Last week I attended a screening of Noisey’s VICELAND documentary in Kamio, Hoxton. The documentary was based on aspiring artists in the Nigerian city of Legos, perhaps most popular in today’s music culture for producing Wizkid, who featured on Drake’s chart topper – and absolute bop – ‘One Dance’.
After queuing for 20 minutes followed by absolutely blagging my way in (and making my way to the bar for unlimited free beer) I made my way down to the lower level of the warehouse space for the screening. The place was buzzing, with noticeably a lot of young Nigerians hyped up for the show (“Any Nigerians in the place tonight?” Vice man said, “YEAAAAAH” screamed apparently everybody but me). After some brief info about the documentary and some expected technical difficulties, the projector lit up the cellar like space and everyone fell silent. I’ve always enjoyed a good music documentary so I was full of expectation for this one, and it didn’t disappoint.
Legos, has a population of an estimated 22 million, we are told. Vice’s Zach Goldbaum meets Wizkid’s producer Mo Dogg in an area which is clearly poverty stricken – rubbish and dirt covers the floor, and children run wild. This is a place that kids pick up periwinkles (shells) off of the streets to sell. This documentary is loosely built around the meeting of Wizkid, and sets out to explore the world of Afropop and work it back to its roots. Any mention of Wizkid, all the children surrounding them start rapping his songs in their native language – rather than any of his more recent English based songs. What’s most uplifting is perhaps the influence he’s had on the local community. There are young boys on the streets showing off their rapping talents to the cameras, and when even the older locals are asked about Wizkid, they reply “He’s our own. He’s the neighborhood’s son”.
The whole documentary had a very bittersweet feel to it. It introduces you to various different afropop artists, like Yemi, who is a beautiful, amazing young singer who has a habit of singing everything that exits her mouth which was endearing to see. She doesn’t know if she will see the money that her album makes. She goes on to talk about how “the infrastructure doesn’t favour the artists”. But strangely when she is talking about this clearly very saddening fact about the music scene in Africa, she oddly doesn’t seem bummed out at all – either a show for the cameras or an understanding that unfortunately that’s how it goes out there.
Another interesting character comes in the form of ICE PRINCE, one of Lagos’ highest paid artists who is signed to Jay Z’s Roc Nation. His lyrics surround women, money and partying. Nothing new there. Over 60% of Nigerians live in extreme poverty, so it’s interesting that all of his songs are about clubbing and luxury. When he is asked about the government there he seems uninterested, and only briefly stating that he believes in the Government and then swiftly moving on. Again, all very interesting.
All in all, without giving too much away, the documentary is definitely worth a watch. It’s very well made, and it’s Vice so of course there were times where the crowd were roaring with laughter. A touching documentary and Noisey have done well to give it the focus it deserves. Hardly anyone in the room were chatting among themselves, everyone was watching and waiting for the next scene. It’s a nice feeling of community even in such a bustling western world city which maybe loses focus of some of its people’s roots. These evenings are what makes the London community so special. Give it a watch over on Viceland, Noisey season 2 premiers Thursday 16th Feb.
Words by Laura Copley