However, anyone who has been paying attention to Nigerian social media trends in the past year might not find Lil Durk’s chart-topping feat as a surprise.
From all indications, the Atlanta Trap rapper is popular in Nigeria, but the question remains, why?
The Influence of American Pop Culture and the Streaming Demography
By and large, American Pop culture wields significant influence in Nigeria. Its music, movies, fashion, and lifestyle has for decades influenced Nigerian youths.
With the growth in streaming, Nigerians are increasingly exposed to American music. The population that forms the streaming demographic across Apple Music and Spotify are largely Middle Class and upper-class consumers who lean more towards American urban music.
Lil Durk is a beneficiary of this large group of cool consumers whose music taste and primarily Hip Hop preferences are largely shaped by cool American content.
As the leading cool kid rapper, Lil Durk’s music has endeared a group of consumers who tap into the music to connect with the American urban scene.
The Role of Social Media: “OMG What Happened to Virgin”
Earlier this year, Lil Durk had a viral moment on Nigerian social media when a video of a Nigerian fan comically singing along to his hit record ‘What Happened To Virgil’ surfaced online.
The video spread and in that period Lil Durk saw a spike in his streaming activities in Nigeria. As reported by TurnTable Charts, the song saw a 200,000% spike in activity in the week following the viral video.
Social media viral moments have translated into digital success for several hit songs and this was the same for Lil Durk whose popularity grew after he trended.
A Unique Group of Consumers: “Lil Duck, Omo Werey”
Sometimes in 2022, Lil Durk enjoyed his first viral moment on Nigerian social media. It was inspired by a video where a young man was declaring in Yoruba that the music of the Atlanta rapper was his primary music primary choice of consumption.
This group of listeners constitute a good part of his streaming demographic and while they won’t qualify as cool kids, they share a different type of connection.
Lil Durk, like most Trap rappers, raps about drugs, money, and different illegalities which are conveyed through a hustler mindset that resonates with this group of Nigerian consumers. And while they might not essentially understand the music, especially since they aren’t intuned with American Pop culture, they connect based on shared ambition.
If Lil Durk why not Psycho YP?
Now, if Lil Durk can get to the summit of Apple Music and Spotify Nigeria, why have Nigerian rappers who make similar music struggle to enjoy commercial success?
If these Nigerian consumers can enjoy Lil Durk so much why can’t they extend the same grace to someone like Psycho YP?
The reality is that Nigerian consumers are more susceptible to accepting foreign content even those they do not quite understand than they are more likely to accept the same content from a local source.
While Lil Durk’s music packs a language, style, and cadence that’s entirely foreign to the average listener who likely won’t understand the composition, this consumer is open to accepting the music for what it’s. The idea that it’s foreign helps them not to expect any familiar components beyond relatable themes.
The opposite is the case for a Psycho YP whose music similarly packs Western elements but which the average Nigerian listener fails to accept on the basis of its non-relatability. Since he’s from Nigeria, consumers are predisposed to expect him to offer elements that convey relatability.
In simple terms, while the average listener will take the trouble of cracking their brains for Lil Durk and even going as far as pretending to enjoy the music but they won’t go out of their way to accommodate a Nigerian rapper with a similar style.
This is why successful mainstream rappers like Ladipoe, Blaqbonez, and Odumodu Blvck are able to connect with local listeners through the incorporation of local and relatable content. And any artist who wishes to tap into the mainstream must be willing to do the same.
On May 23, 2023, Lil Durk’s ‘All My Life’ debuted at NO. 11 on TurnTable Top 100 which is Nigeria’s only aggregate chart. It essentially captures his popularity and acceptance in Nigeria. A privilege other homegrown rappers have failed to enjoy.