KADUNA, NIGERIA - Lagos has long been known as Nigeria’s pop culture hub. It’s the home of Nigeria's film industry, Nollywood, as well as many of the country’s top musicians and artists.
But a group of rappers and fashion designers is creating a scene of their own in Kaduna, in northern Nigeria, some 600 kilometers from Lagos. Kaduna's is the new center of Nigeria’s growing hip-hop culture.
DJ Jakes Tudu is cranking out jams on his weekly radio show, playing the latest tunes from local rap artists.
Hip-hop music has taken over Nigeria’s pop music scene. Rappers like Morell, DJ AB, Kheengz, and Classiq are part of a new generation of rappers. They hail from Kaduna and they’re trying to put their city on the music map.
On the surface, Kaduna is a quiet conservative city. But there’s another side of it. Here, music artists like Kevin Words are becoming local celebrities. DJ Jakes is a huge fan of Words.
WATCH: Inside Northern Nigeria’s Emerging Hip Hop Scene
"Stepping into the Kaduna music industry you have to listen to the likes of Kevin Words because a lot of people out there have this stereotype or this mindset that Kaduna artists or the Kaduna industry is full of mediocres, but when you hear people like Kevin Words, trust me, you want to sit up," DJ Jakes says.
Ibrahim Ilyia, 28, is another rapper from the streets of Kaduna. He goes by the stage name IBI. One of his most recent hit songs, Alhamdulillah, fuses the local Hausa slang with American hip-hop style.
"When I was young I used to listen to rap a lot and I fell in love with rap music and right now I do rap music because I love it," Ilyia says.
Most rappers in Nigeria, Ilyia says, end up going to Lagos to make it but Lagos, in his opinion, is passe.
"I’m not actually against people going to Lagos, but if Kaduna people can just build themselves alone, reach a certain level, I mean Lagos is nothing. We’ll counter them."
So, he works hard, putting pen to paper to write rhymes and trying out new lyrics with sample beats. He’s good at free-styling, too.
The music is just one part of hip-hop culture. Fashion is also important. Kaduna is fertile ground for young ambitious designers.
Hussena Raji is the CEO of Mummy’s Fashun. Her clothes are an edgy blend of urban and African.
“I decided to blend hip-hop because that’s what’s selling in the market. Almost everybody wants to wear and feel like it. So we try as much as possible to make everything look it,” says Raji.
Patrick Yamai, 24, is another designer combining different looks with his fashion label YKP Clothing.
'I just felt there was a space in the fashion line that had been neglected. It’s either fully African or it’s fully English, or fully corporate, but I had this dream of fusing the two. Something you can wear to the club and still wear to the office. So I tried to fuse African and urban together to see if it can go and the reception has been wonderful. We’re doing clothes that are African but you can wear it with a sneaker and still look cool, that’s what we’re trying to do," he said.
Yamai is an accounting graduate while DJ Jakes studied architecture in school. But they each found their calling in this local scene.