THE PRODIGAL SON
Eedris Abdulkareem is confrontational, very confrontational. He is argumentative, very argumentative. And he’s controversial – absolutely!
I first discovered these attributes when I had an opportunity to sit face-to-face with him, during a magazine interview around 2002. Hauling very bold and provocating questions at him, myself and Efe Omorogbe were stunned to realise that Mr Abdulkareem was not one to be intimidated by a bunch of journalists who knew too much for their own good.
For every missile we fired, he fired two. He raised his voice, cursed beneath his breath, muttered a few words in Hausa, and almost physically wrestled Omorogbe. Instead of getting upset and intimidated too, we were impressed by the ‘rapper’s’ energy. His passion won me over and, even though I was convinced he was telling a lot of untruths and so many half-truths, it was difficult not to fall in love with the guy.
So I discovered that, apart from being confrontational and argumentative, Eedris was a brilliant entertainer who knew what to do at what time; he knew when to rip your skin and get on your nerves; he knew when to bark and make you flee without thinking that he may have no teeth; he knew when act calm, even stupid, in order to make his point. He knew when to be an asshole. He knew when to be a sophist. He knew when to be a fighter. And he knew when to be a darling. He was all these (and more) to me, during the three hour interview, and I told my colleagues that –forget the lies he told us about his collabos with Busta Rhymes and Rita Marley, and which international star is feeling his shit, without their fingers in his anus- this one artiste will go places if he continues to adhere to his formular.
The year was 2002. Eedris was big and established. He was the darling of the media, and fans loved him so much that at a show in the north, he jumped into the crowd face down and a chain of hands emerged from nowhere to sustain him. Though criticised by critics and hip hop heads for his questionable rap skills (Eedris was infamous for ‘speaking in tongues’ and constantly rhyming ‘dudu’ and ‘fufu’), Eedris was unperturbed. He’d tell anyone who cared to listen: ‘rap is hip hop, hip hop is Africa, Africa is Nigeria, Nigeria is Lagos, Lagos is Eedris Abdulkareem –If you don’t believe that, eat spaghetti’. He had conquered the local scene. He had his eyes on the international scene, and a Grammy gong. And to show that he was on the right track, he soon got announced as one of the few Nigerians voted to lift the Olympic torch as it passed through Africa for the first time ( he carried out this noble assignment with respected citizens like Pat Utomi and Dora Akunyili).
But in 2004, Eedris goofed. He hit his foot on a rock, stumbled, and fell. It was the fourth of December, seven days before his wedding, when he picked up a fight with G-Unit bodyguards aboard an ADC aircraft conveying the performing crew to Port Harcourt for the final leg of Star Megajam 2004. Eedris was occupying a business class seat reserved for 50 Cent. A G-Unit bodyguard demanded he vacate the seat. Eedris refused, maintaining he ‘can’t be treated like a second class citizen’ in his own country. A brouhaha soon followed, leaving Eedris’ bodyguard – a poor guy named Malo- injured, the show cancelled and 50 Cent hurrying back to the US with his crew.
Eedris claimed he was ‘fighting’ for the right of the Nigerian artiste who, as a matter of fact was constantly maltreated, underpaid and humiliated anytime their foreign counterparts were visiting. But the backlash that followed showed that no one exactly believed him. The media unanimously asked for his head, fellow artistes condemned his action, and corporate Nigeria blacklisted him. As he was settling down to marriage, he had to get used to the media bashing and dwindling income.
Instead of selling more albums and heading for the Grammies, his career was trapped in the doldrums, his image in tatters and his account in red.
True, Eedris took the most tragic step of his career in 2004. He made a mistake he should not have made and we all bashed him for it. But now, it’s four years after and I think we may have taken the ‘war against Eedris’ too far. And when I say we, I mean the media, the promoters, corporate sponsors and fans.
It’s four years after and Eedris has apologised severally. He has even apologised to 50 Cent in person, and he has stayed out of ‘trouble’ for the better part of the past few years. Yet it doesn’t appear the media have forgiven him. It doesn’t appear the big-budget brands have started considering him again.
Eedris did wrong. Yes. But time should have healed all the wounds his action inflicted on us all. The guy has suffered tremendously; he’s been to hell and back. He may be too arrogant to admit it, but we all know he has paid the price of his December 4, 2004 action.
Now that he’s making another bold attempt at resuscitating his damaged career; now that he has a new album again, and he’s battling hard to reclaim his lost position, I think we should all remember the biblical story of the prodigal son and embrace Mr Abdulkareem again. I think we should give him another chance!
If not for him, let’s do it for his beautiful wife, his ageing mother, and his two lovely kids. And no, you don’t need to send him a donation. We can start by buying a copy of his new album, by showing him love anytime we see him, or by buying tickets to see him anytime he’s in our neighbourhood.
I’ve already played my part. How about you?