Understanding Falz the Social Critic

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Falz the Bahd Guy

Vanessa Obioha writes that Folarin Falana, aka Falz tha Bahd Guy, made a name for himself as an entertainer in the creative industry, but his identity as a social critic is not one that many want to familiarise themselves with

Recently, a group of journalists gathered at Fogo de Lagos in Victoria Island, to spend a day with Folarin Falana, aka, Falz tha Bahd Guy. His PR Agency, BlackHouse Media tagged it ‘Falz Day’. Despite the heavy downpour that morning, the journalists turned out en masse to listen to what the musician has in store for his fans in his upcoming show ‘The Falz Experience’. The show went on a brief hiatus last year after a successful debut in 2017 owing to the busy schedule of the artiste and his penchant for perfection. Now that it is back, the organisers are throwing all in the ring to leave a lasting impression.

Due to the morning’s heavy rain, Falz arrived late. Yet his arrival turned heads. Dressed in a matching short and polo, with his socks all rolled up in sneakers, Falz painted the picture of a schoolboy. The picture is reminiscent of the listening party of his ‘Moral Instruction’ album earlier this year where he encouraged his audience to don school uniforms befitting for a classroom setting.

The attention is somehow expected. Falz who was barely known almost a decade ago has become the poster boy of the Falanas, a family of lawyers. His father, a senior advocate of Nigeria and a human rights lawyer, Femi Falana and his wife, Funmi gained popularity in the country for their human rights activities and legal prowess. His sisters too have also cut their teeth in the legal profession. Falz studied law but his passion for music outweighed the legal call to the dismay of his mother back then. Now she is a very proud mother. When Falz won the BET award for the Best New International Act in 2016, it was his joyous mother and his family members that hosted a private party at Protea Hotel in Ikeja for him. When he held his first headline concert in 2017, his parents were there in the crowd, cheering their son’s ingenuity.

Indeed, Falz has brought eminence to his family’s doorsteps without necessarily using his surname. He paved his way in the industry by deploying a rather interesting strategy that catapulted him to the top.
His hat-trick was to create a funny persona, Brother Taju and uploaded comedy skits on his Instagram page. He used an affected Yoruba accent tinged with colloquial expressions, enhanced by his unique pair of framed spectacles without lens, similar to that of a popular Yoruba actor, Baba Sala.

Over a short period of time, this character gained the required attention. It created the opportunity he desired to introduce his music. His first major hit that shot into the spotlight was the single ‘Marry Me’ featuring Yemi Alade which earned him a nod in the 2015 Nigeria Entertainment Awards.
Falz gained prominence as an actor when actress Funke Akindele made him a regular face in her TV comedy series ‘Jenifa’s Diary’ which has fetched the entertainer AMVCA awards. He had also featured in other movies including ‘Merry Men’ and ‘Chief Daddy’.

To further cement his place in the industry, he headlined his first concert, ‘The Falz Experience’ in 2017. The show produced by Livespot 360 was a theatrical representation of Falz and his alter egos and received rave reviews. The show expectedly gulped N300 million.
While he is tight-lipped about the figures surrounding the second edition scheduled for June 8, he, however, hinted that the budget is bigger.
‘Falz the Experience’ is coming at a time when his music is receiving heavy criticism. To be sure, Falz’s music which he calls ‘Wahzup Music’ is highly appreciated. It is a fusion of comic lyrics with contemporary hip-hop in a faux Yoruba accent. It was easy for the Nigerian audience to embrace Falz the Bahd Guy as a newborn when he stuck to making music that entertained, but they are finding it hard to accept the social critic who chose to make conscious music. Arguably, that part of him was glimpsed when he released ‘This is Nigeria’, a song that addressed all the social and political ills in the country. The song was inspired by American rapper Childish Gambino’s ‘This is America’.

The reactions to that video must have opened Falz eyes because months later, he released his fourth album ‘Moral Instruction, a nine-track album that centres on issues such as politics, corruption, and equality. Generally, it leans towards the activism that defines the Afrobeat legend, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti’s body of work, with each track possessing strong afrobeat flavours with a touch of contemporary hip hop influences.

The most controversial song on that album is ‘Talk’ where Falz boldly expresses his disgust for transactional sex. For this, Falz was heavily pilloried, particularly for those who abide by the tenets of feminism. To them, he portrayed young girls as being sexually promiscuous for pecuniary benefits without addressing the benefactors, who in this case are older men or well-to-do younger ones.

“I have received backlash for this. Some asked ‘do you think you are perfect, who are you to say this, to judge?’ At the end of the day, nobody is perfect. I have never said or portrayed myself as holy,” said Falz. “But if we are to get ourselves out of the situation that we are in, I believe we have to somehow rejig our morals. As entertainers, we have a huge voice, a huge platform and if I do not use my platform to speak or to address or steer my music into the right direction, then I think I’m doing a disservice to my fans which is why I will continue to do conscious music despite the backlash.”

The backlash that has continued to trail him had two effects. First, he felt misunderstood.
He added: “I have been misinterpreted especially in recent times. And to a large extent, I understand the sentiments and feelings of the people that have misinterpreted me. The biggest misconception about my person is that I’m a misogynist or that I hate women. I think it’s funny and laughable. And that’s because I have continuously spoken against the whole ‘runs’ culture. I don’t really like it and I don’t subscribe to it. It doesn’t mean that I hate them in any way. Men that do these things are equally in my eyes doing something that I don’t like. Maybe because I have more stuff on ‘runs’, thus the misconception. And women are the sex that is oppressed.”

Continuing, he noted: “There are patriarchy and male supremacy, and that is perpetuated in every sphere of life. I understand for that reason, it could be vexing for someone listening to my music. ‘Why is that guy always talking about girls, he is also a patriarch’, but that’s not right. I have also made music that talked about women being oppressed, sexual abuse such as ‘Child of the World’. There are songs on ‘Moral Instruction’ that talked about human trafficking. I pay a lot of attention to music that affects everybody. There is no way that anyone can call me a misogynist.”

Secondly, he is resolute in making conscious music and believe it or not, he thinks that Nigeria is worth dying for.
“Yes, I think Nigeria is worth dying for. I think it is unpatriotic for anyone to say Nigeria is not worth dying for. I understand what reason may be because of precedents and how things have been,” explained Falz. “At the end of the day, we are all going to die one day, so it is better to die for a cause. We should be able to fight for what we believe in, regardless of the consequences, that is where I stand. Which is why I will continue to make good music. I’m not scared of any threats to my life.”

Being a musician and a social critic often times puts one in a quagmire particularly when colleagues are involved. In Falz case, he deflected the question on his thoughts about Naira Marley, the musician who was recently arrested by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for cyber fraud. He rather chose to speak generally on cybercrime.

“I have always said and perhaps I was the first person to even get backlash for this. I have never been a fan of celebrating cybercrime. But I will say it again. Cybercrime is wrong, it is giving us a terrible name especially outside Nigeria. Cybercrime is destroying our youths and I understand the sentiment of people not being privileged, feeling that they don’t have opportunities but what about people that are out there, actually putting in an effort, working and toiling day and night through legitimate means and not just taking from someone else,” Falz explained.

“You may be thinking that the person falls for it…I believe that you should live your life and let others live their life as long as yours do not affect others, then you can do whatever you like. But when you are taking from someone else, it’s an offence and a crime against humanity. It is bad. I never subscribe to that, and will never be.”
The criticisms so far have not reduced his fanbase. Few days after he announced the show on his Instagram page, the early birds’ tickets were sold out. He is confident that the show will attract more audience than its previous edition.