Early Life and Discovery of Music
Slimcase, born Oluwafemi Oladapo Oko-Eko, on August 21, 1985, grew up in Ikorodu, a place on the fringes of life in Lagos state. He was schooled and raised by the streets, where he honed his talent as a comedian. At the start of his career, music was a distant dream, one that he had never considered. He was a funny guy, who had designs to cash in on that. And so he began, performing for friends, family members, and the odd social gathering. But music found him.
Slimcase stumbled upon the art by chance in 2011. His friend, who he refers to as ‘Beat by Sars’, (not to be confused with Sarz on the beat'), was the first person to ever record his vocals for a song in Akoka, in a dingy studio near the prestigious University of Lagos (UNILAG).
“I loved his productions, and without voicing to the beats, I had the urge to be a musician. His beat was so banging, that I wanted to record on it,” he says
His friend encouraged him, choosing to tell him that “with this your style, you can just put something on the beat.” Slimcase started recording as a rapper, due to his early Hip-hop influences, where he followed records made by luminaries such as Eminem, Snoop Dog, 50 Cent and Dr Dre and others.
Oshozondi, Discovering The Shaku Shaku Sound, And Prominence
Back in 2017, Nigeria welcomed a relatively new artist by the name of Small Doctor. The singer was announced by his street record, ‘Penalty’, which found a way to cross into mainstream recognition, and accelerated his brand.
Small Doctor made music with a very interesting sound, which was rooted firmly in South African House, but with lesser emphasis on percussion, and more on intrusive drum breaks. ‘Penalty’ shot the singer to prominence, where his stock grew meteorically. By the end of the year, it would feature as one of 2017’s top record.
Olamide would later utilize that ‘street sound’ and formula to create ‘Wo’, a record produced by Young Jonn, which stylistically obeys all the rules of Small Doctor’s successful record. ‘Wo’ would become the dominant street song, heading into the holiday season, and into the New Year.
But away from the mainstream music industry, new songs following that specific sound were dominating the streets. Songs such as Mr Real’s “Legbegbe”, Idowest’s “Omo Shepeteri” (featuring Slimcase and Dammy Krane), Slimcase’s “Oshozondi”, Zlatan Ibile’s “My Body” (featuring Olamide) and others were holding the attention of the public.
Backed by a dance style called ‘Shaku shaku’, the songs were growing and attracting major attention.
The Wobe sound is primarily a cross between the South African House and Qgom sound. It’s a hybrid sound which focuses on the heavy drums as its most distinct feature. Percussion, if it ever makes it into the record is limited, with the arrangement designed to make the drums emphatic enough to make people move.
That’s the sound that Slimcase is utilizing to rise beyond his station in Nigerian music.
“Shaku shaku has been around for a while on the streets, but nobody paid attention to it,” Slimcase says. “It originated from the Mushins and Ageges of Lagos, and no one knew how to tap into a sound for the dance.
“Until I drop this song titled ‘Oshozondi’, and showed them that they can vibe that dance to this song. It created a standard for them which showed that this sound really goes with the dance. It made me prominent. I didn’t start the dance, my song created a platform for the dance.”
Describing how he got the other record, ‘Shepeteri’, he says: “It’s a downloaded beat. The chorus kept coming, and we decided to just drop it. It wasn’t a single, it was just a mixtape song. In three weeks, it was everywhere. In two months, we saw Davido dancing to the song.”
Street Life And The Originality Of The ‘Lamba’
I ask Slimcase about the intricacies and dynamic of street music, and he pauses for a while. Deep in thought for a minute, I witness his little conflict of emotion but don’t interrupt it. How can you ask a man to explain his ecosystem, and not wait for him to collect himself?
Slimcase finally reached an agreement with himself, raised his head, cleared his throat, and shared it with me.
“The hustle is real. The hustle is so real that you cannot fake in the street. It’s either you are in the street or you are not in the street at all. You have to go to the street, to write a street song. You can’t sit in Lekki and write a street song. You have to go to the den, and sit down in the den. Even if you don’t join them in their acts, you have to be there,” he says.
He explains that the best comedians and creatives in Nigeria are grilled and manufactured by the streets. He explains how ‘real’ the street is, and how everyday life and slangs (which he refers to as ‘Lambas’) can be turned into elements of pop culture. Slimcase also explains that street artists are primarily inspired by Fuji music.
“Most of them hardly listen to Hip-hop, and if they do, they can’t relate to it. That’s why they created their own language and their music. The lamba is what they understand,” he says.
Slimcase further explains that due to the poverty and lack of street exposure, the original elements of the street are hijacked and appropriated by pop musicians who have a larger following, and bigger platforms. He declines to mention any specific name, but explains:
“These celebrities can’t come to the streets and identify with people because of who they are. Most of them go on Instagram, and also watch Youtube videos. They will gather ideas from these things and create their records,” he explains.
Slimcase says the lack of censorship and the crudity of the street ‘Lamba’ has been a hindrance in the export of the music to mainstream audiences via radio and TV. This creates a barrier, which is exploited by pop artists.
“They take these songs clean them, and release it as their own. It has also happened to me,” he says.