excuse to get rich by any means necessary and artists like SamKlef have even argued that the poor quality of government in the country should be blamed for the crimes. It’s a sentiment similar to Naira Marley’s argument that stealing is justified by slavery. But a life of crime can’t be rationalized and those who attempt to do so are only encouraging bandits.
Although Naira Marley himself has denied being involved in cybercrime, he seems bent on holding on to his belief that ‘Yahoo’ isn’t a crime. In line with those who believe the whole thing to be a publicity stunt to build hype for a new release, the singer released his reply to media critics in a snippet he shared on his Instagram. The snippet finds him comparing the backlash he has gotten to the oppression Fela, Mandela, and MKO Abiola faced while they were alive; “Won Fe Se Mi Be Fela, Won Fe Se Mi Bi Mandela, Won Fe Se Mi Bi President Kennedy, Won Fe Se Mi Bi MKO Abiola”.
His conviction is even more troubling than flat earth believers and now fans are faced with the tough decision to keep listening to a cybercrime defender or remove his songs from their playlists. And that’s where the internet has come through for modern society. Consumers have the power to determine who they listen to and can have a direct effect on the banks of artists who hold opinions they don’t agree with.