Falz is right. The glorification of Internet fraudsters have no place in our music. But it exists as the Nigerian reality because where there is fame, dirty money is attracted to it.
“You are an entertainer in a position as a role model to younger ones coming up,” Falz told HipTV.
“And in your musical record you are greeting all the yahoo boys, you are greeting all the fraudsters , calling their name personally, hailing them, wire wire mo fe cha che, all this culture you are making the young ones think it’s cool to do it, it’s not, you are destroying our future,” the rapper said.
Nigerians have reacted to this statement in many ways. Some for and against. But this is Nigeria. A country where thieves are celebrated as heroes, and criminals enjoy the support of public sympathizers. There’s truth in Falz’s words. Music should never be used to lead people to criminality or positively spin criminality.
It is wrong. It should never happen. Dammy Krane was recently arrested on allegations of credit card scam. When he was apprehended by the US police, he had 7 fraudulent credit cards on him. He is on bail, but a trial is set to occur, and Dammy Krane might just go to jail. His friend Sinzu is already in jail for the third time due to theft.
The music industry always attracts dirty money, and has had a special relationship with internet fraud.
Internet fraud has never been a new issue. Dammy Krane is just the latest to get caught in the scam which is popular among Nigerian musicians and people linked with the music industry.
Cybercrime has always been in Nigerian music. But with Nigerian music, its romance with the entertainment industry was made valid and a part of the culture when singer Olu Maintain released ‘Yahooze’, one of the most important pop records of the past 10 years.
The song which dropped in October 2007, which sang as an ode to internet fraud aka Yahoo Yahoo, and its perpetrators ‘Yahoo Boys’, was a phenomenal hit. Till date, you can still hear it in the bustling streets of Lagos, dingy bars, and night clubs.
‘Yahooze’ was to stay relevant, until 2008, when a record by Kelly Hansome titled ‘Maga don pay’, employed a similar formula to knock it off its perch and become another hit. The new single stuck to the basics of its predecessor, celebrating extravagant living funded by the proceeds of internet crime.
The victims of these crime were called ‘Magas’ and the process of successfully defrauding a Maga was referred to as ‘Hammer’. If you scam a Maga and make enough money from the crime, you have hammered.
“My Maga don pay, shout halleluia…” Kelly Hansome sang.
Kelly Hansome and Olu Maintain have never been busted for Internet crime. The duo have independently come out to deny any direct involvement in cyber-crimes, granting interviews to debunk consequential rumors of their hit singles.
“It’s kind of strange how you would think that there is more attributed to my success, fame, and wealth other than my music.” Maintain told Pulse in 2014.
“I studied accountancy in school, so I’m from a background of doing the show, and not doing the blow. I have capitalized on my fame and fortune to open other doors to other arms of business ventures in life and it has paid off, and its still paying off.”
Kelly Hansome on his part, defended the single in 2008, with the absurdly detailed explanation: ”It depends on how you want to look at it. Maga is an acronymn for Man And God Always. God will use man to bless you; so that man is your maga. And when they say I talked about ‘system’ in the song; the world we live in is an ecosystem, and na magas dey control the system”.
No matter the PR spins, these songs glorified cyber-criminality, put a positive spin to it, and served as the soundtracks to willing youths, seeking to engage in the crime. Subsequent years have had numerous artists reference cyber-crime in their songs. It has grown to become a negative but generally accepted part of pop culture. You can find it in Olamide’s ‘Prayer for clients’, Davido and Xclusive’s ‘Wole’, Reminisce’s ‘2mush’, and more recently, the raving ‘Penalty’ single by Small Doctor.
“Because of the fame and attention from fans and populace, people who engage themselves with cybercrime tend to align themselves with entertainers,” says Bankulli Osha, a talent manager and A&R expert.
“They align in the name of getting fame to complement their wealth. It’s a kind of synergy that arises.
“It comes from very simple ways. An artist gets in the club, and he receives an expensive bottle of luxury alcohol from an unknown person. They become friends, exchange numbers and later the musicians discovers that his new friend is a cybercriminal.”
But not everyone is in support of it. The music industry kicked back in 2010. Tech Giants Microsoft began a campaign for Nigeria under their Microsoft Internet Safety, Security and Privacy Initiative for Nigeria (MISSPIN) initiative. The campaign sought to re-direct the energies of participants of cybercrime to positive use. 25 young people who were involved in ‘Yahoo Yahoo’ were rehabilitated and trained with life skills, employability skills, I.T and more.
The most viral part of the campaign was the theme song, which spread the message far more than any other move could do. The song titled ‘Maga no need pay’ was produced by Cobhams Asuquo, and featured an impressive line-up of star musicians who came out to support the push for zero cybercrime. They included Banky W, M.I Abaga, Rooftop MCs, Omawumi, Modele, Bez and Wordsmith.
“Cybercrime is not specific to the music industry,” says Godwin Tom, who is a renowned talent manager and entertainment entrepreneur. “Cybercrime is cybercrime. It exists in every industry. There’s cybercrime in real estate and other areas. It’s just when a musician is caught in it, it becomes a popular story because of their celebrity.”
Dammy Krane is just the latest, but he isn’t the first music entertainer to be linked with the crime. There have been a few people over the years, who have faced charges and in some cases, gone to US jails over the crime.
Davido’s hypeman, Special ED was once a perpetrator. Edward Chukuma-Ijah better known by his moniker Special Ed was allegedly arrested in the US back in 2011, according to a US website mugshots.com
The Hypeman who grew to fame while working with the now-defunct Mo’Hits crew is said to have been arrested on three counts – Financial transfer credit theft, forgery of the first degree and ID fraud.
The website also claims the chubby rapper/hypeman spent two days in the slammer before he was released. There was also a $17,000 bond placed on his arrest. Sources say he also served community service, although it wasn’t immediately clear which of the charges he was convicted for.
Reacting to Dammy Krane’s arrest, Special ED took to Instagram to show support in a video. “WE DEY TOGEDA!!!!! #JETLIFE!!!! #DIAFADA WE ARE ALL SCAMMERS EVEN YOUR FATHERS ARE SCAMMERS AND CHEATS ONCE THEY SEE D OPPORTUNITY TO MAKE AND GAIN EXTRA DEM GO PUT HEAD!!!!! ITS A NIGERIAN P!!!!!,” he wrote.
Rapper Sinzu has been arrested three time in the US over credit card fraud and identity theft. He is currently in jail over the latest case. According to the recent mugshot, he has been in jail since July 2016. With his last tweet coming on July 14, 2016, which is a few days before records show that he was arrested. Sinzu is reportedly held at Ada County Jail, a medium security prison attached to the Idaho Sheriff Department.
This is the only truth that you should know. Making money from music worldwide is a very tricky game. You have to show extreme levels of skill, or a killer strategy to be able to generate funding. In Nigeria, you have to work extra hard to earn enough money to balance your books. And most times, hardwork isn’t enough, you need luck.
A Nigerian artist only begins to make enough to balance his books after he has a song that becomes popular. After that, he is booked for concerts where he charges a performance fee, and then he can attempt to sell the music via digital platforms and content marketing platforms. But the truth remains that it is still a hard business.
Credit card fraud, yahoo, money laundering and a few other illegal ways, are the go-to schemes for many of the acts. Being in the game is capital intensive, and to make enough, they have to go outside the law and throw themselves into some high-risk activity. They rarely ever get caught.
But sometimes the law gets one over them. They are busted, named, shamed and locked up. Think of the famous cases of Sinzu (Sauce Kid). Dammy Krane has become a part of that circle.
“Know your friends, know the people you keep around you,” Bankulli says. “Artists should be very careful. Little things that would happen would ruin your career, and everything you have built all your life.”
There’s no reason why Falz should be dragged on social media. He is speaking the truth. Crime is bad, fraud is bad. Glorifying it in music is worse.
But the most worrisome part of it is that it leads impressionable youths astray.