Show Dem Camp, Rebels With A Cause
Being a solo artist in Nigeria isn’t a journey filled with honey and roses; it’s even harder when you come back from the U.K to take on the Nigerian music industry as a rap duo. The music career of Olumide Ayeni, popularly known as Ghost, and Wale Davies, also known as Tec, who perform under the stage name Show Dem Camp (SDC), has been buzzing since 2010.
Walking into Freedom Park to start the photoshoot, we were sure of the decision to use this location to channel the spirit of the duo who have been spearheading the new wave of underground music and are taking their careers into their own hands as artists and record label owners.
As we work around the time frame we have for the shoot, Wale is caught between making phone calls and setting up for the shoot. Prior to this, he had shared that they each had separate meetings to attend by noon. It was insightful to know that, despite their passion as SDC, Tec and Ghost had individual hustles that they tended to.
The birth of Show Dem Camp
Like all great duos, these two met officially on the battleground when they realised they had the same stage name, Golden Child. “That was originally a name I had and then this imposter came over and claimed he had the same name. We battled and I obliterated him. Then I got the name back but then chose to give it up because it was tainted,” Ghost says light-heartedly. Like they say, ‘the rest is history’ as they became joined at the hip and transitioned in names from Loose Cannonz, BlackBoysDown, Third Eye Renegades and finally to, Show Dem Camp. Their journey for the love of music transcends just the art as Tec says, “We have a friendship beyond music.”
Their music which has been described to have the core elements of rap and afrobeat is a sound that is unique to them. Despite the friendly banter that occurs, as Ghost says, “This guy came under my wing at a very young age. I brought him up in the game and I keep looking out for him,” it is clear that there is nothing but respect for the work they do and the value they both bring to the table. As individuals who believe in the power of organic growth, their name changes can give you an insight into that journey. When asked why the name of the group kept changing, Ghost explains, “Because, at different points in time, we were finding out different things about ourselves. As Third Eye Renegades, we were trying to get too deep into our thoughts, reading all sorts of books. With Loose Cannonz, we were very young. So there are different points in life where we’ve changed our names based on what we were experiencing.” Tec also chips in, “With Loose Cannonz, we were in the UK and found out that there was another group called Loose Cannons who were bigger, so we had to change.”
The growth of these artists has seen them change their sound from hardcore rap to what Tec describes as “sunlight,” to the transition of just being artists, to record label owners. We have seen a lot of artists start out signed to a record label, and suddenly, like the occurrence of a light bulb moment, they break ties with said label and start out on their own. Many have been successful, others, not so much. For the group, it was an eye-opening moment based on experience. Tec explains, “To be honest with you, in Nigeria, you are forced to do many jobs as an artist. You’re your own financer, A&R, you’re doing your own marketing, I know where to go in Alaba, I’ve been everywhere in terms of music. I think that once we saw that was the approach people were taking here, it made sense to start our own label. I have looked at a lot of people that came around the same time, they are not under the same label now. For us, we thought, ‘let’s do it ourselves’. Win or lose, we’d stand with our decisions.”
Ghost speaks on how they have progressed as a duo: “ It’s been a journey. Ups and downs, like with most things in life, but it’s a learning curve and we appreciate the battles, the journey to where we are right now.”
Most creatives are advised to focus on their creativity and allow the professionals take care of the business side of their brand but this is not the case for the duo. As we speak on conflict of interest as artists and record label owners, Tec is more than happy to contradict the idea but marries the elements. He says, “I think it gives us a clearer understanding of what an artist needs to succeed. A lot of the time, some people assume that the artist needs this and that but they haven’t lived that life, they’ve not walked that walk, so it is difficult for them to know. There is an artist I’m working with now called Funbi, who is a singer; and from our experiences, I’m able to say we made this mistake before so don’t follow that same path.”
From albums like The Dreamer Project, Clone Wars 3 – The Recession to their recently released E.P, Palmwine Music, the duo are proud of the body of work they have put out in the duration of their career. When asked which body of work they feel has been their strongest and done well in terms of reception, Ghost says, “That’s a difficult question because each project that we released has been at different times. Like The Dreamer Project we released, I think it was a very good and critically acclaimed album at the time. I think it was one of the best albums out of Nigeria, personally. But social media wasn’t really relevant at that time, so we couldn’t get a gauge on what people’s response to it was. With Clone War Series, we got a little bit more interaction; but now with Palmwine Music, the interaction from the internet has been mad, the respect and love that we’ve received, and we can gauge what people have been saying because of social media.”
Speaking of growing on the work they have done in the past and their direction for the future, Tec says, “The first thing is that we don’t like to be placed in a box, that’s why we did Clone Wars 3, which was a very hip-hop based album, and then we had to come with sunlight, which is Palmwine Music. We’ve learnt that we are in the era where visuals, engagement, and interaction are the important things. So we’ve been doing these Palmwine Sessions, which are live shows to engage directly with people. The visuals from the sessions are also interesting.” On lessons learnt, he explains: “ Another thing we’ve learnt is, we are not waiting for anybody’s platforms to push us. We are going to create our own shows and platforms. It may be smaller, but it is better to organically grow your fanbase. At this stage, there are people who are core SDC fans, and people who have never heard of SDC. For us, it’s just to touch both of those people and keep expanding that base.”
Music in Nigeria
Seven years is a long time to be in the Nigerian music industry. The public has witnessed first-hand the transition of sounds of young artists who start out as rappers, and then to reggae musicians before becoming dance-hall artists. In the storm that is the industry, SDC has found a way to incorporate all the sounds they feel would ground them, such as: rap, alternative indie, hip-hop and afrobeat sounds, all without losing their core fans but instead, growing said fan base. As with all industries in Nigeria, the near-absence of infrastructure tells also in the music industry. When asked if true talent is appreciated in the country, Ghost is quick to say, “True talent is appreciated but might not always be recognised.”
Debating on the issue of support from on-air personalities (OAPs) and Disc Jockeys (DJs) in the music industry, Tec says, “ I think that there are some great OAPs and DJs, and I think there are some crap OAPs and DJs. I feel as an artist, the responsibility is in your hands to push your stuff; there’s SoundCloud and iTunes. The main beauty of the internet is that you can bypass the middleman…and they will find you.” Taking a more liberal stand on the view, Ghost says, “I think there are a lot of good OAPs and DJs. I saw something that DJ Obi wrote about how a majority of people want to hear a certain kind of music when they go out. He (the DJ) might know the music, but I think he also has the responsibility to break the barrier and say ‘this is a new guy I’m putting out every week’ and support that guy.”
Creative Direction: Chidera Muoka
Assisted By: Beatrice Porbeni
Photography: Niyi Okeowo
Styling: Henry Uduku