All over the world, in every culture, faith, and industry there are unanswered questions that continue to prick at our minds all through our lives. Questions like; “Did Hitler really go on a World War tantrum because a Jew ate the last Plum cake in a store?” or “Was there enough room on the door for Rose and Jack?”, and my personal favourite, “WHAT HAPPENED TO BLAISE?”.
Four generations of the Nigerian hip-hop community have continued to ponder on this question as the stage was set for her to take over the world with her penmanship, delivery, and attitude. Alas, she mysteriously disappeared and till this very day, no one can put a finger on the cause. Many have guessed and others have built up conspiracy theories; The Rich Spouse, The Emasculation of the Hip Hop Industry, and of course, there’s also The Success Jitters. These theories continue to go unanswered as Blaise did not only disappear from the music scene, she also remained elusive; never grants interviews, paid or otherwise.
Despite her elusiveness and the mystery surrounding her disappearance, Blaise has earned a special place in the hearts of hip hop heads in the country and beyond as the greatest Femcee yet in the Nigerian hip hop community. She has no single project out – mixtape, EP and LP-, just verses as a feaured Guest, and 3 singles, yet, she has done more than enough in relation to her collegues with bulkier Discographies to prove that she has this rap thing on lock. Easy.
A cold February morning, after a bit of cardio, decided to catch up on my mails in order to finalise the day’s plan, and there it was, “BRO, LET’S TALK”, staring at me. Opened it, lost my shit and almost spilled my coffee. A message from Blaise was casually sitting in my inbox about a culture chat. The next day, I was in a cab heading to the urban side of Lagos to meet up with Blaise. It never crossed my mind I could be on my way to submit myself to kidnappers. Well if it was the latter, shi-shi they won’t see and I was pretty sure they’d even give me transport fare and some Trader Moni to get my shit together after 120 days of unanswered calls and unpaid ransom money. I rang the bell at my destination, the door opened and I was thrown into the presence of the greatest Nigerian Femcee, in her home.
I was ushered into her home, and I got the ‘favourite sister/sister-in-law’ feeling from her. You know how your brother’s wife goes all out to ensure you her comfortable and gives you that VVIP treatment every time you turn up. We had a bit of banter and she offered to let me into her “mysterious world” if I could convince her about my vision for Hip-hop in Nigeria.
Funke Martin-Luther always had a ear for hip hop from a very young age. “As a youngin’, I listened to everyone back then. Queen Lateefah, MC Lyte, MethodMan, ICE Cube. I listened to anybody really, some NAMES I knew , others I didn’t”, the femcee began opening the door gradually into her world. “Although Naija Rap pioneers like Weird Mc, JUNIOR & PRETTY (a rap duo from the 90’s) were doing their thing, hip-hop as a culture itself, wasn’t what was generally accepted. Aspects of the hip-hop culture like breakdancing, DJ’ing, and even the fashion were doing better in terms of acceptance” she went on, as her excitement was very visible in her eyes, and hand gestures.
“I’ve been writing poetry since I was a shorty, but I started trying my hands at rap poetry when I really got into listening to hip-hop music. That must have been when I was in form 3. That puts me about 13 or 14 years old. With hip-hop poetry I found an avenue to really express myself in more gritty ways and I loved it.” she replied when asked about how she came about writing raps. ” I just kept writing, honing my skills gradually becoming a sponge for knowledge, rap techniques and penmanship.”
Talking about when she decided to move from being a lassie with good rhymes to being a professional Emcee, she said “It was in my I.T year (Industry Training) at an architectural firm in Lagos. The Remedies, Ruff, Rugged N Raw were taking over the airwaves around that time. One other group that was out at the time was the Trybesmen. The first time I heard them on the radio on J.A.J‘s Top 7 Jams at 7, I was blown away! They had that sound I could really relate to, they stood out, for me anyway. I was gonna meet them or else… Lol!” She began her quest to meet The Trybesmen.
TRYBESMEN & DA TRYBE
“I had a friend who knew a friend who knew where eLDee‘s BQ was in UniLag and one thing led to another, he set up a meeting and we bounced over there one bright and sunny day. Lol! I had my rhyme book, I met eLDee, Lequshe, Freestyle and I’m not too sure if Kaboom was there that day. Anyway, I kicked a couple of flows and eLDee liked them and told me I was in! Just like that, dream come true!”
They went on to form Da Trybe, a collective that included the Trybesmen crew and other individuals, “This was when I unleashed Blaise! I believe this was year 2000.”
Da Trybe would later release a compilation of songs from members in 2002, “After we recorded the Oya track as a collective”, the rapper continued, “I moved to the U.K soon after and didn’t get back to the Naija music scene till 2006”
THE THREE-YEAR HIATUS
The femcee talked about leaving Nigeria in hopes of furthering her studies and settling down. “I got word from close friends and family about how ‘I don cause trouble with that verse’. My verse on the hit track “Oya” was just about 8 bars long and I didn’t really feel it had heat like that. I just spat my verse and bounced but apparently, it made an impression. I started to get that pull that I could actually go back and kinda finish what is started. In 2006, I decided to board that train just to see where it leads.”
By the time she decided to return to the music scene, Da Trybe had split up; Dr. Sid went solo and would later meet Don Jazzy of Mo’Hits, while Sasha P joined Storm Records and both their careers took off from there “I also came back to doing my own thing.” She had gotten more into music production while away, and being a musical individual, she wasn’t scared of fusing that hip-hop sound with traditional elements. She showed this in her 2014 song with Orlando Julius, Osika.
RETURN & THE DEFINITION
“I lived in Ibadan back then. All I did was go to Lagos, recorded, performed and attended events. I return home and get lost in my own world of consuming and making hip-hop music until the next invitation came. I was never bothered about feedbacks about my performances or songs. It was close friends and family that gave me the public’s feedback on stuffs I put out.”
The rapper was clear about not being cut out for the politics that comes with the industry. “When we started on this road, we were just youngins doing it for the love. We weren’t bothered about Copyrights and royalties and stuff like that. I eventually learned the business but my heart leaned towards the love for the art form. And so even though the structure was lacking in the Nigerian music industry, we did our thing anyway, I was just having fun enjoying myself.”
She went on to feature on Freestyle‘s Braggin’ Rights, off his debut album, Free At Last. She also made appearances where she stood out; DJ Jimmy Jatt‘s Too Much (remix) alongside fellow femcees, BOUQUI, Sasha P and Khemistry. Dipp‘s Good Girls (remix) with Muna and Kel, Suspect‘s I No Send You (remix) with Sasha P, Muna, Zee, Eva and Mo’ Cheddah. Finally M.I‘s Blaze with Ice Prince and Jesse Jagz.
The Femcee was rated top 3 lyricists of her time. The other 2 were Ruggedman and Modenine. She held her own and it was well earned. She was one of the few rappers that were impressive on the 2011 BET CYPHER, as she recalls “I wasn’t near a TV that night, but my Blackberry was so hot from notifications. It didn’t even occur to me until I got a screenmunch from a friend that ‘Funke Martin Luther’ and ‘Blaise’ were top 2 trending on Twitter. The feeling afterward was really good” with eyes lit up as she had a nostalgic moment.
Of all the collaborations she had, she was grateful for Dj Jimmy Jatt’s project – “The Definition”, “It brought attention to a lot of rappers and the project had quite some reach. That was the first time a lot of us heard M.I, and what quality stood out in him asides from his flow; I don’t know if he now knows, but it was his voice. Ladies loved his voice and I could tell he was gonna be something special. I knew he was going to be big. No one before him had a voice like that”
THE DISAPPEARING ACT
Blaise would later sign to Nomoreloss’s Management Company and thus finally, talks about her debut album, Love and Power, were making the rounds in the community. It never got released. I enquired about the reason why she withdrew from the limelight at such an important phase in her career, and her response was well-mannered for such a grim-type situation.
At this point in her career, she was leading the pack without a project, a couple of singles, and guest appearances on about 10 tracks. She always left consumers yearning for more as her almost off-beat (sometimes off-beat) delivery matched her lyrical prowess without ever trying to sexualise herself or any subject she rapped about. Also, her fellow femcees all had projects out, yet all that amount of songs in their discography didn’t match her scanty portfolio in quality.
“It was a combination of many things, too many to go into details about.”
“You know we all come from different places backgrounds and orientations. Playing football on your street is different from playing at a National Level.’ She began to expatiate, “Your street understands that it’s all a game, without any harm meant behind your moves and tackles. but when you’re out in the real world, trying to make the same moves, it has a totally different meaning. Some players could see you as an obstacle to getting the bag and are willing to do certain things to fix the situation. the industry started to show me a darker underbelly and I didn’t feel safe to go out and play my favourite game anymore.”
The withdrawal process was gradual and apparently necessary, where she decided to retreat into a much quieter pace of life. She’s in her own world; consuming hip-hop music (new and old skool), producing and recording songs. I asked if she’s actually done with the game? “All I can say is the last of me hasn’t been heard yet.” this gives a definite answer to about 4 generations of hip-hop heads who still thirst for Blaise.
Till then, she will continue to sit on our mantle and pedestal of the ‘greatest Nigerian femcee’ and ‘Top 10 lyricist’ in our hip-hop culture. While the rapper continues to “milk my cows, feed my chickens” she jokes “and tend to my craft” in her suburban home until she’s ready to share her archives with us.
From the interview, I learned Blaise is a rap geek/nerd. She’s not in it for the money as most of the artistes that inspire her are of an intellectual and conscious stock who talk about moving the culture and community forward, with love and positivity.
Talking about the current downtime hip hop/rap is experiencing in Nigeria today, she believes “The poor situation of hip-hop today is like a bus that broke down while conveying all of us in the Naija hip-hop community (rappers, b-boys, knowledge heads, graffiti artists, deejays) to our respective destinations. It is our collective responsibility to ensure we get to work fixing the bus, push it to start, and all happily get on it, getting off at our own individual stops. What we must ensure is that we give our best to move the culture forward wholeheartedly before getting off that bus.”