When the precincts of the Victor Uwaifo Creative Hub buzzed with rattling of Mercedes Benz cars last Friday, it was unmistakable that a new kind of energy had seized the ancient City of Benin, which was hosting arguably its most successful breakout artist of 2023, the Pluto Presido, Shallipoppi, legally Crown Uzama.
Shallipoppi, the darling of Nigeria’s Gen Z generation, shot into limelight from the deep recesses of TikTok to national acclaim, mesmerizing concert goers across Nigeria, Ghana and even the United Kingdom.
His sound – a mix of amapiano and traditional Benin materials – continues to blow up streaming platforms, amassing with it a cult-like followership that is propelled by his raunchy lyrics that glorifies the ‘costly lifestyle’, an otherworldly experience on Pluto and the good life in a Benz.
Shallipoppi reflects the reality of a demography in Nigeria that seeks the lure of a new experience which captures the essence of their reality – the thrills of puffing and passing smoke joints, the new order of decentralized finance powered by bitcoin and the frills of fast money.
So at Shallipoppi’s homecoming concert in Benin City, it was a time to celebrate his conquest in Nigeria’s music scene and the rise of a homeboy to national acclaim.
From a crowded entry gate peopled by youths spotting Shallipoppi’s signature hairstyle to side talks and heated haggling over the sold-out VIP tables, plutomanians milled about, registering the musician’s entry as a hotshot in the music scene. It proved to be a sold-out show, which had the support of the Governor Godwin Obaseki-led Edo State Government. The organizers said it was one of the biggest music concerts in the city in recent history.
It would have indeed been a hectic Christmas season in Benin had Rema, the billboard charting maverick, also staged his rested homecoming concert, which was cancelled due to the artist’s health concerns.
An ambassador of Nigeria’s pop culture, Shallipoppi has been at the receiving end of criticism due to alleged promotion of fraudsters, popularly known as Yahoo boys. In fact, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) had arraigned him for fraud. His music is littered with what many might call the telltales of the 419 business – bitcoin, costly lifestyle and some cockiness to go with it. But what else is pop culture if not a blend of these and the ability to blur the lines and connect with the majority of the people in society.
With latest album Presido La Pluto, Shallipopi provides a window into the range of his creative talent, building on the success of his earlier songs and delivering a good dose of feel good music spiced with some tingling nursery rhymes-like choruses.
As the show progressed, it became clear that Shallipopi enjoyed massive support from the home-crowd, a feeling he was forced to admit when he chanted to the crowd, “Benin, I don come home o!.” Enthralled, the crowd wailed in acquiescence.
Much as Shallipopi enjoys the support of the Gen Z, he also embodies what those in the older generation have grown uncomfortable with, somewhat making him a some sort of a nuisance. While some find some of his lyrics vulgar and promoting use of illicit drugs evident in lyrics of ‘puff and pass’ which featured his brother ZerryDL, his debut single, ‘Elon Musk’ pays homage to the lifestyle and lingo of ‘Yahoo boys.’
But these were not enough to dissuade Governor Obaseki from being thrilled by the show. He was out all night, mesmerized by the talent and stagecraft of the Pluto Presido. The otherworldly mood was captured by creative iteration of the stage, with planet-like structures sticking out of the set.
Having invested so much in reviving the state’s creative industry with the Victor Uwaifo Creative Hub and Soundstage complete with music production studios, Obaseki must have been impressed by how much pull the new artist has on the city of Benin.
As Shallipopi closed the show in the early hours of Saturday morning, there was denying his genius and potential on the music scene. He has risen as an embodiment of the new culture – of Benz owing teenagers, of heady optimism and a life uninhibited by biased profiling.
Onyewuchi is a co-editor at The Question Marker.