Rapper fights to make it from Lagos tip to the top

Nigerian rapper Vocal Slender rose to fame as a Lagos rubbish tip scavenger featured in a BBC documentary, but has found reaching the top of the heap in the music business equally as tough.

The 28-year-old singer, real name Eric Obuh, was due to kick-start his international bid for stardom in May as the main act at a show in London's prestigious 2,350-capacity IndigO2 Arena, but pulled out in disputed circumstances.

Nigerian newspaper PM News reported that amidst a conflict between promoters, Obuh's passport mysteriously disappeared before he set off for London then turned up - but too late for him to make the Indig02 show.

The charismatic vocalist did not confirm the reports in an interview with AFP during his six-week tour here, but said his next step is finding a manager.

"Life has changed, I no longer work on the dump but I did a tour in London which ended up in a little bit of a disagreement over the percentage," Obuh told AFP.

With a new gig set for London in September, he wants someone to help him pursue his dream without exploiting his poor background and lack of industry knowledge.

"Now I need a manager. What I need is someone who is positive and has flair, someone who has love, humanity and love for humanity.

"I need a record deal, I cannot be saying 'sir, sir' to a management company.

"I need someone who doesn't want to take advantage of me as a scavenger from the slum. A lot of people are trying to take advantage of me because they know I'm a little bit talented and they know I've not been to London before.

"There was a little bit of a misunderstanding but it is God's way of telling me to push further," said Obuh, now back in Nigeria.

Obuh's soulful spunk and business acumen came to the world's attention when the BBC first aired the TV documentary in April. Called "Welcome to Lagos", it followed him searching for scrap on the huge Olusosun dump in order to fund time in a recording studio.

Viewers saw Obuh develop his Caribbean dancehall-influenced brand of rap and by the end of the show they saw Slender finally secure enough money to record his song "Owo Yapa" in a studio in Lagos's Ajegunle area, a simmering neighbourhood at the centre of Nigeria's burgeoning hip-hop scene.

As life mirrors art, the song is about someone making lots of money and is now an Internet hit.

"The environment that you grew up in convinces you to be someone in life," Obuh said. "In every human being there is talent and in Ajegunle we decide to look inside ourselves for that part."

The young Obuh grew up with relatives, and his early exposure to music came from listening to Shabba Ranks, Shaggy and Michael Jackson, while hustling on the streets to scrape together enough money to survive.

His focus and disadvantaged start in life put many of his American rap contemporaries' claims of hardship into perspective.

"With the American artists, the government are doing some positive things for their lives - not like in Africa. They may be poor financially but they have a very conducive environment to work with.

"In Africa we have no light, no good power supply, no good water supply, no good roads. You can't go to the studio."

Despite his desire to improve life in Nigeria, Obuh dismissed the idea of following Haitian-born rapper Wyclef Jean into politics.

"For now I don't think I'm going into politics, although I could be an adviser. I don't like to go into it because it is more deadly and it takes your freedom away.

"I don't want a police escort," he said. "If I want to have a drink I can go to a bar and buy my own drink. If I want my own beef I can go to the market and buy my own beef."

Obuh embarks on his next bid for British chart success when he performs as a guest of comedian Eddie Kadi at London's 20,000-capacity O2 Arena in September, and sent a message to international fans who have been inspired by his story.

"My message to everybody trying to survive in life is to stay positive," he said. "Have you ever seen them give an award to the most negative man in the world? No!

"Try! The almighty God will always come by your side but don't take advantage of the less privileged, even if you have the opportunity to."

Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Dornan as Christian Grey in Fifty Shades of Grey

film Sex scene trailer sees a shirtless Jamie Dornan turn up the heat

Arts and Entertainment
A sketch of Van Gogh has been discovered in the archives of Kunsthalle Bremen in Germany
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Eleanor Catton has hit back after being accused of 'treachery' for criticising the government.
books
Arts and Entertainment
Fake Banksy stencil given to artist Alex Jakob-Whitworth

art

Arts and Entertainment
'The Archers' has an audience of about five million
radioA growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift is heading to Norwich for Radio 1's Big Weekend

music
Arts and Entertainment
Beer as folk: Vincent Franklin and Cyril Nri (centre) in ‘Cucumber’
tvReview: This slice of gay life in Manchester has universal appeal
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
‘A Day at the Races’ still stands up well today
film
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tvAnd its producers have already announced a second season...
Arts and Entertainment
Kraftwerk performing at the Neue Nationalgalerie (New National Gallery) museum in Berlin earlier this month
musicWhy a bunch of academics consider German electropoppers Kraftwerk worthy of their own symposium
Arts and Entertainment
Icelandic singer Bjork has been forced to release her album early after an online leak

music
Arts and Entertainment
Colin Firth as Harry Hart in Kingsman: The Secret Service

film
Arts and Entertainment
Brian Blessed as King Lear in the Guildford Shakespeare Company's performance of the play

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
In the picture: Anthony LaPaglia and Martin Freeman in 'The Eichmann Show'

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Anne Kirkbride and Bill Roache as Deirdre and Ken Barlow in Coronation Street

tvThe actress has died aged 60
Arts and Entertainment
Marianne Jean-Baptiste defends Joe Miller in Broadchurch series two

tv
Arts and Entertainment
The frill of it all: Hattie Morahan in 'The Changeling'

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny may reunite for The X Files

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Clarkson, left, and Richard Hammond upset the locals in South America
TV
News
A young woman punched a police officer after attending a gig by US rapper Snoop Dogg
people
Arts and Entertainment
Reese Witherspoon starring in 'Wild'

It's hard not to warm to Reese Witherspoon's heroismfilm
Arts and Entertainment
Word up: Robbie Coltrane as dictionary guru Doctor Johnson in the classic sitcom Blackadder the Third
books

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscar nominations are due to be announced today

Oscars 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Hacked off: Maisie Williams in ‘Cyberbully’

Maisie Williams single-handedly rises to the challenge

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne in The Theory of Everything and Benedict Cumberbatch in The Imitation Game are both nominated at the Bafta Film Awards
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

    Isis hostage crisis

    The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
    Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

    The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

    Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
    Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

    Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

    Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
    Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

    Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

    This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
    Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

    Cabbage is king again

    Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
    11 best winter skin treats

    Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

    Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
    Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

    Paul Scholes column

    The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
    Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

    Frank Warren's Ringside

    No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
    Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

    Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

    The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
    Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

    Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

    Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
    Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
    Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

    Comedians share stories of depression

    The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
    Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

    Has The Archers lost the plot?

    A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
    English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

    14 office buildings added to protected lists

    Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
    Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

    Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

    Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee