Some Say Hip-Hop Song ‘Yahoozee' Is About Nigeria's Cyberscam Industry

Olu Maintain, center, and the Kentro Crew will play in Silver Spring on Friday.
Olu Maintain, center, and the Kentro Crew will play in Silver Spring on Friday. (By Bukola Grace)
By Kate Kilpatrick
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, July 23, 2009

It's a hip-hop music lover's constant dilemma: Brilliantly catchy, infectious music that just so happens to glorify crime, or -- in the case of Nigerian hip-hop -- cyberscamming.

Olu Maintain (real name: Olumide Edwards Adegbolu), who's headlining Friday's African Summer Jam festival in Silver Spring, soared to fame on the back of his smash hit "Yahoozee" off his debut solo album "Maintain Reloaded." "Yahoozee" has remained an anthem at Nigerian parties around the world since.

Although Maintain maintains that Yahoozee is just a dance -- nothing else -- most Nigerians understand it as a reference to the country's multibillion-dollar cyberscam industry. Many of the scam e-mails are sent from Yahoo accounts.

You've seen the e-mails detailing money-laundering schemes. The heir whose $21 million inheritance is "trapped" in a Nigerian account, but if you let him temporarily deposit it into your account, a handsome cut is assured. Or the $2,000 check you received for the $900 bike you posted on Craigslist. Sorry for the mistake, if you could just send a money order for the $1,100 difference. Thanks.

"Yahoozee" debuted in 2006 and gained steam over time, receiving numerous honors including Song of the Year at the 2008 Hip Hop World Awards.

But "Yahoozee" detractors say the song's popularity is a national embarrassment. That kind of music, they say, feeds into Nigeria's reputation as a corrupt country where fraud is rampant.

"Yahoozee" and similar songs "will further worsen the current campaign against Internet scam by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and other anti-corruption agencies," argued Bayo Olupohunda, an activist and educator in Lagos, Nigeria, in a 2007 article posted on the Nigerian Times blog.

"The song is fast becoming a national anthem of sort among youths who now believe that some day, in the not too distant future, they will 'strike gold' or 'hammer' the elusive dollars from Monday to Friday (working days!) of intense 'hustling' doing night browsing and sending scam mails in a cybercafe," Olupohunda wrote.

Maintain rejects the characterization of the song.

"It's just sad because I feel it's a very myopic way, a very noncreative view to analyze such a beautiful piece of art like the song 'Yahoozee,' " Maintain says. "If you listen to the lyrics it goes: Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday you work, you hustle. Saturday, Sunday you owe it to yourself to unwind. Champagne, Hennessy, Moët, you know, the good things in life. This from head to toe has nothing to do with being corrupt in any way. Hell no!"

Maintain, who was born to a Yoruba family in the small town of Ondo, Nigeria, and studied accounting before going into music, points to one of the low-budget music videos produced for the single. In it, the artist signs a record deal and celebrates by purchasing luxury cars and bottles of champagne.

It's all about the Benjamins, baby. (Yes, those are actual lyrics in the song.)

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