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Milli is building Nigeria’s modern cult following

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Everything about the brand is striking. His rebellion against Chocolate City resounds with our need for freedom. His artistic aggression thugs at our spirits and sets us alive, so also does his music, which appears far from being the finished article, but holds enough promise in it to keep fans following.

Building a cult following in Nigeria is one of the most challenging tasks a Nigerian artiste can undergo. This because, a typical Nigerian artiste is first disadvantaged, even before he spits into some microphone.

A cult following is a group of fans who are highly dedicated to a musical artist. They will be said to have a cult following when it has a small but very passionate fanbase.

A common component of cult followings is the emotional attachment the fans have to the singer and his music, often identifying themselves and other fans as members of a community. Cult followings are also commonly associated with niche markets. Cult media are often associated with underground culture, and are considered too eccentric, bizarre, controversial or anti-establishment to be appreciated by the general public or to be a commercial success.

Many cult fans express a certain irony about their devotion. Sometimes, these cult followings cross the border to camp followings. Fans may become involved in a subculture of fandom, either via conventions, online communities or through activities such as writing series-related fiction, costume creation, replica prop and model building, or creating their own audio or video productions from the formats and characters. Great examples include, Fela, Sinatra, and currently Chance The Rapper.

In Nigeria, cult following are scarce for the musicians. This is because, the industry is extremely fractured to encourage the growth of uniquely talented artistes who are non-conformists to the radio culture. The lack of publishing and all the relevant licensing houses have limited revenue sources for musicians, hence creating an enduring pop culture affinity and lone experience for the acts and the consumers. Only very few artistes can afford to be outliers to this system, and still be commercially viable to sustain their act.

But once in a while. Someone pops up, goes through the motions, and begin to build a following. But this does not last. What usually happens is that the act gets investment from people looking to maximize profit, who then hijack the artistes creative and branding machinery, tweaking it to fit a common narrative. Saeon’s issue with Baseline Music is a great example. Jesse Jagz stepped on that road when he walked away from Chocolate City in 2013. He set up a commune, became the leader of JagzNation, released two albums for fans to hold on to, and was on the verge of an explosion. But his return to the fold in 2015 essentially robbed him of that momentum, and the sound.

The year is 2016, and out of the house that Jesse Jagz did return to, came . The young rapper who boasts of a strong personality and a distinct musical orientation and delivery recently went public with why he had to leave Chocolate City. The rapper cited creative differences with the label, and a refusal to adulterate his music for the move. That engaging individuality which he exuded and built while at the label attracted investors who believed in his craft, and are proud to give him their money, without exerting a control over the way he makes his music.

The result of this, a cult following which has been harnessed online via his Up Next Universe group on Facebook, and manifested last night (Sunday, June 12, 2016) at the FilmHouse Cinemas in Surulere, Lagos. The rapper premiered the video for his debut single, ‘Unlooking’, and over a 150 fans were present for the event, singing along to the single, and bearing his logo. The gathering which lasted into the early hours of this morning, bore all the markings of another rising force. This time in eccentric Hip-hop from the streets of Surulere.

With just a song, and a video, , an artiste who is yet to break mainstream has a crowd baying his name and singing along to his song.

Everything about the Milli brand is striking. His rebellion against Chocolate City resounds with our need for freedom. His artistic aggression thugs at our spirits and sets us alive, so also does his music, which appears far from being the finished article, but holds enough promise in it to keep fans following. Milli’s cult is growing, and with each day, as his music gets disseminated, more and more people will move to his corner.

He is building Nigeria’s new cult following, and it is fun to be a part of it.

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