The first time to hear that a young man called Olaitan Olaonipekun, popularly known as Da Grin was living was when he died, but not the last to hear the name. He was a Nigerian rap act who was stolen by death in a ghastly accident in his own car – Maxima. He died on April 22 2010. Until his death, his music was not popular as Da Grin is popular today. He is awash on the Nigerian news, and indeed, international. Some people who will not cry for a lost relation were forced to cry. Many thought that the news of his death was a mere joke; some thought it was an expensive one. Some were saying that God should let it be a rumour. All the radio stations were slamming or jamming his music – back-to-back and front-to-front. We’ll never understand why you have to go now.
Da Grin was a huge talent, according to his admirers. He was rapping mostly in his native language – Yoruba – and scantly in English Language. His music is the trend of the epoch in the western part of Nigeria he came from. Some of his Yoruba brethren who don’t or were misled by western world not to understand Yoruba and can’t speak were jealous when they first heard his music. One of them said: When I heard the guy, spit in Yoruba I kind of used to get jealous that I couldn't speak Yoruba that well. He made me so proud to be a Yoruba guy. He made it so cool. He connected with his fans on such a real level. You just felt he was talking directly to you... you actually "felt" him. His energy came through in every word he uttered. I have video footage on my phone of my oyinbo female friends singing the hook, and some of his lyrics to idi-nla. That's how much I used to bump this guy. He was just oozing talent and originality. TBH I don't take an overwhelming majority of Nigerian rappers seriously. Even the most mainstream and heralded ones. Dagrin is pretty much the only one I comment about because I think most of the others are just clowning wannabes and cheap imitations of western rappers.
His death is affecting a lot of his admirers and has spoilt days for them. He died when they are beginning to enjoy his music – just 23. His death make many have lumps in their throat and can’t not cry again. Some feel like crying, but lose their voices and senses. The fear of not seeing him again envelopes the entire limited team of his fans. They are asking, so Da Grin is nowhere to be found in this world again?
They are hoping the doctor's incessant strike didn't contribute to the early exit of Da Grin? They are asking why his manager didn’t or other artistes think ahead and transfer him to hospitals like Eko Hospital, St. Nicholas etcetera.
They are saying that they are really disappointed.
They are feeling that the Police contributed their own quota but they are not sure of the medical team.
But they are consoling themselves, saying, we are just unhappy for your demise. Da Grin, you'll never be gone to those you loved and have touched their hearts in many ways. Your "thought-provoking" renditions are still with us in every steps of the hustle...
Some persons are asking how strong death is. They are rhetorically asking why Da Grin will die when he is needed most and was already reaching the acme of his music career. Those who love the rap genre are finding it hard to believe that he is gone forever. They see him as somebody that would have made a change in the Nigerian music industry. They wish they have a wand of power that can bring him back, they will not hesitate. Can anyone fill the vacuum Da Grin has left in the hearts of his fans? It hurts so bad that Da Grin was lost so soon!
One George Austin sees Da Grin as a legend no matter what the opinions of others are. He sees him as a mentor of a sort whom death was so envious about. Austin writes: “Like a fire that burnt through the field of an industry called music; particularly the rap genre, Da Grin came, he saw, but he never conquered death. For the short time he had reigned, where even legends strive to; he created a style that none could imitate; touched the lives of music lovers like no one else; and gave hope to the teeming youths that it is possible to make it in this country if you got style. But, he went up in a blaze of glory when we least expected it at 23”.
One Wales Loniskolobo sings a different song from Austin. For him, Da Grin is not dead. He sees Da Grin as coming back from a show-travel very soon. His words: “Hmmm! Firstly, Da Grin is not dead, is not dead, is not dead. He went for a show in heaven, so he is coming back soon…friends be ready to see him again...”
Loniskolobo’s expectation that Da Grin will come back soon seems to be a hope in one Bolo who says he can’t wait to see him, and he says, “Da Grin, words can’t express what you mean to me. Even though you’re gone, we are still a team. In the future, I can’t wait to see you. When it’s real, feelings are hard to conceal. Can’t imagine all the pain you feel… Give anything to hear half your breath. I know you’re still living your life, after death... soldier boy.”
Da Grin didn’t deserve death at this time; he deserved to reap the fruits of his hard labour of unrelenting exploration of the musical art. His death seems to be a portal to unifying those in the music industry he left to mourn him, and it calls for such. One Benson Gideon says, “It is time we foster unity among ourselves (artistes in Nigeria) and stop being biased against one another. Da Grin’s death is a wake-up call in the Nigeria’s music industry... when he was alive he had few thousands of fans but now that he is dead, the whole country is Da Grin’s fans... What a world?”
While Gideon may be insinuating that it could be the perceived enmity in the industry that might have contributed to Da Grin’s untimely death, he was perhaps oblivious that the dearth of equipments in the Nigerian hospitals could be why Da Grin died. Someone suspected to be a Kenyan suggested thus: “So sad, saw the pictures the other day after the accident. Couldn’t believe how terrible the accident was. But the most shocking was the bed he was lying on. He had to sort of help or support wires and cables which I usually see when someone is in intensive care after accident. I pray for his family and friends, but mostly for Nigeria. Light Up Nigeria! Light up your roads!! Light up your streets, your hospitals, your buildings!!! And such sad scenarios will be avoided. He was young, talented, and so much potential. Robbed away. When will enough be enough? Your country has so much money. Where is it going? You all drive around in flashy cars, but you are all denying yourselves of your social economic rights. Healthcare, security…”
This other person says, “may God punish those bloody animals that always park their trucks indiscriminately on the roads; punish the government officials that were supposed to control such criminally-vehicle-parking and the ones that misappropriate funds meant for street lights and proper ICU equipment at the hell-hole called government hospital. May God punish the sick profiteering auto dealer that sold him a previously accidented and refurbished Maximum with no air bags”.
However, it’s so sad to lose Da Grin, let alone, say good-bye. But, what can we do? According a statement, “we are like pencil in the hands of God, God giveth and taketh, and pray God will console his family and make them heal fast, though it is not easy...
No matter how we pray against death, it’ll come…it’s inevitable…So, please tell people how much u love them while they can still hear it…show them how much you care when they are alive...”
But, one thing remains as a bet in people’s minds: Da Grin could have won an MTV or Grammy awards if he was alive.
Odimegwu Onwumere, Poet/Author and Media Consultant, is a Columnist and the Founder of Poet Against Child Abuse (PACA), Rivers State, Nigeria.