Leveraging poetry on the airwaves: appropriating linguistic creativity in Nigerian hip hop lyrics

Published in: Journal of the Musical Arts in Africa
Volume 15, issue 1-2, 2018 , pages: 19–40
DOI: 10.2989/18121004.2018.1534335
Author(s): Niyi AkingbeDepartment of English Studies, Pretoria, Paul Ayodele OnanugaDepartment of English and Literary Studies, Nigeria


Lyrical ingenuity has been influential in the rise and global spread of hip hop. This has extended to Nigerian hip hop artists, who battle for supremacy and relevance on the airwaves. In carving a niche for itself, Nigerian hip hop has appropriated globalised elements from its American counterpart, while simultaneously accentuating elements of domestication. The result is a hybridised variant, as is significantly foregrounded in the lyrics of Nigerian hip hop. The study presented here, which is text-based, analyses twenty selected Nigerian hip hop lyrics with a focus on its lyrical creativity. Relying on critical linguistic stylistics as a theoretical framework, the paper’s overarching concern is the foregrounding of the creative use of language, particularly with regard to functional conversion, neologism, lexical regeneration or extension of meaning, and syntactic ingenuity. These realisations, alongside influences from indigenous oral traditions, are significant in the propagation of the ‘glocal’ – that is, a blend of the global and the local – Nigerian hip hop variety.

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